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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:Nothing is impossible for the God of the Virgin Birth
Text:Luke 1:37 (View)
Occasion:Advent
Topic:Struggling with doubts
 
Preached:2010-12-19
Added:2011-12-22
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Liturgy from 1984 Book of Praise

Psalm 113:1,2

Psalm 33:6

Psalm 132:1,6,7,10

Hymn 13:1,3,6

Psalm 89:7,12

Read:  2 Samuel 7:1-17;  Luke 1:26-45

Text:  Luke 1:37

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The angel Gabriel, the angel who stands in the presence of God, told Mary, “With God nothing will be impossible.”

That is a big, far reaching claim and it raises a number of questions.

·      Is it true?

·      And if it is true, does God in fact do the impossible?

·      And if we believe that He does do the impossible, what should we then do with the situations in our own lives that seem to be impossible?

The angel Gabriel said that with God nothing will be impossible in the context of the greatest miracle ever:  that the eternal Son of God, who is and remains true and eternal God, would take upon Himself true human nature from the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary, through the working of the Holy Spirit.  (Heidelberg Catechism, answer 35.) 

Today not everyone believes it was possible  for the Son of God to be born of a virgin through the working of the Holy Spirit.  There are many who think that this was a superstitious myth, a myth that we in the enlightened 21st century no longer need to believe.  Some will say that there was no historical Jesus who was both true God and true man.  Others will say that although Jesus Christ is true God and true man, we do not have to believe that He was born of a virgin; we can believe that his mother was Mary and his father was Joseph.

However, we are compelled to believe in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ for at least three reasons.  First, the Bible is given to us as the Word of truth, and not as a collection of myths.  If we do not believe the virgin birth, we make Luke a liar and in-so-doing we would also make God a liar.  Second, since it is absolutely clear that Jesus was conceived before Mary was married, if Jesus was not conceived of the Holy Spirit, Jesus would have been the direct result of an immoral act.  And third, it is because Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin (which proves how Jesus was conceived) that the Christ could be both true God and true man.

But another question to consider is why so many people who claim to be Christian would want to deny the virgin birth of Christ.  And that often has to do with their view of God and their view of themselves.  Such people tend to see God as a supreme being who is above and beyond the world and who simply lets the world run its course with little or no intervention.  For such people, God does not work miracles, and He does not really answer prayer.  Further, people deny the virgin birth because such a miracle does not fit in with their rational and critical thinking.  Such people are too proud to take God at His Word.  They do not believe in Jesus as He has been revealed to us in His Word.  And the result of that is that they do not see the need to submit to Christ in obedience to the clear teaching of His Word. What they think and believe is then more important than what the Bible has to say.

In this church we confess and believe that what the Bible says is true.  We believe that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.  And we believe that in the Virgin Birth God has shown us that with Him nothing is impossible.  But that does leave us with a question:  How then should we live before the God who does the impossible?

I preach to you the gospel concerning the Virgin Birth under the following theme:

Nothing is impossible for the God of the Virgin Birth.

1.    A promise that looks impossible.

2.    A method that appears impossible.

3.    A response that sounds impossible.

1. A promise that looks impossible.

Our Scripture reading in Luke 1 began with verse 26:

“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth.”

The sixth month refers to the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  Earlier in Luke 1 the angel Gabriel was sent to the Temple and there, in the middle of the holy act of Zacharias laying incense on the altar, the angel came and told Zacharias that he and Elizabeth would have a son in their old age.  That son was to be named John, and he was to prepare the way for the coming Messiah.  Now, six months later, the angel Gabriel is sent to earth from the presence of God to make another announcement.  But this time he was not to give his announcement in the temple, nor in Jerusalem, nor to one of the priestly family.  He was sent to Nazareth, a small town in the northern region of Galilee.  He was sent to speak to a woman, to a young girl, a virgin engaged to be married.  It was to Mary that the greatest blessing one could imagine was to be given.  And so the angel Gabriel entered the place where Mary was and said,

“Rejoice, highly favoured one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

Mary was troubled when the angel came to her with such a greeting, and we can understand that.  What sort of a woman was she that an angel should speak to her and say that she was blessed above all women?  What was the reason that she should be the one to give birth to the Son of God?

