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Luke Chapter 1:1-25

Memory verses for this week:  2 Pet 1:21  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.


Introduction: We begin a new study on the book of Luke this week.  Four different men, led by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, penned four different accounts of the gospel, each from a different view and perspective.   God used these four men to give us a more full account of the birth, life, death and resurrection of our Lord.  In Matthew 18:6, the bible says Mat 18:16  But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.  God has given us not only 3 witnesses, but four, each written by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  One of the important things Luke does in his account is to show Christ as a guest in the home of various people, and dwelling a great deal on the prayer life of the Lord.

I.  The Theme and Author of the Book of Luke

Luke 1:1  Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,

Luke 1:2  Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;

Luke was a beloved physician and yet a very humble man.  He never mentions himself here or in the book of Acts.  He and Paul met at Troas on the second apostolic journey.  (See Acts 16:6-11)  In verse 10 of Acts 16, we see that Luke joined Paul’s company when it says ‘we’. 

Acts 16:10  And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

Acts 16:11  Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;

Luke was one of those faithful men that stood by Paul.  In his last letter from Rome, Paul writes “Only Luke is with me.”   II Timothy 4:11

The theme of the book is clear  “The Things which most surely believed among the early Christians.”  These of course relate to the birth, life, death, and ultimate resurrection of Christ.  Luke says many had taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things.  Perhaps many who wrote were not inspired apostles, but wrote what they remembered about the accounts.   But Luke says in verse 2 that these things were known to him by those who were personally acquainted with the Lord, who had known him from the beginning.

In the book of Luke, he present Jesus as Man in all perfection, and backs it up with many evidences of this.  In comparison, Matthew chose to present Christ as the promised Messiah, the King of Israel.  John presents Him as the manifestation of Deity, the Eternal Son of the Father, the one who brings us salvation.   Luke brings out some of these same things, but spends much time on the prayer life of the Lord.   

Luke 1:3  It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,

Luke 1:4  That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

Luke insists that he had perfect understanding of all things from the beginning.  He sought out those who had known the Lord Jesus personally and learned the facts from their own lips.  He was of course, led by God to pen the inspired Word, but the Spirit of God led him to make use of all reliable sours of information.

2 Pet 1:21  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

In verse 4, Luke points out ‘the certainty of those things.”  The gospel rests upon these divinely accredited certainties.

II.  The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

Luke 1:5  There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.

Luke 1:6  And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

There was a period of time of about 400 years between the book of Malachi and the accounts of the Gospel in the New Testament.  These years are referred to as the ‘silent years’ because there was not record of God speaking audibly to man.  Neither by God or by angels and no prophecy was given during this time.   God spoke by His prophet Daniel to reveal that there would be 483 years (69 periods of 7 years each) before the Messiah would come.

Dan 9:25  Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

Some of the Jews like Zacharias, Simeon, and Anna knew that the time had almost expired.  Many would go up to Jerusalem to observe the feasts of the Lord and hope that promise would soon be fulfilled.  Then one day the angel of the Lord appears to Zacharias as he ministered in the temple.

Luke 1:7  And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.

Luke 1:8  And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,

Luke 1:9  According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.

Luke 1:10  And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

Luke 1:11  And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.

Zacharias was from the tribe of Levi and priest in Israel.   The course of Abia (of whom Zacharias belonged) was the eighth of 24 courses that the priest served in the temple in two week intervals.   On this day, he was burning incense at the sacred altar, the golden altar in the holy place.  His wife was from the lineage of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel.  All of the High Priests came from the family of Aaron.   Other sons of Levi served as Priests, but only Aaron’s descendants were High Priests.  This couple were righteous people who walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless.  They had no children and they were now old and all hope for a child was gone.   But Zacharias performed his duty faithfully while the people waited outside.  This is a picture of Jesus as our great High Priest who has gone into heaven while we, His people, wait here upon the earth until he returns.

J. Vernon McGee said this about Zacharias and Elisabeth.

God breaks through after 400 years of silence. Chronologically Dr. Luke begins the New Testament. He goes back to the birth of John the Baptist, to where the angel Gabriel appeared to John’s father as he served in the temple. John’s parents were Zacharias and Elisabeth. Zacharias means “God remembers,” and Elisabeth means “His oath.” Together their names mean, “God remembers His oath.” When did God take an oath? Psalm 89:34–37 records God’s oath: “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.” God swore an oath to David that one of his descendants would have an eternal reign. Christ is that descendant. “God remembers His oath!” God is ready to break through into human history after 400 years of silence.

