Sermon: The Dawn of Salvation (Luke 3:1-6)

Luke 3-1-6 Click Here for Audio

The Dawn of Salvation

Luke 3:1-6

Luke the physician was a very good researcher and reporter.  He had an eye for detail and wanted to relay facts concerning the time of Jesus’ birth and ministry to his friend Theophilus and to us.  Here in this text, we see that he leaves nothing to chance and allowed for no guesswork.  Based on the information presented theologians have given us the date of 26AD for the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry.

John the Baptist is now an adult and we see him fulfilling his calling.

He will…X4

Luke 1:15-17 (ESV)

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.”

If we are to understand John the Baptist’s purpose in God’s plan of salvation, we must see something of the context in which he ministered.

Times were good for the most part even under Roman rule.  People were prosperous and secure.  Yet, this generation was spiritually bankrupt.  They had drifted into deep legalism and perversion.  Legalism came from the religious leaders and their teaching.  Keeping the law, but were forgetting the God who gave it.  The perversion came from much of the Roman influence, witchcraft, astrology, divination, oracles, and the like.  Abortion and the killing of infants was very common.  The treatment of slaves was not good…many were forced to fight in the arena or when they were too old to work, they were cast in the arena to the wild beasts.  This brings us to another sign of the times, the arena.  To watch the killing of humans for entertainment is in fact, a mark of a very depraved society.  Society will always have the murderer who finds fulfillment in killing, but when they turn out by the thousands and eat popcorn while watching is a totally other thing.

The Israelites had learned her lesson from the Babylonian captivity that she not to have or worship idols.  However, like anyone who doesn’t know the Lord, other things will be substituted, for them; they had substituted legalism in the place of God.

They worshipped their ability to keep the commandments and even went beyond that with additional rules they made up.  The truth was that they were not really keeping them.  They were keeping their perception of them.  In fact, they were breaking all of them.

Something had to be done in this sinful people were going to hear and respond to the message that the Messiah would bring.

As I studied the setting, I was reminded how very similar ours is.  We have legalism running rampant in religious and even Christian circles and we have spiritualism, abortion, running rampant everywhere else.  At the time of John the Baptist, society was about as evil as it had ever been.  I’m no prophet, but I believe the times we live in are not too far removed from 26AD.

Luke 3:1-6 (ESV)

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene,  [2] during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.  [3] And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  [4] As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.

[5] Every valley shall be filled,

and every mountain and hill shall be made low,

and the crooked shall become straight,

and the rough places shall become level ways,

[6] and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

1. John’s Ministry (3:2)

[2] during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

Even though we are in the New Testament, we are at a transition period between the OT and NT.  John the Baptist is considered the last of the OT prophets.  In fact, Jesus would even explain that there were no prophets greater than John the Baptist.

Matthew 11:11 (ESV)

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

the word of God came to John- What is to be seen here is that just like the Word of God came to other OT prophets it also came to John the Baptist.

Ezekiel 1:3 (ESV)

the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi…

Jonah 1:1 (ESV)

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,

John the Baptist had a prophetic ministry.  Just like all the OT prophets who would hear a Word form God and then relay the message to the people, so John was faithful at declaring this Word he had received.  John’s ministry and message came from God.  He did not wake up one day and decide to prophecy.  He was called by God.

What makes John unique is that his ministry was foretold even before he was born.

God was working and the time for the Messiah had come.  Just as every important ambassador or King would have his appearance announced, so King Jesus was to have His announced.

John lived and ministered in and around the Jordan River.  The Bible calls this area,the wilderness. John wasn’t a priest in Jerusalem like his father.  He was a preacher in the desert.  This was a dusty arid setting.  It was a difficult place to live and even survive.  This is where God had called him.  Isaiah prophesied that one would come preaching in the wilderness.  This was John’s ministry.

2. John’s Message (3:3)

[3] And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Luke doesn’t mention it here but the topic of John’s message was the Kingdom of God.  God has a Kingdom and you are either in God’s Kingdom and serve Him or you are in Satan’s Kingdom and serve him.  If you serve Satan then hell is your eternity.  So, John’s message was that the people were not living in God’s Kingdom because their wicked behavior indicated their allegiance was to the devil.

They needed conversion, the new birth, to be born again.

If you’re going to preach to a wicked people and get them ready for the Kingdom of God, what is the appropriate theme of your sermon?

