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Bible verses about John the Baptist, Greatness of
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Malachi 4:5

Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: This phrase lures people into interpreting this as occurring just before Christ's second coming. However, the verse does not say "immediately before"—that is an assumption—it only says "before." The apostle John writes that the world was passing away in his day 2,000 years ago (I John 2:17)! In terms of time, verse 18 is even more incredible because John says that by biblical reckoning it was already the last hour (Romans 13:11-12; I Peter 4:7)! It is imperative we learn to consider time as God does rather than men.

The last days began with the arrival of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist, the prophesied Elijah, appeared as one epoch ended and the next began. He was the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets, his preaching turned the hearts of the fathers to the children, and he prepared the way for the Messiah. He most certainly came before the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Elijah and John the Baptist


 

Mark 1:1-8

In his dress and diet, he was distinctive from what was normal for the times. His dress was durable and serviceable—what would normally be associated with the clothing of the poorest of the land. The same is true of his diet. His diet would be unusual for us but common for the poor folk of his time.

Regarding how he lived, Luke 1:80 adds, "So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel." Mark 2:18 shows that he and his disciples lived an ascetic lifestyle. Taken together, these verses indicate that despite John's greatness, God kept him a poor man. People who live their entire lives in the desert do not usually become rich. His home, though undoubtedly not a hovel, was certainly nowhere near what we are familiar with in wealthy, modern Israel. From this we can learn that God does not owe us what we would like to have, but He provides what we need to serve His purpose for us.

We can be assured that since he had God's Spirit from birth, as Luke 1:15 states, he was in no way the almost wild man he is usually perceived as in movies. Paul says in II Timothy 1:7, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."

Also note that, though John was of the Aaronic line from both parents, no direct connection is ever made between him and the already installed system of Temple worship.

Mark 1:1 says, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." The Bible positions John's ministry as the starting point of Christ's gospel, not because John literally preached the gospel, but apparently because of his preparatory work to Jesus preaching it. Verse 5 records, "And all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins." This reveals the impact of his ministry: All Judea, including folk from Jerusalem, went out to hear and be baptized by him, believing he was a prophet. While "all" does not mean every last person, it indicates a sizeable majority of the population was conversant about John and his message.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Elijah and John the Baptist


 

Luke 1:15-17

John fulfilled Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 as the messenger who prepared the way for the Messiah. In Luke 1:15-17, by God's estimation, John would be great already. No other prophet was given such an accolade from the Highest Source in the entire universe.

» John's greatness lay in the office he filled.

» His greatness lay in the subject he dealt with: repentance and preparing the way for Christ.

» His greatness lay in the manner in which he did it, that is, in humility, calling no attention to himself, and voluntarily receding into the background when the Messiah appeared (John 3:30).

» His greatness lay in performing his function with great zeal.

» His greatness lay in his personal attributes of character as being above reproach in terms of sin, self-denial, and manner of life. He was courageous in the face of opposition.

» His greatness lay in doing his service for his entire life. His whole life, from the womb, was devoted to God. John was "the crown" of the Old Testament prophets.

» His greatness lay in the number and the greatness of his sacrifices, including his life in martyrdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 2)


 

Luke 1:80

This parallels the description of John in Mark 1:1-8, but it indicates an additional thing, and that is, despite John's greatness, God kept him a poor man. He was not wealthy like Abraham, David, Solomon, and many other biblical heroes. This man, who was possibly the greatest of all men who have ever lived (other than Jesus Christ), was kept poor by God. People who live their entire lives in the desert do not become rich. His home, though undoubtedly not a hovel, was certainly nowhere near to what we are accustomed in the rich nations of modern Israel.

God does not owe us what our emotions tell us we would like to have, but He will always provide us with what we need to serve His purpose for us. A big difference lies between the two. Sometimes, we have to repent, adjust our expectations, and try to understand what God is working out in through us. John's diet would be unusual for us, but it was fairly common for the poor of his time.

We can be assured that, since he had God's Spirit from birth (Luke 1:15), he was in no way the wild man depicted in movies—running around, ranting and raving, hair askew, and generally seeming like a fool to whom nobody would pay any attention. When he spoke, people listened, considering deeply and carefully what he said. This does not happen to wild men and fools. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, he had a sound mind (II Timothy 1:7).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 2)


 

John 1:6-9

To appreciate this self-subordination of John, we must relate what is said here to the cultural environment in which these books were written. We must consider what the apostles wrote from the perspective of first-century Jews who witnessed John the Baptist's ministry.

In the twentieth century, we tend to think that John's ministry was little more than a blip on a radar screen. However, in terms of impact and importance, there was no true ministry greater than his except Jesus'. Thinking that John's ministry was insignificant flirts with diminishing what Jesus says about none born of a woman being greater than John.

In God's own estimation, recorded in Luke 1:15—the very first thing said about him by the angel speaking for God—John would be great! He was the prophesied messenger who fulfilled Isaiah 40:3, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God'" (see Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 1:76; 3:4; John 1:23). He also fulfilled Malachi 3:1, "Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me" (see Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 1:76; 7:27).

His greatness lay:

1. in the office he filled;

2. in the subject he dealt with (repentance and true knowledge of the Messiah);

3. in his humility in calling no attention to himself and voluntarily receding into the background when the Messiah appeared (John 3:30), as well as his great zeal in performing his function;

4. in his personal attributes of character, above reproach in terms of sin;

5. in his self-denial in terms of his manner of life;

6. in his courage in the face of opposition;

7. in his lifelong service to God.

John was the crown of a long line of Old Testament prophets.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Elijah and John the Baptist


 

John 3:25-27

Consider this situation. Jesus later testifies that of all men born none was greater than John the Baptist. Earlier in his ministry, John had attracted a great deal of attention. Crowds followed him everywhere and seemed to hang on his every word. Now his bewildered disciples watch the fickle crowds leaving John to hear and follow a new voice. To compound the problem, John himself had extolled Jesus and seemingly set off the exodus of his followers to Him. So in their frustration at not wanting to see John in any sort of disadvantage, they enter into an argument with others around them.

Their question is, "John, this other fellow, this Jesus, is growing great, but you are diminishing. Why? Have you lost your touch? What does He have that you do not?" John's reply reveals a great deal about his character: He is a humble man, not jealous, presumptuous, envious, or bitter. He exhibits no rancor but a generous spirit. He knows who is guiding and directing His servants. He rejoices in the operations that he, as a servant, can perform in being the forerunner of Christ. A paraphrase of his response might be: "I have to work at whatever God charges me and be content with what He gives me. It is not as if Jesus is stealing disciples from me but that God is giving them to Him." He undoubtedly perceives God as His sovereign Ruler.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Three


 

John 10:40-41

No prophet was greater than John the Baptist. If there were none greater, maybe others were equal to him. Maybe they were all on the same level, but even Jesus refused to say that even Moses was greater than John, and yet by worldly standards—especially from a Jew's perspective—Moses was the greatest of all. But not according to Jesus, who said nobody was greater than John. It almost looks as though He is saying, "John is the one that everybody else ought to be measured against." At the very least, he was equal to the ones who the people in the world would think were greater.

John did the work of Elijah, revealing the true God through a ministry devoted to preaching the certainty of the things contained in Scripture regarding Christ, yet he did no miracles. It is obvious that God does not measure a prophet's greatness by the miracles he does.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)


 

 




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