“We confess, therefore, that God did fulfill the promise, which he made to the fathers, by the mouth of his holy prophets, when he sent into the world, at the time appointed by him, his own, only-begotten and eternal Son, who took upon him the form of a servant, and became like unto man, really assuming the true human nature, with all its infirmities, sin excepted, being conceived in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Ghost, without the means of man, and did not only assume human nature as to the body, but also a true human soul, that he might be a real man. For since the soul was lost as well as the body, it was necessary that he should take both upon him, to save both. 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.”
The Belgic Confession, Article XVIII
Article XVII spoke of the promise which God made to fallen man to “give His Son, who should be made of a woman, to bruise the head of the serpent, and would make him happy.” With article XVIII our Confessionspeaks of the fulfillment of that promise in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. That promise spoken to fallen man was spoken repeatedly to the fathers throughout the Old Testament times “by the mouth of the holy prophets.” The speaking did not cease with the “mother-promise” of Genesis 3:15. Shortly thereafter Enoch spoke of the Lord’s coming in judgment with ten thousands of his saints (Jude 1:14, 15). God spoke of the promise to Noah who was saved by the flood of great waters. Even more clearly and fully did God speak to the patriarchs. Abraham received the assurance: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2, 3) On his deathbed Jacob spoke of the promised Christ: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Genesis 49:10) Moses testified of Christ as the great prophet: “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him shall ye hearken.” (Deuteronomy 18:15) Never was Israel without the witness of the prophets concerning the Wonder of the fulfillment of the promise. In their songs both David and Solomon sang of the coming Christ. In the Book of Proverbs He is presented as the highest Wisdom (cf. Proverbs 8). Isaiah spoke of Him as the “root out of dry ground” (Isaiah 53) and as “the Lord’s anointed” (Isaiah 61). Jeremiah spoke of this Christ as: “the Branch of righteousness” which the Lord would cause to grow up unto David. (Jeremiah 33:15) Ezekiel and Daniel both spoke of Him. Many of the minor prophets spoke of the blessed hope of Israel. Even the place of His birth, Bethlehem, was spoken of. (Cf.Micah 5:2) Not until Malachi had passed from the scene was the voice of prophecy silent for a season. Christ when He came could say to the Jews: “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39) Truly, therefore, when Jesus Christ is born of the virgin: “God did fulfill the promise, which he made to the fathers, by the mouth of his holy prophets.”
And God sent His only-begotten Son into the world, “at the time appointed by him.” This the Scriptures call “the fulness of time.” (Cf. Galatians 4:4, 5) This was that precise moment when all things according to the eternal counsel of God were prepared for the coming of His Son. Concerning the incarnation of our Lord, the Article emphasizes several facts. First, the Article makes very clear that Christ assumed a real .human nature. Early in the history of the Church this was denied by the Docetics who taught that Christ onlyseemed to assume a human nature. The human nature of Christ was no more than an appearance. But this is not the case. In the words of ourConfession, the eternal Son “of God “took upon him the form of a servant, and became like unto man, really assuming the trye human nature, with all its infirmities, sin excepted . . .” He was born just as any other child. He also had flesh and blood and was like us in all things with the exception of sin. Scripture declares: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14) Verses sixteen and seventeen of that same passage teach: “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”
That Christ assumed a real human nature means also that He was a definite individual with an individual human nature. Some have taught that Christ assumed not an individual human nature but: human nature in general. This, however, cannot be, for “Human Nature” in general is an abstraction which has no concrete reality. We believe with our Confession that the Savior possessed a definite or concrete human nature. Christ had a certain color hair and eyes, measured a certain height, had a definite complexion. He was not red or yellow, but white. More specifically He was a Jew with Jewish characteristics. He had His Own personality with His Own character traits. Closely connected with this is the fact that Christ assumed a central human nature. He took hold of our human nature at its very center. Thus the Savior was a Jew in the line of the covenant. Again ourConfession emphasizes this aspect of Christ’s human nature when it says He was “a fruit of the loins of David after the flesh . . . .” This was denied by the Anabaptists who are mentioned in the article. These taught that Christ did not assume the flesh and blood of His mother, but that God created a special human nature in the womb of the Virgin Mary quite apart from Mary herself. Scripture teaches otherwise. According to the Word of God Jesus Christ was born in definite generations. He is the Son of David. (Cf.Matthew 1:1-16) The genealogy of Jesus according to the flesh can be traced all the way back to Adam. (Cf.Luke 3:24-38) The generations of Christ may be compared to a large pyramid, wide at the base in Adam, but narrowing down through Seth, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, and finally reaching its peak in the Virgin Mary who was the last remnant of the line of the royal house of David. Hence Christ’s human nature was principally and organically in the loins of the promised line from the very beginning of time until the moment of His conception and birth.
In this connection it must be maintained that Joseph was not the father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We believe in the Virgin birth of our Savior. This needs emphasis again in our times. Even in traditionally Reformed circles there are those who deny the fact and the necessity of the Virgin birth. Scripture very plainly teaches that Jesus had no earthly father. We find this already in the Prophecy of Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son; and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) Those who deny the Virgin birth are quick to point out that the word “virgin” in this verse can also mean “young woman” or a woman of marriageable age. This is true, we readily grant. But the text is speaking of a sign, and a sign is something out of the ordinary. There is certainly nothing extraordinary about a young woman conceiving and bearing a son. The sign lies in the fact that a virgin conceives and bears a son. That is extraordinary indeed! It’s an utter impossibility from every human point of view. Besides, that this is the meaning of Isaiah is plain from the New Testament reference to this very passage. In Matthew 1:18ff. we read that Joseph was minded to put away his pregnant wife thinking that she had committed adultery. An angel explains to him that Mary has conceived by the Holy Spirit. Joseph is told that she shall bring forth a son, and he is instructed to name that son Jesus. Then the Scripture teaches that all this was done “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Verses 22, 23) This is also plain from the announcement of the birth of Christ to Mary. When Mary is told that she shall conceive and bear a son she responds: “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” The’ answer of the angel is: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 2:28-35)
The human nature which Christ assumed was a complete human nature. Christ, as the Confessionemphasizes, was born with a human body, but also a human soul. This means that Christ, along with His divine mind and will, also possessed a human mind and-will. This was necessary for, the Article explains, Christ had to save not only our bodies but also our depraved souls.
Still more, the human nature of Christ was a weakened human nature. His nature was not strong as was Adam’s before the fall. Jesus was like us in every respect and could. be and was tempted in all points like as we and touched with the feeling of our infirmities. (Cf. Hebrews 4:15) We never read that Christ was ill, but the possibility was certainly there. He became weary, hungry, and thirsty. Jesus wept. Finally He also died. This too was necessary, for He had to become like us in every respect in order to atone for our sins.
Finally this article also emphasizes that the human nature of Christ was sinless. In this one respect Christ was different from us. He partook neither of our guilt nor of our pollution. This too was important, for only because Christ was free from personal guilt could He take our guilt upon Himself. And, only because Christ was the holy Son of God could He walk the way of perfect obedience to His Father.
Finally let us note that all this we can never comprehend. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is a transcendent miracle. It is the Wonder of all wonders. The God of our salvation brought forth the Eternal out of the creature, the holy One out of the unholy, the perfect Mediator out of a fallen, dead human race. What remained forever impossible for man was possible for God! A Virgin conceived and brought forth a Son. His Name is Jesus: “. . . for He shall save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)