The Roman Catholic Church has its own answer to what kind of a woman Mary was.  They do not see her as an ordinary young woman in an ordinary town, but that she was chosen to be the “Mother of God” (as they say) because of some special goodness in her.  The Roman Catholic Church takes the greeting of the angel Gabriel to Mary as something like a prayer and, following the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible (a translation the church used for about 1000 years), they do not call her the “favoured one”, that is the one who has received grace, but they call her the one who is full of grace or favour.  And so, combining the Latin translation of the greeting of the angel in verse 28 with the greeting Elizabeth gave Mary in verse 42, the Roman Catholics will pray to Mary saying,

“Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

The Roman Catholics teach that the angel Gabriel went to Mary because she herself was without sin and was full of grace, and so she was worthy to be the mother of our Lord, and that from her all grace would flow.  They also teach that not being married but rather being a virgin is more holy, and so they say that Mary remained a virgin for the rest of her life.

But that is not what the Bible says.  The Bible does not say that Mary was without sin – Mary herself confessed God to be her Saviour in Luke 1:47.  The Bible does not say that Mary remained a virgin – from Matthew 13 we can learn that she had at least six more children.  And most importantly the Bible does not say that Mary is able to give grace to sinners.  What the Bible does say is that Mary too received God’s grace and favour.  It was by God’s grace that she, a young, lowly girl from Nazareth, was chosen to be the mother of Jesus.  And Mary herself says this in verse 48,

“For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.”

And that is the first thing that is seemingly impossible:  that the angel Gabriel should come with such a message to a godly, but ordinary, young virgin in an ordinary town called Nazareth.  But what also looks impossible is the message itself.  Luke 1:31-33,

“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 will be no end.”

Such a description of the One whom Mary was to carry in her womb was incredible:  a Saviour who would be great, the Son of God, the descendant of David who would be King forever.  Just who then, would Mary be carrying in her womb?

The words of Gabriel take us back to 2 Samuel 7.  In 2 Samuel 7, David had wanted to build a Temple for the LORD.  But God told David that rather than David building God a house, the LORD would build a house for him.   In verse 12 – 14a the Lord told David,

“When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be his Father, and he shall be My son.”

These words of promise that God gave to David come back in the promise given to Mary.  When we compare this to Luke 1:32,33 we see the following:

a)    2 Samuel 7:12 says that the coming king would be of the seed or offspring of David, and Luke 1:32 says that Mary’s child will be given the throne of his father David.

b)   In 2 Samuel 7:14 God says, “I will be his Father, and he shall be My Son” and Luke 1:32 says that Mary’s child will be called “the Son of the Highest”, and verse 35 says that He will  be called “the Son of God”.

c)    In 2 Samuel 7:13,16 God says to David “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” and Luke 1:33 says that “of His Kingdom there will be no end.”

So Gabriel is saying that the child whom Mary would bear would be the fulfilment of the promise that God had given to David so many years ago.  However there is something that needs to be pointed out:  the prophecy that God gave David in 2 Samuel 7 did not only refer to the coming Christ.  In verse 14,15 of 2 Samuel 7 the Lord said,

“And if he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men.  But my mercy shall not depart from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed before you.”

Now this part of the prophecy to David does not refer to Jesus, for Jesus did not commit any sin.  We need to understand that the prophecy given to David was to be fulfilled in two stages.  The first stage of the fulfilment of God’s prophecy to David did not refer to the Christ but to his son Solomon and the kings who came after him.  When God told David in verse 12 that his “seed” would be on the throne after him, this does not refer to a single person, but of a line of kings.  But that line of kings would lead to the Great King who would be king forever.  The coming of Jesus would be the complete fulfillment of what God has promised to David. 

