Mt. 3:7 π Mt. 13:33 π Mt. 24:12-13 π Mk. 1:1-8 π Lk. 3:10,12,14 π Lk. 3:11 π Lk. 3:13 π Lk. 3:14 π Jn. 1:19-20 π Jn. 1:26 π Gal. 4:4-5 π 2 Tim. 4:3-4 π Tit. 2:1-15 π Jas. 2:15-17 π 2 Pet. 2:1-3 π 1 Jn. 3:17-19
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets: "Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You. The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the
Lord, make His paths straight.'"
John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. 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. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, "There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." ( Mk. 1:1-8 ; top )
A review of the background of John the Baptist is in order for those of us who claim to want to follow Christ in this time and season. Consider the state of religion in his time. A class of clergy dominated the spiritual life of the nation of Israel. This clergy was often arrogant, hypocritical, so wrapped up in their religion that they were often heartless and cruel to those they deemed unclean or "sinners" - the very class of people they were supposed to be of benefit to.
This class of clergy, a system of rabbis (teachers), relied on the authority of previous and/or outstanding teachers and had developed a rather extensive series of targums (commentaries) on what they thought the Scriptures were really trying to say. The rabbis relied so extensively on their teachers, traditions and targums (which almost always conflicted with one another) that no one knew what God expected them to do.
When John the Baptist came on the scene no one really knew what God really required of them. The multitudes asked him, "Then what shall we do?" The tax collectors asked him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" The soldiersasked him, "What shall we do?" ( Lk. 3:10 , 12 , 14 ; top )
It is time once again to say to the multitudes who seek after the loving goodness and righteousness that is Christ, "He who has two shirts, give one to someone who has none. Those who have two cans of beans (or more), repent of your hoarding and give one (or more) to someone who has none." (see Lk. 3:11; top ) The multitudes have become so confused by the conflicting voices of modern teachers, books and commentaries that they fail to provide their brothers and sisters with necessary food and clothing - and the love and truth of God fails to come and reside with them. (see 1 Jn. 3:17-19; top ) All that this excessive religious information succeeds in doing is to render the faith of the multitude impotent, useless and dead (see Jas. 2:15-17; top ) - and it keeps the majority of the people on the road to judgment and damnation. Only those who persevere through and beyond the traditions of men to the end will receive God's salvation. ( Mt. 24:12-13; top )
It is time to say to those in positions of corporate or bureaucratic authority, "Defraud no one by using your position to take advantage of anyone. Use your power and position with wisdom and fairness considering that someday you too will be judged." (see Lk. 3:13; top )
It is time to say to those who hold the duty of enforcing the law and upholding peace, "Carry out your duties with self-control and justice. Don't use fear and bluster but rather peace and justice to control each situation you encounter. Be content with what you are paid and don't use your position to gather riches for yourself." (see Lk. 3:14; top )
Let us notice carefully these simple instructions that John the Baptist gave. In a time when rabbis (teachers) could argue the nuances of any number of Scriptures, simple neighborly care and moral decency had been lost as a foundation of spiritual life. Let us not suppose that we can make up some sort of list of do's and don't's to express simple neighborly care and moral decency and be acceptable and pleasing to the Lord. But let us also recognize that the life that is acceptable and pleasing to the Lord will have neighborly care and superior morality as an integral part.
Paul warned that people would again be in confusion as to what is required of them in the last days. He wrote to Timothy, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." ( 2 Tim. 4:3-4; top )
It is time to be reminded again of what sound doctrine is. Paul wrote to Titus,
"But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things - that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. Likewise exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good words; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. Exhort servants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you. ( Tit. 2:1-15; top )
If what we do in the name of Christ does not promote these kinds of things in ourselves and in those who listen to us, we have missed the whole point of the matter.
It is interesting to note also that the only class of people who didn't want to know what God was saying through John the Baptist was the self-assured clergy who had their favorite teachers and volumes of commentaries from which to draw all their assurances. Talk about drawing from a poisonous well!
