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Who Was John the Baptist?


John the Baptist

Text: Matthew 3:1-12

With the visible church’s celebration of the birth of Christ approaching, we are introduced to another great Biblical character, John the Baptist. In John’s gospel, chapter 1, we are told that John was sent from God to bear witness to the Lord Jesus, the One who was the True Light of the World.   This passage describes John’s ministry, as he prepares the way for the coming of Christ, and at this time of the year, we would do well to examine John’s faithful ministry, and attempt to be just as faithful in our own lives and in the witness of our church as he was. John’s ministry was:-

1. Clear About Repentance. Matthew 3:2  

Repentance is that act in which God turns us awayfrom our sin, and turns us to Himself. John teaches the people of his day:- 

The very fact that these people needed to repent indicates that sin was present in their lives. These were the most religious, and the most privileged people in the whole kingdom, and yet John tells them that they were still sinners. John was warning them not to depend on their outward status, either in secular society, (Israel) or in the church. We are all sinners, for we have all come short of God’s glory. This is personal repentance. This is the message of the Bible. Acts 3:19  Repentance means, with God’s help, turning away from sin.  Why then is there so much dishonesty and immoral conduct among the professing church?  Isaiah 55:7  . 

2. Centred on Jesus

But if we are to turn FROM sin, what are we to turn TO? In the ministry of John we have the answer. See what he said:-

  • The real kingdom, God’s Kingdom has come in the person of Christ, the great King. It is at hand. Right now, you can enter into the Kingdom of God. That is how close eternal salvation really is. And you enter the kingdom though coming to the King. Coming to Christ, the sinless Saviour, who died for us, as the substitute for our sins, on the Cross, who bore God’s righteous judgement for us, took that awful punishment so that His people would be freed from sin and eternal death. Is it any wonder then that John proclaimed that:-
  • There is no-one else like Jesus. Matthew 3:11  

This is the very teaching that we need today, and it is the teaching that should characterise our churches. John was nothing more than a servant, – he could never do anything to relieve the people from their burden of sin, so he pointed them to the only one who could, he pointed them to Jesus. We must not point people to ourselves, or to our church, or to our charity. We too must point people to Jesus Acts 4:12  

3. Contemporary in the Application of Christ’s Work.

Now, here is another theme in John’s message. He spoke of something called, “The baptism of the Holy Ghost.”   Matthew 3:11  Now when does this ‘spiritual baptism’ occur? We see this explicitly explained for us in 1stCorinthians 12:13.   This great spiritual work occurs at conversion, when we become members of the Body of Christ. In 1st Corinthians 12, Paul introduces it as being a factor for unity within the church at Corinth… we have ALL been baptised with the Holy Spirit.

  • To whom does this happen? To every single Christian believer. John 14:16-17  People may ask how the death of Christ, 2000 years ago can relate to us, living here and now. At the Cross the wrath of God was assuaged. That is called propitiation. But other great benefits were achieved. One of the greatest of these is that OUR SINS WERE BLOTTED OUT. (Expiation) How does that work in practice? God applies the saving work of Christ to our dead spirits through the contemporary work of the Holy Spirit. He gives us new life by coming to dwell in the heart of the believer. He fills us with the joy of the Lord. Furthermore, when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us He continues within, as a guarantee, a down-payment, a deposit, an earnest of heaven.
  • How long does it continue? The work of the Holy Spirit within the believer does not end when He effects conversion within us. It continues right throughout our lives, as the Holy Spirit prepares us for heaven, by separating us from sin and the world, and by drawing us ever closer to the Lord, making us in His likeness. Romans 8:9 1 Cur. 3:16 1 Cor. 6:19 Romans 8:5-7  

So, John speaks not only of the work of Christ FOR US, but of the work of the Holy Spirit WITHIN US.

4. Ceaseless in its Warning.

This too was an important aspect of John’s ministry. Matthew 3:7  John summed up the judgement of God in verse 12. Matthew 3:12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

We need a ministry like John’s in our churches today. We need to be bold in warning people of the coming judgement of God, and we are far too reticent to speak of it. We talk much in the modem church about the mercy and the love of God and far too little about the holiness and judgement of God.

We do no service to sinners to withhold from them the truth that one day we will all stand before the Lord and give account of our lives, and the question that we will be asked is, “What did you do with Jesus, which is called Christ?”

5. Certain on Security.  

There is, says John a GARNER (apothēkē – a barn, where wheat is safely stored) for God’s people – v12. There is a place where God’s people shall be safe from God’s wrath against sin. For the Christian, there is no fear of that judgement whatsoever. For those of us who truly know Christ as Saviour and Lord, the fires of God’s judgment burned themselves out upon Him, and all who are in Christ are safe, forever, for they are now standing where the, fire has been.

Let the ministry of John establish principles for us which will sink deep into our hearts and our minds. Let us never forget the main features of a faithful Christian witness. Let us all be as faithful, obedient and truthful as John the Baptist.

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