Winning Life’s Challenges

Have you ever watched the Jerry Springer Show?  The few times I have seen the show in a doctor’s office or hospital room, it has given me a pretty good idea of how that program operates. They bring people onto the show with really messed up lives who have made a lot of mistakes. And then they have a spouse or a family member who is innocent, and they have no idea what their spouse has been doing behind their back. And they get onto Jerry Springer’s show, and this innocent person gets this bomb dropped on them. We are locked in on this poor person asking ourselves, “What are they going to do about this shocking revelation?”

We have the same thing happen right here in our Bible. A man is about to be married. But then he gets the bomb dropped onto him: his fiancée is pregnant. And we are left staring at Joseph as if we are in the audience of the Jerry Springer show asking ourselves, “what is Joseph going to do about this?”

How do we win life’s challenges?

  • When Wronged Leave Revenge to God

 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. Matthew 1:19

 And what happens between him and his pregnant fiancée really gives us the best insight into what Joseph was like. And this is where we can see like the bible says Joseph “was a good man.” I don’t think we could fault Joseph for jumping to the wrong conclusion regarding Mary’s pregnancy. I mean, in every other pregnancy in human history, there is always a man involved. And Joseph knew that it wasn’t him…so the only possible conclusion was that Mary had been unfaithful to him. Put yourself in his shoes for a second, and imagine how hurt, how disappointed he was. Many would have sought some sort of revenge for being wounded so deeply. And by Jewish law, Joseph would have had the right to really run Mary’s name through the mud. Mary could have been branded as a loose woman with no morals. And had Joseph really wanted to push the issue, she could have been put to death for her alleged adultery. You might recall the story of the woman caught in adultery a few years later who was brought to Jesus, and many in the crowd wanted to stone her for his sin. But here we see in Joseph’s heart FORGIVENESS…KINDNESS to someone who really didn’t appear to deserve any. Joseph wanted to make things as easy as possible for the wife he was divorcing. He wasn’t going to make a public example of her. He would swallow his pride and give up the urge to exact revenge. It was going to be a quiet divorce.

How would the Bible describe you? It would be nice to be called a “good” person like Joseph, and yet often we human beings don’t act much like him, do we? It is just our sinful human nature to want to get back at someone who hurts us. We learn that early on at the playground: if Tommy hits me, I’m going to hit him back. On Jerry Springer, when that innocent person is confronted with their spouse’s infidelity, often they are stunned and begin to try to get back at them. The verbal assault begins, profanity spews, hurtful words fly, fists, chairs, and microphones fly too.  When someone at work says nasty things about you behind your back, the natural reaction is to get back at them.  We think that revenge is the natural course for us.

And if the story ended there, that would be an amazing enough lesson for today. But of course God knew something that Joseph didn’t know: that Mary hadn’t cheated on him, and that he was to receive about the greatest honor ever bestowed on a mere mortal. Joseph would be the guardian of the Godchild. Joseph would protect God.

How do we win life’s challenges?

  • Follow God’s Direction

 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. Matthew 1:24

 I like Joseph. Joseph isn’t flashy. He doesn’t have any recorded words. He’s an ordinary guy who’s just doing his best to live a life faithful to his God and his family.

Because most of us are more likely to find ourselves quietly leading a donkey over an uncertain path, wondering what the future might hold, than standing on a ridge, preaching to the multitudes. Most of us spend our lives as peripheral characters in the Gospel narrative. Most of us aren’t flashy. Most of us are just ordinary people doing our best to live lives that honor Christ, faithful to our God and our families.

Here are two truths I have learned about God’s Direction in our lives:

  1. God’s leading and direction in our lives is often unexpected. We have our plans and then God comes and gives us different direction.

Joseph was preparing for a future of settling down with Mary to raise children while continuing his carpentry trade in his hometown. He expected his leisure time to be rearranged. He expected his social calendar to be different. He expected to worry a little more when business was slow. He expected to know new joys when his sons someday read Torah before the congregation and his daughters someday gave him grandchildren.

Joseph did not expect to be having dreams full of messages from God Almighty. He did not expect to raise a boy that he did not father. He did not expect to be traipsing around the countryside on the run from Herod’s soldiers.

Joseph did not expect to be responsible for the religious training and upbringing of the Son of God and Redeemer of creation.

Sometimes the future you think you are preparing for is not what the Lord has in mind for you.

