“Emmanuel’s Incarnation” – Matthew 1:18-25

August 24th, 2014

Matthew 1:18-25

“Emmanuel’s Incarnation”


Meditation/Preparation: Jesus is Emmanuel, the God/man, the Savior of the world.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” —which means, “God with us.”  — Matthew 1:23


Background Information:

  • Whenever Jesus comes into somebody’s life, He creates problems.  That’s just inevitable. (Tim Keller message, “His Name)
  • The genealogy of Jesus declared him to be the Son of David.  The story of his birth reveals him as the Son of God.  (Charles R. Erdman, The Gospel of Matthew, 29)
  • This account of the supernatural birth of our Lord is given with inspired delicacy and reserve, yet with such definiteness and clearness as to leave no doubt as to the fact recorded.  The statement of the perplexity of Joseph, the reference to Jewish law and custom, the divine guidance granted in the dream, the simple declaration of the miraculous event, are all so natural and circumstantial as to indicate that the writer was composing not a poetic idyll but sober history.  (Charles R. Erdman, The Gospel of Matthew, 29-30)
  • In reality, the virgin birth belongs with the rest of the NT message about Jesus.  The eternal dignity and glory that Jesus had before the world began (Jn 1:1-9) made it natural that He should enter into incarnate life in a way that proclaimed the glorious role He was coming to fulfill (Mt 1:21-23; Lk 1:31-35).

Matthew and Luke are interested in how through this unique birth as a human being Jesus came to fulfill God’s purposes of redemption, especially in tasting human sorrow and dying for sinners.  They are less concerned with the virginal conception as a physical wonder or an apologetic weapon.  (Luder Whitlock, New Geneva Study Bible, 1603)

  • In this first paragraph this even extends to the wording of 1:18 (“having in her womb”), 1:20 (“behold”), and 1:21 (“she will give birth to a son”), all taken directly from the Isa 7:14 quotation in 1:23 (cf. similar promises in Gn 16:11; 17:19).  Matthew also may intend that readers recall the childless matriarchs whose wombs God opened, most notably Sarah (Gn 21:1-7), Rachel (Gen 30:22-24), and Hannah (1 Sm 1:20).  (G. K. Beale and D.  A. Carson, Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, 3)
  • (v. 18)The engagement was often made when the couple were only children.  It was usually made through the parents, or through a professional match-maker.  And it was often made without the couple involved ever having seen each other.  Marriage was held to be far too serious a step to be left to the dictates of the human heart.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 18-19)
  • (v. 18) That Mary was “found” to be pregnant indicates that she may not have immediately told Joseph, but had waited until her condition could be seen. This probably occurred after her return from visiting her pregnant cousin Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist) with whom she had stayed for three months (see Lk 1:39-56).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 14)
  • (v. 19) Divorce for adultery was not optional but mandatory among many groups in ancient Judaism, because adultery produced a state of impurity that, as a matter of legal fact, dissolved the marriage.  Yet, his concern for her long-term reputation compels him to avoid exposing Mary to public disgrace.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 75)
  • (v. 19) Joseph thought he had only two options: divorce Mary publicly or dismiss her quietly, but God had another option for Joseph.

God often shows us that we have more options than we think.  Although Joseph seemed to be doing the right thing by breaking the engagement, God helped him make the best decision.  We should always seek God’s wisdom, especially when our decisions affect others.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 15)

