Sermon #18 Luke Sermons
Title: THE MAKING OF A PROPHET
Text: Luke 3:1-6
Subject: The Beginning of John the Baptist’s Ministry
Date: Sunday Evening – December 5, 1999
Tape # V-58b
I want to preach to you tonight on The Making of A Prophet. My text will be Luke 3:1-6. If you will, just turn to that text and put a place marker there, while I talk to you for a few minutes.
In Ephesians 4:11, the Holy Spirit tells us that Christ’s ascension gifts to his church include apostles, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and prophets.
The passage in Ephesians 4 is a quotation from Psalm 68. It is a declaration the accomplishments of Christ as our Mediator. Redemption has been accomplished by the blood of Christ. His resurrection declares that the sins of God’s elect, which were imputed to him, have been put away by his sacrifice. The Man who died for us at Calvary is now enthroned in glory and has received gifts of grace, gifts which he daily bestows upon his church for the salvation of his people.
These ascension gifts of Christ, as I said a moment ago, include apostles, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and prophets.
· It is obvious that there is no continuing apostolic or prophetic office in a strict sense. The last apostle was Paul, and the last prophet was John the Baptist.
· Evangelists are not itinerant preachers, but what we now call missionaries, church planters.
· Pastors and Teachers are those men called and gifted of God for the work of the ministry, preaching the gospel in a local church, building up the saints in the faith, edifying the body of Christ.
Yet, because the term “prophet” is given as an ascension gift of Christ to his church, it is obvious that the word does not apply in that context to an office that was terminated before the Lord’s ascension.
It is very difficult to find anything useful being said or written in our day on the ministry of these men. What is a prophet? The word, as it is used regarding the New Testament era, seems to refer to –
· men with extraordinary gifts,
· men who to have a remarkable understanding of the Scriptures,
· men who have a keen awareness of the times in which they live and the message required to meet the need of the hour.
The work of the New Testament prophet is shrouded in indefiniteness and lost in a fog of haziness. We know the old definition, “A forthteller rather than a foreteller." We apply the term generally to preachers as spokesmen for God. But here is a distinctive calling separate from that of evangelist, pastor, or teacher.
A prophet, in this distinct sense of the word, appears to be a man distinctly gifted of God to lead his people in crucial times, with boldness and authority, which only God can give. Clearly, there were such men in the early church (Acts 11:27; 13:1). At least six are named in Acts 11 and 13.
There have never been many prophets, at least not many true prophets. But are there none? Our times cry for such men. Is there not a prophet? Are there none today to stand in the gap and dare speak for God? Never was the need greater and the supply smaller than today.
The prophet is a voice in the wilderness. It is his business to sound the trumpet, proclaim the Word of God, and press the claims of the sovereign God upon the hearts and lives of men. He does not work on details or set up programs. He does not devise ways and means. Others are gifted along that line. He does not belong on boards and committees. He is a solitary soul and does his best work alone. He is not a parrot, a puppet, or a promoter. A prophet is never a team player. He is not a religious politician. He is a voice, a lone, dogmatic voice.
He is nothing but a prophet. If he tries to be or do anything else he is an embarrassment to himself and to everyone around him. He is not a politician; and he is never popular with politicians either in state or church. He is not cowed by dignitaries. When necessary, he will call Herod a fox, even when he knows it may cost him his life.
A prophet is an unreconstructed rebel, an odd number in a day of regimentation. He has no more patience with mere religion than Isaiah had when he thundered or Amos when he called on Israel to come to Bethel. It is his business to say what others can not, will not, or at least do not say.
The politician has his eye on the next election instead of the nation’s welfare. And I fear most preachers are more politician than prophet. They are more interested in your approval than your soul. They have their eyes on denominational promotion, the next rung of the ladder, a high seat in the synagogue, and being called a rabbi.
The prophet has no ax to grind, but lays the ax of Holy Scripture to the root of every tree in the groves of the world’s idolatry. He does not know the meaning of the word “compromise.” His subject never varies.
· “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
· “All flesh is grass!”
· “Behold, your God!”
· “Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!”
As far as God’s prophet is concerned, the grass is no greener in the next pasture. He seeks no man's office, position, or honor. His concern is for the will, and glory, and truth, and kingdom of God.
Churches today are looking for scholars, specialists, socializers, and showmen. We need some seers, some prophets who, like Isaiah, have seen God in His holiness, themselves in their sinfulness, and the land in its uncleanness.
The prophet does not pack the house, nor produce impressive statistics. He may get but poor response, but whether they hear or not, those who hear him know that a prophet has been among them. People do not crowd churches to hear prophets. In an age of ear-itch religionists, most everyone calls God’s prophets “troublers of Israel.” And wherever a prophet’s voice is heard, trouble, of one kind or another, is sure to follow. Whenever John the Baptist, or the Apostle Paul came to town, whether they preached in the church-house, the jail-house, or the open fields, either a revival or a riot broke out. Nobody ignores a prophet!
The Prophet is never popular with the pharisees, and doesn’t want to be. Organized religion is never more organized than when it attempts to silence a prophet. “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?" “Ye are the children of them that killed the prophets.” So said the greatest of the prophets to the pharisees of his day. From Abel to Zacharias, our Master said, prophets have been stoned while living and honored when dead. Let no one be misled by the monuments men build to dead prophets. They are only the gestures and attempts of one generation to cover up the crimes of their fathers in preceding generations.
The prophet is not popular at home. In all four gospels we read our Lord's pronouncement, "A prophet is not without honor save in his own country and in his own house.” Is it not strange that any modern prophet should expect to fare better than his Lord. But prophets do have their reward, and so do those who befriend them, even with a cup of cool water. God will not overlook the “prophet’s chamber,” where his unpopular servant has been made to feel at home.
There are not many candidates for Elijah's mantle. His path is not an easy path to follow. There are many ways of getting rid of prophets. John the Baptist's head is not brought in on a charger these days. There are smoother and more skillful ways of silencing lone dissenters like Micaiah in these days of refined malice against God. Some can even be promoted into silence. Success has stopped some mouths when persecution failed.
Like John the Baptist, the prophet is out to pull down the high places, build up low places, and make a way for the Lord. His business is not so much theological interpretation as it is burning, penetrating application. He does not lecture on mustard, he makes a mustard poultice and lays it next to the trouble. Others may comfort when afflicted; but the prophet afflicts the comfortable. We are trying to accomplish now by pep, publicity, propaganda, and promotion what once was done by preaching. The woods are full of trained religious personnel, (They call them preachers!); but this age cries for prophets, men in whom the Word of the Lord burns like fire, men who carry and are weighed down with the burden of the Word of the Lord!
Any young Elisha in line for Elijah's mantle will need the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhinoceros. He may irk those who like to preserve the status quo, for he is a disturber of Israel, but no one else can take his place. Oh, may God raise up some prophets in our midst in this dark, dark day!
Maybe there is sitting before me some Samuel, perhaps there is one who will hear this message long after my name is forgotten among men, who will hear what the Lord says and who will speak what he hears. There is not much prospect as to pay, promotion, or prestige. But there has always been "yet one man" who will scorn the hatred of Ahab and seek the honor of God.
Now, look just briefly at Luke 3:1-6, and I will show you the making of such a man, The Making of a Prophet.
Proposition: If you learn nothing else from this message, learn this – Prophets are made, called, gifted, and raised up by God at the time and in the place where they are needed, to “prepare the way of the Lord!”
These words describe the beginning of this gospel age. After four hundred years of silence, God spoke again. And the voice by which he spoke was John the Baptist, that mighty Elijah, specifically raised up by God to prepare the way of the Lord, by whom God shook the heavens and the earth.
There are five things I want to show you in these six verses. I will be very brief. I pray God will cause the message to be both effectual and of lasting consequence.
I. God raises up a prophet when a prophet is desperately needed.
I cannot think of a time in Scripture when God raised up a prophet to twiddle his thumbs, sipping tea with old ladies, coaching little league ball teams, or running businesses. God’s prophets are raised up to meet the crying need of his people in the hour of desperate evil abounding on all sides.
· Moses to Deliver Israel from Bondage
· Samuel to Establish God’s King
· Elijah to Lead Israel while Ahab and Jezebel sought to Establish Idolatry
· Isaiah to Proclaim God’s Salvation, when Hope Seemed to be Gone
· Jeremiah to Prepare the People for Judgment
That was certainly the case here. Verses 1 and 2 tell us that John the Baptist was sent into the world at a time of abounding social, political, and spiritual wickedness.
Who can imagine a time more infamously evil than the days of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod and his brother, Philip? These men made Bill Clinton and our modern Washington crowd look like a bunch of Augustinian monks! When John the Baptist came preaching the gospel, the world seemed to be given over completely into the hands of the wicked. As Job put it, “The earth is given into the hand of the wicked” – (Job 9:24). If these men were the rulers of the world, what must the people have been like?
The church was in just as sad a condition as the political world. In fact, religion was so degenerate, even among the Jews, that it was just a reflection of the world. Instead of converting the world, the world had converted the church. Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests.
The Word of God specifically stated that there was to be but one high priest; but the Word of God was no longer in vogue. It was irrelevant, as far as the religion of the age was concerned. The church, the priests, the preachers, the religious leaders of the age did every thing, gaged everything, made every judgment, formed every doctrinal statement by opinion polls, by the opinions of a godless, reprobate people!
· We must never be in despair regarding the truth f God and the cause of God in this world, no matter how bleak things may appear.
· Let us never allow the wickedness of the age in which we live deter us from the work God has given us.
· What God has done in the past, he can do again. – When darkness abounds, it is only a good background upon which God may be pleased to show forth his blazing glory in Christ!
II. A prophet is a man distinctly called of God. – “The word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah in the wilderness” (v. 2).
A message from heaven came upon his heart, seized his soul, captivated his mind, and took over his life. I do not know how to put my finger on it, but I know this – No man has any business engaging in the work of the ministry who has not been called of God to the work. He who runs without being sent, has no message to deliver, no work to do, no mandate to accomplish. But when a man is called of God, he knows exactly what he must do. He knows exactly what his message is. And he goes about his work with the tenacity of a mule and the courage of a lion.
If a man is called of God to this great and glorious, heart-rending work…
· He knows the Word of the Lord – The Message of the Gospel.
· He is gifted of God to preach the gospel – “Apt to teach.”
· God puts him in the work. – John was in the wilderness.
· God gives him a hearing.
· He is engaged in it!
III. God’s prophet is a man with a message, a message from God, demanding the surrender of rebels to the throne of the great King!
A. John came preaching repentance.
B. John came preaching baptism, the necessary confession of faith in and allegiance to the Lord God almighty, pointing sinners to Christ.
C. John preached the baptism of repentance, because of the remission of sins.
IV. God’s prophet is a man who knows who he is and what he must do.
A. He is just a voice.
B. It is his business to prepare the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight.
· I am here to tell you, you must prepare to meet God.
· I am here tell you by what path he comes to you and by what path you must come to him, and to declare it plainly!
· It is my business, as God’s ambassador to your soul, as the voice of one crying in the wilderness, to fill up every valley, pull down every barrier, make every crooked thing straight, and every rough thing smooth, which stands between your soul and your God.
V. God’s prophet is a man who goes about his work with the confidence of absolute success.
We know that our work is not in vain in the Lord. We know that God’s Word will not return to him void. It will accomplish that which he pleased. It will prosper in the thing to which he sends it. And when our work is done – “All flesh shall see the salvation of God” (v. 6).
A. You to whom I preach, everyone of you, shall see the salvation of God in Christ.
B. You will see God’s salvation, either as believers or as rebels; but see it you will, either to the saving of your soul or to the damning of your soul (2 Cor. 2:14-16).
C. You will acknowledge and confess the salvation of God.
· In Repentance.
· In Judgment.
Application: I send you home with this word from God’s prophet Amos – “Prepare to meet thy God!” Are you, or are you not prepared to meet God?
1. Are you washed in the blood of his dear Son?
2. Are you robed in his righteousness? Do you have on the wedding garment of his grace?
3. Are you prepared to meet God?
Rescue, CA – 01/128/00