2. God’s direction may be scary and uncertain but when you follow God’s direction it works out.

Before Mary turned up pregnant, Joseph had every reason to be confident about his anticipated future. He was a skilled craftsman, known in his community for his righteousness, which certainly included honesty and respectability. He knew the responsibilities ahead of him. They might not always be easy, but they were well defined, and the community was structured to support him as he carried out his duties as husband and father.

I’m pretty sure that Joseph was scared and very uncertain when he found out that his responsibilities would be a little more complicated. What does a carpenter know about traveling to foreign lands? What does a small-town craftsman know about outwitting the armies of the king and protecting the most precious baby ever born? What does an ordinary Joe know about raising the Messiah?

The first command Joseph received in his dreams was to go ahead and take Mary as his wife. Did he have the personal resources to live down the public disgrace, the shame of his peers, the rebuke of his family? Apparently, he did. But he only found that out after he obeyed the command.

The second command Joseph received in his dreams was to flee to Egypt with Mary and the child. Did he have what it would take to travel such a long journey with a new mother and an infant? Would he be able to provide for them in a foreign land? Apparently, he did and he would. But he only found that out after he obeyed.

The third command Joseph received in his dreams was to return to Israel. He ended up settling in Galilee to avoid the attentions of Herod’s son. That turned out to be a good thing—something that fulfilled prophecy. But he only found that out after he obeyed.

Sometimes it turns out that you are better prepared for what the Lord has in mind for you than you thought you were, and it’s only in the obedience that you find out.

  • Be the Shelter To Those Who Need Me

 Joseph becomes a shelter to Mary. He takes Mary as his wife, providing for her, caring for her, protecting her.  He is a godly man.  He also becomes a shelter to this new baby.  God chose him to shelter, to care for and to provide for Jesus.  Even the Son of God, the creator of the world, the savior came as a helpless baby that needed protection and support! We cannot emphasize enough the importance of this.  Joseph was a man.  He stepped up.  Even after the child is born, the drama continues.

 19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20 “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” 21 So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. 22 But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee.
23 So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
Matthew 2:19-23

In Matthew 2:13-23, we see Joseph taking his family to Egypt and then to Nazareth by direction of an angel.   Again he is serving as a protector a shelter for this child. God has set up your family in the same way.  Moms and Dads God has given you the responsibility to care for, to set boundaries and to protect your children.  There are forces of evil that would love to destroy your children.  Are you aware? Are you ready to do what is necessary to shelter them?  Besides protecting them from harm we are to guide and teach them in the ways they should go.  Joseph was a great father.  God is calling and leading men to be godly fathers today.

I do not have to tell you that Fatherhood is not doing well in our society.  Consider these facts from David Blackenhorn, a man who wrote a book in 1995 entitled Fatherless America. Here is some of what he said:

  • Tonight, 40% of all American children will sleep in a house in which their fathers do not live.
  • Before the age of eighteen, more than 50% of our children will spend a significant portion of their childhood living apart from their fathers.
  • A generation ago, an American child could reasonably expect to grow up with a dad. Today, an American child can reasonably expect to grow up without one.
  • Fatherless-ness is the most harmful demographic trend in this generation.

Time Magazine recently reported that today we are seeing the “Disappearing Dad.” They said, “Studies of young criminals have found that more than 70% of juveniles in state reform institutions come from fatherless homes.
Children from broken families are nearly twice as likely as those in two-parent families to drop out of high school” (Dr. Harold White, “Fatherhood”)

Now, more than ever men especially need to a shelter to our children.  To be the father our children need, the husbands our wives need.

We do not know how long Joseph lived his role as Jesus’ earthly father — he is last mentioned when Jesus was 12 years old. But Joseph trained his son in the trade of carpentry, made sure he had good spiritual training in Nazareth, and took the whole family on the yearly trip to Jerusalem for the Passover, which Jesus continued to observe during his adult years.

And God used the obedience of this quiet, godly carpenter and not only to protect and nurture the young Messiah but to provide principles that Jesus would employ in His ministry. I say this because it seems to me that many of the illustrations Jesus used in His teaching came out of Joseph’s shop. Remember when Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you?” As a carpenter he would have learned from Joseph how to make yokes easy for the oxen to wear. He knew how to shape them to fit just right. You can almost see the tools of the trade in Jesus’ words as He spoke.  You can see the trueness of a plumb line as He called for moral standards. You can hear the whistle of the plane as He pled for religion to shave away the unnecessary traditions. God did use Joseph’s quiet, dependable obedience in so many ways.

How do we win life’s challenges?

