The New Life Mission

Sermons

Subject 22 : The Gospel According to LUKE

[Chapter 1-1] (Luke 1:1-16) John the Baptist

(Luke 1:1-16)
“Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed. There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.’”
 
 
The Genealogy of John the Baptist
 
Let’s read Luke 1:5-7. “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.”
The tetrarch of the region of Judea of Israel at that time was King Herod. First, let’s take a close look at Israel’s historical background at that time. Israel had been defeated in a war with Roman Empire that was the biggest power in the known world at that time. Therefore, Israel became a tributary to Rome. Even though there were tetrarchs in Israel, they had no actual power; the Roman governor had real power, and the Israelites had to pay taxes to Rome. That was the time when Augustus was Caesar, the Emperor of Rome. The Roman Emperor sent Pilate as the governor of Judea.
OK, I will now talk about John the Baptist. Today’s Scripture passage says, “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth” (Luke 1:5). Luke, the disciple of Jesus who recorded the Gospel of Luke, intended to describe the historical background of the nation of Israel and about John the Baptist’s parents first, and then about what kind of man John the Baptist was before God, what he had done for us, and who he was. He intended to talk about how important John the Baptist’s ministry was.
It says that Zacharias, John the Baptist’s father, was a priest “of the division of Abijah” (Luke 1:5). A priest of God in Israel was qualified only if he had been born into the family of Aaron. God had the descendants of Aaron, who were of the tribe of Levi from among Jacob’s 12 sons, to have the qualifications of priesthood. God chose Aaron, Moses’ elder brother, and gave him the duties of High Priest. He gave Moses the duties of His prophet. That is how Aaron’s descendants became the family of priests.
So what kind of family was the tribe of Judah? It was the family of kings, generation after generation. Because the tribe of Judah was the family of kings, God the Father had Jesus Christ born into that tribe.
Luke 1 that we read today says that John the Baptist was born as the son of Zacharias. “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth” (Luke 1:5). Zacharias was born to the family of “Abijah” that was able to officiate in the priesthood as the descendants of Aaron. Therefore, John the Baptist, who was the son of Zacharias, could inherit those duties. In other words, the descendants of Aaron the High Priests could enter God’s sanctuary everyday to take care of the instruments such as the golden lampstand, the incense altar, and the table of the shewbread. Each priest performed his duties from 30 years old to 50 if he had no spiritual or physical problems.
Let’s take a look at 1 Chronicles 24:1-4. “Now these are the divisions of the sons of Aaron. The sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. And Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and had no children; therefore Eleazar and Ithamar ministered as priests. Then David with Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, divided them according to the schedule of their service. There were more leaders found of the sons of Eleazar than of the sons of Ithamar, and thus they were divided. Among the sons of Eleazar were sixteen heads of their fathers’ houses, and eight heads of their fathers’ houses among the sons of Ithamar.”
Aaron had four sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. Nadab and Abihu died because they offered profane fire before the Lord (Leviticus 10:1), and Eleazar and Ithamar ministered as priests in the presence of Aaron their father. However, as time passed by, the descendants of Aaron kept on increasing. So King David had to determine the order of priests who would perform the priesthood. He divided all the descendants of Aaron into 24 divisions according to their branches; Eleazar had 16 sons while Ithamar had 8 sons. King David made 24 divisions of priests according to the families of 24 grandsons of Aaron the High Priest.
 
