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Wendelin's "Christian Theology": Doctrine of Christ's Conception and Birth

THESIS I:  The exhibition of the Mediator is the work of God, whereby the Son of God, appointed Mediator from eternity, assumed a human nature in time, in which He was manifested to the world, and discharged His mediatorial office.

EXPLANATION:  I.  (1.)  He was appointed Mediator from eternity.  Ephesians 1:4, He hath chosen us in Him (Christ the Mediator) before the foundation of the world was laid.

(2.)  Promised from the beginning of the world by God Himself.  The Seed of the woman shall crush the head of the serpent, Genesis 3:15.  In thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed, Genesis 28:18, which promise was then quite frequently repeated by the Prophets, Acts 3:24.

(3.)  Adumbrated through the various types and sacrifices in the Old Testament; as it is taught in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and in Colossians 2:17.

(4.)  Exhibited at last in the last times, in about the four thousandth year after the creation of the world.  Galatians 4:4, 5, after the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His own Son, made of a woman, made liable to the Law, so that He might redeem them that were liable to the Law, that we might receive adoption.

* II.  The Son of God was obliged to be the Mediator, rather than the Father or the Holy Spirit.

(1.)  Because the Mediator had to be a preacher, revealing the will of God to us.  But the Son is Preacher and Word, John 1:1.

(2.)  Because the Son is the middle person in the Most Holy Trinity; it was fitting that the middle person discharge the office of mediation between God and men.

(3.)  Because the Mediator had to restore to us the lost right of sonship:  which was not able more fittingly to be done, than by the only begotten Son of God.

(4.)  Because the Mediator had to renew in us the image of God:  which was fitting to be done by the Son of God, which is the brightness of His glory and the express image of the person of the Father, Hebrews 1:3.

(5.)  Because all things were made by the Son, and so what things were ruined are with good reason renewed through Him, John 1:3.

 

THESIS II:  The parts of this exhibition are two:  (1.)  the incarnation of the Son of God; (2.)  the function of the office because of which He was incarnated.

 


THESIS III:  The incarnation of the Son of God is the assumption of a human nature from the Virgin Mary through the operation of the Holy Spirit.

EXPLANATION:  * It is asked:  Why was not the entire Most Holy Trinity incarnated, since the incarnation is a shared work of the Most Holy Trinity?

Response:  The active Incarnation is a shared work of the Most Holy Trinity.  Whence the Father is said to have prepared a body for the Son, Hebrews 10:5; the Son is said to have taken on the seed of Abraham, Hebrews 2:16; the Holy Spirit is said, by overshadowing, to have promoved the conception, Luke 1:35; Matthew 1:20.  But the passive Incarnation, if it is right to speak so, is proper to the Son; who alone is incarnated.  Whence this sublime mystery is wont to be compared to the similitude of three girls, who all together wove the same garment, but they put it only upon one.  It does not make a difference, that the nature of the individual persons is one and the same in number.  For, although the nature is one:  yet the several persons are really distinct:  so that what is applicable to the one nature does not necessarily agree with all the persons and each.  Whence the nature, not considered as in common, but as determined in the Son by the singular ὑπάρξεως τρόπον, mode of subsistence, is incarnated.

 

THESIS IV:  The parts of the incarnation are two:  (1.)  the formation of the human nature; (2.)  the conjunction or union of the same with the Λόγῳ/Logos/Word.

 

THESIS V:  The formation of the human nature was perfected in three steps:  (1.)  immaculate conception, accomplished by the Holy Spirit out of the seed of the Virgin Mary; (2.)  the shaping together and completion of all the parts of a perfect body; (3.)  animation, or the union of the rational soul with the body.

EXPLANATION:  I.  Christ had to be conceived and born of a Virgin, according to the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14, Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.  That this prophecy was fulfilled in Christ, the Gospel history testifies, which relates that Christ was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary.

But, even if the divine nature was neither conceived nor born from the Virgin Mary, yet it is rightly and pious said, and that according to Scripture, that she conceived and gave birth to the Son of God, God, the θεάνθρωπος/ Theanthropos/God-man, and so is rightly called θεοτόκος/theotokos, the mother of God.  Whence the Angel, Matthew 1:23, Behold, that Virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Emmanuel:  which is, being interpreted, God with us.  Luke 1:31, 32, Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name Jesus.  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and in verse 35, that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.  Whence in verse 43 she is called the mother of the Lord.  Galatians 4:4, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman.  In which sense Christ, God over all, blessed forever, is said to be, with respect to the flesh, of the fathers, Romans 9:5.  Therefore, the subject of generation or conception and birth is the whole person of Christ, even if not the whole of the person:  as also all other things, both divine and human, are attributed to the same person, with expressed or understood regard to one or the other nature of Him.

