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IHE ROLE OF JOHN mE BAPTIST

IN mE GOSPEL OF CHRISf
Luke 1:5-38 Introduction
A The Threshold of the Most
Important Event of All TIme
With the announcement of the births
of john the Baptist and jesus Christ, we
stand on the threshold of the most
important thirty-three years in the history
of the world, the time in which jesus
Christ, our Divine-Human Savior would
accomplish the salvation of God's people
and of the entire creation. "The p p e ~ r n c e
and activity ofjesus on earth is the central
and most important event of all time.
Everything that had gone before had led
up to it. And everything that has followed
upon it is connected therewith."-
Geldenhuys
B. The Role oflohn the Baptist
in Connection with the Birth oflesus
The life and ministry ofjohn the Baptist
is the link between the Old Testament
and the New Testament. In him we learn
that the Old Testament revelation and the
New Testament revelation are one
continuous movement in the plan of God.
Luke's real Interest in beginning his gospel
with the announcement of the birth and
ministry of john the Baptist is "to show
how all things have taken place in
accordance with a definite plan which
fulfills the redemptive history of the Old
Testament. The birth ofJohn the Baptist
constitutes the end of the old covenant
and the beginning of the revelation history
of the new, Luke 7:28; 16: 16."-Bo Reicke,
The Gospel of Luke.
Luke's portrayal of john the Baptist
differs from that of the other Evangelists,
Matthew, Mark andJohn. For Luke, the
Forerunner is not merely one who cries in
the wilderness, he "emerges primarily from
the womb of the Temple, and in his own
person sums up all that was essential to
the old covenant. - Thus Luke's
predominant interest is quite evidently
the continuity in the drama of redemption
between the old and new covenants. His
aim is to show how God made use of the
Tern pie, its worship, and one of its priests,
to announce the coming of the precursor
of jesus. This emphasizes for us the
connection between the Old Testament
and the New.-
" ... early Christianiry loved the Old
Testament, and those who transmitted
the gospel of the kingdom were interested
in the history of electiori. - The dominant
note throughout (the early chapters of
Luke with their references to the d.T.,
their hymns So influenced by the O. T. and
theirfocuson the Temple), is the continuity
with the Old Testament."-Bo Reicke
,
I. TilE INTRODUCTION OF
ZACHARIAS AND ELlZABEIH (1 :5-7)
A. [1:5a1 The TIme of the Birth
oflohn the Baptist
Luke begins his gospel with a sharp
contrast between the beginnings of
Christianity and the political condition at
the time of John's birth. John the Baptist
would announce the dawn of the glOriOUS
Messianic Reign, which would produce
the salvation of the world; but his
announcement would come at atimewhert
!LO '" '!HE COUNSEL of Chalcedon '" May, 1993
. the world was being brutalized by the
tyranriy, bloodthirstiness and immorality
of the infamous "Herod the Great: who
was king of juda.a from 40 to 4 , B. C.
Although Herod professed to be Jewish
and was responsible for rebuilding the
Temple in Jerusalem, he also polluted the
land of Israel by buIlding temples to pagan
gods. Hew.s relentlessly cruel to any who
opposed or questioned his sovereignty.
And his last ye.rswere marked by bloody
family murders.
The expression, "in the days of Herod"
point to "a dark. ominous and calamitous
period in the history of the jewish nation.
Against this gloomy background Luke
now gives tne history of the dawn of the
new day in the life of humanity-the
coming of Christ, which was prepared by
the advent of john the Baptist. "-
Geldenhuys
B. [1 :5b-7j The Name and
DesCription oflohn's Parents
1. Their Position and Lineage
john's father, Zacharias, was a levitical
priest who belonged to the order of Abijah,
and his mother, Elizabeth, was also of
priestly descent. To be a priest and to be
married to a priest's daughter was quite a
distinction in Israel of tbat day. Here we
seeJohn's first linkwith the Old Testament
revelation in that hewas onevitical priestly
descent.
2. Their Names
The names ofJohn's parents, by. God's
providence, are themselves pregnant with
significance, as they stood at the dawn of
the Messianic Age, after such a long time
of waiting for the O.T. people of God.
