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TEXT: Luke 2:26-38
SUBJECT: Apostles' Creed #4: Conceived, Born
Today we'll get back to our study of The Apostles' Creed. For more than a thousand years, all Christians believed that the Creed was inspired by God in the same way the Bible is. They were wrong, of course, but you understand why they felt the way they did.
The Apostles' Creed is a magnificent summary of the Christian Faith. In a mere 109 words, it names every major doctrine in the Bible, and puts them in the Bible's order. What is the Bible about? It's about many things: God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit; man, sin, and salvation; heaven and hell. These are the main teachings of the Bible-and the articles of the Creed.
But what is the Bible chiefly about? The Lord Jesus Christ. And, where does the Creed put Him? Right where He belongs-smack dab in the middle, and taking up two-thirds of it. It's no wonder The Apostles' Creed has been recited and loved by the People of God worldwide for more than 1800 years!
Last time, we began the doctrine of Christ with a look at His names or titles. Who is that strange Man from Nazareth? And why do Christians worship Him? Because He is
(God's) only Son,
Every word is full of significance. He is Jesus and that means the Savior. He is Christ and that means the Messiah, God's chosen servant. He is God's Son, sharing in the Divine rule. He is God's only Son, not created as the angels are or adopted as believers are, but of the same nature as God. He is Lord because all authority is given to Him in heaven and earth. He is our Lord because we have a special place in His heart and He has a special claim on our loyalty.
Now, having told us who Jesus Christ is, the Creed goes on to say how He came to earth. He didn't come down in a flying saucer; He didn't borrow Elijah's fiery chariot; and He didn't just show up as angels do from time to time. No, He came to earth in a different way-and the difference is of very great importance.
CONCEIVED BY THE HOLY GHOST
Our Lord was Conceived by the Holy Ghost.
At the time of His conception, the Lord's mother was engaged to Joseph, a carpenter from Bethlehem. Joseph was a poor man whose family had once been prominent. Had the fortunes of Israel been better, he would have been the king, and at his death, his Son would have followed him to the throne. Legally, Jesus Christ is the heir of Joseph and the King of Israel.
Though the Lord took Joseph's name and submitted to his authority, the man was not His father! Mary, it seems, had been untrue to her fiance. When Joseph found out, he was heartbroken, but not vindictive. By Law, he could have accused her publicly, and had her stoned to death. But he wanted none of that! Matthew says he was a just man and was minded to put her away privately-thus sparing her the punishment her shameful sin deserved.
But before he did that, something happened. Matthew tells us what:
God appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name 'Jesus', for He shall save His people from their sins".
God tells Joseph to not break up with his girl-not because He wanted him to be understanding of her shady past-but because her past was not shady! Mary had not cheated on her man. The Baby in her womb was conceived by God Himself!
The story makes cynical Americans smile. Who would be naive enough to believe such a story? If your girlfriend told you that would you believe her?
But before we laugh at the poor sucker, let's take note of a few things.
Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in years and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
In other words, she had had her baby when she could not have a baby. Isaac's birth was a miracle-not an unusual birth--but a supernatural work of God. Sarah laughed at the promise of having a baby, but a year later, she laughed in another way! Is anything too hard for the Lord? Evidently not.
This is that Day and this Baby is that Son!
We know how other babies are conceived, but what about the Lord? The Bible does not draw a picture because it's none of our business and it wouldn't do us any good if we had one! The words are few and modest-
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.
On this point, the Apostles' Creed has followed the Bible, both in letter and in spirit. It does not speculate on how it happened, but merely confesses that it happened. Jesus Christ was Conceived by the Holy Ghost.
This means that God is His Father and that our Lord Jesus Christ is Divine. He is not a super man, an alien, or an archangel. He is very God of very God. He is no less Divine that His Father, and He deserves all the worship and obedience that belong to God alone.
BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY
The Creed goes on to say that the One conceived by the Holy Ghost was also,
Born of the virgin Mary.
Although Joseph is not the Lord's real father, Mary is His real mother! Unlike her husband, she did not adopt Jesus, but she carried Him for nine months in her womb, and on that fateful night in Bethlehem, she gave birth to the Son of God!
Being the real son of Mary means the Lord shared in her nature and gene pool. He may well have resembled Mary in body, mind, and personality. She might have seen some of her dad in Him or maybe an uncle or her grandfather. In any event, He was not just a son, but Mary's son.