II.  Upon the contrary opinion, the exceptions taken by heretics are of no moment.

(1.)  She that is the mother of God is also the mother of the divine nature.

But Mary is not the mother of the divine nature.

Therefore, she is not the mother of God, and consequently is not θεοτόκος/ theotokos, the mother of God.

The major is proven:  Because God is not without the divine nature.

Response:  The major is denied.  The proof is inconsequent:  for, even if God is not able to be without the divine nature, yet here it is not spoken of the divine nature, what is spoken of God, as a person consisting of two natures:  neither is what is denied concerning the divine nature, here also denied concerning God.

(2.)  That is said to be born, what began to be through birth.

But God did not begin to be through birth.

Therefore, God was not born; namely, of the Virigin Mary.

Response:  (1.)  The major is not true in a simple way.  For, He is said to be born, who is by nativity, whether He did, or did not, begin to be.  Thus the Λόγος/Logos/Word is by eternal nativity, who nevertheless never began to be.  (2.)  The minor is not true in a simple way.  For, even if God or the person, considered absolutely and in Himself, did not begin to be by nativity; nevertheless, to the extent that the person is contemplated as the θεάνθρωπος/Theanthropos/God-man, He did begin to be by nativity.  Even if the second person of the Trinity was not the θεάνθρωπος/Theanthropos/God-man from eternity, but only began to be in time, or in the fullness of time, Galatians 4:4.

III.  This Virgin, the mother of Christ, had to be of the family of King David:  for this promise was of old made to David, that it was going to come to pass, that of him, that is, his posterity, Messiah was going to be born.  Isaiah 11:1, 2, there shall come forth a rod out of the dry trunk of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots; upon whom the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest.  That this prophecy and promise was fulfilled in Christ, the Gospel history testifies, which refers the mother of Christ to the family of David:  whence He was considered to be a son of David even of old by the Jews.  A promise was also made concerning Messiah, that He was going to come forth from the tribe of Judah.  Micah 5:2, But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be least among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel.  This promise was also fulfilled in Christ, because David and his posterity, among whom was Mary, were of the tribe of Judah.  Whence, moreover, it appears, why Christ is called the seed of Abraham, or, why He is said to have taken on Him the seed of Abraham, Hebrews 2:16.  Because Judah himself, the head of the tribe of Judah, also descended from Abraham.  And thus the promise made to Abraham was fulfilled:  in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, Genesis 22:18.

IV.  Now, Christ was conceived by the Virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit:  as we confess in the Apostle’s Creed, and as the Angel says, Matthew 1:20.

(1.)  Because He had to be conceived without sin.  But conception without sin was not able to happen, unless something be done in an extraordinary manner, by the immediate power of the Holy Spirit.

(2.)  Because He had to be conceived by a Virgin, which was not able to happen apart from the power of the Most High:  for a Virgin is not able naturally to conceive.

V.  Therefore, Christ assumed a true and perfect human nature, consisting of:

(1.)  A perfect body, with all the human members, which are everywhere attributed to Christ in the Gospel history:  which sort are the head, hands, feet, etc., and the parts of those members, flesh, bone, blood, etc., all which were notable for their proper and truly human functions.

(2.)  An immortal, rational soul, which is attributed to Him, when it is said, that He gave His soul as the price of redemption for many, Mark 10:45;[1] John 10:15, 17:[2]  when, being about to die, He commends His Spirit into the hands of the Father, Luke 23:46.

In favor of the assertion of the truth of the human nature of Christ, let two eminent passages be observed:  Luke 24:39, Behold my hands and my feet, for it is I myself:  handle me and see; for a Spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.  Hebrews 2:14, Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of bless and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same.

VI.  Therefore, the Marcionites[3] and Valentinians,[4] Anabaptists and Mennonites, and their followers, are to be condemned as heretics, who deny that Christ assumed a true human nature and body:  and contrariwise they urge, that either He deluded the Jews with a phantasmic and imaginary body:  or He did not at any rate assume true human flesh from the substance of the Virgin Mary; but He originally brought flesh from heaven, and brought it into the womb of His mother.  Which, even if today it is boasted of by some new Prophets, who call themselves illuminated and men highly esteemed; nevertheless, is a completely Satanic figment, invented to overthrow the salvation begotten through Christ.  For, if Christ did not verily assume our nature, then He did not verily redeem us:  Seeing that true redemption was promised to us through a true man, who would be the Son of man, the son of David and seed of Abraham, like to us in all things, sin excepted.[5]

Yet they have what the organs of Satan here object:

(1.)  It is one and the same Christ, who both after the resurrection ascended into heaven, and who had previously descended from heaven, Ephesians 4:9; John 3:13.