But the Old Testament has much more to say about the coming of Jesus Christ.  Isaiah 7:14 says,

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

And in Isaiah 9:6,7 (“For unto us a child is born . . .) speaks about the coming Child as Himself being almighty God and that He would sit upon the throne of David forever.

And so the Child to be born of Mary would not be the fulfilment of just one prophecy in the Old Testament, but in Him would come the fulfilment of all God’s promises!  And that was the promise that the angel Gabriel had come to deliver to a very young lady named Mary in the small town of Nazareth.  All of God’s promises would find their fulfillment in the fruit of her womb.

Was that promise impossible?  It was a huge promise, a promise the boggles your mind, where the more you think about it the more amazing it becomes!  But the God who makes promises is the God who has the power to fulfil His promises.  With God nothing will be impossible.  For He can and He does enter our world and our history and our lives to do everything He says He will.

2. A method that appears impossible.

When the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus, she asked,

“How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

“How can this be?”  The Bible teaches us that the reason for Mary’s question is different to the reason for Zacharias’ question of “How shall I know this?” in Luke 1:18.  Zacharias asked his question out of unbelief; for him the idea that Elizabeth would give birth to a son was impossible.  But Mary wanted to know “how” it would happen that she would be the mother of Jesus, not “if” it would happen.  She did believe that the promise would come true (see Luke 1:45) but she did not know how it would come about.  Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph, but she was not yet married; she was a virgin.  And being a godly woman, Mary was saving herself for marriage.  She was preserving her sexual purity as a prize for her wedding day, the way that every woman – and man – should.  But how then would she conceive?  And then the angel told her something that was very amazing:

“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.”  (Luke 1:35)

The Angel told Mary that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the Highest would overshadow her.  This was the Holy Spirit who, it says in Genesis 1:2, was hovering over the face of the waters when God created the world.  This was the Holy Spirit who was in that Cloud of Presence Who filled the Temple in Exodus 40.  Just as the Glory of God, the Power of the Highest, came down and dwelt among the people of Israel, so God’s glory, through the Holy Spirit, would overshadow Mary and cause one of her eggs to be fertilized with the Son of God.  There was absolutely no hint of a physical union here; it was a miracle.  But it is a miracle that with God is possible.  The God who brought Adam into this world without using a man or a woman, the God who brought Eve into the world using nothing but a rib from Adam, the God who brings each one of us into the world through the miracle of procreation, is the God who is able to cause His Son to born of a virgin!

The virgin birth can not be explained in a scientific way, following the natural laws that God has set in place on this earth.  But we need to remember that those laws are not a rule to themselves:  the Lord God has established them and He continues to uphold them by His power and providence.  And since He is the One who controls this world, He is also able to intervene and perform a miracle that does not follow the natural laws that He has set in place.  The Virgin Birth is a miracle and a mystery, but we can believe it if we believe that with God nothing is impossible, and if we believe that He could and would fulfil His promise to send us His Son. 

To assure Mary that she would indeed conceive and give birth to the Lord Jesus, the angel told her about Elizabeth, whom we now learn was a relative of Mary.  Elizabeth had also conceived, even in her old age.  And just as God had caused Elizabeth to conceive when her body was a good as dead, so He could cause the Child Jesus to be conceived in the womb of a virgin.  “For with God nothing will be impossible.”  The LORD who had asked Sarah in Genesis 18:14, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” is proving once again that No, nothing is impossible with God.

But when we believe that, we must also live by it.  Then we must also respond in faith, submitting ourselves to God and saying, “Let it be to me according to Your word.”