What is God directing you to do?  Are you open to his direction?  Is there someone who has wronged you that you need to forgive?  Is there someone that you need to be a shelter to?



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Am I Challenged Like Joseph? Part 2

Have you decided that you will live a life that honors God?  Have you decided that you would like to follow God’s word and His direction for your life?  The moment you make the decision to follow God, people will not understand.  They will say that you are taking your faith too seriously.  They will question your use of time and money.   When Joseph did as God directed and took Mary as his wife, he would have lots of people misunderstand him, falsely accuse him and judge him.

Like Joseph, I may be challenged by….

·      People Who Misunderstand Me

24 Joseph… took Mary as his wife. Matthew 1:24

 After the revelation Joseph immediately takes Mary into his home as his wife. Mary is in a most vulnerable position with respect to the rest of the village. The villagers no doubt considered Joseph the father of Jesus (Matt 13:55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? NIV) by taking Mary into his home Joseph removes the social stigma that would have been associated with Mary and PUTS IT ON HIMSELF. He knew he was not the father and yet he puts himself in the position to look like the guilty party.

Mary and Joseph were living in the little town of Nazareth, with lots of busybodies standing on the street corners, watching them as they walk by. Mary is 7 months pregnant, and they’ve only been married for 2 or 3 months. Think of the embarrassment, the misunderstanding.

Maybe at first Joseph tried to explain, “The baby is of the Holy Spirit. An angel told me.” “Sure, Joseph. We know all about those things. We believe every word of what you’re telling us.”

Maybe after a while Joseph even stops trying to explain. And after they went to Bethlehem, and then Egypt, probably Joseph didn’t even want to go back to Nazareth. But God led him back to that town of innuendoes and gossip. “Whose son is this? Who is his father, really?”  Gossip, embarrassment and misunderstanding that was a part of the price that he paid for his service to God.

There must have been times when he realized that this Son was extraordinary in the plan of God, and yet wished for him to be just a normal boy. Certainly, the people of the town did not think that Jesus was anything special. We know that, because when Jesus was a grown man and began his ministry, he returned to his hometown, and the people did not exactly welcome him with excitement. They said, “Isn’t this just Joseph and Mary’s son? (Matthew 13:55 NIV) The Bible has this to say about his limited ministry in Nazareth: “Jesus… went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. ‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:1-6 NIV). Luke tells of another time in the synagogue of Nazareth when Jesus read from the prophets and claimed that their words were fulfilled in him: “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff” (Luke 4:28,29 NIV).

The pressure from neighbors must have been tremendous for Joseph and Mary.  It seems that in time even Mary begins to bend. The Bible tells us that she comes with her other children and tries to convince her Son to stop what he is doing. In fact, the Bible says Mark 3:21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” NIV   Maybe they began to believe what everyone was saying. Before the resurrection even his own brothers did not believe in him (John 7:5).

What would it be like to live with the criticism, the misunderstanding day in and day out?  I can think of one word, exhausting!

Joseph is clearly a man of faith and strength.

Like Joseph I may be challenged by…

 Rough Circumstances

 Now Joseph’s life is a life full of tough breaks and rough circumstances.  Another rough circumstance must have been a sense of frustration on Joseph’s part, for the Bible says that he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. Here is this beautiful woman who is his wife, and there is no sexual relationship between them. He loves her, and he waits for the son to be born.   It was tough. He took cold showers for six months so the baby could be born to a virgin!

Then like we talked about in the last post, Mary and Joseph had to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register for a census and taxation. Mary is nine months pregnant they have to walk 70 miles! Talk about a rough circumstance.

Then the inability to find lodging, after arriving in Bethlehem from the tiresome journey, there was no place to stay, no place to sleep, no room in the inn. Talk about a rough circumstance.  Surely God did not intend this. Did they make the wrong decision? Should they have stayed home until the baby was born? Joseph must have second-guessed himself many times that night.

They were directed to a cave/stable of some sort. And there, in a humble stable not in splendor away from anyone familiar not in the comfort of home God entered the world as a dependent infant. Talk about a rough circumstance!   I told you last week about the Christmas of 1990 watching my grandmother die of colon cancer.  I didn’t tell you about Christmas eve 2000 sitting in an emergency room with Noel who had RSV (a respiratory problem).  It’s easy to think, “what a bummer, what an inconvenience!”  But it is not as rough as Joseph’s Christmas.

If what we have said happened to Joseph is not enough look what happens next!

