What was the immaculate conception?
It is important to understand what the immaculate conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ's conception in Mary's womb without the intervention of a human father. However, that is called the Virgin Birth. Others believe it means that Mary was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the same way Jesus was. But that is incorrect. Immaculate actually means "without stain," and immaculate conception teaches Mary was conceived without original sin or its stain. Original sin is based on the fact there is no sanctifying grace, and the original sin has a corrupt nature. Immaculate conception says that Mary was preserved from these defects by God's grace. From the very beginning of her existence, she was in the state of sanctifying grace and free from the corrupt nature original sin brings.
In opposition to the immaculate conception, the miracle of Jesus birth was that He was born perfect from a mother who had inherited the sin of Adam. It was not necessary for Mary to be "made perfect" in order to give birth to a perfect child. Mary claimed for herself that she was of "low esteem." As Job 14:4 (KJV) says, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one." But with God, all things are possible.
The word, father, has the significance of life-giver. And, there is no earthly father who can produce a perfect child since all have inherited the sin of their father. So, God had to present this perfect child through His power on high. As you may know, Adam's sin was passed from generation to generation; apparently, not through the woman's genetic code, but through the father's. So, God supplied the spark of life, in place of a human father, for Mary to bear a perfect child.
As Luke 1:28 (KJV) says, "And the angel came in unto her and said, 'Hail, (thou that art) highly favoured, the Lord (is) with thee; blessed (art) thou among women.'"
The Greek word rendered "highly favoured" here is "kecharitomene." Catholic Bibles translate it "full of grace," which is permissible, but the Protestant Bible mentions that "endued with grace" is the literal translation. W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words, states that the word means "to make graceful or gracious. . .grace implies more than favour; grace is a free gift; favour may be deserved or gained." Therefore, if this is true, it is clear that Mary's immaculate conception is entirely unmerited on her part, a sheer act of mercy and grace performed solely by God. "Favour" may imply otherwise. "Kecharitomene," in any event, is derived from the root "charis" whose literal meaning is "grace." The angel, as stated in the above paragraph, is giving Mary a new name (full of grace) as if he were addressing Abraham as "full of faith" or Solomon "full of wisdom." Throughout the Bible, names explained one's character and essence, all the more so if God renamed a person.
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