  • (v. 19) His dilemma was threefold.  First, he could not believe that a girl as pure and good and spiritual as his beloved Mary could have done what she must have done if she was indeed pregnant–and the telltale signs were evident before long.  He knew perfectly well that he was not the father of the child.  Second, Joseph could not believe the story that Mary had told him.  It was simply too far-fetched.  Third, he did not know what to do about the situation.  He had to do something if he was to save his own good name, possibly even his life.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 34)
  • (v. 19) Some persons of a rigorous temper would blame Joseph for his clemency: but it is here spoken of to his praise; because he was a just man, therefore he was not willing to expose her.  He was a religious, good man; and therefore inclined to be merciful as God is, and to forgive as one that was forgiven.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 6)
  • (v. 19) He would do what was right.  He would simply have to part company with Mary because although he could not believer her to be guilty of immorality, he could not believe her explanation of her condition.  Even if it broke his heart and hers, he would have to be guided in this extremity not by his emotional involvement with her, not by any anger to resentment he might naturally feel over being betrayed, but by the Word of God.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 34)
  • (v. 20) One of the slanders which the early Christians had to answer was that Jesus was born out of wedlock; for, it was asked, why did not Joseph report the matter at once to the authorities, when he discovered that Mary was pregnant during the period of their betrothal?  Matthew records the answer.  It is not denied that Mary became pregnant before Joseph had consummated the marriage; but it is urged that, although as a law-abiding man he was well aware that he ought to make the matter public, he nevertheless refrained from doing so from a desire to shield his betrothed from shameful exposure, and had begun to envisage the possibility of divorcing her secretly.  But, before he had time to take action, he was divinely instructed in a dream not to hesitate to take Mary into his house as his wife, for it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that her child had been conceived.  Joseph, though not physically the child’s father, would nevertheless by virtue of his marriage to Mary give Him His true legal status.  (R.V.G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 33)
  • (v. 20) In biblical times dreams were often used as vehicles of revelation.  They seem to appear in clusters: in the patriarchal period, during the ministry of Daniel, and in the nativity narratives in Matthew.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 11)
  • (v. 20) Angels are spiritual beings, created by God, who help carry out his work on earth.  They bring God’s messages to people (Lk 1:26), protect God’s people (Dan 6:22), offer encouragement (Gn 16:7ff.), give guidance (Ex 14:19), carry out punishment (2 Sm 24:16), patrol the earth (Zech 1:9-14), and fight the forces of evil (2 Kgs 6:16-18; Rv 20:1-2).  Both good and evil angels exist (Rv 12:7), but because evil angels are allied with the devil, or Satan, they have considerably less power and authority than good angels.  Eventually the main role of angels will be to offer continuous praise to God (Rv 7:11-12).  The angel who appeared to Joseph was one of God’s messengers, sent to correct Joseph in his dealings with Mary.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 16)
  • (v. 20) This verse emphasizes the supernatural character of the whole event.  To reinforce the encouraging words, as well as to verify Jesus’ royal lineage, the angel addressed Joseph as son of David.  Even though He was not the real son of Joseph, Jesus was his legal son.  His Father, in actuality, was God, who conceived Him by the Holy Spirit.  But His royal right in the Davidic line came by Joseph.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 18)
  • (v. 20) When he heard the name of David, from whom he was descended, Joseph ought to have remembered that remarkable promise of God which related to the establishment of the kingdom, so as to acknowledge that there was nothing new in what was now told him.  The predictions of the prophets were, in effect, brought forward by the angel, to prepare the mind of Joseph for receiving the present favor.  (John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 97)
  • (v. 21) The angel explained that the reason for calling the child Jesus was that He would “save his people from their sins.”  This is the first mention of sin in the NT.  The angel used the word hamartia, which literally means “failure to hit the mark” and clearly refers to failure to keep the law–sin by commission or omission in thought, word, or deed.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 36)
  • (vss. 22-23) This birth and this inspiring name were interpreted by Matthew as the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy.  In the days of Ahaz, Isaiah had predicted that God was to grant deliverance to Judah from the kings of Israel and Syria, and that as a symbol of this divine intervention a virgin should bring forth a son who should be called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.”  The ancient prophet may not have had in mind either a miracle or an event of the distant future, but the writer of the Gospel saw that the true meaning of his prediction was realized in the birth of Jesus, for he was no mere pledge of divine deliverance but himself a divine Savior, not only was his name a token of the presence of God, but he himself was manifest deity.  The real significance of the birth of Jesus, as here related, lies therefore in the fact that the Son of Mary is also the incarnate God who is able to save those who put their trust in him, for he is all that his blessed name implies, our divine Savior, “JESUS.”  (Charles R. Erdman, The Gospel of Matthew, 30-31)
  • (vss. 22-23) Pekah king of Israel and Rezin king of Aram (Syria) had formed an unholy alliance and were threatening to invade Judah and replace Ahaz with a puppet king, the son of Tabeel (Isa 7:6).  The prophet Isaiah declared that God would not allow this to happen, reassuring Ahaz that God would maintain the promise that a descendent of David would sit on his throne forever (2 Sm 7:11-17).  In order to confirm that these two kings would not conquer Judah, Isaiah prophesied that the Lord would give to Ahaz a sign: A virgin would give birth.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 79)
  • (vss. 22-23) Isaiah prophesied that a woman who was a virgin at the time of Ahaz (734 B.C.) Would bear a son named Immanuel.  Since neither the queen nor Isaiah’s wife was a virgin, this was most likely some unmarried young woman within the royal house with whom Ahaz was familiar.  The woman would marry, conceive a child, and, when he was born, give him the name Immanuel, perhaps as a symbolic hope of God’s presence in the dark times of national difficulty.  Before the child was old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, Judah would be delivered from the threat of invasion from the two northern kings (Isa 7:14-17).  The northern alliance was broken in 732 B.C., when Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria destroyed Damascus, conquered Aram, and put Rezin to death.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 80)
  • (vss. 22-23) The prophecy of Isa 7:16 was fulfilled.  Tiglath Pileser came, within a very short time after the prediction was uttered.  He carried away a portion of the inhabitants of Pekah’s realm and did not at all object when Pekah himself was murdered by Hoshea (2 Kgs 15:29, 30).  He also advanced against Rezin’s kingdom, took its capital Damascus, deported its people, and slew Rezin (2 Kgs 16:9).

