My compliments to all the contributors to the January 15, 1998 special issue of the Standard Bearer. I found this issue to be quite instructive and thorough. As you mentioned in that issue, the subject of “Reformed Worship” is a very timely topic. It is also one that perhaps even the Protestant Reformed denomination doesn’t emphasize enough. Our churches have been blessed with a long history of Reformed, scriptural worship services, and it’s easy to forget that this is not simply the result of tradition. As each new generation arises, we need to be constantly reminded of what the true worship of God consists. Thanks to all the writers for doing exactly that.
I am writing about the article by Rev. C. Hanko, “Mary the Mother of Our Savior” (Standard Bearer, Dec. 15, 1997). Rev. Hanko seems to present two different concepts concerning the doctrine of the incarnation: 1) the body of the Lord was conceived by the Holy Spirit; 2) the conception was not a complete, single act of the Holy Spirit, but was an act of the Holy Spirit and Mary. Mary’s ovary produced the ovum, and the Holy Spirit provided the sperm or semen to complete the act of conception.
I have these questions.
Rev. Hanko wrote, “The triune God in His Son joined Himself with us by implanting the seed of life in the virgin.” Is Rev. Hanko speaking about the spiritual seed as fulfillment of the Messianic promise or of a natural seed as of Adam, Abraham, David, and us?
What scriptural evidence is there to support the statement, “The Holy Spirit laid the sperm of life in Mary. By the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit this seed developed into an embryo and a fetus and into a fully developed child”? Yes, the blood of Mary nourished the child, but is it implied here that Mary’s ovary production, her ovum, was needed or used by the Holy Spirit to complete the conception? Was Mary’s ovum then part of the conception? No! Matthew 1:28 and Luke 1:32 do not even hint in that direction. Christ’s body was not made as a man like one of us, but in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:7); the Word was made flesh (John 1:14); “a body hast thou prepared me” (Heb. 10:5). God did not send His own Son in sinful flesh as a son of Mary, but sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3). “For that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 1:20).
Scripture speaks of Jesus as born of, never born from, a woman. If the truth is so profound, beyond human comprehension, why delve deeper and try to explain that which has not been revealed?
The conception of Jesus was not 50%, but 100% the work of the triune God.
If, as Rev. Hanko wrote, Jesus was “like unto us in all respects except one,” was Jesus then like unto us in having a human person, as well as having a human body and a human soul? Was He a human being? Would you explain this in light of the doctrine of the Trinity?
Rev. Hanko also wrote: “He was without guilt since He had no human father.” If Jesus was the offspring of Mary, can He be without guilt? Or are you implying that sin only comes through the father and not through the mother?
Our forefathers and the ancient church fought many wrong teachings and laid down in the confessions what Scripture teaches. We have the Apostles’ Creed that states, “Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary.” The Nicene Creed states, “and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost,” meaning that Jesus was incarnate—endowed with human body, to give bodily form to. Do we need to add to this? May we add to this?
Surrey, BC, Canada
The writer objects rather vehemently to the statement that the ovum of Mary was used by the Holy Spirit to complete the conception of Jesus. She states that “Christ’s body was not made as a man like one of us, but in the likeness of men,” etc. This is the error of the Anabaptists.
Our fathers declared in the Belgic Confession, Art. 18, “Therefore we confess (in opposition to the heresy of the Anabaptists, who deny that Christ assumed human flesh of his mother) that Christ is become a partaker of the flesh and blood of the children; that he is a fruit of the loins of David after the flesh; made of the seed of David according to the flesh; a fruit of the womb of the Virgin Mary, made of a woman, a branch of David; a shoot of the root of Jesse; sprung from the tribe of Judah; descended from the Jews according to the flesh; of the seed of Abraham, since he took on him the seed of Abraham, and became like unto his brethren in all things, sin excepted, so that in truth he is our Immanuel, that is to say, God with us.”
This is confirmed by such passages of Scripture as Galatians 4:4: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.”
Also Acts 3:22: “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me, him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.”
Romans 1:3: “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.”
See also: Luke 3:23-28; Galatians 3:16; Isaiah 9:6.
The writer wonders whether I believe that Christ had a human person. No, I do not, nor did I state that in my article. Christ is the person of the Son of God who took on our human nature, both as to body and soul. This is taught in the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 14, question 35: “What is the meaning of these words—’He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary’? That God’s eternal Son, who is, and continueth true and eternal God, took upon him the very nature of man, of the flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary, by the operation of the Holy Ghost; that he might also be the true seed of David, like unto his brethren in all things, sin excepted.”
She apparently believes that her view protects Christ from original guilt. She rejects the idea that the guilt of Adam was transmitted along the line of generations through the father. The Scriptures teach that Christ did not participate personally in either the guilt or the sin of Adam. He was kept from both by the miraculous conception worked by the Holy Spirit without a human father. “For he hath made him to become sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (II Cor. 5:21).
—Rev. C. Hanko