 
John the Baptist Who Was Born in the House of Aaron
 
Priests in the Old Testament era had to offer the regular burnt offerings everyday and take care of all the instruments of the sanctuary. So, Zacharias entered the sanctuary to perform his duties. Then, an angel appeared to him all of a sudden. The angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13). What is this talking about? Zacharias still had no children at that time. He and his wife had no children yet even though they were both very old.
Among the Israelites, it was a shame to a family if the generation ended with no children. So, Zacharias desired to have a son of his own. It seems that the priest Zacharias prayed to God because he had a lot of time there. The angel of God appeared to Zacharias at that very moment.
My fellow believers, what would people’s reactions be if an angel suddenly appeared in a very dark place? Most people would have been very startled. There was no one in the sanctuary and Zacharias was performing the duties of a priest there. But something appeared all of a sudden and it wasn’t a person; it was an angel. Then, the angel spoke to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God” (Luke 1:13-16). This was telling of the birth of John the Baptist.
As such, John the Baptist had to be born into the family of Zacharias, and God wanted to use Zacharias’ son to fulfill His Providence. Zacharias was a person who offered sacrifices according to the Law of God and who kept God’s commandments and statutes. God had John the Baptist born on this earth as the son of Zacharias in order to make him serve God’s righteousness. Now, it was possible for John the Baptist to baptize Jesus because he was a descendant of Aaron. All these were the will of God the Father.
God established in the Old Testament the sacrificial system that remitted all people’s sins; it was fulfilled through the sacrificial system. God made it so that the Israelites could be saved by the sacrificial system that He established. And God planned in the New Testament era to save all mankind from their sins according to the Law of salvation that He had established on Mount Sinai. So, before the birth of Jesus Christ, He sent an angel to Zacharias, the descendant of Aaron, and told him that He would give him a son.
God had John the Baptist who would become the representative of mankind born through the priest Zacharias and, on the other hand, He had Jesus conceived in Mary’s womb six months later. He made Jesus Christ perform the duties of High Priest when He was 30 years old. Therefore, when Jesus was 30, He had the qualifications of the High Priest of Heaven. He was ready to be baptized by John the Baptist. On the other hand, John the Baptist also became 30 years old and, as the representative of this earth, was able to baptize Jesus, the High Priest of Heaven. God permitted it to happen.
John the Baptist laid his hands on Jesus’ head, and Jesus was baptized with the baptism that received the transference of all the sins of mankind at once. God the Father completely fulfilled the work of cleansing the sins of all humanity by having His Son receive the transference of those sins by being baptized. So, God had Jesus baptized by John the Baptist. This was the providence of God that was planned in order to fulfill His righteousness. The Scripture writers of the Four Gospels always recorded the ministries of John the Baptist in the introduction before Jesus’ ministry because it was so important. That was because John the Baptist had to transfer mankind’s sins to Jesus by baptizing Him. God the Father prepared the representative of mankind who would transfer the sins of the world to His Son, Jesus Christ.
God clothed the Israelites in the grace of salvation in the Old Testament by having them receive the cleansing of their sins by the descendants of the High Priest Aaron transferring those sins to the sacrificial offerings. The priests of the people of Israel in the Old Testament had to ceaselessly transfer the sins of each person to the sacrificial offerings and sacrifice them. But it sufficed in the New Testament era in the way of salvation appointed by God for Jesus to be baptized by John the Baptist once, die once on the Cross, and be resurrected once.
People could receive the remission of sins in the New Testament era by faith in the ministry of Jesus Christ that was the same as the offering of atonement for sins in the Old Testament era. Only the method and effect of salvation was different from that of the Old Testament. Thus, there had to be the role of John the Baptist that connected the Old Testament era with the New Testament era. When Jesus came to this earth, He had to be baptized by John the Baptist who was the representative of mankind. Not everyone could perform that duty; only someone like John the Baptist who was sent by God as a descendant of Aaron could do the duty. Only Jesus’ body could be the sacrificial offering for all our sins. Therefore, the first thing to think of is that there had to be a representative of mankind among the descendants of Aaron who was the first High Priest of this earth. So, God the Father sent and prepared John the Baptist as a descendant of Aaron and as the representative of mankind before Jesus.
The angel said, “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13). This gospel of the water and the Spirit started from the time the angel appeared to the priest Zacharias and promised the birth of John the Baptist. John the Baptist became a great one in the sight of the Lord and became the representative of mankind. He was greater than Moses and greater than the prophet Isaiah.
Let’s continue with the next passage: “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God” (Luke 1:15-16). John the Baptist here is the same as Nazarites who were given to God in the Old Testament era. A Nazarite in the Old Testament was a person who had already been dedicated to God. It says that they didn’t drink strong drinks.
John the Baptist was actually the person who would personally transfer all our sins to Jesus Christ by baptizing Him. He was a man of God sent to this earth by God. What does it say about him in the Bible? It says, “He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). We receive the Holy Spirit only after receiving the remission of our sins, but God said that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb.
John the Baptist who baptized Jesus was later conceived in Elizabeth who was the wife of the priest Zacharias. Afterwards, Mary went to see Elizabeth. But Jesus was conceived in the Virgin Mary’s womb then. Jesus and John the Baptist met while they were in their mothers’ wombs. John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb at that time.
We can’t just think of John the Baptist as one of the prophets of the Old Testament. He was the representative of mankind who would baptize Jesus in order for God the Father to save mankind. He was prepared and used because he was indispensable to fulfill God’s righteousness. God’s will was fulfilled through the process with which John the Baptist transferred mankind’s sins at once to Jesus by baptizing Him. In other words, Jesus received the transference of all the sins of mankind by being baptized by John the Baptist. So, people who ignore the ministry of John the Baptist thus become unable to receive salvation from all their sins.
I have met a lot of Christians who say they truly believe in Jesus as their Savior. But most of them totally ignore the ministry of John the Baptist. They trample on the ministry of John the Baptist who baptized Jesus. They totally devalue the ministry of John the Baptist in that fashion. They say, “What’s so important about the role of John the Baptist?” That’s why they haven’t received the remission of sins.
 