3 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Matthew 2:13

Now they are being hunted like animals.  They are refugees in another country.   How can we face these challenges?  What can we learn from Joseph this godly man that God chose to be the wife of Mary the earthy father for Jesus?    In the next post we will learn from Joseph how to win life’s challenges.



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Am I Challenged Like Joseph?

Do you put out a Nativity Set with your Christmas decorations?  With Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, some sheep, camels, the Wiseman and some shepherds?  We have a few, but my mom has several large sets.  To me, they always look so peaceful and serene; so cute and quaint, often Mary and Joseph will have halos.

The truth is that setting was anything but calm and peaceful.  Mary and Joseph were probably tired and dirty from walking 70 miles.  This thanksgiving we went to Edna and then to Childress, a thousand miles in four days, we didn’t have halos it was more like horns!  Mary was exhausted from giving birth, Joseph was relieved it was over; he hadn’t had “Lamaze” class.

In Matthew Chapter 1 we will see the human struggles, the stresses, and the challenges of the Joseph in the Christmas story.

Christmas can be challenging time of the year,

Like Joseph I May Be Challenged By…


  • Broken Relationships

 We live in a country today of broken relationships.  Divorce is rampant, 50% of all marriages in the US end in divorce.  Most people I know have been affected by divorce.  Divorce occurs many times by the choice of one individual, sometimes both, but often one individual will make the choice and the rest of the family is left in the aftermath.  Broken relationships are painful and challenging.  This is also what Joseph had to face.

 18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18

During their engagement they were no doubt a normal couple anticipating their future together. They were making plans—ready to face the world together.  They also talked about the wedding, what they would wear, who would be in the wedding party, and which guests would be invited—all the things a couple talk about even today as they plan for their marriage.

But, one day during this betrothal period, Mary announced she was going to take a trip south to the hill country outside Jerusalem, to visit her elderly cousin, Elizabeth. Her visit stretched into a three-month stay. Joseph must have missed her terribly. When she returned home at last, he was no doubt very glad to see her. Do you remember what it is like to be separated from your true love?  Now that separation was over. They were together again. But, then came a sudden shock—a devastating discovery. As the one translation reads Mary, “was FOUND to be with child.” This wasn’t Joseph’s baby and he knew it so instantly THEIR dreams turned into HIS nightmares!

Think of how he must have felt. He had been working hard, preparing for their life together. Now he was faced with what from his perspective could only looked like unfaithfulness on her part.  Did Mary tell him about a visiting angel, and how this would be a special child?  But not only was her story unbelievable…for a pious Jew like Joseph it bordered on blasphemy. This news also meant Joseph’s reputation would be destroyed…so I’m sure that he was more than hurt. He was ANGRY. What kind of fool did Mary take Him for? To claim that she was pregnant but still a virgin?!

But Joseph couldn’t believe her. How COULD he accept such a story? Would you if you were in his circumstance? No, I think not. He came to the same conclusion you and I would have. Mary had committed adultery. Well, he no doubt endured restless days and sleepless nights trying to decide what to do.

Like Joseph I may be challenged by…

  • Tough Decisions

…. he decided to break the engagement quietly. Matthew 1:19c

If they had been living in Moses day that decision would have been taken from him, Mary would have been immediately stoned to death. But the laxness of the Jewish theocracy in Joseph’s day and the infiltration of Roman law gave him two other options.

  1. He could make her a public example…charge her with adultery in a public court.
    She would be shamed, brought to trial, convicted in front of everyone, ruined forever in terms of reputation or….
  2. …he could quietly, before two or three witnesses, write out a bill of divorce and end their relationship.
    There would be no fanfare. It would be less public and few would need know. Mary could simply go away somewhere and secretly bear and raise the child.

The Scripture tells us that after his wrestling emotionally with what he should do.  He decides to take option 2 and end their engagement discreetly. As verse 19 says, “…. he decided to break the engagement quietly.” And he would have followed through with that plan had it not been for a message delivered by an angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream. In this miraculous manner Joseph learned that Mary had been telling the truth. And we know the wonderful events that happened from then on as the Christmas event unfolded.

Back up and be sure to note that in Joseph’s part of this event we see a man who endured a great heartache but came out of it on top. This should make us pay great attention to his role in the Christmas story because you and I deal with heart-breaks or challenges all the time. We face dark and difficult situations that are unfair to us…things we don’t understand, broken relationships tough decisions.

