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Monday, November 18, 2013

John the Baptist Part 1

 Last week, I taught on the Light of the world. John's Gospel has a lot to say about love, light, darkness and life (spiritual). The Jews believed that the Word or Law of God existed before creation and was God's agent at creation. John who is a Jew wanted them to know that the Word is a Person – Jesus Christ. Heaven came down to earth in Jesus the Word. Jesus is greater than the written Word or the Law that Moses recorded. He is God and the Eternal Word brought to life. In Jesus' revelation of Himself, He used many of the symbols used in the Law and the Prophets to describe Himself. (i.e. water, light, bread, lamb, vine, branch, etc.) Jesus was attempting to show the Jews that He is all of these things in fulfillment.
        Because John the Baptist was such a significant man in relation to Jesus and His coming to earth, I want to spend some time on him.

John the Baptist (John 1:6-9)

        Next in John's Gospel we have the introduction of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. (Luke 1:57-66) Zechariah was a priest who was serving in the Temple when the angel Gabriel told him that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son who Zechariah was to name John.  Gabriel told Zechariah that his son would be great in the eyes of the Lord, and he would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.  John was conceived miraculously because his mother and father were beyond child-bearing years. The Bible says that Zechariah and Elizabeth were "righteous" -- in right standing with God.  
        God brought John into the world to accomplish His purpose. John leaped in his mother's womb when Mary who was pregnant with Jesus came to visit her cousin Elizabeth. John the Baptist and Jesus were connected Holy Spirit to Holy Spirit in the wombs of Elizabeth and Mary. John the Baptist preceded Jesus in his birth and preceded Jesus in His introduction as the Savior of the world.  He also preceded Jesus in his death.

God's Silence

         Israel had not had a prophet in over 400 years. No word from the Lord had been spoken.  John will be the first prophet to speak in the New Testament, and will be the last prophet to speak under the Law.  After John the Baptist, God will now speak through His Son  (Hebrews 1:2) and His prophets.

John's Ministry

        John the Baptist, who was a priest and prophet, had a large following and was respected by the religious leaders and the secular rulers. In spite of this, John the Baptist never lost sight of his mission – he was to point people to Christ, not himself.  At this point, John the Baptist was more well-known and respected than Jesus. John the Baptist was the head of a large ministry of disciples. He could have swelled up with pride or been jealous of Jesus' ministry, but instead John told his disciples to take their eyes off of him and put them upon the greater One than Him, Jesus. This speaks volumes about John the Baptist's character, humility and love for God and his fellow Jews. John the Baptist knew his mission. John was willing to give up all to point people to Christ. He even said that “He (Jesus) must increase and I must decrease.”  John knew through the revelation of the Holy Spirit that Jesus was the long-awaited Savior (Lamb) and Messiah (King) of the Jews and of the whole earth. All followers of Christ are to decrease in their own fleshly life and let Jesus and His life and ways increase in them.  As Jesus' everyday life and actions witnessed of Him, our everyday life and actions witness that we belong to Him.
        Because the unveiling of Jesus was such a momentous occasion, God sent a forerunner – John the Baptist – to announce it and give testimony to the truth that Jesus is the Light of the world, and the Lamb of God who came to earth to save the world from sin. Witnesses were valuable in establishing truth. God told the Jews that every Word must be established by two or three witnesses. (Deuteronomy 17: 6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16) God Himself established this truth three times in scripture.
        John 1:6-9: There was a man who came sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
       John the Baptist was not just any man. John the Baptist was chosen of God and filled with the Holy Spirit. John first witnesses of Jesus as the “true light” of the heavens and the earth. (see Genesis 1:3-4)  Jesus is the One who enlightens every human whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, young or old. He is the Enlightened One who enlightens. Apart from the light of Christ there is no other way by which humanity can see the Truth, be saved and given eternal spiritual life. The Light of Jesus can be in mankind.
     The very next verse of scripture says, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.” John 1:10 Jesus came to save the world from eternal death, yet the majority did not recognize Him even though He was the One through whom the world was created as the Word/voice of God.
       God in His infinite love for humanity sent His very own Son to accomplish what man could not.  Jesus would live a perfect life, shed His sinless blood to atone for the sin of the world, and give eternal spiritual life to all who receive and believe in Him. The Law couldn't do this; the prophets couldn't do this and no mere man could do this.  In His infinite wisdom, the Godhead knew that fallen man would fail to accomplish this. God had to give man a chance. Experience is our greatest teacher. We have to see for ourselves! God let all of the events of the Older Testament take place to show mankind that they could not live up to His high and holy standard. Humanity can try in their own strength to accomplish what only God can accomplish, but they will fail because the flesh of man is weak. 
       In the beginning after the fall, God began His work through one man (i.e. Abel, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). Then He chose a nation – the nation of Israel—to be His representative. Again, like all of fallen man, the Israelites could not live up to God's standard. God wasn't surprised by this! He is all-knowing. But He had to let mankind see for themselves that they couldn't live up to this high, holy standard and, thus, see their need for One who could and did – Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son. The whole Older Testament was God's way of showing what humans can do. Mankind still fails, but God will not leave or forsake us, just as He has never left or forsaken Israel.  God loves humanity because they are made in His image and likeness.  He wants that none should perish!  Jesus is God's only “begotten” Son because He is the only One who is the Seed of God, not man. All of humanity is made from the dust of the earth, but not Jesus.  As the Seed of God, He is perfect and holy. Only One who is perfect and holy could atone for sin.
        Jesus came into a chaotic, fallen world to save it and to bring the light of Truth and grace. Though Jesus came in the fashion of Man, He was still fully God and was without sin (holy). Jesus had no sin but He understood sin because He was confronted with it constantly. Those of us who love and serve Him are now His voice, His hands, His feet and are to be His heart to reach this lost and fallen world. In order to do this, we have to truly know Him--His heart and His truth-- and we have to be willing to step out in faith in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to not only speak His truth but to show His love.  However, we must understand His love and heart before we can give it away.  It is the Word of God and the Holy Spirit who will show us the way of His love.