Notice that the Scripture tells us both Zacharias and Elisabeth were righteous. That is, they were right. How were they right? They recognized they were sinners and brought the necessary sacrifice.  [i]

Luke 1:12  And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

Luke 1:13  But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

The appearance of the angel caused Zacharias to be troubled and fear fell upon him.  No living Israelite during this time period had seen an angel.  It was believed among the Jews that it meant death to look upon God or any heavenly representative.

Judg 13:21  But the angel of the LORD did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the LORD.

Judg 13:22  And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God.

Luke 1:14  And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.

The angel tells of the gift of a son whom Zacharias was to name “John”.  The angel tells him to fear not, no doubt aware of the fear the man was feeling.   The angel was also aware of the prayer he had made asking God for a son to be born.   Perhaps he had just about given up on ever having a son, but God was faithful to answer his prayer.   This boy was John the Baptist, and it says in verse 14 that many would rejoice and be filled with joy and gladness at this birth.   He was to be great in the sight of the Lord.   He was to drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He was to take the vow of a Nazarite, which abstained from wine and strong drink as part of the vow.   (Read  about the vow of the Nazarite in Numbers Chapter 6.)    John was to be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb.   This was a very unusual thing as no other person has ever received the Holy Ghost at physical birth.   All of us who are born again are filled with the Holy Ghost on the day we experience salvation.   John was a great man.   Jesus said there was none born of women greater than John.

Luke 7:28  For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

Luke 1:15  For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.

Luke 1:16  And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.

Luke 1:17  And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

John was to turn many of the Israelites to the Lord.   He was to go forth in the spirit and power of Elijah.   As John went forth, he preached the gospel.   We should also tell others about Jesus Christ in our lives.

Matthew Henry said this of John the Baptist:

He shall go in the spirit and power of Elias. That is, First, He shall be such a man as Elias was, and do such work as Elias did,—shall, like him, preach the necessity of repentance and reformation to a very corrupt and degenerate age,—shall, like him, be bold and zealous in reproving sin and witnessing against it even in the greatest, and be hated and persecuted for it by a Herod and his Herodias, as Elijah was by an Ahab and his Jezebel. He shall be carried on in his work, as Elijah was, by a divine spirit and power, which shall crown his ministry with wonderful success. As Elias went before the writing prophets of the Old Testament, and did as it were usher in that signal period of the Old-Testament dispensation by a little writing of his own (2 Chr. 21:12), so John Baptist went before Christ and his apostles, and introduced the gospel dispensation by preaching the substance of the gospel doctrine and duty, Repent, with an eye to the kingdom of heaven. Secondly, He shall be that very person who was prophesied of by Malachi under the name of Elijah (Mal. 4:5), who should be sent before the coming of the day of the Lord. Behold, I send you a prophet, even Elias, not Elias the Tishbite (as the Septuagint has corruptly read it, to favour the Jews’ traditions), but a prophet in the spirit and power of Elias, as the angel here expounds it.  [ii]

Luke 1:18  And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.

Luke 1:19  And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings.

Luke 1:20  And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

Zacharias realized the limitations of his age and his wife’s age.  He asks how can this be.   The angel identifies himself and says that he stands in the presence of God.  And as we know, with God, nothing is impossible.   Just as Abraham had his son Isaac past his prime years, Zacharias would likewise have a son in his old age.  God had sent Gabriel with a message and to bring him these glad tidings.   Zacharias was to be dumb and unable to speak again until the promise be fulfilled.   Unbelief closed the mouth of Zacharias because he did not believe God.  You and I can let unbelief and sin make us quiet from speaking in defense of God’s Word if we are not careful.

Luke 1:21  And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.

Luke 1:22  And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.

The people continued to wait on Zacharias, and no doubt wondered why he was taking so long in the temple.  It was time for him to come out and bless the people, however today he comes and out and can not speak.   He beckons unto them but is speechless.   They perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple due to his strange actions.

Luke 1:23  And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.

Luke 1:24  And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,

Luke 1:25  Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

Even though Zacharias could not speak, he still fulfilled his full two weeks of service in the temple, and then departs unto his own house.   In verse 24, we have a record of Elisabeth conceiving and how she hid herself for 4 months.   She was so full of joy to know that after all these years, God was answering her prayers and she was to have a son.  Back at this time, a woman who did not have a child was looked down upon with reproach.   Not only was Elisabeth to have a son, but he was to be the great one that was to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus Christ.   He was to bring the gospel to the nation of Israel and prepare a people ready for the messiah to appear.


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Prov 4:18  But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.


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[i]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[ii]Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.