The Lord's connection to this dear lady may be more important than you think it is.
First of all, Mary was a Jew and this means both she and her Son were under the Mosaic Law and all its curses. Thirty years later, the Legal Curses of Israel will become significant to our Lord-and to us.
Secondly, Mary was a human and this means God is one of us! He didn't become an angel or an elephant or a Redwood. He became a human, in order to understand humans and to save humans from their sin and misery.
Thirdly, Mary was a woman and this means our Lord was not affected by Original Sin. Sin is not only a spiritual thing, it's also an organic thing-a virus, you might say, that has gotten into the blood supply-and everyone has got it! It comes to us through our human fathers and everyone who's got a human father has it. But the Lord doesn't have a human father, and therefore, He has no sin in Him! But this doesn't make Him less human than we are, but more human. For sin is not natural to man; like a cancer it's gotten into us, but it doesn't belong there.
Conceived by the Holy Ghost, Jesus Christ is very God of very God. Born of the virgin Mary means He is very man of very man. He is not a humanized God or a deified man, but God and Man in One Person.
THE VIRGIN BIRTH AND SKEPTICS
Skeptics laugh at the virgin birth of our Lord because it's a miracle, and they say miracles can't happen. But how many of them have studied the issues? And on what authority do they say miracles can't happen? Because they never saw one? Well, how many dinosaurs have they seen? Yet they very much believe in the giant lizards. They believe in them based on evidence-fossil records, scientific claims, and so on. And because others do and they'll seem stupid if they don't.
But is there no evidence for the miracles surrounding our Lord Jesus Christ? And have no intelligent people ever believed in them? So why are the miracles in general-and the virgin birth in particular-waved off with a smile or maybe a frown?
Most people are merely repeating what others have said. Theirs is a borrowed unbelief. Others have studied the issues with care, but they went into it with their minds already made up or their wills set against the Lord. If it's true, I'll have to do what He says, so it isn't true. Because I don't want it to be. Jesus Christ tells you how you can know the truth about Him-and it doesn't require a super brain or a huge library:
If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on my own authority (John 7:17).
The virgin birth is true because Jesus is the Son of God and the son of Man both at the same time and fully!
THE VIRGIN MARY
What does this say about Mary? Some have inferred from the Lord's birth that His mother is now the Queen of Heaven. After all, if He is the King, then Mary is the Queen Mother. But there are two or three problems with this.
Firstly, the Bible doesn't say that, and it's not wise to push human comparisons too far.
Secondly, the Lord says that Mary has no special claim on Him. On hearing a sermon of His, a woman shouted out, Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you! That is exactly what you'd expect a Jewish mother of that time to say-how happy Mary must be having such a Son! But the Lord's answer is not what you'd expect, and must have offended the people who heard Him,
More than that, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.
On another day, a huge crowd was pressing in on the Lord and Mary and her family were stuck way off in the back. Someone told Him, Your mother and brothers are here. But the Lord shocked the people,
Who is My mother and who are My brethren? Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.
The Lord loves His mother, but she's not the Queen of Heaven, but what she always was and only wanted to be,
The handmaid of the Lord.
The Early Church was wrong to elevate Mary. We ought to love her because the Lord loves her. We ought to respect her because she was a fine woman. But to worship her is sinful and to venerate her is really the same thing.
One more thing here. Some Christians believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary. This means that no man had touched her before the Lord's birth--or after. This is not true, for the Bible says the Lord had brothers and sisters-and to say as some have-that they were really cousins or maybe Joseph's children by a former marriage has nothing to commend it. Except for the desire to venerate Mary, which we shouldn't do anyway.
GOD AND MAN
The article is full of deep and mysterious theology. But that's not why the Lord's People have always loved it. We love it because a human Jesus is a man who understands me, knows what pain is, what it feels like to be disappointed or betrayed or not knowing where the next meal is coming from. He was tempted in all the ways that we are!
A Divine Jesus not only feels for us, but He can help us. He can rescue us from our problems or keep us in them by His power and wisdom and grace.
But most of all, a Jesus who is both human and divine can die in our place and satisfy the justice of God. God cannot die, but a man can. A man can only die for himself, but God can for the world. And that's what happened on Mount Calvary, a man died who was also God, and His death is enough to cover my sins in the sight of God. And yours too!
I believe in Jesus Christ.
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
And born of the virgin Mary.
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