John Frame writes that the virgin birth of Jesus is doctrinally important because of:
- The doctrine of Scripture. If Scripture errs here, then why should we trust its claims about other supernatural events, such as the resurrection?
- The deity of Christ. While we cannot say dogmatically that God could enter the world only through a virgin birth, surely the incarnation is a supernatural event if it is anything. To eliminate the supernatural from this event is inevitably to compromise the divine dimension of it.
- The humanity of Christ. This was the important thing to Ignatius and the second century fathers. Jesus was really born; he really became one of us.
- The sinlessness of Christ. If he were born of two human parents, it is very difficult to conceive how he could have been exempted from the guilt of Adam’s sin and become a new head to the human race. And it would seem only an arbitrary act of God that Jesus could be born without a sinful nature. Yet Jesus’ sinlessness as the new head of the human race and as the atoning lamb of God is absolutely vital to our salvation (II Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 2:22-24; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; Rom. 5:18-19).
- The nature of grace. The birth of Christ, in which the initiative and power are all of God, is an apt picture of God’s saving grace in general of which it is a part. It teaches us that salvation is by God’s act, not our human effort. The birth of Jesus is like our new birth, which is also by the Holy Spirit; it is a new creation (II Cor. 5:17).
Frame concludes by asking whether belief in the virgin birth is “necessary”:
It is possible to be saved without believing it; saved people aren’t perfect people.
But to reject the virgin birth is to reject God’s Word, and disobedience is always serious.
Further, disbelief in the virgin birth may lead to compromise in those other areas of doctrine with which it is vitally connected.
You can read the whole thing here.
—John M. Frame, “Virgin Birth of Jesus,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 1249-50.
HT: The First Days of Jesus: The Story of the Incarnation, by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Alexander Stewart (Crossway, forthcoming September 2015).
For a new book on the incarnation, see The Incarnation of God: The Mystery of the Gospel as the Foundation of Evangelical Theology, by John Clark and Marcus Johnson (Crossway, 2015). You can find out more information about it here.