Who Was John the Baptist?

It is within the pages of the Bible that we look for the answers to the many questions posed for us about John the Baptist. Was John the Baptist, a New Testament figure or did he belong to the Old Testament? Did he bring New Testament baptism or was it Old Testament ritual? Did Israel have a baptism that was the same in mode, purpose, and was Israel the authorized agency to perform such an act by way of a commission? Was John’s baptism Christian? And was John a part of the Bride? Who was John the Baptist???

I. The Name "John the Baptist." Matt. 3:1

Interestingly enough that those who would write of John the Baptist, want to make him no more than a Mascot of Christ. But scripture clearly identifies him, with the designation allotted him by the God of Heaven. "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,..." This now is not man’s recognition but God’s designation of him.

Let’s look at 2 other scriptures which add to his identification:

1.) John 1:6, "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John." Few men in the scripture have so been Divinely sent and Divinely designated for us. He was a very special person.

2.) Matt. 11:11, "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist..." What a tribute to a specially prepared servant of God who faithfully carried out the purposes for which he was sent.

II. The Value of the Designation "the Baptist."

A. First, we can see where the term "the Baptist" separates him from all others that are called by the name of John. But other things would have separated him from the other Johns in the scripture. e.g. His dress of camel’s hair and a leathern girdle about his loins (Matt. 3:3,4). The food he ate – locusts and wild honey; the place where he abode and where he preached his messages (the wilderness), even the message that he preached would have set him apart as being different than other people named John.

B. Secondly, the term "the Baptist" in Matt. 3:1 is a noun not a verb. It is not simply trying to tell us that he was the one baptizing, for he had not yet baptized any one when the name "the Baptist" was given him and so recorded in the Inspired Word of God.

III. Special Facts About John the Baptist.

A. An angel of the Lord announced his coming to parents too old to have children and to a wife who was barren, Luke 1:8,11.

B. The name John was given by the angel before conception, Luke  1:13.

C. He was not a Nazarite as was Samson and others, but he was not to partake of alcohol, Luke 1:15.

D. He would be "...filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb," Luke 1:15. The word "filled" is a future, passive term that designates the action of someone else outside the subject that would possess the mind of the person and so to fill it. The same root word is in Luke 5:26.

While we must carefully recognize the hand of God controlling in his birth and life, yet it is necessary to not lose sight of the fact that John was not a miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit, as was the Birth of Christ. But there was a control of his life by the Spirit in order to fulfill his purpose for being sent.

IV. The Four-fold Purpose for Sending John the Baptist.

It was the ministry of John the Baptist that marks the end of the Old Testament dispensation of Law and the Prophets. It is true, there is some Old Testament identification, in that he was born under the law, but he marks the end of the period known as the Law and the Prophets, Matt. 11:12,13; Luke 16:16. It can not be more precisely stated. This clearly conflicts with the modern view of the protestant, interdenominational and non-denominational organizations who either have John in a transitional period (what a state to be in, never quite knowing where you are) or accepting the day of Pentecost as the change of dispensation. But the Law and the Prophets were until John. Check it out.

A. John was a Forerunner – Sent as an announcer of the coming Christ (Mk. 1:2,3; Matt. 3:3). He was "the voice of one crying in the wilderness," preparing the way for the Messiah.

1. Isaiah predicted the coming of the one who would cry in the wilderness and prepare the way of the Lord. Isaiah 40:3.

2. The Announcer and the announcement were to catch the attention of Israel, Matt. 3:3. He is identified as having been predicted by Esaias (Isaiah).

B. He was a Messenger – Sent with the Gospel.

1. His message – "...Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," Matt. 3:2. The message included the one who would come after him (the Messiah). He would immerse them with the Holy Ghost, Matt. 3:11. Notice that it is Christ who is doing the baptizing, never is it the Holy Spirit doing the baptizing.

In the context of Matt. 3:7-12, John the Baptist speaks of several things that made up his message: (i). Repentance, (ii). Faith, evidence of being born-again, (iii). An immersion in the Holy Spirit: the empowering of the corporate body of Christ (which took place once on the day of Pentecost with the Lord’s Church in Jerusalem never to happen again), (iv). Judgment, (v). Separating of His own for Heaven, (vi). Separating of the unbeliever unto the Lake of Fire.

2. John preached the same Gospel as Jesus Christ, Mk. 1:1. The very first words of the Book of Mark begin with the Gospel and John the Baptist is the first preacher of it. In Mk. 1:15, we have this important statement by our Lord, "...The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel." What Gospel? Mark 1:1, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is clearly spelled out, we don’t need to have some great scholar tell us that John the Baptist and our Lord Jesus Christ both were preaching a gospel of the Kingdom, and that it was a different gospel than what we are to preach today. Nonsense!! Look at it with a heart desiring to see truth and you will see that it is the same Gospel that we are to preach today.

C. He had a special work to perform – he was sent with special authorization to bring Christian Baptism. Baptist Church Baptism. He was sent to immerse those that had repented of their sins and by faith looked to a coming Messiah.

1. He prepared material for the Church. Luke 1:17.

In the other 3 gospels there are 2 terms used to explain his task; i). to prepare the way, ii). make his way straight. But in Luke 1:17, we find out what he was preparing. The material that he prepared was people. He baptized the saved, immersed them in water identifying them in picture form with the coming death, burial and resurrection of the Saviour, Jesus Christ. John prepared the material – people, and the Lord Jesus took of that material and began to build His own Church.

2. He was sent, authorized to Baptize, John 1:33.

No one else was ever sent from heaven before or after John with a similar designation or purpose. "...but he that sent me to baptize with water..." The one sending him was the Sovereign God of the Universe. No one else has ever made a claim like this. All the apostles were baptized by John. Our Lord walked 60 miles to be baptized of him. Why? Because only John was authorized to baptize – that authorization came from God. It is the only baptism that is valid as entrance into the Lord’s Church today.

V. Conclusion.

Where does John the Baptist fit in? He was a very special person who had been specially prepared. He is not an Old Testament figure. But neither is he in the Church that Jesus Christ built. He preached only a short time maybe less than a year. He began a little while before Christ came to him for baptism and went a few months until he was imprisoned and soon beheaded. He says of himself that he is not in the Bride, John 3:28,29. He was a friend of the Bridegroom, sent to go before the Bridegroom and prepare a way (people) for him. Among men who were born of women, there is no greater man than John the Baptist. Nor is there a greater name given to a man than "the Baptist." Never be ashamed of the name Baptist for it was given by Divine Designation.

~ By Jake Hiebert

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