Was not this literal fulfillment of prophecy a clear and evident token whereby Ahaz and the whole house of David could assure themselves that the Lord was standing guard over the realization of his own plan regarding the Messianic promise?  Was not the failure of the two foes, Pekah and Rezin, to destroy the Davidic dynasty, a clear sign that the Davidic ancestry of the messiah was being protected, so that the Messianic prediction found in 2 Sm 7:12, 13 and elsewhere could be fulfilled; i.e., so that the coming Redeemer could indeed be born as the son and legal heir of David?  Thus viewed it becomes clear that the prophecy of verse 14 fits into this context very beautifully.  There is no need whatever to introduce into this passage any supposed reference to Abi, the wife of Ahaz, and her son Hezekiah (2 Kgs 18:2); or to the wife of Isaiah, and one of her children; or to any of their contemporaries.  The virgin is Mary.  Emmanuel is Christ..  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 140)

  • (vss. 22-23) Now the scripture that was fulfilled in the birth of Christ was that promise of a sign which God gave to king Ahaz (Isa 7:14), Behold a virgin shall conceive; where the prophet, encouraging the people of God to hope for the promised deliverance from Sennacherib’s invasion, directs them to look forward to the Messiah, who was to come of the people of the Jews, and the house of David; whence it was easy to infer, that though that people and that house were afflicted, yet neither the one nor the other could be abandoned to ruin, so long as God had such an honor, such a blessing, in reserve for them.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 8)
  • (vss. 22-23) Matthew recognized that Isaiah’s son fulfilled the dimension of the prophecy that required a child to be born in the immediate future.  But the larger, eschatological context, especially of Isa 9:1-7, depicted a son, never clearly distinguished from Isaiah’s who would be a divine, messianic king.  That dimension was fulfilled in Jesus, who was unequivocally born to a young woman of marriageable age, but to a woman who also was a virgin at the time of the conception.  Whether or not Matthew was aware of any previous interpretation of Isa 7:14 as referring to a sexually chaste woman, the “coincidence” of Jesus being born of a virgin was too striking not to be divinely intended. Matthew could indeed speak of Isaiah’s prophecy as fulfilled in Christ.  The canonical form of Isaiah was already pointing in this twofold direction.  (G. K. Beale and D.  A. Carson, Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, 5)
  • (v. 23) Matthew closed his Gospel with the same promise of “God with us” because, always, even to the end of the age (Mt 28:20 NKJV).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 18)


From Message at HFM December 2nd, 2007 on Isaiah 7:




  1. God gave the sign of Immanuel — Because times were precarious (1-6)

{4} Isaiah. . . . say to Ahaz, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood


Whenever facing a superior opponent (Dt 20:1 & 31:6-8)  When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. . . . Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”



• Romans 8:28 – God will make it work out

• Genesis 50:20 – even turn evil into good


II.    God gave the sign of Immanuel — To remind Ahaz God is sovereign and can protect him (Israel) (7-9)

{7} Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says:  “‘It will not take place, it will not happen,



III.     God gave the sign of Immanuel — To reassure Ahaz of God’s nature (10-16)

{14} Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.



• God gave the sign of Immanuel — to show Ahaz the consequences of rejection (17-25)

“He will bring the King of Assyria” (17)


He trusted in Assyria and wanted Assyria . . . then Assyria Ahaz will get.  And the nation has forever despised him since.


If God is for us who can be against us?  — Rom 8:31



  • (v. 24) When Joseph woke up, he realized it was more than a dream.  It meant that all his dreams could come true.  He could marry his beloved after all.  He could marry her with the full approval of Heaven, which far outweighed the disapproval they would face from man.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 35)
  • (v. 25) To squelch any doubts about the conception and birth of Jesus while Mary was still a virgin, Matthew explained that Joseph had no marital relations with her until after the son was born.  These words also set aside the notion that Mary lived her whole life as a virgin; after Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary consummated their marriage, and Jesus had several half brothers (12:46).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 19)
  • (v. 25) Matthew makes it clear that she remained a virgin until she gave birth, implying that normal marital relations began after that time.  The fact that Jesus’ brothers and sisters are spoken of numerous times in the gospels (Mt 12:46; 13:55-56; Mk 6:3; etc.) prove that Mary did not remain a virgin perpetually, as some claim.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 22)


Supernatural Births to signal God’s Working

Sarah/Isaac (Genesis 12-21)

Manoah’s wife/Samson (Judges 13)

Hannah/Samuel (1 Samuel 1)

Elizabeth/John the Baptist (Luke 1)


The Importance of the Virgin Birth:

Predicted by Isaiah                                  Isaiah 7:14

Proclaimed by Matthew and Luke            Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:26-35

Prescribed by John                                  John 1:14

Preached by Paul                                     Galatians 4:4; 1 Timothy 3:16

(Edward Hindson and James Borland, Matthew: The King is Coming, 20)


The questions to be answered are . . . Why does the Church hold so tenaciously upon the doctrine of the virgin birth of Emmanuel?