Verse 20 says that “As he considered this.”  We usually read through things pretty quickly and think that he made up his mind in a quick way, “hum chicken or fish” but the word “consider” means he took some time, it means to “revolve in mind” or “weigh in the mind” (from Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 2000 by Biblesoft)

He probably went off alone and thought about what had happened and his thoughts gave way to prayers as he poured his heart out to God. Picture him as he climbed the hills around Nazareth a solitary figure crying to the God he had faithfully served all his life, seeking wisdom to deal with his heartbreaking problem.

Have you ever done that in a challenging time? Just gone somewhere and got honest with God—told Him of your pain, your anguish, and asked for His help?  I know that I have and during those times I have felt God’s comforting presence.  When I am absolutely honest with God, honest with myself I leave that time knowing God cares and I get some direction for tough decisions.  This is because PRAYER CHANGES THINGS!

In life when it looks like everything is against us—when it looks like we can’t possibly win—when it looks like it’s the end and our dreams are crashing down around us, prayer actually changes the whole situation because prayer unleashes God’s power. This power may come in the form of wisdom, an idea we desperately need and can’t come up with ourselves. It may come in the form of courage greater than we can muster. It may come in the form of confidence or perseverance, uncommon staying power, or a changed attitude or maybe even in the form of an outright miracle…(like what happened to Joseph) but prayer does change things! Someone once wisely said, “When we work, WE work, but when we PRAY, GOD works.”  And you know, one of the most important “things” prayer changes is US. You see, as we pray we are drawn into the love of God and we begin to see people from His perspective and love them as He does. Prayer provides a perspective on life that we cannot find in any other way.

So, when we face a heartbreak, tough decision, a challenging situation as Joseph did, the first thing we must do is pray Philippians 4: 6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  NIV

Perhaps Joseph thought he had only two options: divorce Mary quietly, or have her stoned. But God had a third option, marry her. In view of the circumstances, this had not occurred to Joseph. But God often shows us that there are more options available than we think. Although Joseph seemed to be doing the right thing by breaking the engagement, only God’s guidance helped him make the best decision. When our decisions affect the lives of others, we must always seek God’s wisdom.

In the next post we will see two more challenges that Joseph had to face and that we will more than likely face this year too.




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Why is the Virgin Birth Important?

Why is the virgin birth of Jesus important?  This is controversial but important teaching of scripture. In our upcoming series, we dive into Isaiah’s prophecy that “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and[c] will call him Immanuel.[d] ”  and the gospel of Matthew’s declaration that this was fulfilled in Jesus,  but some people do not agree.

Biblical history records some amazing and spectacular births. The birth of Isaac to a previously barren woman nearly one hundred years old, who was laughing at the thought of having a child, was a miraculous event. The womb of Manoah’s barren wife was opened and she gave birth to Samson, who was to turn a lion inside out, kill a thousand men, and pull down a pagan temple. The birth of Samuel, the prophet and anointer of kings, to the barren Hannah, whose womb the Lord had shut, revealed divine providential power. Elizabeth was barren, but through the power of God she gave birth to John the Baptist, of whom Jesus said there had yet been no one greater “among those born of women” (Matt. 11:11). But the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus surpasses all of those.

Fantasy and mythology have counterfeited the virgin birth of Jesus Christ with a proliferation of false accounts intended to minimize His utterly unique birth.

For example, the Romans believed that Zeus impregnated Semele without contact and that she conceived Dionysus, lord of the earth. The Babylonians believed that Tammuz was conceived in the priestess Semiramis by a sunbeam. In an ancient Sumerian/Accadian story inscribed on a wall, Tukulti II (890-884 b.c.) told how the gods created him in the womb of his mother. It was even claimed that the goddess of procreation superintended the conception of King Sennacherib (705-681 b.c.). At the conception of Buddha, his mother supposedly saw a great white elephant enter her belly. Hinduism has claimed that the divine Vishnu, after reincarnations as a fish, tortoise, boar, and lion, descended into the womb of Devaki and was born as her son Krishna. There is even a legend that Alexander the Great was virgin born by the power of Zeus through a snake that impregnated his mother, Olympias. Satan has set up many more such myths to counterfeit the birth of Christ in order to make it seem either common or legendary.

