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How Can This Be?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
December 2, 2023 12:01 am

How Can This Be?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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December 2, 2023 12:01 am

When an angel announced to Mary that she would bear a Son, the virgin responded in astonishment, "How can this be?" (Luke 1:34). Today, R.C. Sproul marvels at the power of God in bringing His Son into the world for our salvation.

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Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul
Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

We come at Christmas time not to celebrate the birth of a baby. We come to celebrate the incarnation of God, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. The virgin birth is not a nice-to-have of Christianity. It's an essential truth that separates the historic Christian faith from imposter religions. So why is it then, when we read and sing about Jesus being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, that some question if this could literally be true?

Even Mary, after hearing the news from an angel, asked the question, how can this be? Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and welcome to this Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind. For the month of December, each Saturday, you'll hear various Christmas messages from R.C. Sproul. And today, you'll hear a message that has never been featured on Renewing Your Mind before.

It was given back in 2008 at a special Christmas gathering of Ligonier friends and supporters. Before we hear that message, we're also offering a new resource from R.C. Sproul titled The Advent of Glory. It's 24 Advent readings based on messages from Dr. Sproul, along with daily prayers written by Sinclair Ferguson, Johnny Erickson-Tada, and others. Request this new Advent devotional at

Well, here's Dr. Sproul with a Christmas message titled How Can This Be? I would like to read from the Gospel according to St. Luke, from the first chapter, beginning in verse 26, and I'd ask if you would please stand for the reading of the Word of God. Now in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary, and having come in, the angel said to her, Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women.

But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. And the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God, and behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end. And then Mary said to the angel, How can this be, since I do not know a man? And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you. Therefore also that holy one who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren, for with God nothing will be impossible. Then Mary said, Behold the maidservant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word. And the angel departed from her. We live in an age of unparalleled cynicism and skepticism with respect to the things of God, where narratives concerning angels and virgin births are consigned to the same category of witches and goblins and things that go bump in the night. But what you have just heard is not the created fancy of a first-generation doctor, but what you've just heard is the sober Word of God with all of its truth and all of its power.

Please receive it as such and be seated. Of course she was terrified. Who wouldn't be if their simple, tranquil life were suddenly interrupted by the appearance of an archangel from the throne of God Himself, which this girl saw and listened to as He spoke to her? If He spoke a different language that she didn't understand at all, she still would have been terrified and completely mystified. But Gabriel addressed her in a language that she could understand.

And even though the language was intelligible to her, the message communicated in that language was not. As this angel told her how she was singularly blessed among all of the women who had ever lived, he communicated to her that she was extraordinarily favored by God, and that would be enough to keep her reeling and pondering throughout her whole life. But the crux of the matter was the announcement that she was soon to become a mother, and not just a mother of a prophet or of a special child like John the Baptist, or like Samuel in the Old Testament as he was born to Hannah, or even as Isaac was born to his mother Sarah in Old Testament days.

No, this child was going to be the very Son of God, the child of the Most High God, the one who would save His people from their sins, the one who would bring to pass the whole awaited fulfillment of the kingship of David so that the house of Jacob and the kingdom of God would reign forever. Now when all these things were announced to this young girl, she had one overarching question in her mind, and the question simply was this, how? How can this be, she said, for I know not a man. She wasn't a professor of biology. She wasn't an expert in all of the necessary conditions for procreation of human beings, but she was a woman, and she was educated enough to know that women who had never been with men did not have babies. And so as she pondered these things, even now she's asking the obvious question, it seems to me, Mr. Gabriel, there must be a necessary condition that has to be met before I can have a baby, and that necessary condition has not taken place. So how can this be?

How is this possible? Because it seems to me it can't happen. It seems that to multitudes of people even in the theological seminaries of our day who dispute the historic authenticity of this account, and they simply dismiss it on the grounds that what Luke is telling us as a physician is enough to cause him to lose his license to practice medicine if he is announcing to the world an event of a woman bearing a child who is yet a virgin.

It's just not possible. Now what is it that would make it impossible? Well, in our day the standard reply would be something like this, that such an event would violate the laws of nature, and according to the laws of nature, again as I mentioned earlier, the necessary conditions for conception and birth are not met, so this is impossible according to natural law.

Now one of the things that is a pet peeve of mine and that I beat the drum on everywhere I go and I tend to think that I'm beating it in vain is that even in the church today, it seems that almost everybody, no matter how devout they are in their faith, in convictions of the things of God, they still walk around carrying in their head a view of nature that is utterly and completely pagan. That is to say that they walk around believing that the world in which we live operates according to fixed mechanical causes, according to absolute laws of nature, which laws operate completely independent from the Creator who created nature in the first place. If anything has been lost in the church today, it is a biblical understanding of creation and a biblical understanding of providence that teaches us that God through His omnipotence created all things, and not only did He create all things, but He governs all things according to His law, and that what we call natural law is only a description of the ordinary operation of divine providence. That is to say, in God's governance of nature, the ordinary way in which He governs the procreation of the human species is through the biological patterns that we have learned of and that Mary learned of, and she began to think that there was some kind of law out there of procreation that stood over and above the providence of God. The laws of nature never function apart from the omnipotent, sovereign providence of God. No object can fall to the ground because of an independent function of gravity. Gravity is utterly powerless and impotent apart from the primary causality of God Himself. We need to learn that. Instead, we say that we believe in a supernatural, eternal, omnipotent God, and we confess a theoretical theism, but for all practical purposes we live as if God didn't exist and if nature served an indifferent, naked, impersonal force of law.

