1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us,
2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us,
3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
If ever a man wrote a book filled with good news for everybody, Dr. Luke is that man. His key message is, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He presents Jesus Christ as the compassionate Son of man, who came to live among sinners, love them, help them, and die for them.
In this Gospel you meet individuals as well as crowds, women and children as well as men, poor people as well as rich people, and sinners along with saints. It’s a book with a message for everybody, because Luke’s emphasis is on the universality of Jesus Christ and His salvation: “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10).
Luke has a universal emphasis…the gospel is for every class, race, and nation. Not just Gentiles, but sinners of every stripe are the focus of Luke’s gospel. He uses the word “sinners” 16 times.
By focusing on sinners, outcasts, the poor, and women (who were often disregarded in that day) and by showing that Jesus Himself, even in His birth in the stable, was rejected, Luke shows Christ to be the Savior of those whom society rejects or despises.
Luke is the only synoptic gospel to call Jesus “Savior” (2:11). He alone uses the word salvation (6 times) and 10 times he uses the word for preaching the good news, which is only used once in the other gospels.
Luke alone of the three uses the word grace (8 times) and Luke is the only Gospel writer to use the words “redemption” and “redeem” (J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book [Zondervan], 5:254).
Walter Liefeld states, “The entire Gospel of Luke pictures Jesus as reaching out to the lost in forgiveness” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary [Zondervan], 8:811).
Luke wrote his gospel to assure his acquaintance, Theophilus, of the truth concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke “wrote for people removed from the ministry of Jesus, both in geography and time, and his task was to provide them with such an account of the story of Jesus as would enable them to see that the story with which they had already become partially acquainted was a reliable basis for their faith.”
Theophilus’ name means “friend of God,” and the title, “most excellent,” seems to identify him as a ranking Roman official.
Theophilus may have been troubled by questions like, “Is the Christian faith I believed in really the truth and the only truth? If it is true, why was Jesus rejected by His people and crucified? Why are Christians being persecuted? Why have most of the Jews rejected the message, while the Gentiles are receiving it?” (Adapted from Darrell Bock, Luke [Baker Exegetical Commentary], 1:65).
It was indeed a dark day for the nation of Israel. The people had heard no prophetic Word from God for 400 years, not since Malachi had promised the coming of Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6). The spiritual leaders were shackled by tradition and, in some instances, corruption; and their king, Herod the Great, was a tyrant. He had nine (some say ten) wives, one of whom he had executed for no apparent reason. But no matter how dark the day, God always has His devoted and obedient people.
Luke is at pains to make this clear, and it is not a trivial point. The apostle Paul links the entire Christian faith to one verifiable historical event, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. If that is not true, says Paul, then go be a hedonist: Eat, drink, and be merry, because tomorrow you die and there’s nothing else.
But if it is true that Jesus was raised bodily from the grave, then He is Lord and we must submit our entire lives to Him.
What this means is that Christianity is not a religious philosophy based on the speculations and ideas of some great religious thinkers. Christianity is primarily about the God who created the universe miraculously invading human history in the person of Jesus Christ who uniquely revealed God to us.
Thus the great doctrines of the Bible are not matters of personal opinion or philosophical speculation. They are matters of revelation from God and therefore, they must be submitted to.
God has revealed Himself in history in the person of Jesus Christ. Luke wants us to know and believe this with absolute certainty.
How can we know that this is true? Luke mentions several things to establish the credibility of his account. First, there were many written witnesses to the life and ministry of Christ which Luke consulted (1:1). Second, Luke states that many of these written sources were eyewitnesses to the entire ministry of Jesus Christ (1:2).
In addition to all of these witnesses, Luke himself, although not an eyewitness to these things, had carefully researched the written and oral accounts to verify everything before he wrote (1:3).
Luke’s Gospel is an orderly, purposeful account of the life and ministry of the Savior.
Postmodernism is the prevailing philosophy of our day. A main tenet of this philosophy is that there is no such thing as absolute truth….truth is personal and subjective…it is not discovered, but created.
In religious and spiritual matters, especially, to say that you have the truth is viewed as arrogance because this implies that you’re right and others are wrong.
You’ve probably encountered this philosophy when you have attempted to share the gospel with someone, only to have him or her respond, “It’s great that you believe in Jesus and that it works for you. But I’m into the New Age vegetarian natural Zen approach, and it works for me.”
Spiritual truth becomes a matter of personal opinion and whatever works.
Postmodernism also lies behind the strong push toward tolerance, where doctrinal truth is played down and love and unity are magnified. It also shows itself in the emphasis on feelings over thought.
When God Brings Revival Luke 1:5-17
5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.
7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty,
9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.
11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,
15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God,
17 and he will 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 for the Lord a people prepared.”
Have you ever prayed for something over and over again, year in and year out, but God has not answered? I hope that you can answer yes, because if you say no, could show that you were not persistent in your request. If you pray, you have prayed for things that God has not yet answered.
One unanswered prayer that every committed Christian should be praying is that God would send revival to our country. It is as of yet unanswered because nothing that is being described as revival today even comes close to the many examples of true revival that God has sent in times past.
True revival is not a superficial, emotional response that results in a temporary experience, but no long-term fruit of righteousness.
True revival is when the living God sovereignly and powerfully breaks into human history with the good news of His salvation.
