This continuation of the angel's explanation to Zacharias focuses upon the impact of "John's" arrival. The father will have joy and gladness and many others will rejoice.
- 1. The angel shifts Zacharias' fear to the anticipation of joy.
- 2. He also makes the shift emphatic by repetition.
When the desire (whatever its driving core) is fulfilled, abundance of joy will be the result.
"Joy" apparently was not the characteristic of Zacharias' demeanor -- the promise of joy is typically only significant to folks who lack it to some significant degree. The combining of "joy" with "gladness" and "rejoicing" indicates that there is a thesis here of what "life" ought to be like -- joyful. The chief question is this: how is "joy" held out to people who live in a grief-filled world? The bottom line on that question is "perception" -- what is it that makes people "grieve" and why is that so?
What is/are the link(s) between fear, joy, and "John"?
- 1. There was to be a "climactic" event that would move Zacharias from a somewhat joyless existence into at least a period of grand ecstasy.
- 2. This "event" was to be the coming of the realization that "John" had come. This moves further than simply a life-long desire being fulfilled. There are the questions of why this particular desire had dominated Zacharias' emotional landscape for so long, and why its fulfillment would be so joyous. There is probably far more to the meaning of "John's" arrival than simply the arrival of a son in the household of a barren couple. Since "John" means "Yahweh is gracious", there is a strong implication that "joy" comes from coming to significant grips with the truth of the name.
- a. When casting about for an explanation of the strength of the desire in Zacharias, one can remember both Elkanah's response to Hannah and Jacob's response to Rachael.
- 1) 1 Samuel 1:8 reveals a rather typical husband. Elkanah doesn't understand Hannah's overwhelming fixation on having a son (and, I suspect, neither does Hannah!) because he has (obviously) a different agape (love) and pistis (faith) base -- one that doesn't hang everything on "having a son".
- 2) Genesis 30:1-2 reveals another rather typical response of a husband who is being leaned on by an obsessed wife.
- 3) Given these realities, what are the possibilities regarding Zacharias' fixation?
- b. Also, when casting about for an explanation, one can remember Abraham's rather "short" response to God in Genesis 15:2-3 in which he revealed that he was put out with God for withholding seed.
- A. Fear is a bondage-to-sin issue: Hebrews 2:15.
- B. Joy is a freedom-from-sin issue: Psalm 51:12.
- C. "John" [meaning Yahweh is gracious] in this context of fear and joylessness brings the claim that Grace is the only characteristic of God that can significantly address these issues.
- 1. Because none of the other attributes directly address how God is going to deal with a man in his bondage-to-sin condition.
- a. All of the other non-judgment related attributes (love, mercy, compassion, etc.) are qualifiable on the basis of some aspect of man's behavior.
- b. This is the only attribute that directly dismisses man's behavior as a consideration.
- 1) Under grace, there is no merit.
- 2) Under grace, demerit is of no consequence (in fact, since there is no law under grace, there is no such thing as demerit).
- a) Does this mean that I can "live like Hell" and still be saved? Obviously, since there are none who do not "live like Hell" before they are saved.
- b) Does this mean that I can be saved and "live like Hell"? Obviously not, since being saved means a person has come to believe in the love of God and, as a consequence, loves God, not Hell. Belief is not a vacuous impotency.
- 3) Romans 4:16 says the inheritance is by faith so that it might be according to grace so that the promise might be sure to all the seed.
- 2. The only issue for man is this: am I one of the seed? [This is the question of whether I am one of those toward whom God is going to act in grace --- and how do I know that I am?]
- a. This question can only be answered by one reality: do I believe that God's grace is for me?
- 1) It is obviously only for those who believe.
- 2) It is just as obviously not for everyone -- because those who do not believe are excluded.
- 3) It is just as obviously a question that can be answered -- everyone knows what they believe.
- a) There are those who will not go there; they refuse to allow the question to be personal enough to apply to just them.
- i. They will deliberately move immediately to generalities [I believe that Christ died for the sins of the whole world] so that they do not have to face the more direct question.
- ii. They already know their unbelief because it shows in their refusal to deal directly and specifically.
- iii. But their reasonings are invariably faulty and unjustified because there is no legitimate reason to say "God may well be gracious, but He does not intend to include me in that grace" because that requires an omniscience that no man has and only reflects the fact that he has other agenda issues that are more important to him than being right with God.
- iv. The critical fact is that a person who refuses to be honest with himself about what he believes is either going to have to become honest about it or perish.
- b) But everyone knows whether they believe a given claim or not.
- b. This question cannot be answered by attempting to determine before I believe whether I am one of the elect -- though, obviously, only the elect are the seed.
- 1) The impossibility rests in these considerations:
- a) My present unbelieving attitude does not mean that I may not become believing at some point in the future, and the future is unknowable to me.
- b) There is the reality of the early-to-believe as well as the thief on the cross.
- 2) The biblical injunction is to "make sure of your calling and election" by the progressive development of faith -- indicating that "faith" must be there to begin.
- 3. Because the functional definition of grace is "God doing for man what He has required of man" -- this is the only way the promise [which God made] can be sure since the promise could be invalidated if man's behavior was brought into the picture [God's promise is left up to man to fulfill?? -- ridiculous thought!].
- a. How do we know this is the definition?
- b. By these facts:
- 1) Grace is always presented as a highly desirable characteristic within the context of the sin/holiness conflict.
- 2) The only things that are desirable are either the ultimate objective of creation, or the mechanisms that bring us to the realization of that ultimate objective. [Whatever this ultimate objective is, its ultimacy makes it the ultimately desirable and whatever brings it to realization is also desirable]
- 3) Grace, since it is not the ultimate objective, must be one of the mechanisms of the realization of that objective.
- 4) There is nought that can bring the realization of ultimacy to pass but the Ultimate Sovereign, using His wisdom and power; therefore, grace must be one of the mechanisms within wisdom and power.
- 5) The mechanisms work within the context of the sin/holiness conflict in such a way as to reduce to extinction the presence of sin and to maximize holiness to a total pervasiveness.
- 6) Nowhere in Scripture are we given any hope whatsoever that man will be able to eradicate sin or establish holiness; even the doctrine of the Rapture declares that we shall only be like Him when we see Him as He is, having been made immortal by divine fiat, so, if grace is to bring this to pass, it must be God working to do for man what man cannot do for himself. And, since there is necessity in the issue of man's doing, what man cannot do for himself must be an imperative established by God.
- 7) Thus, Grace is God doing for man what He has required of man.
- c. And by these facts:
- 1) Grace is presented in the Scriptures as contrary to any sense of "merit", so that the results of grace are not attached to human efforts.
- 2) If they are not attached to human efforts, they must be accomplished by divine effort.
- 3) Since grace is presented in Scripture as producing good results that are accomplished by divine efforts, grace must be a divine mechanism to produce good results for man.