Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 5 Study # 2
Thesis: The dawning realization of the importance of "grace" as the fountainhead of our theology begins as an expression of an "eighth day" reality.
Introduction: Last week we began a study of Luke's record of the birth of John. We saw that God's purposes in His restraining of Elizabeth's ability to conceive included the intention of magnifying His mercy so that rejoicing would become the experience of those who experienced His mercy. It is essential for those who would experience the joy of life to come to the realization that God is fundamentally merciful. This realization does not dawn easily in the heart/mind complex of man. Witness how much of the preaching of men focuses upon the holiness of God and the judgment of God: if the "preachers" do not have a theology of mercy, how can the people? Look at Matthew 9:13 and, then, 12:7. These statements were made by Jesus to the perpetrators of the doctrine of the unapproachable holiness of God. The problem for man is that distortion is so easy. Holiness is distorted into legalism and mercy is distorted into libertinism. Thus, Luke sets his sights on the need of Theophilus to really enter into a theological transition that elevates the mercy of God to both an accurate understanding of mercy and an accurate focus on mercy. This morning we are going to proceed in our consideration of the record of John's birth by looking into the historical realities that govern that record.
July 25, 2004
- I. The Historical Realities Governing the Author's Perspective.
- A. This record was penned, according to the best 'educated guesses', circa A.D. 60.
- 1. This was a decade after the Acts 15 events which focused the Church's theological orientation on the theology that underwrote the general understanding of the dogma of circumcision.
- a. This is important because it is impossible for a man to mention "circumcision" without being heavily influenced by his current understanding of it.
- b. This is also important because of what we are told in Acts 15 regarding circumcision.
- 1) It was the issue on the plate in the record (Acts 15:1 and 5).
- 2) It was decried by Peter as a "yoke" that no one can bear (Acts 15:10).
- 3) It was decreed by the Church as a teaching that would "subvert your souls" (Acts 15:24) if it was understood in the way that first century Israel generally understood it.
- a) The general understanding was "holiness/demand" theology that posited the possibility of a relationship with God only if one could discipline himself to obedience.
- b) The enormous flaw in this general understanding was its blind oversight of the actual reality regarding the depraved incapacity of man.
- c. This is, finally, important because no particular dogma ever springs out of anything but a particular theology...thus, a person's view of God determines how he understands the words of God.
- 1) Theological debate is never settled by argument over specific texts for the simple reason that individual texts are always understood in the context of the general theology that the debater personally holds.
- 2) There is no more crucial issue at hand than the question of what God is really like.
- 2. This was after more than two decades of Luke's association with Paul who was the primary author of the foundations of New Testament Christianity.
- a. This is important because, after this length of time, Luke's views were in almost lock-step conformity with Paul's.
- b. This is important because Paul's theology is fundamentally gracious and seriously antagonistic toward any sense that "circumcision" would put a person "right" with God.
- 1) In Romans 2, Paul argues that "circumcision" is only of good effect if a person keeps the Law (Romans 2:25).
- 2) In that place Paul also argues that a person who "keeps" the Law is circumcised even if the physical reality is uncircumcision (Romans 2:26).
- 3) And in Romans 4:9-14 Paul argues that circumcision was given years after justification; thus, "proving" that circumcision has nothing to do with acquiring justification.
- c. This is important because Luke's record of John's circumcision was the historical point when his emphasis upon Yahweh's ultimately gracious nature was going to be highlighted.
- 1) Luke had, by recording Gabriel's instructions to Zacharias, indicated that there was a big theological orientation-shift in the offing.
- 2) Now, in the record of the fulfillment of the words of God through Gabriel, Luke deliberately camps on the issue of the name that is to be given to the baby.
- a) He tells us that the "naming" was coincidental with the "circumcision".
- b) He tells us that "they" were going to call the baby "Zacharias" [Yahweh remembers].
- c) He tells us that Elizabeth objected and "they" wanted to argue with her.
- d) He tells us that when Zacharias settled the issue with a writing tablet, they all "marveled" (the same reaction that "they" had when Zacharias tarried in the temple earlier).
- e) He tells us that after the issue is settled, Zacharias' tongue was loosed and he broke out in an outburst regarding Yahweh's intent to show mercy (1:72).
- B. This record was penned in order to enhance the relationship that a "friend of God" already had.
- 1. It is a record of "circumcision" according to the divine plan and not man's misunderstanding.
- 2. It is a record with a strong hint regarding the "eighth" day.
- a. Consistently through Scripture, the "eighth day" is a day of a new beginning after a completed cycle of labor and rest.
- b. It is appropriate that a shift of focus be introduced in respect to this thesis of a new beginning.
- II. The Historical Realities Governing the Reader's Perspective.
- A. The primary reader was of the "60's" mindset; a man with a non-Jewish name and an intense interest in "knowing" particularly.
- B. The primary reader was, in name, a "Friend of God" whose "friendship" was going to be dictated by the view he had of God...a view that, for every man, in always in need of refinement and depth.