God’s Word for You – Luke 1:34-35 the sinless Son of God
GOD’S WORD FOR YOU
34 Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I have no husband?” 35 The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
The new Evangelical Heritage Version has Mary say, “…since I am a virgin.” The Greek text simply has “since I have no husband,” but Mary’s point is the same either way. She was betrothed, but she and her fiancé had not been intimate. God’s plan for all of us is that we remain virgins until we are married. Any nonsense that is too often vomited out by the world about finding out whether or not a couple is “sexually compatible” is an absolute misunderstanding about human sexuality and God’s plan for men and women. They are one another’s partners; they are husband and wife. If they love one another and consider their vows to be serious then they will discover together what pleases them. The husband will do everything he can to please his wife, and the wife will do everything she can to please her husband, “as clear as is the summer’s sun.” Mary was not married; the angel was about to give her the answer that would make everything clear.
Her pregnancy was going to be accomplished without any physical contact or violation of her body. The miracle of the virgin birth is expressed this way: “The Holy Spirit will come over you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” According to his divine nature, Christ is the Son of God, and specifically the Son of the Father. Yet the delivery of his person to Mary’s womb was carried out through the only messenger capable of doing so: the Holy Spirit. Since the Son of God was up until the moment of his conception a spirit (John 4:24), there was no need for anything but a spiritual union with Mary. With all other humans, the soul is part of the creation of the new life, the combining of egg and sperm in the womb instantly produces a living child with a soul. A new life is spawned, a soul is present from that moment, and a child is growing. In the case of Jesus, there was only his mother’s egg, and the soul of the Son of God, the spirit carried by the Holy Spirit. The baby that began to grow was God’s Son and Mary’s son, and the son of no other. So according to his human nature, Christ took on Mary’s flesh from that moment. He was now “the holy one to be born.” And he had no corruption, no stain of sin. So the creed acknowledges: “Conceived by the Holy Spirit; born of the Virgin Mary.” The Nicene Creed also says: “He was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary.” This follows the prophecy of God to Eve, that the Savior would be “the seed of the woman” (Gen. 3:15). This is what the Word of God says, and even though there have been men who objected to this for many centuries, we stand on what the Holy Spirit inspired for us to read, hear, believe and understand.
The Athanasian Creed says more fully: “We believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is both God and man. He is God, eternally begotten from the nature of the Father, and he is man, born in time from the nature of his mother, fully God, fully man, with rational soul and human flesh.”
Yet how is it that the sinful body of Mary, virgin or not, could produce the sinless Son of God? Surely this question and other questions are there unasked behind her one question. But all her questions are answered by the angel’s reply, asked or not. Francis Pieper said:
Sin does not belong to the essence of the human nature, but the separation of sin from the human race is a work utterly beyond human power; it is solely the work of divine grace and omnipotence. And so is the work of the Holy Ghost to produce from the sinful nature of the Virgin Mary the holy nature of Christ. Luther uses powerful language in setting forth this truth. He rejects the human dream of a preservation of a massa sancta (“holy lump,” a tiny family of sinless ones) in Israel. All progenitors of Christ, including the Virgin Mary, belonged to the sanguis corruptus (fallen, corrupt bloodline). Not until the moment of conception did the Holy Ghost separate a holy human nature ‘from a fallen bloodline’ (ex sanguine corrupto). At the same time, Luther points to the comfort which tempted sinners find in the fact that Christ assumed the flesh, or the human nature ‘from the contaminated flesh and its horrible dishonor’ (ex carne contaminate et horribiliter polluta) and that the Scriptures mention among the ancestors of Christ also people who had defiled themselves with gross sins. (Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, II 74)
163 years ago, in 1854 (December 8th), Pope Pius IX declared that Mary herself had been subject to a virgin birth as well (by her virgin mother, St. Anne). However, if Pius’ pious decree would be taken seriously, then St. Anne would need to have been born a virgin as well, as so on and on, all the way back at least to Shem’s wife giving birth to some special line of Mediatrices, and more probably back to Eve giving birth to a special child before she and Adam began to give birth to children in their own image (Genesis 5:3). But Eve’s first child was not a sinless saint. Eve’s first child was Cain—so we’re left with the world exactly as we thought it was before Pius’ dream of an earlier virgin birth. Mary’s sinful nature turns up at least twice in Scripture: in going along with her unbelieving sons to try to convince Jesus that he was not their kind of Christ (Jesus’ response was “Whoever does God’s will is my mother and brother and sister,” Mark 3:34, uncovering their sinful intention at that time) and also Mary’s admission that she, too, needed a Savior (Luke 1:47).
Some of our Lutheran theologians have thankfully distinguished between concrete words like “God” and “man” and abstract words like “divinity” and “humanity.” A great many modern theologians stumble at this point and lead themselves and everyone else astray by the simple error of failing to hear what the Word of God really says in statements such as: “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
For concrete terms are words of such a kind as designate the entire person in Christ, such as ‘God,’ ‘man.’ But abstract terms are words by which the natures in the person of Christ are understood and expressed, as ‘divinity,’ ‘humanity.’ According to this distinction is it correctly said in concreto (concretely): ‘God is man, man is God.’ On the other hand, it is speaking incorrectly when one says in abstracto (abstractly): ‘Divinity is humanity, humanity is divinity.’ (Book of Concord, Catalogue of Testimonies, Triglot p. 1111).
Misunderstanding this can only lead to absurdities such as claiming that God is the personification of Good (and therefore man can achieve pure goodness), or that all mankind is divine, or that if God is love, and lovemaking is love, then God must have no problem with whatever lovemaking mankind gets up to. Mankind is sinful; God is not. The reason for the incarnation of the sinless Son of God was the salvation of sinful mankind. We must not read ourselves into this act of grace in any manner other than those who receive the gift. Man, that is, mankind, is not God. But this man, Jesus, is God, because of the personal union of his divine and human natures: the one Son of God is this son of Mary. In the same way, bread in general is not Christ’s body, but within the sacramental union of bread and the body of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, the bread is the body of Christ as we partake of it in Holy Communion just as my wife and I received it together yesterday morning in worship. Christ came to redeem us from the ruin and corruption of sin. The details of his conception are as clear as they are staggering: Christ came for us. And everyone who meditates on this truth must remember to consider the most important conclusion which the gospel unfolds and hands to each one of us: Christ came for me.
Pastor Timothy Smith
Archives by Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel: http://www.wlchapel.org/worship/daily-devotion/
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota
July 20, 2017