With Dale Ratzlaff
This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. “It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
As we learned in Lesson one, the Gospel of John was written with one overarching purpose.
But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name (Jn. 20:31).
Belief in the Gospel of John is based upon two major concepts: testimony and signs. John will give us a number of each. The testimony upon which faith is based is presented in a way that harmonizes with the biblical standards of the law of testimony.
On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness (Deut. 17:6).
This is the third time I am coming to you. EVERY FACT IS TO BE CONFIRMED BY THE TESTIMONY OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES (2 Cor. 13:1).
Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19).
Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses (Heb. 10:28).
Instead of presenting two or three witnesses, in his passion to convey the truth of the gospel, John will present seven, the number of completion. In our section today, John the Baptist’s testimony deals mostly with who he is and is not.
The Jews were looking for three people as prophesied from the Old Testament. The first was Christ. To this John “testified”, “I am not the Christ. Then they asked him, “are you Elijah?” Their expectation that Elijah was coming was based on the last two verses of the Old Testament.
Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse (Mal. 4:5-6).
In answer to whether he was Elijah or not, the Baptist answered, “I am not”. Next, they asked him if he was “the Prophet”. He answered, “No.” This expectation came from a passage in Deuteronomy.
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him…I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him (Deut. 18:15-19).
After Jesus fed the five thousand, the people understood this reference to a coming prophet in Deuteronomy refered Christ.
Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world” (Jn. 6:14).
Peter’s second sermon after the resurrection clearly stated that Jesus was this “Prophet” described in Deuteronomy.
Moses said, “THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people (Acts 3:22-23).
Stephen also said the same.
This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you (Acts 7:38).
The statement in Deuteronomy regarding the coming Prophet is a very insightful and it speaks to a new heresy that is rapidly invading the Christian church. That heresy is the Hebrew Roots Movement. It is beyond the scope of this study to describe or appraise this movement. For an extensive evaluation see the Spring, 2016 issue of Proclamation!. One of the main teachings of this movement is that the focus of study should be the laws and statutes of the Torah, not the New Testament. Because the Hebrew Roots Movement is influencing so many former Seventh-day Adventists and the reference in Deuteronomy above coupled with what Jesus says in the Gospel of John, I want to pull out of this passage what may not be evident with a casual reading. The bolded sections below are phrases taken from Deuteronomy 18:15-19. Note how Jesus fulfills these to the very letter of the word.
“I will put My words in his mouth.”
Jesus therefore said, when you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me” (Jn. 8:28).
For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak (Jn. 12:49).
And I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me (Jn. 12:50).
Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works (Jn. 14:10).
The word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me (Jn. 14:24).
“Whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.”
For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels (Mk. 8:38; Lk. 9:26).
But the one who has heard, and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house upon the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great (Lk 6:49).
He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day (Jn. 12:48).
He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me (Jn. 14:23-24).
We have briefly compared the prophecy in Deuteronomy concerning the Prophet whom Moses said God would raise up from among his people. That Prophet was to speak the words God gave Him, and obedience to His words would be the standard in the judgment. From the evidence we have looked at, there is no question but that Jesus is that Prophet and His words will be the determining factor in the judgment. Therefore, I conclude that the Hebrew Roots Movement is a modern-day heresy, much as the teaching of the Judaizers was in the days of the Apostles. Christians are to focus on Christ and the greater revelation He brings as recorded in the Gospels and Epistles. I encourage you to read the more extensive description and evaluation of the HRM published in a recent Proclamation! (Spring, 2016 issue of Proclamation!.)
After John the Baptist had denied being the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet, he then stated who he was.
I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,” as Isaiah the prophet said.
The reference is from Isaiah 40:3-4.
A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley.
In ancient times when a king was traveling, a road crew went ahead and smoothed out the way. The Baptist quotes these verses as a symbolic way of saying he is preparing the way for Jesus.
Next the Jews asked the Baptist why he was baptizing.
John answered them, saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. “It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
John was given the ministry to baptize, but does not describe the effects of his baptism. However, all the Synoptic gospels state that John baptized for repentance and even the forgiveness of sins (See Mt. 3:11; Mk. 1:4; Lk. 3:3). The greatness of John the Baptist is his humility. He always points people away from himself to Christ.
There are several points of application we can make. In a later study, we will learn that Jesus said John the Baptist was the greatest prophet before Christ. John’s “greatness” was twofold. First, he introduced his generation to Christ. Second, even though the evidence from the Gospels and the apostolic church indicates that he had a large and successful ministry; John never touted his success, but always lifted up our Lord as the focus of attention. A worthy pattern for us all to follow.
The fact that Jesus was “The Prophet” predicted by Moses in Deuteronomy indicates that we should focus on the words and sayings of Jesus as the “Law of Christ”. It is Christ’s revelation of truth that will be the standard in the judgment. Putting ourselves back under the laws, judgments and rules of the Torah, is a heresy that we should reject. It is modern Galatianism, a “gospel” that is really not a gospel at all (Gal. 1:6-9.).
Father, thank you that you sent Christ to show us the way to heaven. Help me to learn and obey the words and sayings of Jesus. Help me to be humble like John the Baptist. May my influence always point away from me to your Son and the gospel of grace. In Jesus name.