Therefore, He first descended from heaven in the same flesh, wherewith afterwards He ascended into it.  And hence He did not assume flesh from the substance of the Virgin Mary.

Response:  I deny the consequence.  The reason for the negation is:  that He who after the resurrection ascended into heaven is the same as He that had previously descended, with respect to person, but not with respect to both natures of the person.  For the person, which was God and man, through the assumption of a human nature, ascended:  that person previously descended, which was only God.  Now, God is said to have descended from heaven, because of an eminent manifestation in the earth through the incarnation.

(2.)  The second man, who is Christ, is the Lord from heaven and heavenly, who is set in opposition to the first man, who is earthy, that is, Adam.

Therefore, He assumed the nature, not from earth, but from heaven.

The antecedent belongs to Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:47.

Response:  I deny the consequence.  The reason is:  because Christ is called by the Apostle the Lord from heaven, not with respect to His human nature, but with respect to the divine nature.  At the same time, He is able to be called heavenly, even according to His human nature, not with respect to its essence or nature considered in itself, but with respect to the qualities and gifts of that nature, which were heavenly, not earthy.

(3.)  Christ was made like unto men, Philippians 2:7.

Therefore, He was not a true man.

The rationale of the consequencethat one that is merely like unto man is not a man:  because he is not the same.

Response:  I deny the consequence.  The reason is:  because Christ is said by the Apostle to have been made like unto men, not because He was not truly man, or was merely displaying the similitude of human nature; but because there appeared to be no distinction between Him and other men.  Since by most Jews He was considered to be a mere man, and even a sinner:  whence He is said to be conformed to flesh liable to sin, Romans 8:3.  And who would deny Him to have been a man, who was found in habit as a man, and submitted Himself even to the death of the cross?

(4.)  The bread given for the life of the world descended from heaven, John 6:33, 50, 51.  The bread given for the life of the world is the flesh of Christ, John 6:51.

Therefore, the flesh of Christ decended from heaven.

Response:  I deny the consequence:  by showing its defectiveness, 1.  indirectly, by instance:  because by the same manner of arguing many absurdities could be concluded:  for example,

The bread given for the life of the world is eternal, is immense, is creator of heaven and earth, is the second person of the Most Holy Trinity incarnate.

The bread given for the life of the world is the flesh of Christ.

Therefore, the flesh of Christ is eternal, is immense, is creator of heaven and earth, is the second person of the Most Holy Trinity incarnate.  See how absurd is the conclusion drawn from the premises of the former syllogism for imitation.  Therefore, if the consequence here is vicious, then it will also be vicious in the prior; if it be good in the prior, it will also be good here.

2.  Directly:  because there are four terms in the syllogism because of ambiguity in the middle termthe bread given for the life of the world, which signifies the person, the θεάνθρωπον/Theanthropos/God-man, given for the life of the world.  In the major it is taken particularly with respect to the divine nature, or as far as He is God:  but, how the bread given for the life of the world, with respect to the divine nature, descended from heaven, we spoke in response to the first objection.  In the minor it is taken particularly with respect to the human nature, or as far as He is man.  But, even if each nature, and the properties of each nature, is rightly attributed to the person:  the natures with respect to their properties still remain distinct, in such a way that what is proper to one is not applicable to the other.

(5.)  Christ, the man, was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, He does not have His flesh from the substance of the Virgin Mary, but from the Holy Spirit; so then it is heavenly and sent down from heaven.

The antecedent is proven from the Apostles’ Creed, and Matthew 1:20.

The rationale of the consequencethat to be made from something denotes the material principium:  and, as children, who are begotten of their fathers, have the matter of their bodies from the substance of their fathers; so also Christ shall have the matter of His body, or of His flesh, from the substance of the Holy Spirit.

Response:  I deny the consequence, and I answer to the proof:  To be made from something does not always denote the material principium, but sometimes merely the efficient cause:  thus in Romans 11:36 all things are said to be of God;[6] to say that God is the matter of all created things is altogether absurd.  Therefore, to be conceived of the Holy Spirit, even to some Anabaptist and Mennonites interpreters, is to be conceived by the power and operation of the Holy Spirit.  The example of other natural parents proves nothing.  For the conception of Christ was plainly supernatural and singular.  I add:  if to be of something uniformly argues material principium, certainly of the substance of the Virgin Mary, as the material, Christ has His flesh:  because He is said to have been born of Mary, Matthew 1:16;[7] Luke 1:35;[8] made of a woman, Galatians 4:4;[9] of the seed of David according to the flesh, Romans 1:3.



