The Gospel of John
1. We studied the prologue in lesson 1 and now will pick up at verse 19 – “And this is the record of John…” John the Baptist is one of the most colorful characters in the Bible (cf. Matt. 3:1-8).
2. John the Baptist is introduced to us in all four of the Gospels in the early chapters. He is also referred to several times in the book of Acts. His raiment and diet suggest to us that his personality was as strong as his appearance (Matt. 3:4). He sternly denounced self-indulgence and hypocrisy and in many ways was very much like the great prophet Elijah.
3. In fact, the angel said to John’s father Zacharias that John would minister “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17).
4. John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3 (Matt. 3:3). Like the servants of a king who would smooth out and straighten the road in preparation for their master’s coming, so John the Baptist prepared the way spiritually for the coming of our Lord.
5. Concerning John’s background, Luke tells us all about his parents and his birth. You will recall that his father Zacharias was a priest, and his mother Elisabeth was a cousin of Mary, the mother of our Lord.
6. Matthew and Mark skip those details and concentrate on his message. John’s message was forceful; his message was blunt; his message was urgent; and yet his message was quite simple. It involved three things: repentance from sin (Matthew 3:1, 2, 8, 11, etc.); confession of sin (Matt. 3:5, 6); and judgment of sin (Matt. 3:10-12).
7. We read in John 1:19 that the Jews sent a delegation of priests and Levites from Jerusalem to John.
8. Since John’s father, Zacharias, was a priest, the delegation from the temple expected cooperation from him. They were seeking an appraisal of what was happening.
9. Large crowds of people were flocking to the Jordan River to hear John preach and to be baptized. The religious leaders in Jerusalem were concerned. They controlled the people and this new movement could threaten their livelihood.
10. In John’s account we see that John took advantage of their visit to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:27). The other three Gospels bring this out also, with Matthew and Luke adding that John strongly rebuked the hypocrisy of the religious leaders (cf. Matt. 3:7-10).
I. JOHN WAS A MAN SENT FROM GOD
II. JOHN’S MINISTRY WAS A FULFILLMENT OF OT PROPHECY
III. JOHN BAPTIZED WITH WATER
IV. JOHN POINTED SINNERS TO CHRIST
I. JOHN WAS A MAN SENT FROM GOD (1:6).
1. According to the Bible, whenever God is getting ready to do something, He does not organize a committee, He calls a man – Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Paul, and so on.
2. When God wants something done, He sends a man (John 1:6). He does not organize a committee. The best definition of a committee that I have ever heard was given by the late Dr. J. Vernon McGee, “A committee is a group of incompetents, appointed by the indifferent, to do the unnecessary.”
3. Here is another good definition: “A committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing and who collectively decide that nothing can be done.”
4. John the Baptist was not the type of preacher interested in joining a committee.
5. Before moving on, let me pause for a few minutes and make an application. Each and every Christian should be alert to the possible call of God in his life. All Christians are called to witness, but sometimes God calls some people in a special way and for special tasks.
6. Our Lord said, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:38).
7. The apostle Paul asks, “And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Rom. 10:14-15).
8. This is why I like to have our teenagers preach once in a while. Who knows? Maybe one of them will be another John the Baptist (But I hope they don’t get their heads cut off!)
9. I often tell the story about the discouraged pastor in Scotland who was going to retire because he only saw one convert the whole year – “little Bobby Moffat” (who became a great missionary to Africa).
10.Young people, be ready and open to God's call on your life to send you to bear witness to the light (John 1:7).
II. JOHN’S MINISTRY WAS A FULFILLMENT OF OT PROPHECY (1:19-23).
1. The religious crowd was concerned about John’s ministry. John did not have their ministerial credentials. So they sent “priests and Levites from Jerusalem” to check him out (1:19).
2. John assured them that he was not the Christ (1:20). Our English word “Christ” is a transliteration from the Greek word Christos, which means “the anointed One.”
3. It is the counterpart of the Hebrew “Messiah.”
4. On the basis of Malachi 4:5 and 6, the Jews expected Elijah to return (John 1:19-21). They knew that Elijah never died but was swept up into heaven in a chariot of fire (II Kings 2:11).
5. John certainly bore some of the marks of Elijah (Mark 1:6; cf. II Kings 1:8). But John told them he was not Elijah (John 1:21).
7. John told them he was not “that prophet,” but that he was “the voice of one crying in the wilderness…” (John 1:19-23), that is, a fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3.
8. Isaiah 40:3 says, “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness (John the Baptist), Prepare ye the way of the LORD (Jehovah), make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
9. John prepared the way for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is referred to by Isaiah as both Jehovah and God.
III. JOHN BAPTIZED WITH WATER (1:24-28).
1. The Jewish leaders questioned John’s baptism (John 1:24-26). Apparently this was a big controversy among them (cf. Matt. 21:23-27).
2. The Jewish leaders resented John’s baptism because it was a “baptism of repentance” (Mark 1:4). But these self-righteous religious hypocrites did not want to repent.
3. Baptism has always been a problem for unsaved religionists. Most churches prefer sprinkling babies and forget all about repentance and salvation.
4. Then when someone from a pedo-baptist background gets saved and wants to get Scripturally baptized, there is anger and resentment (my experience with the RC priest).
5. Despite all of the confusion from the various denominations (which broke off of Rome), baptism is for believers only and it must be by immersion (cf. John 3:23).
IV. JOHN POINTED SINNERS TO CHRIST (1:29-36).
1. The lamb was the principal animal of sacrifice in the OT worship of God, being the offering each morning and each evening according to the law of Moses (Exodus 29:38-46).
2. To the Israelites the lamb represented innocence and gentleness. Therefore, the lamb is a perfect picture and type of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
3. In fact, the Lord Jesus is referred to as “the Lamb” 32 times in the NT (28 times in the book of Revelation), and here in the first chapter of the Gospel of John we see John the Baptist introducing our Lord as “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36).
4. When John the Baptist said these words, his hearers understood immediately the significance of what he was saying. These people were Israelites, well versed in the Word of God and in the OT sacrificial system.
5. They had a background going back for centuries and so they quickly grasped the wide sweep and vastness of John’s words. To them, a lamb was more than an animal, it was the means that God had provided to make atonement for sin and cleansing.
6. And just as the lambs of old had to be roasted on the brazen altar of sacrifice, the Lord Jesus Christ had to pass through the scorching heat of God’s wrath in order to die on the cross for our sins (cf. I Peter 2:24; 3:18; Isaiah 53:3-7).
Charles Haddon Spurgeon often preached at the huge Agricultural Hall in London. One day he was down there testing the acoustics. He thought the building was empty as he cried out, “Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” Little did he know that there was a workman working way up in one of the upper galleries. The man was convicted, went home and got saved that night.