When I wrote last week about Andy Stanley and the controversy he aroused over the Virgin Birth of Christ, I had already determined that unless another more compelling issue arose, I would readdress the matter again.
I still maintain that given the evangelistic context of Andy’s statement, “Christianity doesn’t hinge on the truth or even the stories around the birth of Jesus,” he was not wrong. I do not know of any evangelistic strategy today that incorporates the birth narratives when witnessing to unbelievers, nor was it a strategy of the early church.
But in a completely different context, the Virgin Birth of Christ is one of the hinges on which the door of Atonement swings. Here’s why.
According to the ceremonial law of the Old Testament animal sacrifices could not be offered if they were blind, lame, or had a physical deformity of any kind. This requirement of an unblemished sacrifice presaged the coming of the Messiah who would need to be a sinless sacrifice for our sins.
Adam had been created in a state of innocence free of any inclination to sin. But when Eve and he ate the forbidden fruit sin altered their nature, and the Scriptures teach us that sin nature, the propensity to sin, was inherited by their offspring and each successive generation.
The Christ, the Greek word for Messiah, needed to be sinless in life and in birth to be an adequate sacrifice for our sin. Had Jesus been born from the union of Joseph and Mary, the human race would have been doomed. This is why her conception was “of the Holy Spirit” and why Joseph “kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son: and he called His name Jesus,” Matthew 1:20, 25.
Without the Virgin Birth there could have been no Atonement, and without the Atonement there could have been no Christianity. But the sinless sacrifice of Christ was divinely orchestrated to meet the demands of a Holy God who requires an unblemished offering.
Understanding how Father God provided for our salvation is not necessary for us to secure it. He merely requires us to recognize we are sinners and trust in His grace and mercy provided by our Savior Jesus Christ.
This is why I said Andy had made a “very strong statement” in what he said, because in one sense the Virgin Birth is not an essential element of evangelism, but in a greater sense it is indispensable to our Atonement. It is not a necessary message for the unbeliever to believe: it is necessary for the atonement and a message to the believer of the extent Father God and God the Son went to secure our eternal well-being.
The Virgin Birth provided the necessary foundation so “that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them,” 2 Corinthians 5:19.