Sermon 3: Conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary

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1 Sermon 3: Conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary TEXT: Luke 1:26-35 Now, I understand if you re confused at my reading part of the Christmas story on Pentecost Day. Pentecost Sunday is the birthday of the church, and almost universally (at least in churches that follow the Christian calendar), Acts chapter 2 is the sermon text for churches around the world. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit is outpoured upon the disciples 50 days after the Resurrection, and the first church is born. Today at this church, we re still celebrating Pentecost and the Holy Spirit, but we re looking at another text about the Spirit and another way in which the Spirit works. Specifically, how the Holy Spirit, not a man, was responsible for bringing Jesus Christ into the world. I preach this text because it recounts the story of exactly what this line in the creed encapsulates. Verse 35 in our text summarizes why we must understand the nature of Jesus incarnation, why we must understand that He was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of a virgin. It was necessary that both of these be true, in order for Jesus to be both Son of God and Son of Man, Gabriel says it exactly, Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. That s what we re looking at today, why are the conception of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Birth so important and why do they matter to us? This follows the general theme of this whole sermon series of what difference Creed makes and what are we actually doing when we confess it every Sunday. This line of the Creed, along with all the other lines, reminds us what is central to Scripture. You ve heard me make statements before about preaching the Word of God, believing the Word of God, etc. What does that mean exactly? Does it mean that I stand up here and go through every single sentence of Scripture each Sunday? It does mean believing all of it is true, but what takes priority? Is it (turn to a passage), or is it Romans 5:1 (Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ)? That s why the Creed is so important it reminds us what is central to Scripture. It helps us see the big picture. It teaches us about each person of the Trinity, each part of Christ s life and work, and how it all fits together for our salvation. It s a summary of our testimony of who God is and who we are in Him. 1

2 And this particular line of it that we look at today reminds us of how Jesus came to this earth, how He came to us, and how He redeems us. This passage from Luke and this line from the Creed has been the source of much theologizing and much controversy through the ages. In the fourth and fifth centuries, a discussion went on about the role of the Virgin Mary in Christ s incarnation. Could she truly be called the Mother of God, or was it only appropriate to call her the Mother of Christ? A council was called at the city of Ephesus in 431 AD to determine which one was the truth, and it was decreed that Mary was indeed the mother of God (She was given the title Theotokos, a Greek word meaning God-bearer ) because her Son was both God and Man, the second person of the Trinity. Of course, this is theologically correct, but you might be able to guess what it led to. What tradition is it that most commonly calls Mary the Mother of God? Of course Roman Catholics. The elaborate doctrines Catholics have with which we mostly disagree did not just come about one day by somebody saying, Oh, I think we should make Mary our intercessor and pray to her, and oh by the way, she is now sinless. It would be unfair for us to accuse Catholics of that Catholics are much smarter than that. The importance that Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians give Mary goes back to a system of theology, formed very gradually over the centuries, and though we believe many of their conclusions are unbiblical, the root of the these doctrines are in true statements, like this one Mary is the God-bearer, the Mother of God. When you take that and combine it with some cultural elements, certain beliefs grounded in Scripture evolve into those that are not. We talked last time about the disagreements over the nature of Jesus divinity was He equal with God or a lesser God. When the Councils decided in the 4 th and 5 th centuries that Yes, Scripture does mean that Jesus is fully God and fully Man, Jesus divinity started to become emphasized at the expense of His humanity. What so often happens in theology or politics, the pendulum swings to the other extreme. With Jesus humanity diminished in the minds of many simple Christians, those Christians began to doubt whether Jesus really empathized with them at all. Not long after this, the Middle Ages began, and if you studied the Middle Ages in world history class, you may remember that early medieval society was structured in a very hierarchical system Kings, Lords, Knights, and Peasants 2

3 -Jesus kingship + most people forgetting that Jesus was also human -peasants identified Jesus with their King. -They of course did not have easy access to the King -didn t think they had easy access to Jesus either -And they were mostly illiterate and could not read Scripture to know any better. -All this resulted in the people looking to Mary, the Mother of God, as the human who empathized with their sin and struggles. Think about it who has the best access to a man in power his mother. Mary became the people s intercessor to King Jesus. So much so, that Mary became sort of a co-redemptress, bringing salvation herself. Then over time Mary herself is infallible, Mary herself was born without original sin doctrine of immaculate conception in All of this was very developed by the time of the Reformation/ reformers took issue -Unscriptural, even contrary to Scripture, even harmful. One passage they said the Church was taking extremely out of context is today s text particularly v. 28 from where the line comes, Hail Mary, full of grace This is a distorted interpretation that makes it sound like Mary is the source of grace, but the correct interpretation is Mary, you are a favored one, or even better you have found favor with God. But, as is so often the case in theological discussion, we have a tendency of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Now let s look at the opposite extreme rejection of the virgin birth All kinds of challenges to the Virgin Birth through the years, especially in modern times: -not conducive to a rational, scientific worldview -just a myth to signify Jesus importance, not intended to mean historical fact -Jesus biological father was a Roman soldier who either raped or had an illicit relationship with Mary. 3

4 -Some Feminist theologians say the Virgin Birth is an oppressive doctrine to women b/c it promotes rape and exploitation Jesus incarnation as God in the flesh and, consequently, our salvation is impossible without the Virgin Birth. Without the Virgin Birth, there s really no other way to explain the deity of Christ. For Jesus to be fully God, He had to be conceived by God, not by a man. Some have asked the question, Couldn t Jesus have just started out as a man and then God chose Him to be divine? The answer is NO! Humans can t become gods. That s where the Mormons get into trouble. They believe that not only Jesus but also God the Father were at one time mere human beings, and that we can become gods too if we join the Mormon church and do all that they say to do. Jesus was God from the beginning of time, and for Him to be born as a man on this earth and still be God without sin (able to die in our place), He had to be conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to a Virgin. Without it, you just have a Jesus who was a good moral teacher, who in reality would be the most notorious deceiver in history. This is also how some Christians, or so-called Christians, have a reductionistic Christ. What do I mean by reductionistic? I mean a Christ with reduced power! Take away Jesus status as God s Son and take away His sinlessness, you have an impotent Jesus. A Jesus who is just your teacher and your friend, but who lacks the power to remove your sin, work miracles in your life, fill you with the Holy Spirit, or help you live a holy life. Someone born by mere human biological process does not have the power to do those things. This is what that line in the creed means to our salvation and our relationship with God. A Jesus born in original sin cannot atone for your sins and die in your place. He had to be perfect and spotless to be our sacrifice. Each week, that s what we need to remember when we say He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary. Like the rest of the Creed, we re not reciting by rote. Confessing the Creed is an act of worship. We are, or should be, placing all of our trust in what we re saying. That this is not just what we believe, but it s our only hope. Our only hope is in Jesus Christ. Everything hangs on the Virgin Birth, it s not optional if you re a Christian. Without what I m confessing here in this Creed, it s all a lie and I m done for. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 4

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