Hymn from Medieval England (in Latin) – When the daughter begat the father


In you was he conceived O Royal Virgin

He who rules the heavenly court

Into you the world’s essence was sent

In you was His flesh created

Within you He was enclosed

Who encloses all

The Eternal One was born

Father from daughter


He was made man, who made man.  He was created of a mother whom he created.   He was carried by the hand that he formed.  He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, he the Word.   Without whom all human eloquence is mute.” — St. Augustine


Answer: Because if Jesus is not born of a virgin then Jesus, and all the New Testament writers are liars and the Gospel is nothing more than a once upon a time fairy tale.  But, the virgin birth is a space/time event verified by all the New Testament writers, Jesus’ miracles, and the evidence of the power of God among those who believe in Emmanuel.


The Word for the Day is . . . Incarnation



I.  Jesus the God/Man came to be incarnated by the creative power of the Holy Spirit.  (Mt 1:18-20   Gen 1:1-2; Ps 33:6; 104:30; Isa 32:15; Ezek 37:1-14; Lk 1:35)


The role of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ conception (which will be explained in v. 20; as yet Joseph knows nothing of it) reflects the OT concept of the Spirit of God active in the original creation (Gn 1:2; Ps 33:6) and in the giving of life (Ps 104:30; Isa 32:15; Ezek 37:1-14); cf. The possibility considered above that v. 1 is intended to suggest a new creation.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 50-51)


Do not speculate beyond the text.  Do not require of it something more than what it simply says.  Do not ask, “But precisely how was it that the Spirit accomplished this in a virgin?”  For even when nature is at work, it is impossible fully to explain the manner of the formation of the person.  How then, when the Spirit is accomplishing miracles, shall we be able to express their precise causes?  Lest you should weary the writer or disturb him by continually probing beyond what he says, he has indicated who it was that produced the miracle.  He then withdraws from further comment.  “I know nothing more,” he in effect says, “but that what was done was the work of the Holy Spirit.”  (Chrysostom, The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 4:3)  (Manlio Simonetti, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Mt 1-13, 12-13)


What kind of extreme madness afflicts those who busy themselves by curiously prying into the unutterable generation?  For neither Gabriel nor Matthew was able to say anything more, but only that the generation was from the Spirit.  But how from the Spirit?  In what manner?  Neither Gabriel nor Matthew has explained, nor is it possible.  (Chrysostom, The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 4:3)  (Manlio Simonetti, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Mt 1-13, 13)


Obviously Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit is a great mystery.  Even had He wanted to do so, how could God have explained to us, in terms we could comprehend, how such a blending of the divine and human could have been accomplished?  We could no more fathom such a thing than we can fathom God’s creating the universe from nothing, His being one God in three Persons, or His giving an entirely new spiritual nature to those who trust in His Son.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 16)


From the biblical perspective, the genesis of life in the first place was through the power of the Spirit of life, of the Spirit of God.  Gabriel was declaring to Mary that same power by which the universe was made; that same power that brought life out of the darkness originally is the power that will overshadow her womb and produce a son.  God doesn’t need a human father to bring this to pass.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 24)


The mystery of Christ’s incarnation is to be adored, not pried into.  If we know not the way of the Spirit in the formation of common persons, nor how the bones are formed in the womb of any one that is with child (Eccl 9:5), much less do we know how the blessed Jesus was formed in the womb of the blessed virgin.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 5)


Note, that which is conceived of the Holy Ghost never proves abortive, but will certainly be brought forth in its season.  What is of the will of the flesh, and of the will of man, often miscarries; but, if Christ be formed in the soul, God himself has begun the good work which he will perform; what is conceived in grace will no doubt be brought forth in glory.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 9)


The primary work–or I suppose we should say the primary works–of the Holy Spirit are found in creation and in re-creation (i.e., regeneration).  And here in our text, as it is often in Scripture, the focus is on the Spirit’s work in creation, this time the creation of God in the flesh.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 43)


OT writers repeatedly refer to the Spirit of God as the agency of God’s power (e.g., Gn 1:2; Jdg 3:10), but not until the Incarnation is the Spirit clearly understood as a person distinct from the Father and Son.  Matthew pays special attention to this distinction (cf. Mt 3:16-17; 10:20; 12:18, 28; 28:19), preparing the way for understanding that in the present age, the Holy Spirit has been sent to carry out the work of God on the stage of human history.  Jesus Messiah is God incarnate, whose miraculous conception and origin are only explained through the work of God the Holy Spirit.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 77)


