Summary: John the Baptist is the first soul-winner of whom we read in the New Testament. He was a pioneer in every sense of the word. He prepared the way for the Lord (Luke 3:4),
Soul winners in the New Testament
(Study No. 1) John the Baptist
We begin a new series on New Testament soul-winners .With these studies we hope to form a composite picture of the way in which we can all engage in this great task of bringing others to the Lord Jesus Christ. John the Baptist is the first soul-winner of whom we read in the New Testament. He was a pioneer in every sense of the word. He not only prepared the way for the Lord (Luke 3:4), but as we study him this should prepare us to do this work to which he was called and in which he engaged so effectively.
There are few people in the Gospels concerning whom we have so much detail and of whom the Lord had so much to say, yet John’s period of service probably covered only about six months. He was a unique personality – rugged, severe, yet humble and self-effacing. He was the child of godly parents (Luke 1:5-6); his birth was super-normal (Luke 1:7); he was Spirit-filled (Luke 1:15); he was our Lord’s forerunner (Luke 7:27); he experienced a period of great doubt and testing (Matthew 11:2-15); and finally he was beheaded because of his uncompromising attitude towards the scriptures (Mark 6:14-29). As we study John 1:19-37, let us remember that God’s plan and purpose is that every Christian should be a soul-winner.
Let me take you back to Israel, 26 AD. The Jews remain under the iron hand of Rome. They are frustrated. They are weary of Roman bondage. They are looking for the Messiah. They are wondering if the Kingdom is ever going to come as the prophets have promised. Will the glory years ever return? The mood is gloomy. Hearts are forlorn. Religious hypocrisy runs rampant. The people are spiritually famished. They are politically oppressed. They are physically tired of being a mockery to the Gentile world. And then suddenly, out of the Dead Sea wilderness region of Judea, comes an austere, mysterious looking man clothed in a garment of camel’s hair and wearing a leather belt. A man whose food is locusts and wild honey. And whose message was,” Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
And the people are wondering who is this man? Vast numbers of people came out to see him and to hear his message.. He speaks with the authority of a prophet and they wonder, “Is he the Messiah? Is he Elijah? Is he a prophet? We have not heard from a prophet for over 400 years.. He’s calling all men to repentance, even Jews. And baptizing them. He’s saying, Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And many of the Jews are saying, “Repent? Calling us, the sons of Abraham, to repent? People of the Covenant? We have no need of repentance and baptism. Jews have no need of purification. But many are coming. Many are being baptized.” Not only that, he is relentless in his denunciation of the religious elite of his day.
What a remarkable spectacle that must have been. This was sure to get the attention of the Jewish leaders of Israel in Jerusalem
And he got the attention from the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, who sent a delegation down to the Jordan where he was baptizing to interrogate him.
"Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was." (1:19)
In our text, there seem to be two groups sent to investigate and interrogate John
(1) priests and Levites from Jerusalem (1:19), the power elite of the Temple who were the Sadducees; and
(2) Pharisees (1:24), who were especially strict in their adherence to the commandments of the Law of Moses.
In response to his questioners from Jerusalem, John the Baptist is forthright and humble.
“He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, 'I am not the Christ.' They asked him, 'Then who are you? Are you Elijah?' He said, 'I am not.' 'Are you the Prophet?' He answered, 'No.'" (1:20-21)
John records that John the Baptist made no pretensions about who he was. The Jewish leaders inquired if he were one of the three figures whom the Jews expected to return in the Last Days.
1. The Messiah or Christ.
2. Elijah. Malachi's prophecy says,
"See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes." (Malachi 4:5)
The Prophet. This figure was referred to by Moses:
"The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him." (Deuteronomy 18:15)
John was not Elijah himself, but prophecy given by his father Zechariah indicated that he did come "in the spirit and power of Elijah" (Luke 1:17). Jesus said that John had fulfilled the prophecy about Elijah's coming