The virgin birth and Jesus' soul
Oct 23, 2015
The virgin birth of Jesus is established in Matthew 1:20, 22, 23. How is this important? What are the implications of this?
We have already shown in previous studies the implications of Jesus having a heavenly Father and an earthly mother and how this establishes the pattern of Sonship for all of us. But the virgin birth of Jesus also is the key to Jesus’ sinless nature (Hebrews 4:15).
Soulish or Spiritual?
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:45, 46,
45 So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam [Christ] became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural [psukikos, “soulish”]; then the spiritual.
There was a qualitative difference between Adam and Jesus Christ. Adam was soulish, while Christ was spiritual. What does this mean? Paul was talking about the nature of the two men. When God breathed the breath of life into Adam, he became a living soul. When God begat Jesus through Mary, He became a live-giving spirit.
Did Adam have a spirit? Yes, of course. We all have spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). But Adam’s identity was bound up in his soul, not in his spirit.
Did Jesus have a soul? Yes, of course. But His identity was bound up in His spirit, not in His soul.
What about us? We all start out being begotten by two earthly parents. This makes us in the image of the first Adam, and we too become living souls. When we are later begotten by the Spirit of God, we receive a change of identity, no longer identifying with the first Adam but with the last. In other words, our identity is no longer in the “old man” but in the New Creation Man. We are no longer living souls, but life-giving spirits, as long as we continue to identify with that new man.
No Confidence in the Flesh
There are those who continue to have confidence in the old man and believe that their identification with him is sufficient to be saved, filled with the Spirit, or glorified in the end. It will never happen. The old man has already been sentenced to death, and this cannot be reversed. The old man is what dies; the new man is given life.
Paul had “no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3) after his encounter with the risen Christ on the Damascus road. Later, in writing his letter to the Philippians, he listed all of his fleshly credentials which had been so precious to him in his early life. He then concluded in Philippians 3:8 that it was all “rubbish” (NASB) or “dung” (literal) compared to “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
Some have been begotten of God, but their new man (son) has been aborted. When people continue to identify with their old man, the purpose of their new man is thwarted. Instead of living out of the new man, they try to clean up the old man to make him religious enough to be worthy of immortality. This is an exercise in futility.
We have all tried to do this. In fact, this characterized my early life, and it took divine intervention to reveal the futility of this method of salvation. It has occurred to me recently that my earliest revelation was to show me that my salvation did not depend upon my own perfection. I did not understand this revelation fully at the time, but it put me on a different path in life. Looking back at this pivotal change in my direction in life, I see clearly that it was to teach me to have no confidence in the flesh.
I still had a long way to go, of course. I went through many phases of fleshly confidence, and each time God shattered them after allowing me to walk those paths for a time. My understanding has greatly increased over the years, as God saw fit to build upon it with further revelation.
The Fleshly Soul is in the Blood
We read in Leviticus 17:11, 12 that blood was not to be eaten, either by Israelites or by non-Israelites, because “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (NASB). The Hebrew word translated “life” is from nephesh, which literally means the SOUL. The passage should read, “the life of the soul is in the blood,” or, putting it another way, “the fleshly soul is in the blood.”
This verse establishes two great truths. First, the soul is fleshly, not spiritual. Second, this fleshly soul is identified with the blood, and the soul is passed down from generation to generation through the blood.
Adam’s Sin Brings Mortality
If we trace this back to the beginning, we understand from Romans 5:12 that Adam’s sin brought death (mortality) to all men. Adam’s sin was imputed to all, but not infused into all. To impute means to reckon something to be so.
As I explained in greater detail in my first volume on the book of Romans, Adam’s sin was imputed to all men, resulting in the death penalty being imposed upon all men—as if they themselves had sinned. This is why we are mortal from conception before we have opportunity to sin. Our mortality (death state), in turn, is our weakness or disease, which causes us to sin personally. Hence, Paul says, death has passed into all men on which (eph ho) all sin. Mortality is the cause of men’s sin.
The common error that theologians have made is by disagreeing openly with Paul’s statement. They cannot bring themselves to agree with Paul’s doctrine that we pay the penalty for a sin that we did not commit personally. But the fact is that we did not become mortal when we committed our first sin personally. Our mortality preceded our first sin. Therefore, we are paying for the sin of Adam from our very conception.
Paul later says in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death.” Here it was speaking of the second death, which is judgment for our own sins. By not distinguishing between the two types of death, many theologians find themselves in disagreement with Paul. They see injustice in the idea that men must pay for a sin they did not commit. That is, indeed, an injustice, but instead of disagreeing with Paul, we ought to see how he reversed that injustice in the rest of Romans 5.