II.  Jesus the God/Man came to be incarnated so God could be WITH US (Emmanuel) in an intimate and powerful way.  (Mt 1:22-23   Isa 7:14; Jn 1:1-14, 18; 14:9;  Gal 4:4-5; 1 Cor 2:4-5; 4:19-20; 2 Cor 4:4-7; Gal 4:4-7; Eph 1:3-14; 3:20-21; Phil 2:1-11; 3:20-21; Col 1:15-20; 2:9; 3:1-4; 1 Tm 3:16; 2 Tm 1:7; Heb 1:1-4; 5:7; 1 Jn 1:1-3)


Our Lord Jesus Christ is both God for man and man for God; he is God’s incarnate Son, fully divine and fully human. ( J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 26)


No greater blessing can be conceived than for God to dwell with his people (Isa 60:18-20); Ezek 48:35; Rv 21:23).  Jesus is the one called “God with us”:  the designation evokes Jn 1:14, 18.  As if that were not enough, Jesus promises just before his ascension to be with us to the end of the age (28:20; cf. Also 18:30), when he will return to share his messianic banquet with his people (25:10).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 80)


Jesus is the one person who can tell us what God is like, and what God means us to be.  In him alone we see what God is and what man ought to be.  Before Jesus came men had only vague and shadowy, and often quite wrong, ideas about God; they could only at best guess and grope; but Jesus could say, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).  In Jesus we see the love, the compassion, the mercy, the seeking heart, the purity of God as nowhere else in all this world.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 21)


The doctrine of the incarnation and Christ’s identity as fully human and fully divine is the fundamental point where Muslims, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and countless others disagree with Christianity.  It is the ultimate stumbling block.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 22-23)


The term “Immanuel” is directly related to the Biblical doctrine of the presence of God with His people, so clearly promised in Ex 3:12, so eloquently declared in Isa 7:14 and so certainly applied to Jesus in Mt 1:23.  The closing wish expressed in Scripture is just this—“the grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints.  Amen” (Rv 22:21).  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 3, 261)


The virgin birth of Jesus denotes the beginning stage of the redemption of humanity that had been created in the image of God but had been distorted by the effects of sin.  The process of redemption will involve our becoming alive through the sacrifice he will provide for our sin (2 Cor 5:17-21), but then it will also involve patterning our lives after Jesus (2 Cor 3:18; 1 Pt 2:21).  Jesus is the full image of God (Col 1:15-20); he is the one person whose humanity was never spoiled by sin (Heb 4:15).  Since the outworking of the image of God is seen most fully in Jesus, the Christian life means to pattern ourselves after him.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 86)


The phrase, God is with us, is no doubt frequently employed in Scripture to denote, that he is present with us by his assistance and grace, and displays the power of his hand in our defense.  But here we are instructed as to the manner in which God communicates with men.  For out of Christ we are alienated from him; but through Christ we are not only received into his favor, but are made one with him.  (John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 105)


The first thing which we ought to consider in this name is the divine majesty of Christ, so as to yield to him the reverence which is due to the only and eternal God.  But we must not, at the same time, forget the fruit which God intended that we should collect and receive from this name.  For whenever we contemplate the one person of Christ as God-man, we ought to hold it for certain that, if we are united to Christ by faith, we possess God.  (John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 106)


The name of “Immanuel,” the son born of the virgin, is to be the watchword for God’s people, the word of hope, no matter how desperate conditions become among men.  He is the hope because His name means that God is with us.  This would indicate that the one born of the virgin is more than man.  He is also God.  Isaiah 9 would seem to support this, for there the child is called “Mighty God” (Isa 9:6).  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 3, 259)


Immanuel signifies God with us; a mysterious name, but very precious; God incarnate among us, and so God reconcilable to us, at peace with us, and taking us into covenant and communion with himself.  The people of the Jews had God with them, in types and shadows, dwelling between the cherubim; but never so as when the Word was made flesh–that was the blessed Shekinah.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 8)


Mary received Jesus Christ into her life in a rather unique way.  And nobody else ever has or ever will receive Him into their lives as she did.  (Tim Keller, message, “Courage of Christmas”)





A-  Because Jesus is both man and God He is uniquely and exclusively qualified to be the Savior of the world.  (Mt 1:21; see also: Ps 146:3; Isa 9:6-7; Jer 17:5-6; Mt 18:11; Lk 1:68-77; 2:28-32; 2:11, 30-34; 19:10; Jn 1:29; 3:16-17; 6:27-68; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 15:11; 16:31; Rom 3:21-26; 5:8-21; 10:9; 1 Cor 3:11; 2 Cor 5:18-21; Ti 2:11-14; 1 Thes 5:9-10; 1 Tm 1:15; 2:5; 2 Tm:15; Heb 2:17-18; 5:9; Chps 1-10; 1 Jn 4:2, 14)


