It is very significant that right at the beginning of the NT Scriptures, the person of the Holy Spirit is found setting in motion the process that would culminate in the wonderful event of the incarnation of Christ. The same Spirit that brooded over the face of the waters in creation at the beginning, preparing it for the creation of man, is seen operating upon the womb of Mary to prepare her as a vessel through whom the Lord Jesus would be born. It is vital to understand that apart from the miracle of His conception by the Holy Spirit, there would have been no acceptable sacrifice for our sins and no sinless Savior. In our Lord’s incarnation, the Holy Spirit is said to be the active agent.
The incarnation of Christ was a stoop. The Lord of glory stepped into time and, in so doing, became what He had never been before, a dependent yet perfect man. For the Lord, this was a real descent. It must not be forgotten that He was the Son of the Highest. His native sphere was heaven, yet in marvellous condescending grace He Who was spirit became flesh, He Who was invisible became visible and He Who was God became man. The Lord’s incarnation was an acceptance. When the Lord Jesus became incarnate, He came into a new experience and into new conditions. In wonderful love to fallen man, the Lord Jesus accepted these conditions. In submission to His Father, the Lord was willing to endure misrepresentation, hatred and rejection. The Son from heaven became the Stranger on earth. The incarnation was a miracle. What could possibly exceed the wonder of the incarnation? In the Lord becoming man, He continued to be possessed of Deity. This He never relinquished. It is vital to understand from Holy Scripture that the Lord Jesus when He came into the world did not take upon Himself a new personality. He was the same Person He had ever been from all eternity. The person in the womb of Mary was the same as He had been in the bosom of the Father. He took upon Himself another form, but He continued to be what He ever had been, the Son of God. He did not become a creature because He became a man in His own creation. Our blessed Lord was not two persons, but one person possessed of essential deity and perfect manhood. The Lord could say, “before Abraham was I am” (John 8:58). He could also say, “I will put my trust in Him” (Heb 2:13 ). We understand the first in the light of His deity. We appreciate the second in the light of His manhood. The person who spoke these words was one: the Son of God who became flesh (John 1:14 ). The incarnation was a necessity. As early as Gen 3:15, where we have the first clear promise in the Bible, the incarnation of Christ is anticipated. The Seed of the Woman (Christ) will bruise the head of the serpent (the devil). The incarnation was the first great step in the fulfilment of this. All 0 T history was a preparation for the incarnation. In God’s great program for the redemption of man and the final overcoming of evil, the incarnation had to take place. Without this there would have been no hope for man and no victory over the devil.
The Power of the Spirit in the Incarnation
Not once, but twice in Matt 1:18-21, we have reference to the fact that the Lord Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He was the mighty operator whereby a Divine Person came into manhood. It was not the first time that the Spirit of God had been at work in the miracle of a birth, for we read in Gal 4:29 that Isaac “was born after the Spirit” . What does it mean to be “born after the Spirit”? It shows that Isaac was born by a special operation of divine power. The fact that Sarah at her advanced age was able to bear a son was a great miracle. From Paul’s words we see it was the Spirit of God who was the agent. Omnipotent power is one of the attributes the Holy Spirit shares in common with God the Father and Christ. In Job 26:13 it is stated, “By His Spirit He hath garnished (or made beautiful) the heavens”. From this it is plain the Spirit of God is all powerful. So the great miracle of Isaac’s birth is attributed to the Spirit. Great and wonderful though it was that Isaac should ever have been born, it is far more wonderful that Christ should be conceived of the Holy Spirit. What is the difference between the Spirit’s work in Isaac’s case and His work in the Lord’s conception? Isaac’s birth was a supernatural birth. Supernatural power brought it about. This supernatural power was the very power of the Spirit, but Isaac had a natural father and was born a sinner. Christ did not have a natural father. In addition, it is important to see that Mary was overshadowed by the power of the Highest. This we take to mean that the womb of Mary was guarded all the time she carried the Lord. The Lord’s conception and birth were not only miraculous, but unlike Isaac’s, were altogether unique. The ordinary operation of natural law in Mary’s case was superseded by the direct work of the Spirit. Notice how the word “beget” is often repeated in Matt 1. Yet in v 16 this word is omitted and substituted by the phrase “with whom” . How very careful the Holy Spirit is in the wording here! This change is to show that our Lord Jesus was not born of human generation. He was conceived in Mary’s womb by the power of the Spirit.
The Place of the Spirit in the Incarnation
It should be no surprise that the Spirit of God is involved in the coming into the world of the Lord Jesus. It has been well said by another, “Preeminently thus the Holy Spirit was at work ruling and over-ruling, in every circumstance guiding the march of all history forward towards one event, the incarnation of the Son.” The Spirit of God is often seen in relationship to the Lord. He was involved as a prime mover in a number of crisis events in the earthly history of the Lord Jesus. The Spirit is seen acting in the Lord’s baptism (Matt 3:16), temptation (Mark 1:12), ministry (Luke 4:18), death (Heb 9:14) and resurrection (1 Peter 3:18). This precious truth of the Lord being conceived by the Spirit is seen in the meal offering of Lev 2: 4. While the pouring of the oil upon the fine flour suggests the power of the Spirit in His ministry as man, the mingling of the oil with the fine flour typifies the perfection of His manhood produced by the Spirit. The incarnation of our blessed Lord was both a mystery and a miracle. It cannot be explained by natural reasoning, but must be accepted by faith.
The Purpose of the Spirit in the Incarnation
One of the great reasons why the Spirit has given us such holy details of the incarnation is to emphasize the sinless character of Christ. It is the Spirit’s desire ever to glorify the person of Christ and to jealously guard the truth as to the Lord’s person. From Luke’s record we find the angel saying to Mary, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee. This was not only to accomplish the miracle of the conception and birth of Christ, but to show that God was the very source of the Lord’s existence on earth in manhood. His manhood came from God. He did not become like others a fallen man. He was not even an innocent man, but He was man holy in absolute perfection. The manner of the Lord’s conception in the virgin womb cuts off any involvement with or effects by Adam’s sin. This is why we read of the Angel going on to say, “that HOLY THING which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). So in this wonderful verse we have the power, the protection (the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee) and the purpose of the Spirit in producing that Holy Thing. Notice especially that the holiness of Christ is not based here on what He was eternally. It is true He ever was the Holy One, but it is based upon what He was in the womb of Mary. The Lord continued to be holy as He was formed and developed in the virgin womb. This is why the virgin birth was a moral necessity because of who the Lord was and what He was. May our hearts not only rejoice in these wonderful truths, but be filled with a greater love for our glorious Lord!