It invariably begins with His people coming under deep conviction of sin and turning from that sin in genuine repentance. It always involves a recovery of biblical truth, especially the truth about how sinners are reconciled to a holy God.
Our text records God breaking into history with the greatest revival ever, since it involved the coming of the Savior into this world. If our nation is to be spared God’s awful judgment for our many sins, we desperately need true revival. Therefore, these verses deserve our careful attention.
There are certain conditions that are common to most revivals. While meeting the conditions does not guarantee revival, not meeting the conditions surely prohibits revival. Our text is no exception. It shows us,
While God is sovereign in bringing revival, we must be prepared to receive His sovereign grace
Zecharias and his wife, Elizabeth, were faithful, believing Jews, both from the tribe of Levi. Luke sets the scene for what follows by informing us that they had no child and that they were both advanced in years (1:7). As a priest, Zecharias would serve at the temple for two one-week periods each year, apart from the three great festivals
Because of the great number of priests, estimated at between 18,000 and 20,000, they used a system of lots to determine which priests got to offer the incense on the altar in the holy place. This was a once in a lifetime privilege (Mishnah, Tamid 5.2), and so it would have been the high point of Zecharias’ priestly ministry.
The priests were divided into 24 courses (1 Chron. 24), and each priest served in the temple two weeks out of the year. In spite of the godlessness around them, Zacharias and Elizabeth were faithful to obey the Word of God and live blamelessly
The priests on duty drew lots to see which ministries they would perform, and Zacharias was chosen to offer incense in the holy place. This was a high honor that was permitted to a priest but once in a lifetime. The incense was offered daily before the morning sacrifice and after the evening sacrifice, about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. It was probably the evening offering that was assigned to Zacharias.
Their only sorrow was that they had no family, and they made this a matter of constant prayer. Little did they know that God would answer their prayers and give them, not a priest, but a prophet! And no ordinary prophet, for their son would be the herald of the coming King!
As Zecharias was offering the incense, suddenly an angel appeared to him and announced that his prayers had been heard. He and his wife would have a son, and he would not be an ordinary son, but the very one predicted by Malachi, the forerunner who would prepare the way for the Lord.
Luke mentions angels twenty-three times in his Gospel. There are innumerable angels (Rev. 5:11), only two of which are actually named in Scripture: Michael and Gabriel. When Gabriel appeared by the altar, Zacharias was frightened, for the angel’s appearance could have meant divine judgment.
God sovereignly takes the initiative in revival. God often waits until times are dark and hopeless before He sends revival. It was “in the days of Herod” that this word of hope came to Zecharias. Herod was an immoral, violent king of Edomite descent who claimed to be a Jew in his religion, but was such in name only.
He held onto power by murdering numerous family members over the years, including one son just five days before his own death. He was the same tyrant who slaughtered the infants of Bethlehem in his attempt to kill the newborn king of the Jews. It was near the end of this evil reign that the Lord broke into history with His gracious message to Zecharias.
Religion in Israel was corrupt. The high priests and members of the Sanhedrin vied for power and prestige. They made a healthy profit in the business of selling animals for sacrifice in the temple precincts. It was a bleak situation spiritually and morally.
But it’s often at such bleak times that God breaks into history with true revival. His power is made perfect in our weakness.
God brings revival through His faithful remnant.
Even though the times were spiritually dark, here were Zecharias and Elizabeth, “righteous in the sight of God” (1:6), going about their lives in obscure faithfulness. They walked consistently in the fear of the Lord, seeking to obey Him in all their ways.
If God brings revival in our day, it will be because His ordinary people walk in obedience before Him, seeking His kingdom and glory.
We need to be the kind of people that Zecharias and Elizabeth were, so that God can use us if He chooses to do so.
We must be righteous in His sight.
Men may look at our deeds, but God looks first at our heart.
It is ironic that Herod was called “Herod the Great” by his contemporaries, but here John is called great by God (1:15). It would be the wicked son of this wicked tyrant who put John to death. But in the final court of God, both Herods will not be great, but John will be highly esteemed.
God wanted John to be distinct from the culture around him, even from the common religious culture. Rather than being controlled by wine, he was to be controlled by the Holy Spirit .
If we live righteous lives, set apart unto God, filled with His Spirit, then God can use us to bring revival.
John would be used to “turn back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God” (1:16), and to “turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous” (1:17).
These are the two great commandments, to love God and to love others, beginning in the home.
Self-love is at the root of our relational problems. If we want God to send revival, God’s people must humble themselves, confess their wretched love of self, and seek to obey God and serve one another in love. Rather than blame others, we must point the finger at ourselves in genuine repentance. We must go to God first, and then to those we have sinned against, and ask forgiveness for our self-centered attitudes and sinful behavior.
We must be prepared for the Lord Himself.
John’s ministry was to “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (1:17). Since it was Jesus, born of the virgin Mary, for whom John was preparing the way, it is clear that Jesus is the Lord, eternal God in human flesh. But the point is, it is the Lord Himself who visits us in revival.
If we are daily judging our sin on the thought level, seeking to live as those set apart for the Lord, filled with His Spirit, repentant of all our sins, we will be prepared for that awesome event, should it happen, that the Lord Himself would visit us in revival.