The idea of salvation in the Bible in general means some kind of rescue from a threat of destruction or calamity, and the highest, ultimate sense of salvation is rescue from the worst of all possible calamities.  The worst calamity that could ever befall human beings is to fall under the judgment of God for their sin.  That is the calamity that awaits every person who does not rush to Christ for salvation.  However, the baby is called “Jesus” because He is a savior, and He will save His people from the consequences of their sins.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 24)


Because Jesus lived as a man, we know that he fully understands our experiences and struggles (Heb 4:15-16).  Because he is God, he has the power and authority to deliver us from sin (Col 2:13-15).  We can tell Jesus all our thoughts, feelings, and needs.  He has been where we are now, and he has the ability to help.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 15)


It is ever God, God alone, who in and through his Son, saves his people.  While some trust in chariots and some in horses (Ps 20:7), in physical strength, knowledge, reputation, prestige, position, magnificent and impressive machinery, influential friends, and intrepid generals, none of these, whether operating singly or in conjunction with all the others, is able to deliver man from his chief enemy, the foe that is little by little destroying his very heart, namely, sin; or, as here, sins, those of thought, word, and deed; of omission, commission, and inner disposition: all those various ways in which man “misses the mark,” God’s glory.  It takes no less than the atoning death of Jesus and the sanctifying power of his Spirit to cleanse hearts and lives.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 132)


If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator.  If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist.  If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.  If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.  But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.


Christ was born of a virgin not only because his birth was to be supernatural, and altogether extraordinary, but because it was to be spotless, and pure, and without any stain of sin.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 8)


Here “his people” goes beyond only Israel and ultimately points to the salvation that Messiah offers to the entire world as the son of Abraham (1:1; cf. 2:6; 3:9; 8:11; 16:18).  This salvation brought by Jesus will be the basis of the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven that he inaugurates as the One who fulfills the law (cf. 4:12-17; 5:17-20).  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 77)


The virgin birth signals Jesus’ true humanity without inherited sin.  Through the powerful work of the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary in the conception of Jesus, the unbroken line of the descent of sin was interrupted, so that Jesus was born holy (cf. Lk 1:35).  As a true human, Jesus can empathize deeply with our human experiences and temptations (Heb 4:15-16) and can provide an example of how to overcome temptation.  The sinlessness of Jesus throughout his life is centered in the fact that his divine nature is so powerful in its determination to do good that it cannot be overcome by any temptation to his human nature.  Thus, he is enabled to be the unique, human, sinless sacrifice for our sin.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 86)


Suppose I were to write you a check for a million dollars.  You would be no better off, for my name is not good for that kind of money.  But if one of the Rothschilds were to write you a check for that amount, you would be a million dollars richer.  What makes the difference?  The name.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 36-37)


Heidelberg Catechism questions 12-19

Q12.  According to God’s righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after:  how then can we escape this punishment and return to God’s favor?

A. God requires that his justice be satisfied (Ex 23:7; Rom 2:1-22).  Therefore the claims of his justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or another (Isa 53:11; Rom 8:3-4).


Q13. Can we pay this debt ourselves?

A. Certainly not. Actually, we increase our guilt every day (Mat 6:12; Rom 2:4-5).


14Q. Can another creature—any at all—pay this debt for us?

A. No.  To begin with, God will not punish another creature for what a human is guilty of (Ezek 18:4, 20; Heb 2:14-18).  Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s eternal anger against sin and release others from it (Psa 49:7-9; 130:3).


Q15. What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?

A. One who is truly human (Rom 1:3; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:17) and truly righteous (Isa 53:9; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26), yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God (Isa 7:14; 9:6; Jer 23:6; John 1:1).


Q16. Why must he be truly human and truly righteous?

A. God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for its sin (Rom 5:12, 15; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:14-16); but a sinner could never pay for others (Heb 7:26-27; 1 Pt 3:18).


Q17. Why must he also be true God?

A. So that, by the power of his divinity, he might bear the weight of God’s anger in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life (Isa 53; John 3:16; 2 Cor 5:21).


Q18. And who is this mediator—true God and at the same time truly human and truly righteous?

A. Our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt 1:21-13; Luke 2:11; 1 Tim 2:5), who was given us to set us completely free and to make us right with God (1 Cor 1:30).


Q19. How do you come to know this?

A. The holy gospel tells me.  God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise (Gen 3:15); later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs (Gen 22:18; 49:10) and prophets (Isa 53; Jer 23:5-6; Mic 7:18-20; Acts 10:43; Heb 1:1-2), and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law (Lev 1-7; John 5:46; Heb 10:1-10);  finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son (Rom 10:4; Gal 4:4-5; Col 2:17).


