You may be wondering why the virgin birth—of all the miracles in Scripture—is so frequently attacked. After all, if one can believe, say, that Moses parted the Red Sea, what’s the big deal about a virgin birth? It certainly isn’t as spectacular a miracle. And Scripture devotes relatively little space to describing it. Can it really be that important?
Yes. The virgin birth is an underlying assumption in everything the Bible says about Jesus. To throw out the virgin birth is to reject Christ’s deity, the accuracy and authority of Scripture, and a host of other related doctrines central to the Christian faith. No issue is more important than the virgin birth to our understanding of who Jesus is.
If we deny that Jesus is God, we have denied the very essence of Christianity. Everything else the Bible teaches about Christ hinges on the truth we celebrate at Christmas—that Jesus is God in human flesh. If the story of His birth is merely a fabricated or trumped-up legend, then so is the rest of what Scripture tells us about Him. The virgin birth is as crucial as the resurrection in substantiating His deity. It is not an optional truth. Anyone who rejects Christ’s deity rejects Christ absolutely—even if he pretends otherwise (1 John 4:1-3).
Jesus Himself viewed the question of His parentage as a watershed issue. Matthew records one of the last confrontations He had with the Pharisees.
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” They said to Him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand, until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet’? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?” No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question. (Matthew 22:41-46)
His sonship was the source of controversy on other occasions. John 8 records another run-in with some leading Pharisees. They told Jesus, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God” (John 8:41). “We were not born of fornication” is a not-so-subtle jab at Jesus. They implied that He was born illegitimately. They twisted the whole point of His miraculous birth to make Him an illegitimate child. They even said later in verse 48, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”
The fact is, there is a direct parallel between those Pharisees and modern religious leaders who hint that the virgin birth is unimportant or a fable. Their challenges grow out of unbelief in Jesus Christ. They are the expression of sinful, unregenerate hearts.
Contrast their response with that of Peter. Matthew 16:13-17 records this exchange between Jesus and His disciples. Again, His sonship is the issue.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
Notice that the answers proposed by the populace were human ones. They had concluded Jesus was either John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. They had not yet grasped the truth of His deity. They assumed He was just a man.
Simon Peter’s response was different. He understood that Jesus was more than a human Messiah, more than an anointed prophet, more than a son of David. He was the Son of the living God. Peter knew because God had revealed it to him (Matthew 16:17). Flesh and blood cannot reach that conclusion. Science, philosophy, and human religion cannot explain who Jesus is. Their adherents will inevitably conclude that He is a great teacher, a good moral example, or even a great prophet of God. But they all miss the fact that He is the Son of the living God.
That’s why the virgin birth is so important. For Jesus to be God, He must be born of God. Joseph, a man, and Mary, a woman, cannot produce God. God cannot be born into this world by natural human processes. There’s no way He could be God apart from being conceived by God.
At this time of year, believers shouldn’t merely celebrate the birth of Christ. Christmas is an opportunity to celebrate every aspect of Christ’s life—His humble incarnation, His transformative ministry, His righteous example, and, ultimately, His sacrificial death. But none of that matters if we don’t believe God’s Word is accurate about His Son’s parentage. When it comes to the truth of the virgin birth, compromise is not an option.