 
But John the Baptist Was Treated with Importance in the Four Gospels
 
However, the words of those Christians aren’t of the Word of God; they are merely the words of man. What does the Word of God say about the ministry of John the Baptist? If we read the Four Gospels, they all begin with descriptions about John the Baptist. For example, the Gospel of Mark starts with the passage that John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord, and then describes how he baptized Jesus Christ according to the will of God the Father. At the beginning of the Four Gospels, John the Baptist always appeared prior to Jesus, crying, “Repent, you brood of vipers,” and he cried out true repentance to bring people back before God. It is recorded that he did the work of fulfilling God’s righteousness by baptizing Jesus. So, we can’t try to know the righteousness of Jesus while ignoring the work of John the Baptist.
In regards to the work of John the Baptist, Jesus personally said that he was specially sent to this earth in order for God to save mankind from all their sins. John the Baptist was the person who, as mankind’s representative, transferred the sins of the world to the Savior Jesus by baptizing Him. If John the Baptist had not been born on this earth and if it had not been for his role of baptizing Jesus, we would still have our sins. That’s because it wouldn’t have worked for Jesus to just hang on the Cross and die without the ministry of John the Baptist. God needed the ministry of John the Baptist in order to accomplish man’s salvation. So, we must know that the gospel of the water and the Spirit given by the Lord is God’s plan of salvation.
God has spoken to us of such salvation starting long ago through the sacrificial system of the Tabernacle. People who broke the Law had to take a sacrificial lamb or goat before God, and they transferred their sins to the sacrificial offering by laying their hands on it. Then they could receive the remission of sins by killing the animal, cutting it into pieces, and offering it to God. This is the lawful system established by God in order to save us from the sins of the world.
For atonement of the yearly sins of all Israelites, God had given them a sacrificial system for the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). On the tenth day of the seventh month every year, the High Priest had to lay both his hands on the head of a scapegoat to transfer the yearly sins of all the Israelites. Then the scapegoat was sent away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man (Leviticus 16:20-22). God thus appointed the law of salvation; in order to properly blot our all the Israelites’ sins according to that system, the High Priest had to offer the offering of atonement.
Likewise, there had to be a High Priest in the New Testament era, too. So, God the Father sent John the Baptist to this earth six months before He sent His Son.
We are now carefully considering the root of Jesus’ gospel of the water and the Spirit. We are looking at the advent of John the Baptist as God’s servant and the ministry that he did. The Lord said, “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). John the Baptist was the representative of mankind as is written in the Bible.
Matthew 11:12 states the following; I can’t memorize Bible verses very well, but I have memorized this one perfectly: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence” (Matthew 11:12). The gospel was initiated from the advent of John the Baptist who was a descendant of Aaron and from the advent of Jesus. It started when John the Baptist baptized Jesus as it is written, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence” (Matthew 11:12). All the sins of all mankind went over to Jesus by John the Baptist transferring them to Him all at once by baptizing Him. We come to receive the remission of sins by faith in the fact that all your sins, my sins, and all the sins of all people in the world went over to Jesus all at once when He was baptized by John the Baptist. Whoever believes in this gospel of the water and the Spirit receives the remission of sins and can enter the Kingdom of Heaven by faith in God’s righteousness.
So, the Bible says, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). In other words, the affair of invading the Kingdom of Heaven and occupying it by faith has occurred as a blessing to those who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit from the day when John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. Therefore, we must know how accurately the knowledge of the Truth was taught from its beginning to Theophilus by Luke, one of Jesus’ disciples.
