The Testimony of John the Baptist :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard


John 1:19-34, Luke 3:15, Malachi 4:5, Isaiah 40:1-3, Deuteronomy 18:15-18, Isaiah 53:4-7, 1 Corinthians 15:3,1 Peter 2:24,1 John 2:2

Summary: John the Baptist is presented in the prologue of John’s gospel as the prophesied forerunner to the arrival of God’s Messiah. He prepared the people of Israel for the Messiah by preaching repentance and obedience. Repentance was needed then, and in these last days as well.

So far in John’s prologue to his magnificent account of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, we were introduced to the person and ministry of John the Baptist, described as “a man sent from God” (1:6) and who was to “bear witness of the Light” (1:7-8). He bore witness to the preeminence and preexistence of the Light, who is Jesus Christ Himself, as no one else can make that claim nor demonstrate anything else to the contrary.

No one of this world can dare to clothe himself with that title or description regardless of his status, intellect, nationality, or pedigree, certainly not the group of influential and powerful religious leaders of Israel who came to inquire of John as to whether or not he was the Messiah (Luke 3:15; John 1: 19-20), Elijah returned (Isaiah 40:1-3; Malachi 4:5), or the prophet spoken of by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-18). John replied to them that he was none of these except the one who cried in the wilderness to prepare the way of the LORD and to make His paths straight.

While John denied he was the literal prophet Elijah (1 Kings 17-2 Kings 2), the Lord Jesus identified him as the figurative fulfillment of Elijah (Matt.11-15, 17:10-13). John came and preached in the power and spirit of the man who brought fear into the hearts and minds of the wicked monarchs Ahab and Jezebel. He challenged the people of Israel to make up their minds as to whom to serve – God or Ba’al (1 Kings 18:21). He prophesied that both Ahab and Jezebel would meet with violent deaths (1 Kings 22:34-35; 2 Kings 9:30-37), which brought something of an end to the detestable worship of the foreign idols, including barbaric child sacrifice, a practice forbidden by the LORD (Leviticus 18:21; Deut.12:31). This horrid practice had been one of the many reasons for the people of Israel to be driven into exile by the hand of God (2 Chronicles 36:15-21).

The exile had purged the Jews from idolatry but did not restore true worship and devotion to the LORD as it should have. A remnant of them were devout while most of the nation became religiously apathetic and increasingly more devoted to ritual rather than a real love for the LORD. It was in this type of atmosphere in which John’s preaching came forth like a refreshing breeze to those few who were awaiting God’s Promised One.

As dynamic as John’s preaching and ministry were, he knew that he was not to be the center of attention, nor did he want any honors for himself. He said to the crowds that he was not worthy to loosen the sandal straps of the One who was God’s Anointed. He was a humble servant of God who declared that the coming Messiah would be greater than him, and that his brief influence would decrease, pointing people to follow Jesus instead, and that He was “above all” (John 3:31). The Lord Jesus still deserves such praise, service, and adoration from us, as He is the all-powerful Lord God Incarnate, the head of the church, and the eternal King of Kings. It is Christ and Him alone who can forgive us of sin and save us.

John proclaimed Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,” and it will hold true into eternity (Isaiah 53:4-7, 10-12; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 5:6-11; 1 Cor. 15:3; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2:2; Titus 3:5; Revelation 1:5, 5:9). The Baptist might not have recognized Jesus at first, but he did testify that when Jesus was baptized as a sign of obedience to God and our model of devotion to His will and direction, he saw the Holy Spirit come upon Jesus as a dove and heard the voice of God saying that Jesus was “His beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased” (Matthew 3:11, 16-17; John 1:32), a clear reference to the doctrine of the Trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – one God in three personalities.

Shortly after Jesus started His ministry, John was arrested and thrown into prison at the whim of the Tetrarch of Galilee, Herod Antipas. John died by beheading over a foolish, lustful, and drunken vow by Antipas to Salome, his stepdaughter (Mark 6:14-29). Not a noble ending for a man of God, but we need to recognize that no prophet of God lived a life of ease, and many met their deaths for proclaiming judgment and repentance to indifferent and hostile people yet stood firm in the face of persecution, hatred, and apathy.

No real believer today who stands for the truth of the Gospel and the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ should enjoy the pleasures and temptations of this wicked world in order to remain quiet and subdued. We are to be as John, courageously warning every one of the impending judgments of God, to repent and believe in the message of Jesus Christ and His offer of salvation and mercy He freely gives to all who come to Him in faith. The work and calling He places upon us in this life may be long or brief as is His Sovereign will, but the key is that we be obedient to the tasks He calls us to accomplish for His glory and to always remember that, like John the Baptist, the Apostles, and those who followed afterward that we are to decrease and even be anonymous in order that the Lord Jesus be exalted.

This should always be the character of a true servant of God, crying out in the wilderness of history to prepare for the coming King. Are you ready for His arrival?

My YouTube broadcasts titled “The Reality City Review” will be posted on Facebook, GETTR, Parler, and on my website when completed. My main area of discussion will be on the basics of the Christian faith but will also deal with prophetic issues and other topics as the Lord impresses upon me to handle.