Luke reports to us that John’s preaching consisted of repentance, forgiveness, and baptism.

proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Some folks take this verse to teach that it was their baptism that brought about repentance and forgiveness.  However, to teach this goes against Scripture as a whole.  The idea here is that John preached the need for his followers to repent of their evil sins and lifestyle, seek God’s forgiveness and then begin to consistently practice godliness in their lives and then they were to be baptized.  In other words, they were to be converted first, then baptized.

Josephus a Jewish historian living during these days wrote about the baptism of John…

Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. (18.5.2)

What we must see here is that nothing is different from the way we are to practice baptism.  John wasn’t doing something unique in the sense of being special to his time only, he was setting the practice in motion that we continue today.

A person indicates they have been saved, in other words they make a profession of faith.  The church, then lovingly guides them into commitment and obedience to God through godly living.  After some time has passed and they have been found to be genuine (as much as possible) the church celebrates with them as they are baptized.

It’s one thing to claim Christ, anyone can do that.  Profession does not indicate genuine conversion.  Even John the Baptist knew this.  That’s why when all the people began pouring out to the Jordon River to here him preach, he slammed the religious leaders and Herod’s family because they were just coming out to be seen by the people, they had no intention of repenting.  John called them a brood of vipers.

John would also say later that all the folks that were baptized were to live lives in keeping with their baptism.  What he meant was that, you’ve repented and were forgiven of your sin; now continue living lives that line up with this profession.

Profession and claiming to be forgiven was one thing.  Baptism and living consistent godly lives was another.  Your baptism shows everyone watching that you are committed to Christ and His people, the church.  Your life also is an outward indicator of what has already taken place inside.

The truth of the matter is that all good preaching should have elements of these same themes in it as well, because all people, everywhere need to constantly practice a life of forgiveness and repentance.

The Israelites were steeped in a religion of works.  They thought they could earn God’s favor by working real hard at keeping the Law, performing rituals, and keeping the tradition…John commanded them all to repent and seek forgiveness.  This would have blown their minds.  For their whole life they had been taught that they were Abraham’s descendants and that all they needed to do was to practice religion.  John called them sinners in need of forgiveness.

Acts 15:10-11 (ESV)

Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?  [11] But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

When John’s listeners heard his message of repentance and of forgiveness, they knew the Messiah was about to step onto the scene because he was preaching the language of the New Covenant found in Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 31:34 (ESV)

And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

This forgiveness of sin, only comes to those who repent of their sin.

Ezekiel 18:30 (ESV)

“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.

3. The Dawn of Salvation (3:4-6)

[4] As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.

[5] Every valley shall be filled,

and every mountain and hill shall be made low,

and the crooked shall become straight,

and the rough places shall become level ways,

[6] and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

This is the first lengthy OT quotation in Luke’s Gospel and Luke wants us to see something.

If you were to read the Book of Isaiah you would notice up through chapter 39 all is judgment and wrath.  Then in chapter 40 the tone changes from doom and gloom to hope and healing for God’s people.

God’s people had been in darkness.  It was in a sense night.  It had been a very long and grueling night.  Now, the Sun was peaking over the hill and dawn was upon the people.

Luke quotes Isaiah 40:3-5 to show that John the Baptist is also a shift in the way God was dealing with His people.  Up to John there had been 400 silent years and by looking at society it could be deduced that the people by now really were not looking for God.  They were not concerned with spiritual things.

In context, Isaiah 40 is showing the power of God’s Word and the complete utter worthlessness of the idols Israel worshipped.  God’s Word was beginning to go forth in Isaiah and conquer sin.  When Luke brings this 800 year old text and drops it into the gospel text, he wants us to see that John the Baptist marks the dawn of the triumph of God’s Word the Logos of God, Jesus Christ.  He would triumph over sin and death, He would put death into the grave, He would overpower the gates of hell, He would do battle with the devil and be victorious.  King Jesus was coming.  His footsteps could be heard.

God’s Word is moving and John is getting things ready.

Why was John in the wilderness instead of in Jerusalem?  The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

The King who brings salvation was coming.  The roads must be made ready, the hills leveled and the valleys filled.

The lowly and forgotten of society were raised and the proud were brought low and humbled, the crooked and evil were made straight.

When Jesus stepped onto the scene the people were ready for His preaching because they had already heard about the Kingdom of Heaven from John.

Salvation had dawned.

I pray salvation has dawned in your life.  I pray You have heard and submitted to the same message that John preached…repent and turn to God and be forgiven through the Lamb of God Jesus Christ.

Luke 3-1-6 Click Here for Audio

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