Let us note carefully John's encounters with the clergy class. The apostle John records, "Now this is the testimony of John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?' He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, 'I am not the Christ.'" ( Jn. 1:19-20; top ) And when asked why he baptized, John the Baptist said, "I baptize you with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know." ( Jn. 1:26; top ) What an indictment for those who knew the Law and the Prophets inside out and who held positions of authority over those who came to worship God. They did not even know their Messiah! Is it any wonder then that "when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, 'Brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?'" ( Mt. 3:7; top ) They were coming into contact with God's truth only to reject it - thus adding to the judgment their hypocrisy and deceit had already earned for them. (also see 2 Pet. 2:1-3; top ) They wanted "truth" so they could stay in their positions of power and pre-eminence - but they didn't want to know what God would have them do! One wonders what kind of answer John the Baptist would have given if the clergy class had asked him, "What shall we do?" instead of "Who are you?" Looking at others will always cause us to fail to look at the condition of our own heart.
Is the overall religious situation any different today? No. Indeed it is far worse as the religious clergy of John the Baptist's day ruled over only the nation of Israel whereas today the fingers of the Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical and even the supposed "non-denominational" clergy reach into nearly every sector of the world. It is truly exactly like Jesus said it would be: "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened." ( Mt. 13:33; top ) The leaven of clergyism is but one form of the religious leaven that subtly dominates the spiritual life of anyone who wants to follow after Christ. Clergyism is so rampant and deceptive that there are even whole denominations (often "non-denominational" denominations!) where the clergy routinely decry the evils of clergyism. Talk about a spiritual schizophrenia!Anyone brought up within the traditional "church" system who would be a teacher of the Bible is expected to immerse himself, not in the Bible and a life of prayer, but in the vast amounts of that particular sect's approved commentaries (which contradict at various and sundry points with all other sects' commentaries). The one who simply isolates himself with the word of God for a time and season, sitting quietly at the feet of Jesus, hearing what the Spirit has to say, will soon be in conflict with the worldly system popularly called "church" - no matter what denomination or "non-denomination" he belongs to.
When Jesus appeared and was crucified, Paul described His coming as being "in the fullness of time." ( Gal. 4:4-5; top ) When the stage was perfectly set, Christ came and died for our sins. Part of that setting included the forerunner, John the Baptist, a rough-dressed, seemingly-fearless man of God who held to no standard other than the word of God. He spoke roughly to crowds, hypocrites and kings alike. He pulled no punches and called sin sin.
In the fullness of time there was a tiny remnant who had been prepared in their hearts to hear and follow Christ the Messiah. The vast majority of people around Jesus had their own agendas - some wanted to make Him king of Israel, some wanted to kill Him from envy, some just wanted a free lunch or a personal miracle. But only a very few had been made ready to follow after the King of kings even when they did not fully comprehend neither His nature nor His mission.
Today Christ is again calling people away from their cultures, their families, their ways of life, their preconceived religious notions. Those people who have more important matters to attend to - their careers, their money, their "church," their theology, their "ministry," their lifestyle, even their families - are being left to wallow in the religious deceptions of the apostasy, left to play lifeless "church," left to believe they are truly serving God and not their own self-centered agendas.
There is another aspect of John the Baptists message (which was also Jesus' message) that we should consider. His message was: Repent. In a day when most people look to religion to provide confirmation of the notion of the innate goodness of man, this message is most unpopular. "There's something fatally wrong with you and you must change how you live your life" is the message of "Repent!" Not, "Oh, you're a good person able to do good things for God." No, "Repent!" means that, in your flesh as you inherited it from Adam, you possess a selfish, evil nature that is completely incapable of pleasing God and that, unless you turn to Him for help, you will always be unable to please God. Your religiosity, your efforts to please God apart from simple and complete obedience to Him, is just another expression of that selfish, evil nature and could earn you eternal separation from Him.
So, have you been warned to flee from the judgment that is to come upon all sinful flesh? If so, Who warned you? Keep listening to Him to make your calling and election sure.
I'd love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!