Zechariah and Elizabeth

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Zechariah and Elizabeth were barren; Israel was barren. The childlessness of a godly couple in their old age is mirrored by the spiritual dryness of the of the people of God. Israel had not heard a prophetic voice for centuries. No man living could recall hearing a prophet. Zechariah, an Aaronic priest who is chosen by lot, burns incense at the hour of prayer. It  is then he is met by Gabriel, who announces the birth of a son, who is to be named John. All of his and Elizabeth’s hopes and prayers were answered, although Zechariah cannot believe it. He is struck silent. The reproach upon Israel was soon to be lifted, just as the reproach of childlessness was from Elizabeth.

It may seem odd that Luke spends so much time on the birth story of the forerunner of Christ. It does not seem so odd, however, when the greater story is considered: a priest, of the tribe of Levi is burning incense in the temple, according to the Law, following the centuries-old ceremonies that demand repetition daily. During this temple ministry, a son is promised, but not one who will be a priest like his father. John will be a prophet, in the spirit of Elijah; the first prophet in centuries. Something new is coming.

Note also that John, of the tribe of Levi, will prepare the way for the final High Priest (Hebrews, chapters 5-8), the Saviour, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29). “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Levi gives way to Judah. Someone New has come.

In that same Holy Place in Herod’s great temple, Zechariah receives the first indications that the temple system is not eternal, but shall be declared irrelevant in the Kingdom of God. John will not carry on the temple traditions, but announce a new atoning sacrifice in Christ. Levi gives way to Judah.

In all of Christ’s ministry there is no miraculous sign or event in the temple, until the last day of the temple’s place in God’s economy: “ . . . And the curtain of the temple was torn in two” Luke 23:45. Jesus taught that the temple is to be destroyed. Because of the cross, its purpose is finally complete. It can now serve no other purpose. Limited access to God, restricted to the priesthood, is over. Access now is for “. . .  as many as were appointed to eternal life . . . (Acts 13:48).

The ceremonial Law is now complete, and the old covenant is ratified.

In a ceremony in the Holy Place, the end of the Holy Place is foretold.

The Hard Sayings of Jesus

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Jesus offers up some “hard sayings” in the Gospels. Indeed, the Bible is full of things that are either 1) difficult to understand or 2) hard to accept. Jesus taught His disciples that He was “the bread of life” and “whoever eats of this bread will live forever” (John 6:58). Upon hearing this, many of his disciples said,

“This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (John 6:60).

When Jesus explained that some of them did not believe in Him, and that they were not called,

“many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” John 6:66

They seemed to think that the “hard saying” was a deal-breaker. If Jesus stayed on this path, they weren’t going to follow. He asked the remaining disciples,

“Do you want to go away as well?”

The disciples’ answer did not indicate that they understood, nor even accepted everything Jesus said. In fact, further Gospel accounts indicate that they neither understood nor accepted all of Jesus’ teachings. But their answer did indicate a trusting faith, a commitment, a willingness to follow in order to gain understanding later (which, they did):

“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.'” (John 6:68-69)

They would come to understand Jesus and His Gospel. At this time, however, they trusted Jesus, and that was enough for them.

In the next few weeks at Mountain View, we are going to look into some “hard sayings” of Jesus. Some are matters that need clarification, others require a commitment to accept and obey, while others may be teachings that have been hidden behind tradition and custom.

If there are “hard sayings” that trouble you, please feel free to contact me here. I might even include them in my next sermon (don’t worry, though, I won’t mention your name)!

We meet for worship and preaching every Sunday at 11 AM, at 118 Limeridge Road East, Hamilton, Ontario.

 

It’s of Faith

Luther on Rom 1,17

The Reformation’s emphasis on faith alone was the result of Luther’s tortured struggles to resolve the issue of how a fallen sinner may be saved. “My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and had no confidence that my character would satisfy Him. Night and day I pondered,” Luther said. The breakthrough came when Luther was given insight into Romans 1:17: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Luther later wrote: “Then I grasped that the justice of God is the righteousness by which, through grace and sheer mercy, He justifies us through faith. Immediately I felt myself to have gone through open doors into paradise.”

Joel R. Beeke, Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008), 138.

Christ’s Work for the Believer

Newton, though

2 Corinthians 5:14–21 (ESV)

14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Lord’s Day 13: Of Christ the Lord

Question 33
Why is Christ called the “only begotten Son” of God, since we are also the children of God?
Because Christ alone is the eternal and natural Son of God; but we are children adopted of God, by grace, for his sake.

John 1:1–3 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Hebrews 1:1, 2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:15–17 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

Galatians 4:6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Ephesians 1:5-6 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Question 34
Wherefore callest thou him “our Lord”?
Because he hath redeemed us, both soul and body, from all our sins, not with silver or gold, but with his precious blood, and has delivered us from all the power of the devil; and thus has made us his own property.

1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 7:23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.

1 Timothy 2:6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
Historic Creeds and Confessions, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Lexham Press, 1997).