B-  One comes to BE spiritually or is reborn into the God/man Emmanuel by the same creative power of the Holy Spirit.  (Jn 3:1-16; 6:44, 65; Rom 1:16-17; 15:13; 1 Cor 4:20; 2 Cor 5:17; 12:9; Gal 3:26; Phil 3:20-21; 2 Tim 1:7; Tit 3:1-6; 1 Pt 1:3-5)


The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.  (C. S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, 154)


Wherever Christ is born it is a miracle.  When he is born in us it is by a miraculous conception.  You do not suppose that a man becomes a Christian by some simple and obvious method which anybody can suggest and which any mind can fathom and understand?  When Christ is born in your heart and mine, precisely the same operation is gone through as is indicated in this opening chapter of the Gospel.  It is an unexpected event, it is an event brought about by the overshadowing and ministry of the Holy Spirit.  (Joseph Parker, The Inner Life of Christ, Studies in Matthew 1-7, 8-9)


Part of the purpose of the virgin birth of Jesus is to show us that salvation does not come from man, but from God.  Salvation is wholly the work of a supernatural God, not the work of natural man.  There is nothing we can do to save ourselves from our sins, which is evident even in the way in which Jesus entered the world.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 20)



C-  If Jesus is not the God/man . . . we’re toast.


            —Jesus, and all the NT writers are liars.


The virgin birth of Christ is not an optional article of faith.  It is essential to the gospel.  If Jesus was not virgin-born, He had a human father.  If He had a human father, He was not God.  If He was not God, the Bible is false, Jesus Himself was deluded, and we have no adequate Savior from sin.  If Jesus was not God manifest in flesh, the life that was surrendered on the cross was only a human life and could never have taken away the sin of the world.  As man, He could only have given a life for a life.  As God, He laid down an infinite life that was more than sufficient to redeem any number of finite lives.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 37)


                —There is no salvation.  (2 Cor 5:21)


If Christ had been the son of Joseph and Mary by ordinary generation, would he not have been a human person and as such a sharer in Adam’s guilt; hence, a sinner, unable to save himself, hence also unable to rescue others from sin?  In order to save us, the Redeemer must in one person be both God and man, sinless man.  The doctrine of the virgin birth satisfies both of these requirements.  It reveals to us Jesus Christ, one divine person with two natures: a. divine, b. sinless human.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 143-44)


The rejection of Christ’s supernatural origin leaves this supernatural life and deeds unexplained.  It also leaves unexplained the very possibility of man’s salvation.  That salvation is secured only when the initiative is taken by God, not by man!  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 146)


That He who is to show God to men, and to save them from their sins, must be born of a woman, is plainly necessary.  Because “the children are partakers of flesh and blood,” He also must “take part of the same.”  That He must be free from the taint in nature, which passes down to all “who are born of the will of the flesh or of man,” is no less obviously requisite.  Both requirements are met in the supernatural birth of Jesus, and unless both have been met, He is not, and cannot be, the world’s savior.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 9)


Apart from Jesus’ being both human and divine, there is no gospel.  The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the central fact of Christianity.  The whole superstructure of Christian theology is built on it.  The essence and the power of the gospel is that God became man and that, by being both wholly God and wholly man, He was able to reconcile men to God.  Jesus’ virgin birth, His substitutionary atoning death, resurrection, ascension, and return are all integral aspects of His deity.  They stand or fall together. If any of those teachings–all clearly taught in the NT–is rejected, the entire gospel is rejected.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 13)


History informs us that even the conservative Pharisees did not generally believe that the Messiah would be divine.  Had Jesus not claimed to be more than the son of David, He may have begun to convince some of the Jewish leaders of His messiahship.  Once He claimed to be God, however, they rejected Him immediately.  Many people still today are willing to recognize Him as a great teacher, a model of high moral character, and even a prophet from God.  Were He no more than those things, however, He could not have conquered sin or death or Satan.  In short, He could not have saved the world.  He would also have been guilty of grossly misrepresenting Himself.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 14)


—There is no hope for the future.  (Eccl; 1 Cor 15:12-20; 1 Cor 2:9; 2 Cor 1:20; Eph 1:3, 18-19; 2:6-7; 3:20-21; Phil 3:7-12; Col 2:9-12; Phlm 1:6; 1 Tm 6:17)


What does this presence of God mean then to the people themselves?

First, it means that God will not leave, forsake or fail His people.  That doctrine is taught frequently in Scripture (Dt 31:6; Josh 1:5, 7; 3:7; 1 Kgs 8:57; 1 Chr 28:20).  Related to this doctrine is the promise of God’s truth and mercy ever present when Yahweh is with His people (Gn 24:27).  Cf. Ps 89:33 and 1 Chr 17:13.