Zacharias. means "The Lord remembers
His covenant," and Elizabeth means, "My
God is an oath, i.e., My God is the
absolutely Faithful One."
3. Their Piety
ZachariaS and Elizabeth "were both
righteous in the Sight of God, walking
blamelessly in all the commandments and
requirements of the Lord, vs. 6. John came
from parents who, because of their
messianic faith and holy conduct before
God, were models of the highest form of
O.T. religion and piety. Here is John'S
second link with the O.T., in his parents
and himself he represented the purity of
O.T. faith, hope and practice. ;
4. Their Barrenness and Age
This godly couple were well up in
years and were childless, because Elizabeth
was barren, vs. 7. How this must bave
grieved their hearts, especially since
children are a gift olthe Lord. Why? Had
they committed some great sin for which
God was punishing them? That seems
unlikely in the light of God's assessment
of them in verse 6. So, why were they
advanced in years, childless and barren?
Here is John's third link with the Old
Testament: He was a child of promise to
older parents, who were childless, and
whose mother was barren. This
immediately reminds one of Abraham,
Sarah,lsaac, and Rebekah. God promised
those two patriarchal couples children in
their advanced age and barrenness, as He
had to Zacharias and Elizabeth, and they
all had to look to God in faith for the
fulfillment of the promise of a child, who
would be directly involved in the receiving
and transmitting of the covenant blessings
to future generations.
lI. [1:8-17J TIlE ANGELIC
ANNOUNCEMENT TO ZACHARIAS
A {l:8-11J The Place of the
Announcement oflohn's Birth
When the Angelic announcement
aboutJohn's birth and mission was made
to Zacharias, he was in the Temple in
Jerusalem performing his priestly duty of
burning incense in the Holy Place. There
were so many priests at the time that they
had to be chosen by lot to perform this
duty, and each priest probably had this
privilege only once in his lifetime. So this
priestly service of offering the incense was
one of the most solemn privileges of
Zacharias' life.
The point is that the N. T. gospel begins
in the TEMPLE inJerusalem, the center of
the O.T. JeWish Theocracy, which now
becomes THE WOMB OF THE NEW
COVENANT. Throughout his gospel,
Luke deliberately relates Christ and the
Temple many times, as" we have seen in
the Introduction to Luke.
"Thus in a real sense John the Baptist
emerges from the womb of the Temple,
and in this respect his Old Testament
background is even more central than that
of any of his predecessors. It was,
moreover, in the holy place that the
announcement was given, when Zacharias
stood with his censers in the presence of
the Lord. - The scene is thus an Old
Testament one from beginning to end.
The whole setting helps to create the idea
that John is about to come on the scene as
a last fruit of the old covenant."-Bo Reicke
Thus we have the fourth link of John
with the Old Testament, impressing us
with the fact that although a NEW DAY
and a NEW COVENANT and a NEW
KINGDOM has come with the birth and
life oJesus Christ, it is the FULFILLMENT
of the old covenant; and it has
CONTINUITY with the redemptive history
and the O.T. revelation that has gone
before it. There is not a radical break
between the O.T. and the N.T. The N.T.
is the fulfillment and application of the
O.T. TheN.T. giveswhattheO.T. requires
(righteousness) and promises (Messianic
Reign).
B. 11:11-17], The Actual Announcement
oflo1m'sBirth & Ministly
1. The Identity of the One Who
Made the Announcement
The Angel of the lord appeared to
Zacharias and made the announcement of
John'S birth. This is John's fifth link with
the O.T. In Genesis, (and Judges), The
Angel of the Lord is the most important
mode of divine revelation. Sometimes He
distingUishes Himself from God, speaking
of God in the third person. While, at other
times, often in the same utterance, he
speaks of God in the first person. He is a
person distinct from Jehovah, and yet He
is said to be Jehovah speaking. This is an
O. T. intimation of the Trinity, teaching us
that "behind the twofold representation
there lies a real manifoldness in the inner
life of the Deity."- Vas.
