The First Baptist Preacher

The last verse of the song of Zacharias describes the duties of his son John as the forerunner of Christ.

And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Luke 1:76-77

The message of John will turn the religious world upside down. The doctrines taught among the Jews had become so polluted by man’s opinion that the learner could no longer recognize what was God’s word and what was man’s opinion. It was as if the hearers were sitting in darkness and had no way of knowing the truth. John’s preparation is not so that Jesus will be able to accomplish something, but to make it possible for the people to overcome the false doctrines of the Pharisees and truly see Who Jesus is.

The purpose of the preaching of the gospel in John’s case, and so in ours today, is not to give remission of sins or even to apply a general remission to specific hearers.  The purpose of the gospel is to give knowledge about what God has done for His people in salvation.

The remission of sins is by the “tender mercy of God,” as seen in the next two verses.

through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.  Luke 1:78-79

Remission of sins is by the “tender mercy of God” and nothing else.  It is by His sovereign act of mercy that any will be saved. God loved His children so much that He sent His Son Who appeared like the dawning sun for the elect.  Without God’s amazing grace, everyone would perish in darkness and be separated from God forever. Jesus came as the Prince of Peace, and His life and ministry teach us how He purchased peace for us on the cross and how we can walk like Him now.

Verse 79 may also be applied to gospel preaching but not to the extent of giving remission of sin, as I have already stated.  The gospel brings to “light” that which God has already done for us and in us (2 Timothy 1:10).

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel. – Luke 1:80

Luke gives an epilogue to the song of Zacharias and describes the upbringing of John. It seems he did not go to Jerusalem to be taught by the important Rabbis of the day. He stayed at home with his family in the Hebron area until it was time for him to start preaching publicly. Why would he go? The doctrine they taught was rotten. It would not help him preach the message he had from God!

We could all learn a lesson about the popular schools of our day. I am not against a good education or higher education. But we need to make sure that the doctrines of the world that permeate public and private education do not cause us to forget the true doctrines of Holy Writ!

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