Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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John the Baptist

Matthew, chapter 3, describes the ministry of John the Baptist, who was called to prepare the way for the coming Messiah.

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make His paths straight.”

(Matthew 3:1-3)

John must have been quite a sight, coming out of the wilderness, wearing camel’s hair clothing, with a leather belt and a diet of locusts and wild honey.

His appearance was not the only severe characteristic of John, as he did not spare the feelings of the religious leaders of the Jews:

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

(Matthew 3:7-10)

The prophet Malachi predicted the life and ministry of John, writing, “‘Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,’ Says the LORD of hosts” (3:1). The historian Luke referred to John as the one who would “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God”, quoting Malachi 4 in stating that he would “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:16-17).

John did his job well, preaching his message of repentance, and baptizing the penitent for the remission of their sins. “Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:5-6).

In his preaching, John made it clear that he was only a forerunner of the Lord. Shortly before his imprisonment and death, his disciples had reported that Jesus was teaching and baptizing, and that “all are coming to Him!” His answer to His disciples showed the John had a full understanding of his role in life:

John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, “I am not the Christ,’ but, “I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.

(John 3:27-31)

The same answer revealed the understanding that John had concerning the person of Jesus:

The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

(John 3:35-36)

John recognized that Jesus was his Lord and Messiah, and though he died a cruel death, died in faith.

John truly had a unique and important position given to him by God in His scheme of redemption for man. Concerning the ministry of John, our Lord told His disciples, “For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28). We are so grateful that through his efforts we may be exalted as citizens of God’s kingdom.