The Angel of the Lord in the O.T.
presupposes the trinitarian nature of God,
and at the same time anticipates the
incarnation of Christ, for when Jacob
wrestled with this angel in Genesis 32, He
is called a "man," VS. 24, and "God," and
Hosea r f r ~ to Him as an "angel," Has.
12:4. So then, The Angel of the Lord is the
Divine Word of God, the Second Person
of the Trinity, the Son of God, in pre-
incarnate appearances.
2. The Place Where He Was Standing
When He Made the Announcement
The Angel of the Lord appeared to
Zacharias in the Holy Place in the Tern pIe,
"standing to the right of the altar of
incense," vs. 11. The Angel, who is
representing God, takes the placeofhonar,
'Iat God's right hand," and conveys a
message to Zacharias directly from God
Himself. Christ sits at the right hand of
God.
3. The Response of Zacharias
to His Appearance
Zacharias was understandably shaken
by this sudden, unexpected appearance of
the Angel radiant with Glory, straight
from the presence of God. It would cause
anybody to tremble with fear, vs. 12.
4. The Message of the Announcement
a. Your prayer has been answered
The first thing the Angel said to
Zachariaswas: "Don't be afraid, your prayer
has been heard by God, and is being
answered/' VS. 13. The: aorist tense
indicates that the Angel had one specific
request of Zacharias in mind. Was He
referring to Zacharias's prayer for ason, or
to his prayer for the salvation of God's
people in the Messiah? Whichever He had
reference to, both were about to be
answered.
b. Your wife will bear a son
and you will name him John
By God's grace Zacharias and his wife
would have a son, who would be the
predecessor and harbinger of the coming
Redeemer. The Angel instructed him to
name his son, John, which means "The
Lord is merciful," or "The gracious gift of
God." John's name, then, would remind
people of the grace of God that was about
to enter the world in Jesus Christ. His
name "indicated that the grace of God,
soon to be reveal ed in theRedeemerwhose
coming is to be prepared by John, is the
outcome of His remembrance of His
Covenant and of His absolute
faithfulness." -Geldenhuys
c. You will have joy and gladness;
many will rejoice at his birth.
We have already noted that Luke's
Gospel is a singing gospel, which begins,
1:14, ends, 24:52,53 with praise to the
May, 1993 ~ TIlE COUNSEL of Chalcedon 'f 11
Lord and rejoicing in Christ. The gospel is
full of that ecstatic joy that comes with the
advance of the Kingdom of Christ. In fact,
all over the globe and throughout history,
MANY will rejoicein the salvation brought
by the birth, death and resurrection of
Jesus Christ.
d. He will be great
in the sight of the Lord
The Angel promises Zacharias that his
son, John, will be great in the highest
sense of the word. He will be great, and of
universal historical importance, not in the
assessment of men, but in the assessment
of God.
. e. He will drink no wine or liquor
It appears that John the Baptist was to
be a Nazirite, not only for a specific time,
but for all his life, as Samson and Samuel.
A person living under the Nazirite vow
was not to partake of any product of
grapes, cut his hair or touch dead bodies,
Numb. 6:3-12. (According to Edersheim
in The Temple: Its Ministry and Services as
They Were at the Time of Jesus Christ, the
omission of the command not to cut his
hair or touch dead bodies does not disprove
the fact thatJohn was to be a Nazirite, pgs.
366ff.)
This is John's sixth link with the Old
Testament. A Nazirite was a person who
had especially separated himself to acertain
life-style before God, bound by oath. The
presence of a Nazirite. in Israel was a living
testimony to the "separated" character and
life required of the Covenant People. He
was incorporated into the organization of
the Israelite society, so that as a N azirite,
he might become "a means of furthering
the sanctification of the people in covenant
with the Lord." - Keil. The Nazirite taught
the people their duty of devoting
themselves entirely to the Lord in all the
facets of a holy life. The gospel testifies
this to the church today: "You are bought
with a price, therefore glorify God in your
body and your spirit which are His. Later
Jesus Himself would say to His disciples,
"If any man would come after me, let him
deny himself, and take up his cross, and
foUaw me, Mk. 8:34.
f. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit
. while yet in his mother's womb
. , .FromthewombJohntheBaptistwould
be filled with the Holy Spirit. In the O.T.
the Holy Spirit would come upon people
to equip and empowerthem for a specific
task or mission, and when the mission
was accomplished and the task performed,
the Spirit would leave them. This was also
true with the O.T. prophets, of which
John was one, and the last; hence aseventh
link with the O. T. However, there would
be a difference with John, to match the
New Messianic Age and the Baptism of the
Spirit .on the Church, John would be
permanently filled with the Holy Spirit
from the very beginning of his life in his
mother's womb. Implication; Children of
the covenant may be regenerated before
they are born .
g. He will tum back many of the sons
of Israel to the Lord thier God; He will
tum the hearts of the fathers back to
the children, and the disobedient to the
attitude of the righteous
Here we see the mission ofJohn the
Baptist. He Is to be a prophet, but much
more than a prophet. His mission will be
to tum the hearts of the covenant people
back to the Lord, from disobedience to
obedience to the Covenant. .
Israel had been for centuries apostate
andseparatedfrom God. In O.T. prophetic
fashion John was to call the people to
return to God,Jer. 3;7, 10; Ezek. 3;19;
Dan. 9:13. Because he will be great in
God'ssight, and filled with the Holy Spirit,
hewill be successful in turning "MANY" of
the sons of Israel back to the Lorrl in faith,
repentance and renewed obedience.
Notice. he will tum "many," but not "all:
because, as Paul later tells us, "they are not
all Israel, who are descended from Israel:
Rom. 9:6. We have Seen that one of the
secondary motifs of Luke is the
particularity of salvation,Le., Jesus came
to save the elect. And Luke's use of this
word "many,"1:14,16,remindsusofthis
fact, as well as of Isaiah's promise of the
particularity of Christ's salvation in Isaiah
53: 11. See also Mark 10:45.
John's mission is an eighth link with
the O.T., for it Is an obvious reference to
the prophecy of Malachi , with which the
O.T. closes, Mal. 3:1; 4;5-6.
"Behold, I amgoing to sendMy messenger,
and he will clear the way before Me. And the
Lord, whom you seek, will suddenlyeome to
~ 'I' THE COUNSEL of Chalcedon 'I' May, 1993
His Temple; and the Messenger of the
Covenant, In whom you delight, behold, He is
coming, says the Lord of hosts.
"Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the
prophet before the coming of the great and
terrible day of the Lord. And he will restore
the hearts of thefathers to theirchildren, and
the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest
I come and smite the land with a curse.
Notice the follOwing points from. this
O.T. prophecy which is fulfilled ihJohn
the Baptist and supremely inJesus Christ.
(1). The Forerunner 1St
The Messenger of the Covenant
Malachi prophesies that God will send
a forerunner to prepare the way [or the
coming of the Lord Himself as "the
messenger of the covenant," 3:1. "The
messenger of the covenant" is JesUs Christ
according to the O.T. and the N.T., Exod.
23:20; Heb. 12:24; Mk. 1:2. So Malachi's
prophecy coinCides with Luke's emphatic
fulfillment; The Lord's Christ is Christ the
Lord, whose coming is to be heralded by
John the Baptist.
(2). The Coming of the Lord
to the Temple
Malachi prophecies that the Lord will
suddenly cometo His Templein theperson
of the messenger of the covenant, and that
His coming to His Temple will have a
cleansing and refining effect on that
Temple, Mal. 3:2-3. Keep in mind Luke's
Temple motif, especially his emphasis on
Jesus' cleansing of the Temple at the
beginning and near the end of His earthly
ministry.
(3). The Coming of Elijah
Malachi prophesies that God will send
this forerunner of Christ as "Elijah the
prophet before the coming of the great
and terrible day of the Lord, " 4;5.
According to Malachi, this "terrible day of
the Lord" is the day in which the Christ
came to His Temple immediately in
connection with the preparation of the
forerunner for His coming,3:1-3, i.e. l'the
day" of the first advent of Christ, which '
would bring the cleaning o[ His Temple,
His House, I.e. His church, for the pollution
and guilt of her sin.
