The whole essence of Christianity, people, is predicated on the fact that Jesus is God in human flesh.
And that is something made clear at the very birth of Christ, an essential doctrine. When asked what historical figure he would most like to interview, talk show host Larry King said it would be Jesus Christ, because he wanted to ask him if he was indeed virgin born. The answer to that question, Larry said, would define history for me.
Was Larry King right? Does the virgin birth define history? And could Jesus have redeemed sinners if he had not been virgin born? Consider that today on Grace To You as John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, continues his study from the book of Matthew called The Birth of the King. And now here's John. Open your Bible with me, if you will, to Matthew chapter 1. Matthew chapter 1. And we're looking at verses 18 to 25 of this first chapter. We began a study in the record of Matthew. The record really of the life of Jesus Christ is recorded by the evangelist Matthew, commonly known as the Gospel of Matthew.
You're going to find that every element of life will be touched by this book. Tremendously forceful, powerful statement on the person of Jesus Christ and the principles that God has ordained for human existence. But in our lesson we come to verses 18 to 25 and these verses deal with the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Matthew begins his Gospel by considering Christ. And it's a very important passage. Let me read it to you.
Follow along as I read. Now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this way. When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
Then Joseph, her husband, being a just man and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privately. And while he thought on these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son and thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet saying, behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son and they shall call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted is God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him and took unto him his wife and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son and he called his name Jesus. Now in Matthew chapter 22 verse 42, Jesus asked the Pharisees a question that has been voiced in every generation since then. Jesus said, what think ye of Christ whose son is he? What think ye of Christ whose son is he?
That's the question Jesus asked in Matthew 22 42 and it's a question that needs to be asked in every age to every person. Whose son is he? Now the Jewish leaders believed that the promised Messiah would be the son of David. They believed that from a human viewpoint he would be a member of the royal lineage of David, the royal family, the royal line.
And frankly, they weren't sure of much more than that. They for the most part seemed to reject the idea that the Messiah would be God in human flesh, though there may be some indication that a few of them may have felt that way. The preponderance of the Jewish people at that time seemed to have been convinced that the king they were going to gain would be of the seed of David, a human being in every sense of royal lineage. In fact, when Jesus claimed to be both the son of David and the son of God, they accused him of blasphemy. They expected him to be of the royal line of David but apparently not to be deity in human flesh.
And I think people today are still denying that. I think people today are willing to let Jesus be a royal seed. They're willing to let him be a son of David. They're willing to let him be even one of a kingly line but they're not anxious for him to be deity, God in human flesh. It's all right to be the son of David but not the son of God.
But you shouldn't be surprised. The apostle Paul said in Romans chapter 3 these words, For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid. Yea, let God be true and every man, what?
A liar. So says Paul in Romans 3, 3 and 4. Don't ever base your theology on majority rule. There may be people who deny the virgin birth. There may be people who flagrantly and blatantly fight against the deity of Jesus Christ. But maybe even more subtle than that are the people who ignore the virgin birth. We cannot doubt it and we cannot deny it and we cannot ignore it if we simply open our eyes and look at Matthew 1 verses 18 to 25.
It's there. The whole essence of Christianity, people, is predicated on the fact that Jesus is God in human flesh. And that is something made clear at the very birth of Christ, an essential doctrine. You see, if Jesus had a human father, then the Bible is untrustworthy because the Bible claims He did not. And if Jesus was born simply of human parents, there is no way to describe the reason for His supernatural life. His virgin birth, His substitutionary death, His bodily resurrection and His second coming are a package of deity. You cannot isolate any one of those and accept only that one and leave the rest or vice versa.
Accept them all but one. You believe all of those realities that are the manifestation of His deity or you do not. And so we must face the question that Jesus posed to the Pharisees again. Whose son is He? Son of David, humanity. Son of God, deity. Both of those are essential to an understanding of the incarnation. Jesus is God in a human body. Humanly through the lineage of David, He gains the right to rule the world. And from the standpoint of deity, He gains the very essence of the nature of God by having been born without a human father through the agency of the Spirit of God Himself. And so Matthew in writing his Gospel squarely faces his Jewish readers and all the readers of all the ages and he gives them the answer. The genealogy of Jesus tells you whose son He is, David.
