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.

Lord’s Day Fifteen

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Question 37
What do you understand by the words, “He suffered”?

That he, all the time that he lived on earth, but especially at the end of his life, sustained in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sins of all mankind: that so by his passion, as the only propitiatory sacrifice, he might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and obtain for us the favour of God, righteousness and eternal life.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

1 Peter 2:2 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

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

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Isaiah 53:12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

1 Corinthians 5:7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Romans 3:25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Hebrews 9:28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,

Hebrews 9:12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

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,

1 Peter 1:19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

Romans 3:25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

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.

John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,

Question 38
Why did he suffer “under Pontius Pilate, as judge”?

That he, being innocent, and yet condemned by a temporal judge, might thereby free us from the severe judgement of God to which we were exposed.

John 18:38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.

Matthew 27:24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

Acts 4:27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,

Acts 4:28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Luke 23:14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him.

Luke 23:15 Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him.

John 19:4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”

Psalm 69:4 More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore?

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Question 39
Is there anything more in his being “crucified”, than if he had died some other death?

Yes there is; for thereby I am assured, that he took on him the curse which lay upon me; for the death of the cross was accursed of God.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Deuteronomy 21:23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.
Historic Creeds and Confessions, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Lexham Press, 1997).

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.

 

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).

Lord’s Day 2: Of the Misery of Man

Heidelberg Catechism, LORD’S DAY 2

Question 3
Whence knowest thou thy misery?
Out of the law of God.

Romans 3:20  20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Question 4
What does the law of God require of us?
Christ teaches us that briefly, Matt. 22:37–40, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and the great commandment; and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Deuteronomy 6:5 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Leviticus 19:18  18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Mark 12:30  30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

Luke 10:27  27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Question 5
Canst thou keep all these things perfectly?
In no wise; for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbour.

Romans 3:10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;

Romans 3:20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1 John 1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Romans 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

Ephesians 2:3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

Genesis 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 8:21 And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Romans 7:23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

Question 6
Did God then create man so wicked and perverse?
By no means; but God created man good, and after his own image, in true righteousness and holiness, that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love him and live with him in eternal happiness to glorify and praise him.

Genesis 1:31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Genesis 1:26–27 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Colossians 3:9–10 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Ephesians 4:23–24 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Historic Creeds and Confessions, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Lexham Press, 1997).