3.  A response that sounds impossible.

The virgin Mary was a normal young girl from a normal town.  Although she, as well as Joseph, was a descendant of king David, it was because of God’s grace and favour that He chose her to be the mother of our Lord.  She was most likely no more than a young teenager when the angel came to her.  In those days it was common to be engaged between the age of 12 and 14 and married a year after that.  And so it could well be that Mary was no more than 14 or 15 years of age when the angel came to her.  But however young she might have been, Mary’s response was one of great faith, trust and submission:

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:38)

And that was it!  No ifs, no buts.  No “But what about Joseph?”  No “But what will my family say?”  No “But why me?”  Mary trusted God for what would seem impossible and she submitted to Him in faith.

It would lead to a difficult journey.  Her engagement to Joseph would be so strained that Joseph would have divorced her had an angel not spoken to him also.  Mary would no doubt have been the subject of much gossip and slander in the village of Nazareth.  She had to make the uncomfortable journey to Bethlehem and give birth alone in a stable.  She would be forced to flee to Egypt for a time.  And when Jesus began His ministry, she once came looking for him to call him home.  And finally it was as if a sword pierced her heart when she stood by to watch the Saviour – her Son – abused and hung on a cross.  It would be a difficult journey, but Mary said, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

How could Mary say that?  How could she give a response that sounds so impossible?  Because Mary’s great faith was founded in a great God – a God for whom nothing would prove to be impossible. 

And this is your God also.  The Lord worked a miracle in the womb of the virgin Mary.  She conceived and gave birth to a Son whom she named Jesus.  And if you believe that God could cause His Son to be born of the virgin Mary, then you can also believe that God can do much more!

In Luke 18 a rich man came to Jesus asking what he should do to inherit eternal life.  The Lord responded and told him to sell all that he had and follow Him.  The rich man, however, became very sorrowful and turned away.  To which Jesus said in Luke 18:25,

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard it they said, “Who then can be saved?”  And Jesus responded in verse 27,

“The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”

And Jesus says to you, “Leave everything behind and come, follow Me.  Trust Me.  Believe in Me.  Whatever it is that is keeping you from obeying My Word in faith – whether it is money or pride or personal circumstances or even the pain of betrayal – put it to the side and come, follow Me.”

Mary did not weigh up the consequences and then conclude whether or not it was in her best interests to believe the word of the angel.  She received it as God’s Word and simply said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word.”

And what about you?  Those who deny the virgin birth do not believe that “with God nothing will be impossible.”  They are not willing to forsake all things and follow Him.  But what about you?

We are coming towards the close of another year.  For some of you, this may have been a really tough year.  Some of you may be suffering from the brokenness of life, from painful memories, from the effects of your sin or the sin of others.  Perhaps it is a personal struggle that you just can’t seem to conquer.  Perhaps it is the pain of betrayal, when fellow brothers or sisters in the faith treated you in a manner you just can not comprehend.  Some of you may still be struggling with these things.  It is as though you are carrying a heavy burden in your backpack.  You take your troubles out and you try to hold them in your hands.  You look at them, you talk about them, but you don’t know what to do, so you sigh and return them to your backpack.  Some of you may have learned to cope by distancing yourself away from those who caused you pain, and perhaps away from others too.  Perhaps you have learned to cope by growing prickles:  “Don’t get too close to me, or I’ll bite!”

You know what God wants of you, but are you ready to do it?  With God, nothing will be impossible!  If God could cause His Son to be born of a virgin, if He could do the seemingly impossible and cause you to be saved, why can’t you trust Him with your life?  What is stopping you from taking Him at His Word and submitting to it in obedience?  For with God, nothing will be impossible.  Trust Him.  Submit to Him.  Hand it over to Him.  You see, we are all called to take God at His Word and to submit to His Word in faithful obedience, whatever the consequences might be.  But be encouraged!  Romans 8:32 says,

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

It is not a blind faith that is required, nor a leap in the dark.  It is in the assurance of a firm confidence that we may trust God and submit ourselves in obedience to His Word.  With God nothing will be impossible.  Trust Him.  Submit to Him.  And He will graciously deliver you to dwell with Him in His kingdom forever.  Amen.

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2010, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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