INTRO: Among the people of whom we read in the New Testament, few can be more colorful and exciting than John the Baptist. And in God's scheme of things none occupies a more unique place than does this strange, courageous man. So little is really known about him. He came, we know, from Godly parentage ... a descendent of Aaron (Lk 1:5,6). Beyond that, until he burst upon the scene in the wilderness near the Jordan River, we have no information. There has been all sorts of speculation about him ... much of it having to do with the Jewish sect of the Essenes. All of that speculation, however, is just that ... unfounded speculation. Mark's gospel begins with what he calls "the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ" and the preparatory work of John the Baptist.
I. HE PREPARED THE WAY OF THE LORD
A. Prophetic "voices" had been still for centuries
1. the last of them had been that of Malachi - of Israel's neglect of the holy
2. and his last words were of the coming of "Elijah the prophet" (4:5)
3. but the years passed ... and there was no prophet heard
B. Suddenly, this "Elijah like" prophet appears - and a religious fervor ensues
1. Mt 3:5 - "Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea..."
2. the land was abuzz with questions about his identity - Jno 1:19-23
3. he was none of the "identities" about whom they asked (there were anticipations based on the prophecies - Elijah, the prophet of whom Moses spoke, the Messiah)
C. He was the "preparer of the way" for the Savior!
1. he was like the heralds who went before the king - "the king is coming!"
2. his coming stirred the fires of inquiry, of religion, of anticipation
3. so, Jesus did not arrive in a vacuum of spiritual disinterest and lethargy
II. HE PREACHED A MESSAGE OF REPENTANCE
A. "Repentance" was a very needed message
1. priesthood was corrupt; truth was compromised; temple was den of thieves; the faith was divided into sects; spiritual had given way to ritual
2. Mt 23:25,26 - this so well described much of the religion of that day
3. doubtless, there were good, honest, faithful people - but John was calling for dramatic change of thought in view of Christ's coming
B. "Repentance" was an unpleasant message for some
1. Mt 3:7-10 - why was John so harsh with people coming to be baptized?
2. remember, the "for the remission of sins" stipulation - John knew that the Pharisees & Sadducees were not coming in penitence for sin!
3. notice especially Mt 3:9 - descent from Abraham would not protect from God's judgment on sin ... yet, that was their hope, their confidence!
C. "Repentance" required sense & acknowledgment of sin
1. the majority of people came "confessing their sins"
2. "baptism" was something very new for Jews - and connecting it with remission of sins was "dramatic" (remember, sacrifices had been their place of forgiveness under the law)
3. but this was certainly part of John's preparatory for the work of Jesus
D. "Repentance" required change!!!!
1. Lk 3:7,8 - "Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance..."
2. notice Lk 3:10 - they needed to know practical nature of repentance - and John explained to them how these changes would affect their lives
3. Ezek 18:30b - not a new message ... but one too often unheeded
III. HE PROPHESIED OF CHRIST'S COMING
A. Remember, there were those who thought John might have been Messiah
1. but John rejected any such ideas ... never gave "wings" to them
2. rather, Mk 1:7 - what incredible humility
3. John saw himself as the lowliest of slaves ... not worthy to perform even the lowliest of household tasks! (see also Jno 3:25-30)
B. Return to Mt 3:11,12 - the coming One would come in hope and judgment
1. from Acts 1:5 we learn that baptism with the Holy Spirit was for the apostles and ushered in the gospel dispensation
2. the gospel was "hope" for those who believed
3. for those, however, who rejected the gospel message there remained only the fire of judgment of which John so profoundly spoke
CLOSE: We must remember, too, that as John preached there was a part of his message which must have enlivened the anticipation of the Jewish people: "the kingdom of heaven is at hand".
Cecil A. Hutson
05 February 2006
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)