        A forerunner is one who comes in advance to a place where the rest are to follow. John the Baptist – who was a prophet under the Law --was the forerunner to Christ. His role was to prepare people for the revelation and ministry of Jesus and point them to the Light of the world and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John the Baptist would introduce Jesus to the nation of Israel to prepare them to receive their Messiah. Then Jesus would move on to territories surrounding Israel. But after His death and resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit came down, Jesus now uses His own to reach the whole world. If the Godhead created the whole world and made man in their image and likeness, then they want the whole world to be saved from sin and spiritual death.
               God foreshadowed John the Baptist as the forerunner to the King in the story of Elijah and Ahab.  The Holy Spirit supernaturally carried Elijah ahead of King Ahab to Jezreel.  In other words, Elijah was a forerunner to the king like John the Baptist.  (see 1 Kings 18:46)  The Bible says that John the Baptist came in the Spirit and power of Elijah!
       The Law and the Prophets that John the Baptist represented also were a forerunner to Christ. The Law and the Prophets were Spirit-filled because they were written by the Holy Spirit. These scriptures had a purpose just like John the Baptist did.  Like John the Baptist, the Law and the Prophets were to point people to Christ. “The Law was our tutor to bring us to Christ.” Galatians 3:24 The Law was given in advance to point us to the Divine One whom all are to follow.
        Jesus is our “forerunner” to the Father. Jesus went before us into the Holy of Holies (God's presence). He paved the way to the Father and eternal life for all. (Hebrews 6:20) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  John 14:6 He is the way we must travel—the journey we must take -- to eternal life. He is the way (metaph—a way of thinking, feeling, deciding – a course of conduct) illustrated through His love and His example.
        As John the Baptist was the forerunner to Christ's first coming and ministry, those who follow Jesus are to be the forerunners to His Second Coming. Christ's followers are to call for baptism and repentance of sin and point people to the Savior and Light of the World – Jesus—for salvation and eternal (spiritual) life. Jesus was motivated by His and the Father's love even to His agonizing suffering and death on the cross. We too must be motivated by love, not judgment, when we introduce Jesus to those who are lost, hurting and in bondage to sin.

       May the love of Jesus blaze in our hearts. May we fully understand His ways and His heart for the unsaved and His own, and may we be His loving arms that the lost can fall into as they give their hearts to our precious Savior and Lord Jesus. May His spiritual children become mature, spiritual adults in Christ whom others can come to for help, healing and safety. Because He first loved us while we were and are yet sinners, help us to love others with His same love that He willingly and graciously extended to us. May we never forget from whence we came.  Thank you Lord. In Jesus' precious and mighty Name, I pray.

                                                Blessings and love in Christ,


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