The Life of John the Baptist: Who is John the Baptist?

The Life of John the Baptist

WHO IS JOHN THE BAPTIST? // John 1:6-8; 1:19-40

I. The apostle introduces the baptizer (John 1:6-8)

    A. “Sent from God”
    B. “To bear witness of the Light”
    C. “He was not that Light” (cf. John 5:35; Matthew 5:14-16)

II. John answers the Pharisees (John 1:19-24)

    A. Not the Christ
    B. Not Elijah

      1. Malachi prophesied the return of Elijah (Malachi 4:5)
      2. Jesus identified John as Elijah (Matthew 17:12-13)
      3. Why did John deny his identity as Elijah? “The popular notion was that the original Elijah would rise from the dead; and, if John the Baptist had given an affirmative answer to their question, it would have been, in the context, a falsehood. Therefore, he denied that he was Elijah, in the sense in which the question had been asked.” (Coffman, John)

    C. Not the Prophet

      1. Moses: “A Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren” (Deuteronomy 18:15-18)
      2. Notice the capital “P” in many modern translations
      3. The use of capital letters indicate that the translators believed the noun referred to Deity – in this case, Christ
      4. John had already denied that he was the promised Christ. “It was the old reporter’s trick of asking the same question again in different words, and John again answered it negatively.” (Coffman, John)
      5. “He willingly and joyfully kept himself in the background in order that all might see the only Son of God. The Baptist was what every true follower of Christ ought to be – a servant willing to lay all the acclaim and honor given him of men at the feet of Jesus.” (Butler, John)

    D. The fulfillment of prophecy (Isaiah 40:3)

      1. Also referenced in Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4
      2. His job was simply to prepare the people for the Christ
      3. Prepare and make straight (Isaiah 40:3)
      4. Prepare the way (Malachi 3:1)
      5. “John was literally in the wilderness of Judea doing his preaching. But there seems to be a spiritual application to the phrase ‘a voice of one crying in the wilderness.’ Especially this is true considering its prophetic background. This herald of God was also crying in a wilderness of wasted souls.” (Butler, John)

III. John prophesies of the Christ (John 1:25-28)

    A. He was not “the Prophet,” nor was he the actual Elijah resurrected, but he was a prophet (“sent from God” John 1:6)
    B. “It was the baptizing and not the preaching which cause the greatest perplexity in John’s questioners. The extensive mass cleansing of the whole nation through repentance and baptism clearly suggested the great cleansing that had been prophesied by Ezekiel of the times of the Messiah (Ezekiel 36:25; 37:23); why then was John doing it if indeed he was not the Christ nor the kind of forerunner they expected to precede the Christ? This query shows that they had missed completely the implication of John’s quoting Isaiah 40:3; in which he made it clear that he was actually the forerunner of the Messiah, but not the literal Elijah they had expected.” (Coffman, John)
    C. Jesus’ identity as the Christ was not yet made known to the general public
    D. John declares that the Christ was coming after him, but is preferred before him
    E. “Whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose”

IV. John testifies of the Christ (John 1:29-34)

    A. “The Lamb of God”

      1. The antitype of the Passover Lamb (Exodus 12-13; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:19)
      2. “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7)

    B. “Takes away the sin of the world”

      1. “Christ did not come to solve the political problems of Israel, nor to break the back of Roman tyranny, nor for bringing improvements in agriculture, trade, medicine, or education, nor for any similar thing. Christ came to redeem people from sin.” (Coffman, John)
      2. Luke 19:10; John 3:16-17; Hebrews 10:4-10

    C. John affirms that this was the One of whom he had previously spoken in 1:26-27

      1. John was conceived six months before Jesus (Luke 1:36)
      2. John says of Jesus, “He was before me” – indicating the eternal nature of the Christ

    D. “I did not know Him” probably means that John did not realize Jesus was the Christ until it was revealed to him from heaven on the occasion of Jesus’ baptism

      1. He was given the sign of the dove (Matthew 3:16)
      2. He heard the voice from heaven (Matthew 3:17)
      3. Possibly, however, “Although their mothers were cousins, they lived eighty miles apart, and it is possible that they had not met.” (Lipscomb, John)

V. John’s disciples follow Jesus (John 1:35-40)

    A. Two disciples left John to follow Jesus

      1. “Some of the disciples of John were jealous that Jesus gathered followers at the expense of John, but John had none of this feeling. He came to make ready a people for Jesus, bear testimony to his claims, and direct his disciples to Jesus as the Lord, and rejoiced to see him increase, while he himself decreased in followers.” (Lipscomb, John)

    B. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother
    C. The other, though not named, is thought to be John the apostle

      1. “But who was the unnamed companion of Andrew? Probably the Evangelist himself. For: (1) the narrative in this place is very particular and graphic, making it probable that the writer was an eye-witness. (2) The writer of such a narrative would have been sure to mention the name of the other disciple as well as that of Andrew, unless there had been some reason for withholding it. (3) The writer of this Gospel never refers to himself elsewhere by name, and the same feeling which led him to withhold his name elsewhere accounts for his withholding it here.” (Hovey)
      2. “It is a trait of the author of this account never to mention his own name or that of his relatives.” (Butler, John)

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