Paul explained how the imputation of Adam’s sin to all men brought death to all, but the imputation of Christ’s righteous act brought life to all. Both situations were based on the Law of Headship (or Authority), whereby men either suffer or benefit from the actions of their leaders. Hence, there are two Adams, Paul says. The first brought death to all; the second brought life to all. If the theologians could admit that God must rectify the injustice of death being imputed to all men by sending Christ to do a righteous act that imputes life to all men, then they would be compelled to teach the Restoration of All Things and the salvation of all men. But most refuse to admit this, even though the Law of Headship applies equally to both Adams.
The fact is that the only way God can be justified in imputing Adam’s sin to mankind is to reverse it by imputing the righteousness of Christ to all who were affected by the first injustice. The injustice inherent in making all men mortal before they had a chance to sin compels God to right the situation by sending Christ to granting immortality to all men. This does not mean that men will escape divine judgment, but that judgment is the means by which every knee bows and all men are brought into immortality.
By refusing to admit Paul’s solution to the inherent injustice of mortality, many cannot admit the divine solution either. Hence, theologians search for an alternative explanation, changing the meaning of eph ho from “on which” to “because.” In doing so, they reverse the whole order of events that Paul was proving. To say “death on which all sin” is the opposite of “death because all sin.”
The order of events is this: Adam sinned. His sin was imputed to all. Therefore, all received the death penalty, becoming mortal. Mortality makes the flesh weak. All mortals sin, due to this weakness. Personal sin is judged by a second type of death, described as the “lake of fire.”
The Soul That Sins
So Ezekiel 18:4 says, “the soul who sins will die.” While the term “soul” can apply more broadly to the person in general when a court determines that he is guilty of the death penalty, it is equally true on the deeper level where we subdivide people into spirit, soul, and body. In other words, guilt is attributed to the soul, rather than to the spirit or body, and therefore it is the soul that dies.
The soul is not immortal. It dies. It dies because it received mortality from Adam. Yet Church theologians, who disagree with the Apostle Paul, conclude that the soul is sinful by nature. But Ezekiel does not say this. Certainly, all souls sin, but this is because all souls are mortal, or death-ridden. The truth is that all mortal souls sin.
The Virgin Birth
Once Adam was made a living soul, from then on all souls were made by fathers who begot children. After Adam sinned, his soul was made mortal according to divine judgment. When Adam and Eve had children, Adam’s mortal soul was passed down to them, which made them all mortal. Hence, “as in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22). The responsibility for our mortality was attributed to Adam, not to Eve. The soul of every child, along with its mortality, comes from his father.
Every generation, then, had a mortal soul, until Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, rather than by an earthly father. We must conclude, then, that Jesus’ soul came from His heavenly Father, rather than from Joseph. Hence, Jesus’ soul was not mortal until He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22:44 says,
44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.
Sweat was a mark of the curse upon Adam in Genesis 3:19. The fact that “His sweat became like drops of blood” is significant, seeing that the soul is in the blood. He was pouring out His soul unto death (Isaiah 53:12 KJV), exchanging His immortal soul for the earth’s mortal soul.
Matthew 26:38, 39 says,
38 Then He said to them [disciples], “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” 39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on his face…
When He “fell on his face,” He imputed His own righteousness to the ground, while taking death from the earth upon Himself. It was His “soul” that came “to the point of death” to prepare for His actual death on the cross.
Martin R. DeHaan, M.D. wrote a book in the 1940’s, The Chemistry of the Blood, which claimed that a child’s blood comes only from his father. He concludes from this that Jesus was sinless on account of the virgin birth. While his conclusion was certainly true, the premise of his teaching is disputed.
From a genetic standpoint, a child’s blood type can come from either father or mother. However, it is true, as DeHaan says, that the blood of an unborn child does not develop until after the egg from the mother has been fertilized by the sperm from the father. Furthermore, the baby’s blood supply remains distinct from its mother, causing DeHaan to conclude that the origin of the baby’s blood is with the father.
Apart from a genetic approach, this seems to be true. Some dispute DeHaan's great “blunder” from a scientific point of view. However, his main problem was in translating Leviticus 17:11 as saying, “the life of the flesh is in the blood.” His focus on “life” rather than upon “soul” put him slightly off focus and thereby opened him up to criticism. This, compounded with his view that souls are sinful (rather than mortal), made it difficult for him to really prove his case.
Even so, the fact that Jesus had a heavenly Father certainly distinguished Jesus’ soul from those begotten by mortal men. Since His soul (blood) was the offering for sin, it had to be sinless in order to qualify as the antitype of the spotless lambs under Moses. He was thus qualified to reverse the curse from Adam and to impute His righteous act to all mankind by the Law of Headship.