Luke makes unmistakably clear. tnat
the birth and ministry of John the Baptist
in the first century is the fulfillment of the
prophecy of the coming of Elijah. which
Malachi spoke of. Luke's words are: "And
it is he Oohn) who will go as a forerunner
before Him IN THE SPIRIT AND POWER
OF ELijAH ...... Lk. 1:17. who. like Elijah
before him. would tum the hearts of many
back to the Lord.
There are those who believe that Elijah
will return to earth before the Second
Coming of Christ; and they use this
prophecy in Malachi for their support.
But it is obvious in Luke that Malachi's
reference point is not the time
and to repentance. and by this means
broken family relationships will be healed.
But John means more than this?
By "fathers" surely the godly ancestors
of Israel inJohn's day is meant. Theyare
separated from their "children" because of
the apostasy in their children. Now.
through thepreachingofJohn, empowered
by the Holy Spirit, many ofthese "children
of the covenant" will be converted to God
and turn from their apostasy to Jesus as
their Messiah. ':John will bring the present
rebellious generation into religious
A. The Unbelief of Zacharias
The prophecy of the Angel sounded
incredible to Zacharias. Righteousthough
he was, he could not believe it, because of
his advanced age and that of his wife. He
sinned bywatking by sight not by faith. In
this instance he was more like Sarah, Gen.
18:12, while Elizabeth was more like
Abraham. Rom. 4: 18-20. The incredible
audacity of Zacharias, asking for more
proof regarding the Word of The Angel of
the Lord.
B. The Rebuke of the Angel of the Lord
1. The Name of the Angel
of the final Consummation but
the time of the incarnation of
Christ and the preaching of] ohn
the Baptist. LaterJesus Himself
says of John. that he was the
prophet Elijah. (figuratively
speaking). of whom Malachi
prophesied. Luke 7:27. Seealso
Luke 1:76.
"By calling fathers and children back to
their covenant heritage in Jesus Christ,
and as those who return and renew their
In direct contrast with the
unbelieving response of
Zacharias to the Angel's
prophecy, "I am an old man,
the Angel declares, ./ am
Gabriel, who stands in the
Presence of God; and I have
beens<nt to speak to you, and to
bring you this good news: vs.
19. In this way the Angel
rebukes Zacharias and shows
him the irrationality of his
doubts concerning His Word.
He emphasizes His unique
dignity as a messengerstraigbt
from God, who is not merely
As Geldenhuys has written:
"The incarnation and
appearance of Christ had already
brought a 'great and terrible day'
into thelife oftheJewish people.
repentance, faith .and obedience to the
God and Covenant Word of their fathers,
God will use John the forerunner, in the
divine power and Spirit exhibited in Elijah,
and not by human power in John, to 'pre-
pare a people that is spiritually alert and
expectant, ready for the kingdom of the
Lord which is at hand. '" Geldenhuys
because by it the people were
sifted. And when the majority
refused to accept Him I the
judgments of God smote the people in an
unparalleled manner. until Jerusalem and
the wholeoftheJewish national existence
in Palestine were totally destroyed in A.D .
70."
When we compare Elijah andJohn the
Baptist it immediately becomes clear that
in all the Bi hIe there are no two persons
who bear a greater resemblance to one
another than Elijah andJohn.
(4). The Turning of the Hearts
of the Fathers and Children
Malachi ends the O.T. with the
prophecy of 4:6. which John the Baptist
was later to fulfill. Lk. 1:17. What is the
meaning of "turning the hearts of the
fathers back to the children. and the
disobedient to the attitude of the
righteous"? In Christianity there will be
the re- establishment ofthecorrect relation
between fathers and children. broken
family ties will be healed. as the affection
of the fathelS return to their children and
vice versa. John will call people to Christ
harmony with the upright ones of former
times ... Geldenhuys. It wilt be his mission
to reunite and consolidate Israel on the
foundation of the faith their fathers had in
the Messiah. and in their renewed
obedience to Him.
h. He Will be the Forerunner before
Him in the Spirit and Power of Elijah;
and He Will Make Ready a People
Prepared for the Lord
By calling fathers and children back to
their covenant heritage in Jesus Christ.
and as those who in return renew their
repentance, faith and obedience to the
God and Covenant Word of their fathers.