No, no, no, no. You see, as early as the first century, this pagan idea of an independent nature had already gotten into the head of Mary. So when God's messenger comes to her and speaks to her the Word of God, she says, how can that be? You know, I sometimes think that angels in heaven have to have a particular degree in theology if they are going to be dispatched from God as messengers to people like us.

And I think that there is a special curriculum designed for archangels because the messages that they were commissioned to give were so astonishing that the human reactions to those messages were coated with such bewilderment that there was a special course for archangels called Patience with Humans 101. Because if I were Gabriel, and I'm not, and I'm sure you're glad to hear that, that if I just gave this stupendous message to this woman highly favored by God and she looked at me and said, how can this be? I would want to say, what's the matter with you? What do you mean how can this be? I've just come to you from the Creator of heaven and earth, the One who brought life into being in the very beginning simply by the power of His Word.

And you're asking me how it can be? But He doesn't say that. He patiently answers her question. He said, let me explain it to you, Mary. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the highest will overshadow you. You're asking me, Mary, about ability, potentiality, potency, and possibility.

Well, the potency, the ability, the possibility, and the power to bring to pass what I've just announced to you will come to pass is vested in the third person of the Trinity. Mary, do you remember when you were in synagogue, when you were a little girl, the first time you heard the rabbi pick up the Torah and read from the first chapter of Genesis? Mary, do you remember what it said? It said, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form and void.

Remember that, Mary? It was formless. It was empty. And darkness was on the face of the deep. No form, no objects existed, no light in the universe, no stars, just formless, empty darkness.

Remember that, Mary? Until God sent the Holy Ghost to brood upon the waters, to hover over the waters, and God said, let there be light, and the lights came on. It came by God's imperative. It came by divine fiat. It came by the voice of His command, something out of nothing, form out of formlessness, light out of darkness.

The same language that is used in the first chapter of Genesis is now used by this angel to answer Mary's question, how can this be? The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The Holy Spirit will overshadow you. The word for power in the New Testament that is associated with the Holy Spirit is the Greek word dunamis, from which we get dynamite. It's power that is explosive.

It's power that includes potency that is unimaginable. Mary, we're talking here about a God who is omnipotent, omnipotent, and with Him nothing is impossible. When I was converted to Christ and I read the Old Testament for the first time, I was completely astonished because I had been completely unfamiliar with the God who is revealed in the pages of the Old Testament.

I had never heard of Him before in my life. The day I was converted, if you would have asked me who Abraham was, I would have had no idea, not to mention Isaac and Jacob. I had heard of David and Goliath, and I had heard of Moses because of Cecil B. DeMille, but I had never read about them in the pages of Scripture. And as a new convert, having my maiden virgin reading of the Old Testament, I think I was astonished to discover the God who was revealed there as Mary was from this visit from Gabriel. I would walk up and down the halls of the freshman dormitory of my college at three o'clock in the morning.

I was the only one in the dorm awake at that hour. And I was pacing like a caged lion because I was overwhelmed by what I had been reading in the pages of the Old Testament. I said, this God of Israel is holy. He's a God who plays for keeps.

If I'm going to be a Christian, I can't play at it. This is all or nothing if this is the God who has just met me in Jesus Christ. Look at Isaiah chapter 45 where he says that, I will give you the treasures of darkness, the hidden riches of secret places, so that you may know that I, the Lord, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel. I want you to know who I am. For Jacob, my servant's sake, and for Israel, my elect, I have even called you by your name. I named you, though you have not known me. And here's the refrain that goes throughout this chapter.

Note it well. I am the Lord, and there is no other. There is no God besides me. I will gird you, though you have not known me, that they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none beside me.

For I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light. I create the darkness. I make peace. I create calamity. I, the Lord, do all these things. I move the market up. I take the market down. I raise nations up. I pull nations down. In my hand I scatter kings from their thrones, because I am the Lord.

There is no other. Don't just thank me for the light. I bring the darkness. Don't think that I'm only a transcendent supernatural Santa Claus that brings you prosperity.

I bring calamity, because I am God, and there is no other. That's the God whose power came over a virgin and quickened life in her womb in a manner that set aside all the normal, regular, ordinary processes of providence so that it was done in an extraordinary, supernatural manner that this one would be known as the Son of the Most High God. Dearly beloved, we come at Christmas time not to celebrate the birth of a baby. We come to celebrate the incarnation of God who was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. Amen. Being reminded of the incarnation and celebrating the birth of Christ should lead us to marvel at the incredible power and supremacy of God over all things.

That was R.C. Sproul on this Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind. And as we feature Christmas messages from Dr. Sproul each Saturday this month, we have a brand new resource to introduce you to titled The Advent of Glory, 24 devotional Christmas readings based on messages and teaching from R.C.

Sproul and accompanied with prayers written by a number of Christian leaders, including Sinclair Ferguson, Johnny Erickson-Tada, Tim Challies, and Ligonier's President and CEO, Chris Larsen. Request your copy with a donation of any amount at And this new resource may be a book you revisit every December. So give your gift at today as this offer ends at midnight.

When we celebrate the birth of Christ, we are celebrating real history, a baby who was really born to a real woman, not fables, not myth. And that's what R.C. Sproul will remind us next Saturday here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-02 02:52:15 / 2023-12-02 02:59:38 / 7

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