Modern science even speaks of parthenogenesis, which comes from a Greek term meaning “virgin born” In the world of honey bees, unfertilized eggs develop into drones, or males. Artificial parthenogenesis has been successful with unfertilized eggs of silkworms. The eggs of sea urchins and marine worms have begun to develop when placed in various salt solutions. Nothing like that has ever come close to accounting for human beings; all such parthenogenesis is impossible within the human race. Science, like mythology, has no explanation for the virgin birth of Christ. He was neither merely the son of a previously barren woman nor a freak of nature. By the clear testimony of Scripture, He was conceived by God and born of a virgin.

Nevertheless, religious polls taken over the past several generations reveal the impact of liberal theology in a marked and continuing decline in the percentage of professed Christians who believe in the virgin birth, and therefore in the deity, of Jesus Christ. One wonders why they want to be identified with a person who, if their judgment of Him were correct, had to have been either deceived or deceptive—since all four gospels explicitly teach that Jesus considered Himself to be more than a man. It is clear from the rest of the New Testament as well as from historical records that Jesus, His disciples, and all of the early church held Him to be none other than the divine Son of God.

A popular religious personality said in an interview a few years ago that he could not in print or in public deny the virgin birth of Christ, but that neither could he preach it or teach it. “When I have something I can’t comprehend,” he explained, “I just don’t deal with it.” But to ignore the virgin birth is to ignore Christ’s deity. And to ignore His deity is tantamount to denying it. Real incarnation demands a real virgin birth.

Matthew’s purpose in writing his gospel account was partly apologetic—not in the sense of making an apology for the gospel but in the more traditional sense of explaining and defending it against its many attacks and misrepresentations. Jesus’ humanity was often maligned and His deity often denied. Possibly during His earthly ministry, and certainly after His death and resurrection, it is likely Jesus was slandered by the accusation that He was the illegitimate son of Mary by some unknown man, perhaps a Roman soldier garrisoned in Galilee. It was Jesus’ claim of deity; however, that most incensed the Jewish leaders and brought them to demand His death. “For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18).

It is surely no accident, therefore, that the beginning of Matthew’s gospel, at the outset of the New Testament, is devoted to establishing both the regal humanity and the deity of Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus’ being both human and divine, there is no gospel. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the central fact of Christianity. The whole superstructure of Christian theology is built on it. The essence and the power of the gospel is that God became man and that, by being both wholly God and wholly man, He was able to reconcile men to God. Jesus’ virgin birth, His substitutionary atoning death, resurrection, ascension, and return are all integral aspects of His deity. They stand or fall together. If any of those teachings—all clearly taught in the New Testament—is rejected, the entire gospel is rejected. None makes sense, or could have any significance or power, apart from the others. If those things were not true, even Jesus’ moral teachings would be suspect, because if He misrepresented who He was by preposterously claiming equality with God, how could anything else He said be trusted? Or if the gospel writers misrepresented who He was, why should we trust their word about anything else He said or did?

Jesus once asked the Pharisees a question about Himself that men have been asking in every generation since then: “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” (Matt. 22:42). That is the question Matthew answers in the first chapter of this gospel. Jesus is the human Son of man and the divine Son of God.

Many people still today are willing to recognize Him as a great teacher, a model of high moral character, and even a prophet from God. Were He no more than those things, however, He could not have conquered sin or death or Satan. In short, He could not have saved the world. He would also have been guilty of grossly misrepresenting Himself.

It is interesting that certain condescending interpreters of the New Testament acknowledge that Matthew and other writers sincerely believed and taught that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, that He had no human father. But, they claim, those men were uneducated and captive to the usual superstitions and myths of their times. They simply picked up on the many virgin birth legends that were common in the ancient world and adapted them to the gospel story.

Matthew’s account of Jesus’ divine conception is straightforward and simple. It is given as history, but as history that could only be known by God’s revelation and accomplished by divine miracle. It is essential to the incarnation.

Why is the virgin birth important to our  Christian faith?

Jesus Christ, God’s Son, had to be free from the sinful nature passed on to all other human beings by Adam. Because Jesus was born of a woman, he was a human being; but as the Son of God, Jesus was born without any trace of human sin. Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. The infinite, unlimited God took on the limitations of humanity so he could live and die for the salvation of all who believe in him.

Because Jesus lived as a man, we know that he fully understands our experiences and struggles (Hebrews 4:15-16). Because he is God, he has the power and authority to deliver us from sin (Colossians 2:13-15). We can tell Jesus all our thoughts, feelings, and needs. He has been where we are now, and he has the ability to help.

I hope to see you Sunday as we learn more!



Adapted from:
MacArthur New Testament Commentary, The – MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Matthew 1-7.
Life Application Bible Commentary, New Testament.


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