God wilt use John the forerunner, in the
divine power and Spirit exhibited in Elijah,
and not by human power in John, to
"prepare a people that is spiritually alert
and expectant. ready for the kingdom of
the Lord which is at hand."-Geldenhuys
III. [1:18-23) THE UNBELIEF AND
ANGELIC REBUKE OF ZACHARIAS
one of the many angels who
do God's bidding, but who is a superior
angel, who stands in the immediate
presence of God, and whose name is
Gabriel. This explanation reveals that
Zacharias not only distrusts the Angel, he
distrusts the Almighty God who sent him.
Only two angels are mentioned by
name in the Bible-Gabriel, Dan. 8:16;
9:21; Lk. 1:19, 26, and Michael, Dan.
10:13.21; 12:1; Jude 9; Rev. 12:7. The
name, Gabriel , means "man of God," and
Michael means, "Who is like God?".
Gabriel, the mighty messenger of God,
who stands in the immediate presence of
God is presented throughout the Bible as
the one who brings good news from God
to man. Michael is the destroyer of
evelYone who dares to aspire to equality
with God or to oppose Him. Gabriel is the
Angel of Reconstruction and Michael the
Angel of Destruction. Michael carries out
the justice and judgment of God; and
Gabriel carries out the redemptive
purposes of God's grace. In Revelation
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12:7 it appears as if Michael is
representative of Christ; therefore, it could
well-be that Gabriel is also representative
of the pre- incarnate Christ, since He is
The Angel of the Lord.
2. The Rebuke of the Angel
Because of Zacharias' incredible
unbelief, Gabrielchastizedhim by making
him unable to speak until the day when
His angelic prophecy will come true, i.e.,
at the birth of John the Baptist. Zacharias
wanted a sign from Gabriel confirming
His words, but Gabriel gave him a sign
which was a chastisement for his unbelief,
and which would cleanse him from his
unbelief. Zacharias' unbelief will in no
way hinder the fulfillment of the words of
God.
3. The Reaction of the People
The people who had gathered at the
Temple, while Zacharias was in the Holy
Place offering the incense began to feel
uneasy about Zacharias staying in the
Temple for so longa time. It was customary
for the priest, who offered the incense
alone in the sanctuary, to reappear as soon
as possible after the prayers were said to
prevent the people from worrying. What
had happened to Zacharias? Why had he
not reappeared? Had he been struck
down by God or seen an extraordinary
vision?
When Zacharias finally came out of
the Temple, the people qUickly saw that
he had experienced something remarkable.
Instead of receiving the anticipated
benediction from Zacharias, the crowd of
worshipers saw that Zacharias was dumb
and agitated. From his face and actions
the crowd concluded that he had seen a
supernatural vision. Unable to speak, as
sooh as his priestly duties were completed,
he went horne to await the fulfillment of
Gabriel's prophecy in the birth of his son,
John.
C. The Significance of this Incident
Why did Luke include this incident in
his account of the origins of Christianity?
How does it throw light on the central
focus of the early chapters of Luke, the
birth of Jesus? What is the significance of
Zacharias' silence and inability to speak
until the birth ofJohn the Baptist? Luke is
not concerned merely with biographical
details, Zacharias has no Significance in
the birth-accounts other than as the father
of John the Baptist.
