In Luke 1, we are introduced to Zechariah. Scripture introduces him with very kind words:
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord … (Luke 1:5-6)
Zechariah is an elect churchman. He is an Israelite — a member of God’s chosen worshiping community.
He is also a priest. Zechariah is one set apart for God’s service. He is a common man who has been consecrated. He is a saint who has been sanctified. God has work to do through him, and he is one who has been equipped by his elders for the work of the ministry.
He is also well-married. Elizabeth is the daughter of Aaron. She is a child of the covenant, and in Luke’s account she proves to be a tender worshiper. Zechariah is not unequally yoked. He is one who has found an excellent bride — her worth is inestimable.
Finally, Zechariah and Elizabeth are both described — by Luke and the Holy Spirit — as being “righteous before God.” They are a couple noted for “walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.”
And yet, it will not take long for sin to win a battle in Zechariah’s heart and mind. He will prove to be a fallible worshiper who doubts the clear revelation of God. He will show himself to be a man of faith who lacks faith — a believer who disbelieves. (1:20)
In light of this, a couple of questions need to be asked:
First, what did Zechariah do to earn the status of “righteous and blameless? Some, in addressing this question will wish to give Zechariah meritorious credit. They will speak of his covenantal attachment and ceremonial diligence. They will highlight his internal affections, good intentions, external obedience, and recognizable testimony. Ultimately they will boast of Zechariah’s performance. Interestingly, under this criteria, Judas, Annas, Caiaphas, and Saul of Tarsus would be considered “righteous and blameless.”
Second, what happens to Zechariah’s declaration of “righteous and blameless” following his horrible sin? Some would discount his unbelieving response and claim him to be weak but not sinful. They would lower God’s standard in order to see Zechariah as personally meritorious. Others might see him as an unfaithful servant, temporarily severed from God’s favorable gaze, and in danger of God’s condemnatory, retributive, and wrathful, judgment. He is one who has fallen from his “righteous and blameless” status. He’d better repent and recover in order to earn God’s favor once again.
However friends, I believe there are better answers:
I believe Zechariah is declared and made righteous by the sheer love, mercy, and grace of God. He is a sinner declared saintly due to the upcoming life-work and cross-work of Jesus. All boasting goes to Christ alone; this leaves none for Zechariah.
I believe Zechariah persistently remains “righteous and blameless” before God, despite the great transgression he commits. Because of what Christ has done, he is holy despite his hellish thoughts and statements. He is a saint despite his sinning. Despite what he has done, is doing, and will do, he can never be anything other than “righteous and blameless.” It is not his performance that matters. All boasting goes to Christ alone, and this leaves no room for boasting for Zechariah, Elizabeth, you or me.