Born Of God, Born Of A Woman

By Oliver Allmand-Smith

The Lord Jesus Christ was born of God and born of a woman; truly divine and truly human. That the Scripture reveals this to us is beyond dispute, but why is it so important that he is both born of God and born of a woman? What does it mean and what are some of the implications?

In the eighth chapter and second paragraph of the Second London Confession, we read:

The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of one substance and equal with Him who made the world, who upholds and governs all things He has made, did, when the fullness of time was complete, take upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities of it, yet without sin; being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures; so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.

At the heart of this statement are those words, “conceived by the Holy Spirit… made of a woman”. These two truths emerge from the pages of Scripture, as the angel Gabriel declared to Mary in Luke 1:31-35:

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name JESUS… 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.

Also, in Matthew 1:22-23:

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet saying: Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated ‘God with us’. 

The woman who carried the baby Jesus in her womb had not engaged in sexual intercourse either with Joseph or with any man, as is made abundantly clear in Matthew 1:18-25. Neither Joseph nor any other man contributed in any way to the conception of Jesus. There was nothing of Joseph in Jesus. His origin as a man did not come from human activity, but from divine intervention. He was supernaturally born of God.

And yet Jesus was truly and really human, in that he grew in the womb and developed as a normal baby, being delivered in the normal manner, and appearing in every way to be a usual human child. His difference lay not in the kind of flesh of which he was made or the mechanism by which his human body and soul developed and functioned, but in the origin of his humanity, John 1:14-18:

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared him.

Thus, as well as being supernaturally born of God, he was naturally born of a woman, “God sent forth His Son, born of a woman.” (Gal 4:4)


The Genesis Of Humanity

We need to relate this back to what happened in Genesis 1-2 as regards the creation of humanity. The body of Adam was formed out of the dust of the ground. In a sense, the earth was the womb out of which the first human being was formed, just as Jesus was formed in the womb of Mary. But the womb-of-the-earth, if we can call it such, did not have the power to give real life, spiritual life, the breath of life, soul-life to that body. In order for man to become a living being, God breathed his own life into the body of Adam:

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Gen 2:7)

Notice how the creation of Adam takes place in two stages (first the physical body, then the spiritual life), unlike everything else in the created order, which simply springs into being at the spoken word of God. What is God’s message to us in this two-stage process? Is it not that man is more than the creatures? This is made explicit later in Genesis 2:18-25, where animal life and human life are placed in stark contrast, being completely different in essence. 

In the creation narrative man is distinct from the animals in being both body and soul, of the earth and of the Spirit. This has its parallel in relation to Jesus, who is the last Adam (I Cor 15:45) – he is of the womb of Mary and of the Spirit of God.


A New Humanity In Christ

There is a definite parallel between Adam and Jesus, the first man and the last man, the father of the first humanity (Adam) and the father of a new humanity (Jesus). It was always God’s plan to send his Son to be the last Adam, the second child of God, who would rule in perfection, as Adam failed to do. Isaiah prophesied of his coming in Isaiah 9:6-7:

For unto us a Child is born, 

Unto us a Son is given;

And the government will be upon His shoulder.

And His name will be called:

Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace

There will be no end,

Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,

To order it and establish it with judgment and justice,

From that time forward, even forever.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. 

The gospel message is nothing less than the truth that God has formed a new humanity in Christ, a whole new human race, a new beginning, all through the man who is born of God and born of a woman. New life and new hope through a new birth of a new humanity, all because Jesus was born of God and born of a woman. 

We too can be born of God if we are born again of the new humanity in Christ Jesus, as John explains in John 1:12-13:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 


The Glory Of The Womb

Think of that womb of Mary. How can we understand what is going on inside? In one sense, it is an ordinary womb, if the word ordinary is ever appropriate to describe the womb of a woman and all that God accomplishes there. Martin Luther noted the work God does within the woman’s womb; “Even if all the world were to combine forces, they could not bring about conception of a single child in any woman’s womb nor cause it to be born; that is wholly the work of God alone.” God chose the woman’s womb to be the place where he brings about new life. A woman’s womb is the most creative, most lively, most generative, most hopeful place on planet earth. In many ways, a woman’s womb is doing the work of Genesis 1-2 over and over and over again. Consider that wonderful picture given to us in Psalm 139:13-16:

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skilfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

If every human being is born of a woman, and yet the process of his being formed is supervised directly by God himself in that woman’s womb, how much more directly is God involved in the forming of Jesus, who is born of a woman and born of God? As the Hebrew of Psalm 139:13 more literally implies, what weaving-together was done in that womb by the hand of God the Holy Spirit?

And yet it is vital to assert that the materials used by God in the forming of the man Christ Jesus in his mother’s womb were the very same materials that were used in Genesis 2:7. This is a new humanity, and it is formed out of the dust of the same earth as the old humanity. The only difference between the forming of every human being in Adam and the forming of the Lord Jesus Christ is that we are all conceived in sin, while he is conceived in perfection. What was said by David about himself, that he was brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5), could not be said of the man Christ Jesus. To the contrary, the testimony of the New Testament is unequivocal concerning his sinless perfection: 

 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 

(Heb 7:26, 4:15)

In light of this, carefully consider the glorious dignity of every woman’s womb. It was God’s purpose to save humanity through the fruit of the womb from the very beginning, as the wonder of the covenant of grace is first announced in Genesis 3:15, where God says to the Serpent:

I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.