On the day of Gabriel's announcement
of John'S birth and mission, Zacharias
('stands in the center of the old covenant
and ... J ohn represents the final resurgence
of prophecy."-Reicke. According to the
postexilic prophets the divine voice of
prophecy would be silent from the last of
the O. T. prophets until the MessianicAge,
Zech.13:2-6. Therefore, whereas we must
try to discover allegories in every story of
the Bible, "in the present narrative,
however, there are so many allusions to
the old covenant and in the subsequent
hymns so many predictions about the
reestablishment of the covenant after a
period of abasement that it will not be
unreasonable to suppose that such an
allusion to the old covenant may also
underlie the silence of Zacharias." -Reicke
"Thus, it is a conceivable possibility
that Zacharias' skepticism and silence are
intended to reflect the incapacity of the
Jews to receive the revelation given them
during the last moments of the old
covenant right up to the coming of the
Baptist."-Reicke. In other words,
Zacharias' silence as chastizement for his
unbeliefis to remind us of the four hundred
years of silence from the heavens because
of Israel's apostasy. God had sent no
prophet speaking His word to His people
for four centuries because their ears and
hearts were dulled by their rebellion. But
now the four hundred year silence is
broken by the explosive revelation of God
in the coming of the Forerunner and the
Messenger of the Covenant to bring
restoration to the covenant people.
N. [1:24-25] TIlE PREGNANCY
OF ELlZABETIl
A. The Fulfillment of Gabriel's Prophecy
After returning home, probably in a
small village in the mountains south of
Jerusalem, vs. 39, from his tour of duty in
Jerusalem, in due time; Elizabeth became
pregnant with Zacharias' son. Surely
feeling as Abraham and Sarah, when they
found they were expecting Isaac, the child
of promise, in their advanced age, Elizabeth
and Zacharias rejoice that Gabriel's
prophecy had come true. TheFo.rerunner
t4 THE COUNSEL "f <ltalcedon f May, 1993
of the Christ had been conceived and
would soon be born. The Last days had
arrived! How their hope and faith and
anxious expectation must have revived
and been excited!
B. The Five Month Seclusion
of Pregnant Elizabeth
As soon as Elizabeth found that she
was pregnant she went into seclusion for
five months, saying, "This is the way the
Lord has dealt with me in the days when
He looked with favor upon me, to take
away my disgrace among men," vs. 25.
Why did she go into seclusion for five
months? Perhaps for two reasons:
1. Who would believe it if she
announced to the friends and family that
she, a aged woman, a barren woman, and
her aged husband were having a baby?
But, if she showed herself after the fifth
month it would be indisputably obvious
that she was pregnant and that the Angel
spoke the truth. At five months she could
come out of seclusion and announce her
pregnancy without fear of ridicule.
2. Elizabeth may have gone into five-
month seclusion to ponder these recent
events in her heart, to meditate on the
glOriOUS encounter with the Angel of the
Lord, the divine revelation that came from
His lips, and her amazing, God-given
pregnancy. Perhaps, she needed some
time to praise and glorify God with
undisturbed worship and adoration for
the pregnancy that God had given her and
her husband.
CONUUSlON
1. The believer's faith in Christ rests
not on the testimony of man but on the
testimony of God given with clarity, power
an<\ self-authenticating authority in the
Old Testament and in the special revelation
conternporaneouswith the birth of Jesus.
"By its very nature and essence faith
can find rest in nothing but a word from
God, a promise from the Lord. Any other
ground makes it shaky, because it is human
and therefore shifting and unreliable. Only
a word from God can give life to our souls
and provide an immovable foundation for
the building of our hope. When all human
things obtruding between God's grace and
our faith are eliminated, and when our
faith fastens on God's promises directly
and immediately, then faith will be
certain and unshakable. Then faith no
longer rest on a subjective, changeable
foundation but on an objective, abiding
foundation. The unshakableness of the
foundation is conveyed directly to the
person who, rescued from life's
shipwreck, plants both feet firmly on it
in faith. When the plant of faith is
allowed to take root in the ground of
God's promises (the gospel), it will
naturally bear the fruit of certainty. The
deeper and firmer the roots anchor
themselves in this ground, the stronger
and taller it will grow, and the richer will
be its fruit." Herman Bavinck, The
Certainty oj Faith, Paideia Press, St.
Catharines, Ontario, Canada, 1980.
2. The gospel never stops making an
impression on the hearts of true believers.