Luke preached to Theophilus that the gospel was initiated from John the Baptist. He also told Theophilus that Jesus received the transference of all mankind’s sins through John the Baptist. Therefore, Luke also told Theophilus that Jesus also received the transference of all his sins that he had committed over his whole life through the baptism He received from John the Baptist. Today, we also must know and believe in this gospel of the water and the Spirit to be able to surely abide in Jesus.
We must accurately know who John the Baptist was. There are lots of passages in the Bible that speak of John the Baptist. Let’s look up some of them.
In Malachi 4:5-6, it says, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Through the passage above in Malachi, God said, “I will send My servant prior to My Son. I will send you my servant Elijah who will transfer all the sins of mankind to Jesus and who will lead all the people to Me, and My heart to them.” Elijah spoken of here is John the Baptist who appeared at the beginning of the New Testament. He is John the Baptist who transferred all the sins of mankind to Jesus by baptizing Him.
Let’s read the Word in Luke 1:17. “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’” This means that John the Baptist comes to us by the spirit and power of Elijah. Elijah was the servant of God who showed who the true God was by fighting all alone against 850 priests of Baal and Asherah. And he defeated and killed all 850 of those idol-worshipping priests. He thus brought all the Israelites back to the Lord God. Elijah thus witnessed before the Israelites that the Lord God was the only true God. He was God’s servant of power who brought them all back to the Lord God.
So, “Elijah” is synonymous with “servant of power.” The Bible says John the Baptist would “go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17). We must know how much Elijah loved the Israelites and how much he wanted to lead them back to God. Elijah had so much power that it didn’t rain for three years because of his prayer. The sins of this world went over to Jesus at once because of Elijah who was to come.
The Lord said that John the Baptist was the Elijah of this generation. Therefore, John the Baptist performed the same ministry as Elijah. He was a servant of God with the duty and power to transfer all the sins of mankind to Jesus. Zacharias and Elizabeth both rejoiced when John the Baptist was born. But it wasn’t just his parents. The Bible says that a lot of people rejoiced at his birth. My fellow believers, I am also actually very happy at his birth and I rejoice in his work. What would have happened to us who believe in Jesus if John the Baptist had not come to this earth? Things would be very awful if that were the case.
I give thanks that God the Father sent His servant John the Baptist to this earth through Zacharias and his wife as the initiation of this gospel. My fellow believers, we must now be thankful that John the Baptist baptized Jesus. We must go before God the Father in faith and give thanks for that. We must know and be thankful that God sent John the Baptist and that John the Baptist baptized Jesus as the beginning of the gospel of the water and the Spirit. That is upright faith. It is faith that truly knows and believes in the really concrete Truth.
We also give thanks that God sent John the Baptist first. God the Father, through John the Baptist, made many people, including you and me, return to Christ by faith and allowed us to receive true salvation. We give thanks to God the Father who gave us this grace.
We could actually meet Jesus who is the Savior and get faith in God’s righteousness by the witness of John the Baptist. Through the ministry of John the Baptist, we found out and came to believe that Jesus is our true Savior. We absolutely need to believe in the ministry of John the Baptist and that of Jesus, and remember how important they were in the beginning and working of this gospel of the water and the Spirit, and in us being saved and receiving salvation from God. We must give thanks before God once again and forever by faith. We must be thankful to God the Father who sent us John the Baptist and we must be saved by faith today.
The ministry of John the Baptist is absolutely necessary in us being saved from all our sins by believing in Jesus Christ. We aren’t just thankful to John the Baptist today. We eventually are thankful before God who sent him. So, I hope you don’t misunderstand. I hope that you all receive the remission of sins and eternal life by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit.