(e.g. john 8 32)

Luke 1:17  (King James Version)

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<< Luke 1:16   Luke 1:18 >>

Luke 1:15-17

God miraculously caused John's conception and birth, even as He did Isaac's and Jesus'. Jesus' conception in a virgin woman without the involvement of a human male is an exception. Isaac and John's conceptions were normally produced except that Sarah and Elizabeth were beyond childbearing age.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Elijah and John the Baptist

Luke 1:17

Why does the angel refer to Malachi 4:6? He is expanding on John the Baptist's responsibility. Jesus summed it up in Matthew 17:11 by saying John would "restore all things." What does "all" refer to? It covers everything necessary to prepare a people for the arrival of the Messiah the first time.

This phrase "restore all things" appears no where else in any connection to the work of either Elijah or John the Baptist. In this phrase, however, Jesus gives us a clear understanding of the mission of John the Baptist. He has turned from considering Elijah to John the Baptist to make a connection between the two.

John restored all things necessary to the fulfilling of his mission, and his mission only, which was to prepare the way before the Messiah. His mission parallels Elijah's, which was to reveal the true God to people who had lost their way. Elijah was a light in his day, and John too was a light in his time, but he was not the Light. John clearly pointed to Jesus as the Messiah so that the people could repent, even as Elijah differentiated the true God from the Baals so the people at that time could repent.

Since Jesus' day, many have done similar restorative preaching, but not one of them was the Elijah of Malachi 4:5-6. If somebody in the future does a similar work, he will not be the Elijah either. Nobody ever will, because John the Baptist already filled that role. We have this on the authority of Jesus Christ, who clearly said that John the Baptist was Elijah, and they killed him (Matthew 17:12).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 3)

Luke 1:15-17

John fulfilled Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 as the messenger who prepared the way for the Messiah. In Luke 1:15-17, by God's estimation, John would be great already. No other prophet was given such an accolade from the Highest Source in the entire universe.

» John's greatness lay in the office he filled.

» His greatness lay in the subject he dealt with: repentance and preparing the way for Christ.

» His greatness lay in the manner in which he did it, that is, in humility, calling no attention to himself, and voluntarily receding into the background when the Messiah appeared (John 3:30).

» His greatness lay in performing his function with great zeal.

» His greatness lay in his personal attributes of character as being above reproach in terms of sin, self-denial, and manner of life. He was courageous in the face of opposition.

» His greatness lay in doing his service for his entire life. His whole life, from the womb, was devoted to God. John was "the crown" of the Old Testament prophets.

» His greatness lay in the number and the greatness of his sacrifices, including his life in martyrdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 2)

Luke 1:17

"In the spirit and power of Elijah" indicates John resembled Elijah in doing a similar work of revealing the true God through a ministry devoted to preaching repentance and the certainty of things contained in the Scriptures regarding Christ. Perhaps it also includes working with a similar zeal, though he accomplished his function without miracles (John 10:41). Obviously, God does not measure a man's greatness by the miracles he does.

On two separate occasions, in Matthew 11:13-15 and again in Matthew 17:10-13, Jesus says John is the Elijah to come. Notice first Matthew 11:13-15: "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" Let him who has ears, listen! Jesus wants His audience to pay the utmost attention. To what? To the fact that John is the Elijah to come! He had fulfilled Malachi 4:5-6.

Notice, too, Jesus' introductory comment in verse 14, "And if you are willing to receive it. . . ." This strongly suggests that He was about to say something different than what His listeners expected. They supposed Elijah would appear in person! This explains why, when John was asked by the delegation from Jerusalem whether he was Elijah, he replied, "I am not" (John 1:21). Though he was Elijah in spirit and power, he was not the literal Elijah they were expecting. The Jews of Jesus' day were just as wrong about Elijah as are many today who are looking for another Elijah to appear before Jesus' second coming. Yet, Jesus gives no indication that anyone will follow John in that office.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Elijah and John the Baptist

Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Luke 1:17:

Luke 1:26-38


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