This article must be studied in context of the whole series of articles. To start at the beginning of the series, please go to /god/evidences.php.
Several passages expressly state that John the Baptist was a witness for Christ:
John 5:31-33 - Jesus listed John as one of His witnesses.
John 1:6-9,15 - John came for the purpose of being a witness to the Light (Christ). He bore witness regarding Jesus (cf. v19) so that all might believe.
We will see that John was sent expressly to prepare the way for the Christ, to help people recognize and accept Christ.
It follows that John's testimony should be important and useful in our study.
Why should John's message be given serious consideration as the testimony of a well-qualified witness?
Isaiah 40:3; Luke 3:2-6; John 1:22,23; Matthew 11:10 - Isaiah prophesied about one who would be a voice in the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord. Both John and Jesus repeatedly stated that John's work was a fulfillment of this prophecy. (Malachi 4:5,6; Matthew 3:1-3; 11:14; 17:10-13; Mark 1:2-4; Luke 1:17)
Luke 1:5-22 (especially vv 15-17) - Before John was conceived, the angel Gabriel appeared to his father Zacharias and predicted that John would be great in the sight of the Lord, would turn many to the Lord, and would go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah.
Luke 1:59-80 (especially vv 76-79) - At the time of John's birth, Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied (v67) that John would be a prophet of God to prepare the way of the Lord and give people a knowledge of salvation by remission of sins.
These prophecies, fulfilled by John, demonstrate that he was approved of God. Therefore, we should accept his testimony.
Many people then and now acknowledge that John was guided by the Holy Spirit.
John 1:6 - John was sent from God to bear witness to the Light.
Luke 1:15-17 - The angel Gabriel predicted that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb. When Zacharias doubted this would happen, the angel gave a miraculous sign to confirm the message - he struck Zacharias speechless till John was born (vv 18-22,59-66). Note that many people witnessed this sign when it happened. They knew that John was struck dumb from the time he received the vision of the angel till the time that he named John, and this led them to wonder what kind of man John would be (vv 21,22,63-66).
Luke 1:67,76-79 - Guided by the Holy Spirit, John's father prophesied that John would be a prophet of God to prepare the Lord's way and give knowledge of salvation to the people.
Matthew 11:7-10 - Jesus directly acknowledged that John was a prophet whose work fulfilled Old Testament prophecy (Luke 7:26-28).
Matthew 14:5; 21:25,26 - The people overwhelmingly viewed John as a prophet, so much so that the leaders feared to harm him or deny that he was a prophet (Mark 11:29-32; Luke 20:3-6).
Matthew 16:13,14 - John was repeatedly classed with the great Old Testament prophets. (Matthew 17:10-13; Mark 8:28; 9:11-13; Luke 9:19)
Some people, of course, rejected John's message, even as people rejected all the prophets. But none ever successfully refuted his teaching. And even those who rejected his message never attempted to prove he was dishonest or a liar. (Matthew 11:16-19; 21:32; Luke 7:30-35)
If John was a prophet, then we must accept his teaching. In addition, the general respect with which he was held should lead us to respect his honesty as a witness.
Mark 6:19,20 - King Herod was no friend of John's. He imprisoned John for rebuking Herod's sins, and Herodias wanted John killed. Nevertheless, Herod feared and protected John, because he recognized that John was a just and holy man. Even this corrupt, immoral ruler respected John's morality and decency.
Matthew 21:32 - Jesus said John came in the way of righteousness.
John's friends and his opponents both recognized his uprightness. This also testifies to John's honesty as a witness.
He chose to live an austere life with little material gain. He repeatedly refused to exalt himself but instead exalted the one whose way he came to prepare.
Matthew 3:3,4 - He lived in the wilderness, clothed in camel's hair and a leather belt, eating locusts and wild honey. Clearly he was not motivated by desire for material possessions.
Matthew 3:3,11; Luke 3:15,16; John 1: 20,29,30; 3:26-30 - John openly denied that he was the Christ. Rather, he repeatedly urged people to follow the Christ whose way John had come to prepare. He said he was unworthy to even loosen the sandal of the One who would come, and that a greater baptism than John's would come. John said he himself would decrease, but the One to come would increase (in influence, following, etc.). (Matthew 3:14; Mark 1:6-8; John 1:15,19-28; Acts 13:24,25)
John knew he himself would not have the more dominant position. He was here simply to prepare for the coming of someone else. No basis could ever be found for rejecting John's testimony on grounds of false motives.
Matthew 3:2-10 - His primary message demanded that people repent of their sins. He boldly rebuked the powerful religious leaders (Pharisees and Sadducees) as a brood of vipers who needed to repent, flee from wrath, and bring forth fruits of repentance. Otherwise, they would be cut down and burned like a tree that does not bear good fruit. (Luke 3:2-14)
Matthew 14:1-4; Luke 3:19,20 - He rebuked King Herod for all his evils. He was imprisoned and eventually killed, because he rebuked King Herod for having his brother's wife. (Matthew 17:10-13; 21:32; Mark 6:14-18)
John was not intimidated by the most powerful religious or political leaders. He opposed sin and hypocrisy wherever he found it. Surely such a courageous defender of truth and opponent of sin would never be guilty of false testimony. Specifically, he would never claim that someone was a true prophet, let alone the Christ, unless he was convinced that claim was true.
Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:17-29; Luke 9:7-9 - His bold opposition to wickedness eventually led Herodias to find an opportunity to have Herod put John to death.
No one can set aside John's testimony on grounds that he was a coward or was intimidated to speak what he did not believe regarding Jesus. Why would a man give his life for his message unless he believed it to be true?
Luke 1:16,17 - The angel Gabriel told Zacharias that J0hn would make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Matthew 3:1-3 - The prophecies that John fulfilled said he would come to prepare the way for the Lord. In fulfillment of this, he preached that the kingdom was at hand. (Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2-4; Luke 3:2-6; 7:27,28; Acts 13:24,25)
Matthew 3:11 - He said the One to come after him would baptize people in the Holy Spirit.
John 1:6-9 - John was sent from God expressly to bear witness to the Light (referring, in context, to the only begotten of God who would come in the flesh - vv 1-18).
John 1:15 - He bore witness to the One who would come after Him.
John 1:20-27 - So John plainly said that he was not the Christ but was sent before Him (i.e., before the Christ). So the One for Whom John prepared the way would be the Christ.
If John's primary task was to prepare people for the Christ, then surely of all people he ought to recognize the Christ and his testimony regarding the Christ ought to be taken seriously.
Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21,22; John 1:30-34 - Jesus' mother and John's mother were cousins (see Luke 1). When Jesus came to John to be baptized, John immediately knew Jesus to be a great teacher, since he thought he should be baptized by Jesus. But John was not yet sure that Jesus was the one for Whom he was preparing the way. But note the events that John personally witnessed at that time:
* When John baptized Jesus, the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus in a bodily form as a dove.
* The Father then spoke from heaven and said Jesus was His beloved Son.
* The Father furthermore said that Jesus was well pleasing to Him.
We will see that, as a prophet, John realized the significance of all this. But our point here is that John was able to speak, not just of what he knew as a prophet, but also of what he had seen as a personal eyewitness when Jesus was baptized.
Whatever John spoke regarding Jesus must be taken as John's honest testimony to the truth based on revelation from God and on adequate firsthand witness. On what possible grounds could John's testimony regarding Jesus be set aside as false or mistaken? John was surely qualified to speak as a witness regarding who Jesus was.
So, what testimony did he give?
We have already seen many passages where John clearly stated that his work was to prepare the way for Someone who would follow him. Surely we should expect him to know who that One was and identify Him clearly when He came. What is John's testimony regarding this?
John 1:14,15 - When John spoke of one who would come after Him, he was speaking about the only begotten of the Father who became flesh and dwelt among us (the context shows this is Jesus - note v29). The One who came after him was before him. He was before John in preeminence, but more specifically, he was pre-existent having existed since before the world began (vv 1-3).
John 1:29,30,35,36 - John expressly stated that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
John 1:30-33 - At first John was not certain who the One was for whom he was preparing the way. But he began his work knowing that the One he was preparing for would be identified by the Holy Spirit descending and remaining upon Him. John bore witness to the fact that this happened when Jesus was baptized: the Spirit descended and remained on Jesus. This proved to John that Jesus was the One for Whom John had been preparing the way.
John 1:34 - So John testified that he saw and knew that this (i.e. Jesus) is the Son of God.
John 3:22-30 - When Jesus began making converts, John's disciples said that the One regarding whom John had testified was baptizing people. So they recognized that Jesus was the One regarding whom John testified. John then plainly identified that the One before Whom he was sent was the Christ. But he said that he had been sent to prepare the way for Jesus, therefore he recognized that Jesus was the Christ. (Cf. vv 31-36.)
John 10:40,41 - The people recognized that Jesus was the One about whom John had been speaking. They acknowledged that the things John said about Jesus were true.
Acts 19:4,5 - Paul summarized John's testimony saying that John taught people to believe on One who would come after John and that one was Christ Jesus.
So John was sent as a man of God expressly to prepare the way for and to testify regarding the Christ, so the people would believe in Him. He plainly said that Jesus was the One for Whom He was preparing the way. He said Jesus would have preeminence, that Jesus was the Christ, that He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and that He was the Son of God. This testimony was given by one whose qualifications as a witness are unimpeachable.
[Note: It is true that, after John had been imprisoned, he sought reassurance that Jesus was really the Christ - Luke 7:18-23; Matt. 11:1-6. Perhaps this was because, like the apostles and other Jews, John was bothered when Jesus did not act according to Jewish preconceptions. This demonstrates that prophets revealed inspired, infallible messages from God, but they too were human and did not always understand all the applications of their own messages. They had to study their own messages in order to apply them properly, just like we have to study the Bible. Compare this to Peter's difficulty in understanding the message he revealed regarding conversion of the Gentiles - cf. Acts 2:39 to Acts 10,11,15 and Gal. 2. However, by appealing to the many miracles that John's own disciples saw Jesus do, Jesus was able to give the reassurance that John sought. So if we take John's testimony and add it to the miracles and the fulfilled prophecies, we too can have confidence regarding Who Jesus is. See the next point.]
This is part of a complete series of evidences for the major claims of the Bible that God exists, the Bible is God's word, and Jesus is God's Son. To continue with the next article in the series, please go to /god/evidences-miracles.php To start at the beginning of the series, please go to /god/evidences.php.
Copyright 2006 David E. Pratte
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