Praise for Salvation: The New Covenant - Part 1
Topic: Salvation Verse: Luke 1:76–1:79
“PRAISE FOR SALVATION: The New Covenant”
Theme: The consummation of redemptive provision is found in Jesus.
I. The Preparation for the Covenant – 1:76, 80
A. The Forerunner to the Messiah – v. 76
- This is a tender moment in the life of Zacharias as he holds his son John – the one who would be the greatest and last prophet in a line of heroic spokesman for God – “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High …”
- Throughout this chapter, we have seen the great preparations that God was making for the final and ultimate work of prophesying the coming of the Messiah.
- Here John’s status is seen in that God reiterates that his service with to “the Most High” – a term referring to absolute sovereignty of God – cp. v. 32
- Part of John’s responsibility was to “… go on before the Lord to prepare His ways …”
- That is, his role was to emphasize the spiritual priorities of the Abrahamic Covenant delineated through the New Covenant.
- As we have already noted, the Jewish people were very much focused on the Old Testament prophecies pertaining to the political benefits that the Messiah would provide as they have been so egregiously abused by the occupying power of Rome.
- His preparatory ministry was prophesied by Malachi – cp. Malachi 3:1; as well as Isaiah – Isaiah 40:3-5.
- Hence, John’s message was one that focused on the hearts of the people – calling on them to repent and confronting those who were externalists – cp. Matthew 3:2, 7-8.
- His role was to call attention to the spiritual aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant, yet his mission was largely missed as the people repented with the thought that it would bring in the political Kingdom.
- Until they were ready to truly face the reality of their destitution spiritually and call out to the Lord for forgiveness and cleansing, the benefits of the political deliverance would not be truly available to them.
B. The Formation of the Messenger – v. 80
- This child was be facing a remarkably difficult task – and was sanctified from conception and even filled with the Spirit from within the womb.
- At the very end of the chapter, Luke informs us that “the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.”
- This is really all we have regarding John’s childhood – cp. Mark 1:1-8
- We are told through the vocabulary that he became “strong” [κραταιόω] – a term that refers to being firm in one’s perspective or resolve; he was being groomed by the Holy Spirit.
- This was needed as the offer of the New Covenant provisions made by Christ would be largely rejected by Israel, causing God to set them temporarily aside.
II. The Priority of the Covenant – 1:77
A. The Delivery of Salvation
- As we have been observing, the spiritual blessings were the primary interests of the Messiah upon His first advent – offering the Kingdom if they were willing to repent and believe.
- His great priority was “to give to His people the knowledge of salvation” – yet they were grotesquely disinterested and were focused almost exclusively on the political kingdom.
- Even His disciples had a hard time comprehending Jesus’ priority – cp. Luke 9:11; Acts 1:6
- This is a reference to the work of God whereby Israel will turn from their hardened hearts and repent for their sins when the grace of God does the work and fulfills the New Covenant – cp. Jeremiah 31:31-34
- As we look toward the end of Jesus 1st Advent, we find that Israel continues to reject His call for their repentance and their hardness results in their loss of opportunity – cp. Matthew 23:37-39
- This curse was placed upon the Nation of Israel until the time when Jesus returns at the 2nd Advent to deliver Israel and sovereignly turns their hearts – cp. Romans 11:25-31
- The reason that God will do this is the fulfill His promise to Abraham and to the Nation of Israel in order to bring Himself glory – cp. Ezekiel 36:22-28.
B. The Dismissal of Sin
- This National salvation of Israel will be experienced one sinner at a time, even as Zacharias here prophesies – “… by the forgiveness of their sins.”
- This is how they gain the “knowledge of salvation” – through “the forgiveness of their sins.”
- “forgiveness” [ἄφεσις] – refers to the “act of freeing” or “liberating” from something – the “release” or “dismissal”
- Salvation cannot be known without the confrontation and effective handling of the issue of sin.
- Yet when a sinner repents of sin and turns to the Savior, the blood of Christ Jesus cleanses – washes away that sin so as to eternally dismiss its relevance – cp. Luke 24:45-47; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14.
- This is the essence of the New Covenant – as we are experiencing since all the provisions of the New Covenant are available to anyone who will turn to Christ in repentance and faith – Luke 22:20; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 9:15
- As mentioned, since Israel rejected the Messiah, they have been set aside until the 2nd Advent when the New Covenant provisions with Israel will be literally, completely, and ultimately fulfilled – cp. Zechariah 12:10.
III. The Provocation of the Covenant – 1:78-79
A. The Prompting by God’s Pity – v. 78
- What is it about God that causes Him to provide such blessing? – “Because of the tender mercy of our God …”
- This “tender mercy” is what prompts what God accomplishes through the New Covenant provisions.
- “tender” [σπλάγχνον] – refers to the inward parts of a body – the feelings of affection that cause the disruption of ease in one’s stomach
- “mercy” [ἔλεος] – refers to the kindness expressed for someone in need – compassion .
- God has been truly moved by His awareness of our need and that we are hopeless without His interference and provision.
- Therefore, when Jesus came, He was filled with mercy – “… with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us …”
- This reference to “sunrise” [ἀνατολή] refers metaphorically to the arrival of the Messiah as a dawning of a new day of God’s favor and blessing.
- The “visit” [ἐπισκέπτομαι] – is a word that conveys to “inspect” or “to go see a person with helpful intent,” or “to make an appearance to help.”
- Thus, the coming of Christ was for the purpose of assisting Israel with salvation from sin out of tender mercies; yet, they were unwilling.
B. The Provision of God’s Peace – v. 79
- The unilateral nature of the Covenant made by God is that He will not relent on His promises to Israel.
- Instead, He will make it possible for those who are lost and “in darkness” to find their way to God – “To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death” – cp. Isaiah 9:2
- We know that this refers to any and all sinner who are chosen by God for salvation – He delivers from sin – cp. John 1:6-8, 11-12; 3:19-21; 2 Peter 1:19
- Yet, again, the ultimate and final fulfillment of this prophecy is when the Messiah comes and “visits” to help Israel as they are about to be vanquished and turns them to faith – cp. Isaiah 60:1-5
- It is in this way, by His sovereign grace, that He takes those who are lost in darkness and “guides [their] feet into the way of peace”
- This is most importantly a reference to “peace with God” – Romans 5:1.