And the birth of Jesus tells you whose son He is, God. Now if Matthew 1 to 17, the genealogy were all that could be said, then Christ may have had the legal right to be the king but He could have never redeemed men. He could have never conquered death. He could have never conquered sin.
He could have never conquered Satan and hell. For that He had to be God. And so Jesus was the God-man, 100% deity, 100% humanity.
That is the message of chapter 1 of Matthew. And so He splits His chapter into two parts dealing with the human and then the divine. Now let's look at five features, five distinct elements appearing in the narrative. And I like to take a narrative like this and even though it isn't divided up in terms of logical thought, it's just a narrative.
But if we divide it up, we can kind of get a look at the single highlights of it and that's the purpose in doing that. But we see five things. The virgin birth conceived, confronted, clarified, connected and consummated. Those are not profound words.
They're just hooks to hang your thoughts on. First of all, point number one, the virgin birth conceived. Verse 18, the virgin birth conceived.
This miracle is so incredible that I hope you haven't heard it so often that your senses are dulled to the spectacular, unbelievable supernaturalness of this thing. Verse 18, now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this way. When as His mother Mary was espoused or betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child by the Holy Spirit.
Now we'll stop there. Now here you have the virgin birth conceived. Here the Spirit of God through the writer Matthew tells us that Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit. We don't know much about Mary. I wish we knew more about her. We don't know much about Mary.
Let me see if I can kind of put some things together for you. Let me just see if I can find that verse for you. John 19, 25 I think it is.
You don't need to look it up. There stood by the cross of Jesus His mother and His mother's sister Mary of Clopas and Mary Magdalene. Now we don't know much about Mary, but apparently Mary had a sister, the wife of Clopas who also was named Mary, which is not necessarily uncommon. So we know at least one person in the immediate family. And it is also true, according to Luke chapter 1 and verse 36, listen to this, and behold it says, thy cousin Elizabeth has also conceived a son and who was her son?
John the Baptist. So we know at least a sister. It is very likely that that reference there is referring to a regular blood sister in John 19. And we know of her cousin Elizabeth, so we know a little bit about her family. And if we can take the genealogy of Luke and assign it to Mary's family, her father's name was Haley, H-e-l-i. She and Elizabeth being related, thus Jesus and John the Baptist were also related. Now we don't know much about Mary other than that. Her early life was spent in Nazareth.
She was probably poor, probably hard working, and no doubt a very righteous lady. I think if you want a good character study of Mary, you can just simply listen to her. In Luke 1, you have a parallel account of the enunciation and all that. And of course when Mary found out what the Spirit of God had done and what was going to happen, you know, it said the Spirit of God will come upon you and the power of the highest will overshadow you, that that which is born of you shall be called the Son of God, Luke 1.35.
You're going to have a child and it's going to be the Son of God, deity. And verse 38 tells us about Mary's character because of her response. And Mary said, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word. Now what do you learn about Mary right there?
She submitted to what? God's what? God's Word.
Verse 45. And Mary, it says, And blessed is she that believed. Blessed is she that believed.
Elizabeth and Mary having a conversation. We'll learn a second thing about Mary. Not only did she submit to the Word of God, but she was a woman of what? Faith. She believed God.
Now listen, ladies. If an angel came and told you that, would you just say, Be it unto you, even as the Word of God has said? Would somebody say, Oh, what a great person of faith. She must have been a great... You know, most women would have said, Say, Joseph, I had this weird dream.
I've got to go see a counselor. She believed. Great lady of faith.
And by the way, I would just remind you that that kind of faith is characteristic of a righteous person. A person who submits to the authority of the Word of God and who lives by faith in that Word even when it makes absolutely no sense and there was no human historical precedent on which she could say, This is true. That's a woman who's righteous.
She accepted it. And most lovely was her Magnificat, as history has called it. And Mary said, My soul hath magnified the Lord.
Luke 1, 46. My spirit hath rejoiced, for he hath regarded the lowest state of his handmaiden. For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things and holy is his name. Oh, what a godly lady. There was no quizzical thing in her mind. There was no doubt. There was no misgiving. There was no pondering. There was no wondering.
There was no questioning. There was an instant submission and an instant belief that this in fact was God's truth. What a righteous lady. Now, she was married or betrothed. Look back at verse 18. It says she was betrothed to Joseph. Now Joseph, we don't know anything about background.
We just don't know anything. He is described by a Greek term that can be translated carpenter or mason. And it may have been that a man did both. If he built houses, he would need to be able to lay the bricks and frame the windows too and the doors.
So perhaps he did both. But he was undoubtedly a poor, hard-working man and I'm quite confident he was a righteous man. It says in verse 19, Joseph her husband being a righteous man. He too was a godly man. He was a true Old Testament saint.
So here are two Old Testament saints. Now they were very young. Most Bible scholars feel they were in their teen years since marriages in that day and age occurred to ladies as young as, would you believe, 12. And betrovals occurred when girls were 12 and 13.
And so they were most likely older teenagers because we sense that because of the tremendous maturity of Mary. And it says there, look at the word espoused. We get the word spouse from that. But it is in the Greek betrothed.
Now what does this mean? What do you mean they were betrothed? Does that mean they were engaged? Does that mean they were going steady and Mary wore Joseph's ring around her neck on a chain? What does it mean? Mary and Joseph were betrothed.
I'll give you a little background. The Old Testament and the rabbis as well in the rabbinical writings distinguished two stages in marriage, in Hebrew marriage. Two. One is called the kedushya and the other is the chuppah or the chuppah.
Let's say that aged properly. The kedushya and the chuppah. Now the kedushya was the betroval. And what it was in Deuteronomy chapter 20 verse 7, it tells you about it if you want to jot that down. Deuteronomy 27. What it was was two families would draw up a contract, or two individuals could do it, draw up a contract that promised marriage.
Okay? It was, now watch this, a binding contract. And if at any time during that contract of betrothal period you violated that marriage vow, you had to be divorced in an official sense. You were constituted legally married though there were no physical relationships, whatever.
It was a normally 12 month period. And it was a period of protection for the would-be husband and wife. So that there would be a period in which to prove fidelity. So that if the girl was pregnant, that would become very manifest in that period. If anybody was going to be unfaithful or there were going to be problems, there was a period of time in which that could be worked out. And by the way, during that period there was not a lot of social contact at all. They still maintained a certain distance. It was simply a promise that was made, a contract that was made.
Now, at the end of the period, it could go as long as 12 months, sometimes six months, the chuppah took place. That was the wedding. And weddings lasted approximately seven days.
Do you think you've got a tough now father when you marry off your daughter? How would you like to have the neighborhood over for seven days? You've got to feed them, provide drink for them. That's the marriage at Cana.
Remember what happened? They ran out of wine, right? One of the reasons that when you gave your daughter away to be married, you wanted something in payment for her was of course to take care of some of your own needs. So there was what was called the mohar. That was the price. And the price of the girl would vary depending on the girl, you know.
It could be anything from a couple dozen sheep to a lame chicken, I suppose. But anyway, there may have been some girls that just you could say you can have them for nothing, I'll throw in a couple sheep, you know. But basically, basically there was what was called the mohar.
And this was the price that was paid. And it was paid at the point of betrothal. It was usually, according to Genesis 34, it was goods or services. So the betrothal period then was the period prior to the chuppah or the wedding itself when the marriage was consummated physically and all. The betrothal period was a period of testing, a period of probation to ensure the bride's virginity and the fidelity of the husband and wife and so forth. But they used the term husband and wife because it was as good as valid, just not consummated. And you'll note that because it says in verse 25, he knew her not until she had brought forth her firstborn son. And verse 18 says, before they came together.
In other words, it was in this betrothal period that Mary was made to be with child by the Holy Spirit so that there would be absolutely no question about whether Joseph was the father. And Joseph was a godly man, a righteous man who would not have violated God's standard. You know, God looks with great concern on purity. And virginity is of high value to God.
It's a sacred thing, not something to be trifled with. And I'm reminded of how beautiful and lovely and sacred virginity is when I see in the case of Mary how honored she was because of it. And so she was found with child by the Holy Spirit. Now Mary knew it.
Mary knew this. Now we don't have the Luke account in this text, so let's look at Luke 1 and let's find out how Mary found out. Luke chapter 1, verse 26. In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel. Well, of course, this is six months after Elizabeth's conceived, so Mary was made pregnant in Elizabeth's sixth month so that John the Baptist was six months older than Jesus, which gave him just enough time to get the ball rolling. In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee named Nazareth. Verse 27. Go see a virgin espoused to a man, again betrothed.
The Bible is very clear about this. The marriage was not consummated, whose name was Joseph of the house of David and the virgin's name was Mary. The angel came in unto her and said, Hail, thou who art highly favored. The Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled. Well, I can guess. Little old simple girl up there in a hay seed part of the country where everybody was a farmer and it wasn't even Jerusalem.
It was kind of insignificant. All of a sudden an angel, great glorious angel, not just any old angel, but Gabriel. Gabriel, the hero of Yahweh, Gabriel comes in and says, Hail, Mary, highly favored, blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at the saying considered in her mind what manner of greeting this should be. What in the world is he saying?
I'm nobody. And the angel said in there, Don't be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the son of the highest. And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever.
And of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be seeing I know not a man? You see, here is Mary affirming her virginity. And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee. Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall not only be called the son of David, but...what?
The son of God. I mean, what an incredible announcement to just a nobody lady living in a little dinky place called Nazareth. And so Mary knew it.
And when she became pregnant, she knew why. But poor Joseph, he didn't know. When he found out, it was a shock. It was a shock. It jolted him. He knew Mary.
See? I mean, he knew this girl that he was betrothed to. He knew the quality of her character. He knew the righteous standard by which she lived. He knew her stature before God. He knew Mary. This was totally out of character.
It made no sense at all. And he knew Deuteronomy chapter 22 well enough to know that back then when a woman became pregnant with a child outside of wedlock, the punishment was what? Death.
Death. And Mary had absolutely no way under the sun to protect her reputation. She's going to go out and say, listen, folks, this baby is conceived by God. And they're going to say, uh-huh. That's a new one, Mary. We've heard them all.
That's a new one. She has no way to protect her reputation. So, the blessed Spirit of God protected it for her right here in the pages of the Word of God. Let there be no reproach on Mary ever. If Jesus is an ordinary man, if Jesus is simply just like all the other men, then we can say He was probably born like all the other men. But He isn't like anybody else.
And He wasn't born like anybody else. If He is simply the illegitimate child of Mary's infidelity or if He is the child of Joseph's natural sexual activity with Mary, then He is not God. And if He's not God, His claims are lies. And if His claims are lies, His salvation is a hoax. And if His salvation is a hoax, we are damned.
So Matthew records for us clearly that God entered the flesh by a virgin in which seed was planted by the Holy Spirit. You say, well, how does that work? Don't ask me that.
Don't ask me how this works. God did it. That's Grace to You with John MacArthur. Thanks for tuning in today. I trust John's Christmas study, The Birth of the King, is helping you focus on what's truly important this season. And whether it's a series of sermons to prepare your heart for the Christmas celebration or a series on any other topic, every day, Grace to You is all about connecting you with biblical truth that changes lives, unleashing God's truth one verse at a time. And John, it's always a joy to hear how God is using this ministry to strengthen His people.
I know you have a few letters that are examples of that, so take a moment here to read them. I always love doing this, Phil. Thanks. Here's one from Denise. I was one of the people who received a free copy of the first edition of the MacArthur Study Bible in 1997.
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