THESIS VI:  The thing consequent upon His formation was His nativity in the town of Beth-lehem.

EXPLANATION:  I.  The prediction of this place is found in Micah 5:2; and the fulfillment, Matthew 2:1.

II.  The circumstances of the time are to be noted here.  The Messiah hadto be born at that time, in which among the Jewish people some remnants of rule and dominion were yet in the hands of Judah, or the posterity of Judah, as the express words of Genesis 49:10 have it, the sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come.  But the remnants unto the nativity of the Messiah were very small:  because the Jews were already at the time subject to the Romans:  the same were more and more diminished in the times of the exhibition of the Christ (for in about the tenth year after the birth of Christ, with Archelaus banished to Vienna,[10] Judea was reduced by the Romans into the form of a Province), and after the ascension of Christ completely removed by Titus Vespasian.[11]  Whence a solid argument against the Jews is sought, whereby it is evinced, that in vain do they yet await the Messiah:  for, already sixteen hundred years ago, among the Jewish people that legislative dignity was completely swept away, that is, principal and ruling, and all the mixed tribes.

Messiah also had to be born at that time, when the second Jerusalem temple was yet standing.  For He had to fill the second temple with His own glory, and to manifest Himself in it:  in which respect the glory of the latter or second temple is foretold to be greater than that of the first temple:[12]  which, nevertheless, with respect to magnificence of structure, excelled the second in many ways.  For, five ornaments were missing from the second temple, as the Jews write, which were conspicuous in the first:

(1.)  The appearance of the presence of God on the throne of propitiation, or grace, between the two Cherubs.

(2.)  The Urim and Thummim in the breastplate of the high priest.

(3.)  Extraordinary prophecy.

(4.)  The ark of the covenant, lost in Babylonian Captivity.

(5.)  The fire sent down from heaven to consume the sacrifices.  Yet all these ornaments were far surpassed by the single ornament of the second temple, namely, the appearance of Messiah exhibited in it, and discharging the prophetic office:  seeing that as a body of twelve years He taught in it, Luke 2:46.  Let the prophecies of Haggai 2:7 and Malachi 3:1 be considered.  From this the strongest possible argument against the Jews is again sought, that in vain do they yet await Messiah:  for the second temple was completely destroyed more than fifteen hundred years ago.


[1] Mark 10:45:  “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life (τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ) a ransom for many.”

[2] John 10:15, 17:  “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father:  and I lay down my life (τὴν ψυχήν μου) for the sheep….  Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life (τὴν ψυχήν μου), that I might take it again.”

[3] Marcion (c. 85-160) was a Gnostic heretic from Sinope, Turkey.  He was very influential in the early Church, in spite of being excommunicated.  Marcion asserted that the God of the Old Testament was a lesser demiurge, a God of law, strict justice, and wrath.  The God of the New Testament is a God of love and grace, revealed in Jesus Christ, and purely preached by Paul.  It is not surprising that Marcion rejected all of the Old Testament, and the New Testament books that speak favorably of the God of the Old Testament.  Marcion’s canon consisted of an expurgated edition of Luke and ten of Paul’s epistles.

[4] Valentinus (c. 100-c. 160) was perhaps the most influential Gnostic of his day, with many followers.  Although his work survives only in fragments, his system continued, albeit in modified forms, in his disciples.

[5] See Hebrews 4:15.

[6] Romans 11:36:  “For of him (ἐξ αὐτοῦ), and through him, and to him, are all things:  to whom be glory for ever.  Amen.”

[7] Matthew 1:16:  “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom (ἐξ ἧς) was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

[8] Luke 1:35:  “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee:  therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee (ἐκ σοῦ) shall be called the Son of God.”

[9] Galatians 4:4:  “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman (γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός), made under the law…”

[10] Herod Archelaus (23 BC-c. 18 AD) was ethnarch of Samaria, Judea, and Idumea from circa 4 BC to 6 AD.  Due to Archelaus’ incestuous marriage and cruelty, he was banished by Augustus to Vienna in France.

[11] Nero appointed Titus Flavius Vespasianus to crush the Jewish Revolt in 66 AD, which he managed with great success and bloodshed until 69 AD, when he was called to Rome and became emperor following Nero’s death the previous year.  Vespasian’s son, Titus Flavius, continued the campaign against the Jewish rebellion, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

[12] See Haggai 2:1-9.

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Westminster Shorter Catechism 22: How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?


Answer: Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body,1  and a reasonable soul,2 being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her,3 yet without sin.4 


1 Heb. 2:14,16; Heb. 10:5.

2 Matt. 26:38.

3 Luke 1:27,31,35,42; Gal. 4:4.

4 Heb. 4:15; Heb. 7:26.

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