3. The difference between faith and
unbelief is not one of insight or
intelligence, nor is it because of the
obSCUrity of the biblical revelation. It is
a matter of ethical choice. Those who
chose to believe the gospel ofjesus do so
because of the grace of God enabling
them to do so freely and gladly, with the
whole heart. Those who choose not to
believe the gospel do so, because they
will to do so, and not because they have
intellectual problems. The unbeliever
will not give up himself, his belief in his
own ultimacy and autonomy, and his sin
in order to embrace the gospel by faith.
"The whole man is therefore involved
in believing---with his reason, with his
will, with his heart, in the core of his
being, in the deepest partofhis existence.
Knowing himself to be guilty and lost,
man, in faith, surrenders himself wholly
to God's grace in Christ. He ceases
fighting the war he has long been waging
in his conscience.... He leads all his
thoughts captive to the obedience of
Christ." Herman Bavinck
4. Let Luke take you by the hand and
lead you to Christ. As he leads you, pray
to the Father ojesus to give you the faith
to believe in Jesus.
"IjScripturewerenothingmore than
a narrative oj past events it could be
accepted only on historical grounds by
an historical jaith. But although it is
also ltistory, in that I.istory it is more
than a narrative, it is a Word ]rom God
that comes to man calling him to faith
and repentance. As such, it can be
known through genuine faith. Whoever
accepts its testimony confirms that God
is truth jul. Promise and faith are
correlates; they address themselves to
one another. The more the Christian
develops, the more he roots himself in
that Word, learning to know it better
and to value it more. In the same act of
faith he also embraces Christ, whose
likeness comes to him unadulterated in
theScripture'switness of Him. " Herman
BavinckQ
Byron Snapp
Book Review
He Shall Have Dominion by
Kenneth L. Gentry ]r. Institute for
Christian Economics P.O. Box 8000 Tyler,
Tx. 75711 $19.95hb. 584 ppwith index.
Many times during presbytery exams,
when the examiner begins to ask questions
on eschatology the one being examined
replies that he is pan-mil. This often
brings a wave oflaughter from presbyters.
While eschatology is a very difficult
subject, we must realize that the Bible
does speak directly to the subject. No
Christian should take comfort in hiding
behind a pan-mil description of his
eschatology. All three (or four, including
dispensationalism) cannot be correct. It
is important that we study Scripture
prayerfully to seek to understand what
God has revealed on this important
subject.
Mr. Gentry has authored a
well-written, book from a postmillennial
perspective. He treats those of other
persuasions with respect while showing
that their eschatological arguments are
not built on the sound foundations of
consistent Biblical exegesis.
The author begins by pointing out the
importance of a biblical philosophy of
history. The Christian understands that
history is the working out of God's eternal
plan for his covenant people . This
involves creation and the fan of man.
After man's fan God reveals through
Scripture that the Messiah is coming to
redeem a people to himself. With Christ's
coming, God's kingdom is established
and Satan is defeated as a result of Christ's
death on the cross. As history moves
towards Christ's return on the final day
of judgment, we can expect growth and
advance of the Gospel by means of
regeneration and sanctification. This
results in the spiritual growth of the
individual. This growth will lead to
cultural transformation as Christians seek
to live out every area of life in obedience
to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The author rightly contends that
covenant theo!ogy, so evident throughout
Scripture, is important in postmillen-
nialism. The Covenant theologian sees
the unity of the old and new testaments.
"The Covenant concept runs throughout
Scripture. It frames God's creational
process, structures His dealings with man,
and most important for this book's thesis,
insures the success of His divine program
in history.... The decline of covenant
theology since the late nineteenth century
has led to the decline of Christian
influence in society. Postmillennialism is
fundamentally covenantal, presenting a
full-orbed Christianity in it pristine
authority and power." (p. 121)
Christ, God's eternal Son, fulfilled the
covenantal duties of elect sinners. Thus,
Gentry points out the importance of
evangelism in postmillennial thought.
"Cultural influence and change are to be
promoted byGod's people-who are saved
by grace alone (Eph. 2:8-10)-at large in
their callings not by the institutional
Church as such.
CONTlNVED PAGE 24
May, 1993 THE COUNSEL of Chalce<i.on t- 15