Secondly, it means that they need not fear evil or be dismayed (Dt 31:8; 1 Chr 28:20; 2 Chr 20:17; Ps 23:4; Isa 41:10).  They can therefore be strong and of good courage (Dt 31:23).

In the third place, they learn that if Yahweh is with them, they lack nothing (Dt 2:7).  God will purge their evil and perverseness (Nm 13:32; 14:36, 37; 32:13), inclining their hearts to go in His way and to keep His commandments (1 Kgs 8:58).

The concept then will bring to them peace (1 Sm 20:42; 1 Chr 22:18) both personal and as a nation.

The concept of God with His people is the great distinguishing mark between Israel and the rest of mankind (Ex 33:16).  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 3, 260-61)


He will protect them from their enemies (Gn 28:15; 31:3; 46:4; Dt 20:4; Josh 1:5, 7; Jdg 2:18; 1 Sm 18:12, 28), bring victory in battle (Jdg 1:22; 6:16; 1 Sm 17:37; 2 Sm 7:9; 1 Chr 22:18; 2 Chr 13:12; 32:7, 8; Zech 10:5), and cause them to prosper in all that they do (1 Sm 3:19; 7:3; 10:7; 18:28; 2 Kgs 18:7; 1 Chr 22:11, 17; 2 Chr 1:1).  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 3, 261)


“All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness.  The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else, that it was within your reach and you have lost it forever”  (C. S. Lewis;  The Problem of Pain)


If Jesus has come . . . I’ve heard from God (Heb 1:1-2)

If Jesus has come . . . My life has meaning (Jn 4:14)

If Jesus has come . . . Satan has lost (1 Jn 3:8)

If Jesus has come . . . Love has won (Rom 8:38-39)

If Jesus has come . . . Death has died (2 Tim 1:10)

If Jesus has come . . . I’m forgiven (Eph 1:7-8)

If Jesus has come . . . I have a Hero (1 Pt 2:21)

If Jesus has come . . . I’ll share in His victory (Col 1:13)



Worship Point:  Contemplate the miracle of Jesus’ incarnation.  Emmanuel: God with us.  Contemplate as well the miracle that you would come to believe that Jesus died for you.  Then worship the work of the Spirit to give you faith and life.


Gospel Application:  Never forget the Gospel is the Good News of what God has accomplished through Emmanuel incarnated to save us.  The Gospel is NEVER good advice telling us what we must do to be saved.


Spiritual Challenge:  Live in the light of Emmanuel.  Know the promises of God and bask in the richness, the hope, the security, and the brightness of your future IN CHRIST.


In a sense, “God with us” is the story of Scripture in summary.  The key covenant statement of relationship, “I will be their God, and they will be my people,” is sometimes called the “Immanuel theme” in covenant theology.  From the fellowship with God that mankind enjoyed in Eden to “the grace of the Lord Jesus…with all” God’s people in Rv 22:21, the concept of God’s search for His children and His dwelling with them (cf. Jn 1:14) is prominent throughout the Bible.  (Geoffrey Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, 807-8)


Since Immanuel has come: Everything sad is going to come untrue.


Why do you think the Mother of God was a single, pregnant, unwed, mother?   Because this is God’s way of saying, “I don’t care what you are or what you’ve done, if your heart condemns you I am greater than your heart.  In Jesus Christ you are a beauty to me.    (Tim Keller message, “Courage of Christmas”)



Quotes to Note:

Joseph woke up, and something happened to him.  And I’m not totally sure what, but he acted like Jesus.  My guess is that to some very, very low degree he got wind of the fact that Mary really had received this into her life knowing that it would blow up her life forever; and that must have moved Joseph.

Because you know what? . . . Joseph realized that Mary had blown up her life to save him from his sins.  And as a result Joseph looked at Mary.  Mary was in her weakness inevitably.  Mary was in her weakness unavoidably.  Joseph could have escaped.  For Joseph it was voluntary but Joseph voluntarily identified with Mary so that her weakness and her disgrace became his. . . .

. . . The only way for her to be saved was for Joseph to give up his life.  The only way for him to be saved was for Mary to give up hers.  That is what it means to be a Christian.  You know how you are going to get the courage?  You have to see that, like Mary, we were in our weakness inevitably, unavoidably . . . and Jesus was not.   And Jesus did not have to come. . . .

. . . The only way we could be saved is if Jesus did what Joseph did.  He identified with us.  He laid his life down.

What does that mean?  Joseph looked at Mary losing her life for him and he was willing to lose his life for her.  If you look at Jesus losing his life for us, we will be able to face all these things And you are not really giving up your life because Jesus will give you so much more than you ever lost.   (Tim Keller message, “Courage of Christmas”)







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