Face to Face

Face to Face

“I hope to see you shortly and we shall speak face to face”

3 John 14 (see also 2 John 12)

Letters and emails are terribly impersonal and can often be misunderstood. The reader is inclined to read their own thoughts and circumstances into the letter received. It can also be difficult to convey a message clearly on the phone. John had a message for his readers that he did not want misunderstood so he wanted to speak to them face to face. There have been many times that I have gone out of my way to speak to someone face to face because I didn’t want to risk confusion that may arise from a letter.

As we read the Bible we observe that the Lord appeared to quite a few men face to face at times when He wanted to communicate important information. He appeared to Abraham on several occasions in the process of making and confirming the Covenant. Each time more information was given and/or affirmed. He also met with Jacob face to face before he was permitted to re-enter the Promised Land (Genesis 32:30).

Moses met the Lord face to face on several occasions beginning at the burning bush (Exodus 3:6). He was the only one who could communicate with the Lord after Israel’s rebellion and he spoke with the Lord face to face (Exodus 33:11). Before the conquest of the Promised Land Joshua met the Lord face to face (Joshua 5:14) and so did Gideon prior to battle (Judges 6:22).

The Lord promised He would speak with Israel face to face when they are restored to the Promised Land (Ezekiel 20:35). When Jesus returns and establishes His earthly kingdom He will fulfil this (Ezekiel 39:28-29). Others saw visions of the Lord that caused them to fall on their faces before Him (e.g. Daniel 10:5-6).

Job knew that one day he would see the Lord face to face (Job 19:25-26). The apostle Paul had that expectation as well (1 Corinthians 13:12) and John confirms that all believers will see Jesus face to face (Revelation 22:4). When we have an important message for someone we prefer to give it face to face. The Lord speaks to us through His word, affirmed by the indwelling Holy Spirit, but to convey the Gospel to an unsaved person the Lord’s way is (generally) to send His messenger to speak face to face. This remains the most effective way. Jesus was the first such messenger; and if we are His, we are now His messengers.

Restoring Speech

“Behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the days these things take place because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time” Luke 1:20

Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth, had been praying for many years for a son and Gabriel had come to tell him that their prayer was to be answered. By the time Gabriel came to Zacharias he and Elizabeth were both well past child-bearing age. Gabriel told Zacharias that they would have a son and, to give assurance and certainty to the prediction, even told him to name him John. It would not have escaped Zacharias’ notice that the name John means “God is gracious.” By the grace of God they would have a miraculously conceived son.

Not only would they have a son but that son would be “filled with the Holy Spirit” (v 15) even from within the womb and have a unique ministry to Israel preparing the way for Messiah.

One could scarcely blame Zacharias for taking a deep breath and reviewing what he had heard but sadly he followed that with a response that many of us might do as well. He doubted that the Lord could do it because he looked at his circumstances and not at the Lord.

The angel told him that he would be mute until all was fulfilled. The fact is that we have nothing to say apart from what God has spoken. Notice that Zacharias should have taken the word of the Lord literally. Had he done so, he would have had the privilege of sharing the promise of a son with family and friends; but because he didn’t believe the word spoken, he lost that privilege and joy.

If we don’t take the Gospel of Christ in its plain ordinary meaning and believe it in our hearts then we have nothing to offer this world and would be better off mute. We will also lose the joy and privilege of sharing the Gospel of Christ.

God did not restore Zacharias’ speech until he showed evidence of faith by naming his son John. If we have strayed from speaking the word of God faithfully, He will also restore our ability to speak His word and bring life to the spiritually dead when we return.

John writes that it is God’s word that sets His people apart from the world (John 17:17), not the various interpretations that people may apply to it. “Your word is truth” he wrote. The official in Capernaum found saving faith when he “believed the word that Jesus spoke to him” (John 4:50) as did many others as recorded in the Gospel accounts.

When we don’t take Jesus at His word we make Him appear a deceiver or liar and we lose all credibility as a witness of Jesus Christ. An ambassador speaks the word of his country and an ambassador of Christ speaks Christ’s word.