Every Sunday, we will be going through one of the fifty-two Lord’s Days of the Heidelberg Catechism. Written in the year 1563, the Heidelberg still remains a popular confession of faith in many churches to this day. You can find the full text here.
Lord’s Day 14
Question 35: What does it mean that he
“was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary”?
Answer: That the eternal Son of God,
who is and remains
true and eternal God,1
took to himself,
through the working of the Holy Spirit,2
from the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary,3
a truly human nature
so that he might also become David’s true descendant,4
like his brothers and sisters in every way5
except for sin.6
1. John 1:1; 10:30-36; Acts 13:33 (Ps. 2:7); Col. 1:15-17; 1 John 5:20
2. Luke 1:35
3. Matt. 1:18-23; John 1:14; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 2:14
4. 2 Sam. 7:12-16; Ps. 132:11; Matt. 1:1; Rom. 1:3
5. Phil. 2:7; Heb. 2:17
6. Heb. 4:15; 7:26-27
Question 36: How does the holy conception and birth of Christ benefit you?
Answer: He is our mediator 1
and, in God’s sight,
he covers with his innocence and perfect holiness
my sinfulness in which I was conceived.2
1. 1 Tim. 2:5-6; Heb. 9:13-15
2. Rom. 8:3-4; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 4:4-5; 1 Pet. 1:18-19
Why was Jesus born in such a way? What does it mean? Why couldn’t Jesus have just had a normal birth? The virgin birth was not some unplanned event that just so happened to make Jesus’ seem cooler. This was always God’s plan. God even tells us it’s going to happen hundreds of years in advance:
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
This was the only way Jesus could have been born. The sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, caused all of creation to fracture and it’s impact can still be seen and felt today. We are born with sin in our nature. We all can join in with David as he cried out in Psalm 51:5 “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” The one trespass of Adam led to condemnation for all mankind (Romans 5:18-19) and this condemnation has been passed down as an inheritance from child to child ever since. If Jesus had a normal birth, with Joseph as His earthly father, then Jesus would have received that inheritance…He would have been a sinner. In the virgin birth, Jesus takes on our human nature but avoids the sinfulness of it by being conceived by the Holy Spirit instead of man. So in taking on His human nature in this way, He remains innocent and pure, unstained by sin. At the same time, He also maintains His divine nature. In theology, this is known as the hypostatic union. Jesus is both fully God and fully man. The only way the hypostatic union could have taken place is by being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin.
By being a sinless man, Jesus is able to present Himself as a perfect substitute for mankind in His complete obedience to all that the law of God requires. This obedience is impossible for us. We were conceived in sin. But the eternal Son of God took on a truly human nature so that He might be our mediator and cover us with His innocence and perfect holiness. This is all made possible by the active obedience of Christ.
“I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it.” – John Gresham Machen