Text: Matthew 1:18-25.

Matthew 1:18 – “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”

Mary, having been betrothed to Joseph, was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. Betrothed refers to the marriage agreement in which a couple mutually bound themselves to each other for a period of ten to twelve months; without which, no woman could be married in the Jewish faith. Though the marriage had not been consummated, it was considered legal; and the breaking of the agreement was considered adultery. Mary’s situation must have been not only distressing but also most humiliating from the human standpoint. Nothing but her integrity and trust in God could have sustained her in such trying circumstances where her reputation, honor, and even her very life were at stake. We can only imagine how Mary and Joseph must have felt with little if any communication between them regarding this miracle. Joseph perceived that Mary was with child; in other words, she was visibly pregnant.

What a lesson for the Christian: Those who have Christ as Saviour will show it, and it will be obvious in their daily walk with God. Think of how Mary must have felt because she herself knew that the child was of the Holy Ghost, but how could she prove it to Joseph and others? Joseph could not help but think, “Is this the Mary that I thought would never disappoint me? Is this the Mary of whom I expected so much?” However, he was not willing to make her a public example. The spirit Joseph displayed proved not only his holy life but also the fact that he refused to jump to any quick conclusion. What a lesson for us to think before we act. I must say that Joseph’s conduct was truly Christ-like because he could have justifiably taken advantage of the law according to Deuteronomy 22:23-24, which required stoning Mary to death: “If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.”

Whatever Joseph may have felt, his concerns were put to rest when the angel told him, “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife.What a blessing it is to be delivered from our fears and to have our doubts resolved by God Himself, so that we can by faith move on in our lives.

Albert Barnes has some good comments on this: “Joseph was a just man, she a virtuous woman. Those who are believers should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers: but let those who are religious choose to marry with those who are so, as they expect the comfort of the relation, and God’s blessing upon them in it. We may also learn, from this example, that it is good to enter into the married state with deliberation, and not hastily–to preface the nuptials with a contract. It is better to take time to consider before than to find time to repent after.”

We see three giant steps of faith Joseph took in his life: The miracle of Christmas has three important ingredients:

I. JOSEPH’S FAITH WAS REFINED (Tested)

Matthew 1:23 – “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.”

Joseph was not disobedient to the heavenly vision in any respect. He did not delay, but as soon as he rose he “did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him.” Without delay, demur, or reservation, he obeyed. What holy awe filled his heart as he welcomed the favored virgin to his home, to be respectfully and affectionately screened from all evil! What must he have thought when he saw the Son of the Highest lying on the bosom of her whom he had espoused! He was happy to render any service to the newborn King. Since he accepted Mary as his espoused wife, her child was the heir of Joseph, and so of David; and thus was by right the King of the Jews. Our Lord Jesus had a birthright by his mother; but his right on the father’s side was, by Joseph’s act and deed, also put beyond dispute.

Spurgeon’s Commentary on Matthew

Joseph was a just man of faith who believed God for His promises (Matthew 1:18-19). He was justified because of his faith in God. He was declared righteous, and then his faith was tested.

We must understand what it meant for Joseph to be espoused to Mary. They were engaged (as we refer to it in the American culture), which meant a life of complete holiness for about one year. It was during this time of espousal that word came to Joseph that Mary was with child. Never in human history has anyone ever had a baby without a man and a woman involved in the conception of the child. When Joseph heard that Mary was with child, there is no doubt what he must have thought and how broken-hearted he must have been. Notice the phrase in verse 20, “while he thought on these things…” He pondered these things in his mind. These things must have gone deep into his heart and soul as he thought about them.

The only way to break the espousal period was by a bill of divorcement, much as in marriage. The only answer was to put her away quietly; yet while he thought on these things, God came to him in a dream. When Joseph received the message delivered by the angel, he believed God and took it to heart (Matthew 1:20-23).

I am sure he must have had Isaiah 7:14 in mind: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

God made it known to Joseph that the virgin of whom He spoke was Mary. As a result, Joseph put his faith in the Word of God, and his faith was tested. Certainly, we will never face such a trial, yet there are many times in life when our hearts are broken. We must have faith in God, even though we may not always understand all that He is doing in our lives, because there is no victory in life apart from putting our faith in Him.

1 John 5:4 – “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”

II. JOSEPH’S FAITH WAS RIDICULED

He was reproached, mocked, and scoffed at. Mary knew that no man had ever been intimate with her, and Joseph knew that no man had anything to do with the conception of the baby. They both knew in their hearts that He had to be virgin-born, and God knew all about their persecution. In John 8:39-44, people accused Him of being born in fornication. Joseph took Mary to be his wife and was willing to bear the reproach for Christ.

1 Peter 4:14 – “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.”

Though it is against human nature to endure reproach for Christ, Joseph did so.  His faith was tested and ridiculed, but he held to it.

III. JOSEPH’S FAITH WAS REWARDED

  • God rewarded him with a godly wife who loved the Lord. It is a joy to be married to someone who loves and wants to serve the Lord.   
  • God rewarded him by making him a leader in the home of Jesus.
  • God rewarded him by providing for all his needs. Joseph discovered that life can be rich in faith toward God.

One of the miracles of the birth of Jesus Christ is the dignity with which Joseph and the Virgin Mary conducted themselves through the entire miracle. They did not seem to torment themselves about it but were instead secure in the fact of Mary’s innocence. They both committed themselves to God the Father.


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Hans Nikoley, GSBC Professor

Bro. Nikoley emigrated from Germany to the United States with his family at age 13. He served full time in the Nevada Air National Guard for six years. At age 32, He was saved, and in 1977, he graduated from Bible College. He pastored for over 31 years, 27 of them at Pomerado Road Baptist Church in Poway, California. Bro. Nikoley has served at Golden State Baptist College in the Bible Department and also as the Student Employment Director since 2007. He and his wife Mary have two children and have been married for 58 years.