This covenant promise is located in the womb of the woman, through a Seed that we later know was planted not by Adam, or by Joseph, but by God himself.

Many Scriptures give intriguing insights into the wonder of the womb and the glory of its creativity and beauty and wonder. Have we really grasped the fullness of God’s purpose for the womb? Do we understand what is happening whenever a new life is being woven together by God in the womb? Consider the implications of these texts:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” 

(Jer 1:5)

For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 

(Luke 1:15)

And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 

(Luke 1:41)

According to these texts, unborn babies in the womb can be known by God, sanctified by God, ordained by God, filled with the Holy Spirit of God, prepared for service by God, and even appreciate the presence of God. Consider the dignity of human life even from conception, throughout life in this age, into old age, and beyond death into eternity. How devastatingly wicked that there are now people who champion the mass slaughter of those alive in the womb, the place they ought to be the safest. And all in the name of so-called ‘love’. The value of human life is inherent, immense, even incalculable. It is greater than the sum of its parts, in the image of God and the likeness of Christ from conception into eternity.


The Value Of Human Life

For the secularist, human life is purely material and ultimately meaningless, as Richard Dawkins explains:

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A. E. Housman put it: ‘For Nature, heartless, witless Nature, Will neither care nor know.’ DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.

For those following human-originated religion like Richard Dawkins, human life is meaningless and purposeless. It is therefore in our hands to determine what we choose to make of ourselves and the situations in which we find ourselves. It is in this crucible of Darwinian relativism that abortion and euthanasia and eugenics thrive, with all the diminishing and destruction and devastation of human life they bring in their wake.

What about the Christian view? In the beginning, humanity was given remarkable dignity, being made in the image of God, to reflect the very character and being of the creator himself, as Genesis 1:26-27 expounds:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Then there is the tender intimacy that is implied in Genesis 2:7, where God forms the body of Adam, raises that body up and breathes into it his own life. What dignity is ascribed to humanity here? It is the very breath of God himself that gives us life. The essence of our humanity is not the physical body, but the spiritual soul, enlivened by the Spirit of God. Man’s life is God’s Spirit within him. This explains how the Bible can describe the consequence of losing the Spirit of God as “death”, even when the fleshly body of humanity continued to survive physically (Gen 2:17). 

We have no true human life without the Spirit of God. The man who is spiritually dead is not truly alive at all. That lifelessness will only be confirmed in what the Bible calls the second death. In this relation we can begin to understand the biblical doctrine of hell as the ultimate conclusion to humanity’s tale of woe, the inevitable outcome of our rebellion against God, the supreme experience of the man who has existence but lacks anything of the Spirit of God within him. What will that be like? We simply cannot know, but we know it will be a sub-human experience of complete horror – humanity without the Spirit of God? Born of a woman, but not born of God? Unthinkably awful! Truly and literally a beastly existence. 

Yet in the biblical account of Christ’s conception and birth, we have a new and higher dignity ascribed to humanity. In Christ, God himself took humanity to himself (John 1:14). Who can fathom the elevation of humanity entailed in the fact that God has appropriated humanity to himself in the person of the Son? Furthermore, he has done this forever, so that the man Christ Jesus is eternally enthroned in the heavens and seated at the Father’s right hand. The eternal dignity of the God-man, elevated to the throne of the universe, ruling in his humanity forever: 

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. (Heb 1:1-4)

And remember that the humanity of the Lord Jesus did not commence at birth, but at conception in the womb. The dignity of divinity was brought to humanity even in the womb of the virgin Mary. While we cannot begin to fathom what this meant for the Son of God by experience, it is surely clear that God hereby grants the womb a dignity that elevates it to the highest place. Upon conception in the womb, human life is brought into existence and its inherent, immense, even incalculable value springs into being. It is greater than the sum of its parts, in the image of God and the likeness of Christ from conception into eternity. 


A Heavenly Humanity

The Lord Jesus was conceived and born, before living and dying. He rose again and ascended on high as the first fruit of a new humanity. Through his Holy-Spirit-conception and virgin birth, he broke the chain that tied humanity to sin, enabling all those who are born again in him to share in the wonder of his new life. He came to inaugurate a whole new human race, freed from the shackles of sin, and delivered from all its consequences:

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.  But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.   (I Cor 15:20-23)

He came, not as a son of Adam, but as the Son of God! Joseph, Mary’s betrothed husband, was a son of Adam, as is made explicit in the genealogy of Luke 3:23-38. As such, any offspring of his would have the same problem as the rest of fallen humanity, chained to sin and unable to break free. However, Jesus was not the natural born son of Joseph, and therefore not a son of Adam, but the Son of God! As such he is qualified to be the head of a new humanity (John 1:12-14). That’s why his life, death, resurrection, ascension, present rule in glory and return in splendour are such good news for all those who are in him: 

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (I John 3:1-2)

How we should rejoice and celebrate and praise the one who came at Christmas time, to elevate our humanity to the heights of his heaven!