Advent According to Luke (03) - The Advent of Israel's Renewal (Luke 3)
1) The Meaning of John’s Ministry - The ministry of John the Baptist is illuminated by once we assume that to many faithful Jews, the exile of Israel was not yet over. Had the Lord returned to Zion (Is. 40) yet? Therefore, God calls him to go out into the wilderness to lead a remnant of renewed Israel through the Jordan River being washed (sprinkled) as they pass (Ez. 36:25). Then they must live as an ethically renewed Israel. But how does one live in such a conflicted culture as a tax collector or as a soldier?
2) The Message of John’s Ministry - The message of John summarized here has three parts: covenantal presumption (vv 7-9), ethical renewal (vv 10-14), and the coming of Messiah (vv 15-18). Therefore, if we would be part of the Renewed New Covenant Israel, we must know that:
a) We can’t presume (vv3-9). Don’t say, “We have Abraham or Calvin or Wesley as our father.” We may enter into a culpable covenant relationship by birth (graciously), but we must “bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (v8). There can be no presumption in, nor rejection of the covenant.
b) We can’t act exclusively in our own interests (vv 10-14). We must act like a renewed people in generosity (v11). This requires ceasing from the corruptions, such as theft (v 12-13), extortion, “false accusations” (v14) and being “content with your wages.”
c) We can’t rest in mere signs (vv15-18). Israel (including the leadership) should have received John’s preparation and sign of renewal (Lk. 7:30). But accepting the preparation is insufficient if it does not lead to the coming One (Christ) (Acts 19:5). John would “baptize you with water; but One is coming who” “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (v 16). In the same way our participation in Church “signs,” from baptism to communion are insufficient if they are not realized in living faith in Christ Himself by the power of the Spirit which are shown in a renewed life which walks in love.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more