The Life of John the Baptist: The Message of John the Baptist

The Life of John the Baptist

THE MESSAGE OF JOHN THE BAPTIST // Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-18

I. When (Luke 3:1-2)

    A. The fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar

      1. Ascended to the throne of the Roman Empire in 14 AD
      2. However, was joint-emperor beginning in 11 AD

    B. Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea (26-36 AD)
    C. Herod, tetrarch of Galilee (4 BC-39 AD)
    D. Philip, tetrarch of Iturea (4 BC-34 AD)
    E. Lysanias, tetrarch of Abilene
    F. Annas (7 BC-15 AD, but still considered by Jews as the true high priest after 15) and Caiaphas (18-37 AD), high priests

II. The general message of repentance

    A. Baptism of repentance for the remissions of sins (Luke 3:3)

      1. Repentance “is a change of the human will that issues a reformation of life….It is the basic condition of God’s forgiveness; and, as long as one is under the probation of life, the need of repentance is constant” (Coffman, Luke)
      2. “Benjamin Franklin, pioneer Restoration preacher, proclaimed that God appointed three changes in conversion and three actions designed to effect those three changes. These are FAITH to change the heart (mind); REPENTANCE to change the will; and BAPTISM to change the status.” (Coffman, Matthew).
      3. “He did all his preaching near water since response to his message required immersion (baptism).” (Butler, Luke)
      4. “The word baptizo in Greek means immerse; it can only mean immerse. There is a Greek word for sprinkle, rantizo; there is a Greek word for pour, cheo. Neither of these words are used in the Greek text for the action of baptism—only the word baptizo. All Greek lexicons, ancient and modern, give the definition of baptizo to be, ‘dip, plunge, immerse.’ The practice of sprinkling for baptism was not officially sanctioned by Christendom until the fourteenth century! To make changes in the mode of baptism is nowhere sanctioned in the Bible!” (Butler, Luke)

    B. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2)

      1. During his lifetime, John was never a member of the Lord’s kingdom
      2. The kingdom (the church) was not established until about 33 AD – after John’s death

    C. Fulfillment of prophecy (Mark 1:2; Luke 3:4-6)

      1. Malachi 3:1
      2. Isaiah 40:3-5
      3. “The conceit that physical descent from Abraham would entitle them to Messiah’s blessing, the foolish notion that the Messiah would be a secular king like Solomon, the conviction that he would drive out the Romans and execute a vindictive and punitive judgment against their Gentile enemies, and the widespread hypocrisy and immorality of the people, the selfishness and hardheartedness of the rich, and the greedy gouging of the people by the concessioners in the temple itself, the gross ritualism and secularism that had buried God’s true law under the priestly traditions—all these cried out to God for correction; and thus it was no small task that challenged the son of Zacharias!” (Coffman, Luke)

    D. Widespread acceptance of the message (Mark 1:5-6; Luke 3:7; Matthew 3:7)

      1. “Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to hear him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:5, emphasis added)
      2. This is obvious hyperbole, as one discovers from further reading that there were still many who did not believe and did not submit to John’s baptism
      3. “Multitudes” (Luke 3:7)
      4. “Many of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 3:7)

    E. Addressing the religious elite (Matthew 3:7-10)

      1. “Who warned you?”

        a. “Who indeed but the father of lies could have prompted these hypocrites to believe they could actually escape the wrath of God by mere outwardly religious, hypocritical acts?…Baptized hundreds of times, they would never be able to escape the wrath of God!” (Fowler, Matthew)
        b. Just as faith alone cannot save, neither can baptism alone
        c. It takes a life of submission, sacrifice, and service, to live faithfully
        d. “True repentance is inward but it must affect all the issues of life.” (Fowler, Matthew)

      2. Do not trust in your heritage (Luke 3:7-9)

        a. “We have Abraham as our father”
        b. “God is interested is character, not color of skin or cultural circumstance.” (Butler, Luke)
        c. Individual responsibility (cf. Ezekiel 18:20)
        d. The importance of bearing fruit (cf. Matthew 7:15-20; Galatians 5:22-23)
        e. How was the “ax…laid to the root of the trees” prophecy fulfilled? The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD

    F. Take care of those in need (Luke 3:10-11)

      1. Matthew 25:31-46
      2. James 2:14-17

III. Teaching to specific groups

    A. Tax collectors (Luke 3:12-13)

      1. John teaches them to practice fairness
      2. Society had a low opinion of tax collectors – in Scriptures, they were often mentioned in the same breath as sinners/heathens/harlots (Matthew 9:10-11; 11:19; 18:17; 21:31-32; Mark 2:15-16; Luke 5:30; 7:34; 15:1)
      3. The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14)
      4. The example of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:8)
      5. “Significantly, John did not suggest that they resign their jobs….Not tax collecting, but dishonest extortion was viewed as sin.” (Coffman, Luke)

    B. Soldiers (Luke 3:14)

      1. Do not intimidate
      2. Be content with wages
      3. “They were not commanded to leave the army but to exhibit attitudes of restraint, truthfulness, and contentment.” (Coffman, Luke)
      4. “He keeps his life free from the love of money (cf. Heb. 13:5; I Tim. 6:6-8). He does not have to give up a perfectly normal and socially useful vocation to come into a right relationship with God—he just has to let God’s revealed will give sovereign direction to whatever vocation or avocation he chooses in life.” (Butler, Luke)
      5. Colossians 3:23-24; Ephesians 6:5-9

IV. John denies that he is the Christ (Luke 3:15-18)

    A. “One of the things that made John the Baptist such a great man was his unfeigned humility. He was great because he was a servant.” (Butler, Luke)
    B. John baptized with water; Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire

      1. Those baptized with the Holy Spirit were the apostles on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2)
      2. Those baptized with fire are those who refuse to repent in this life
      3. The fire, as indicated in verse 17, is “unquenchable”

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