In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of Lord,
make his paths straight.’”
Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
These verses describe the ministry of John the Baptist, the messenger of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s very important for us to study them and understand their true meaning. Before John, not many preachers had accomplished as much as he did. “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.” And nobody received such accolades from the head of the Church as he did: “He was a burning and a shining light” (John 5:35). The Great Shepherd of human souls, Jesus, said about John: “Truly I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” So, let’s take a closer look at the ministry of John.
John the Baptist talked about sin. The prophet taught people that repentance is an indispensable part of salvation. Those coming to God must “bring forth fruits.” Neither formal membership at some church, nor any kind of individual privileges, can give us salvation.
We need to realize that. By our nature we all are spiritually dead, blind, and deaf. That’s why at first we may tend to find satisfaction in formal religion and say to ourselves that if we go to church, we will be saved. Somebody has to tell us that if we don’t repent, we all will perish.
John the Baptist talked about our Lord, Jesus Christ. He taught people that the One who was greater than he, was already among them. John himself was no more than a servant of the King and only baptized others with water. The One who was coming though will baptize with the Holy Spirit. All people should turn away from sin as the Lord will judge the world.
The importance of this teaching is hard to overestimate. Many Christians are confident that being a church member and going to church services regularly is enough. Somebody has to tell us that the only way for us to become one with Christ is through faith. Jesus is the source of grace, mercy, life and peace. Our souls need to be in close unity with the Lord. But what do we know about our Lord? What did He give us? As we grow in faith we will search out the answer to these questions.
John the Baptist talked about the Holy Spirit. He taught what the baptism by the Holy Spirit is. This teaching is also very important to us. Somebody has to tell us that another part of the salvation process is baptism in the name of Jesus Christ which includes receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. The verdict “Innocent” is signed with Jesus’ blood and is written into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. So let us go all the way and make sure we submit ourselves for baptism in water so that God will send his Holy Spirit into our hearts.
John the Baptist also talked about people who don’t believe and don’t repent. They are in great danger. He warned people that God’s wrath will come upon the earth and that He will burn “the chaff” in unquenchable fire.
This teaching is important as well. Somebody has to warn people that repentance is necessary, that hell and heaven are real. In hell sinners will get eternal punishment, and in heaven righteous ones will get eternal bliss. We often speak about God’s love and grace, but we often forget that God is holy and just. We always have to remember that non-believers stand on the edge of spiritual abyss.
And last but not least, John the Baptist taught people about that all believers will be gathered together on the day when the Lord comes again.
This teaching is also important. Even the strongest of us need encouragement. After all, we all have physical bodies, live in a physical world and face temptations. Somebody has to remind us that Jesus Christ will never leave us and guide us to eternal glory. Just like Noah who was secure in his ark during the flood, so all the Christians will be secure on the day of God’s wrath.
Let all these words of wisdom find their place in your heart. We live in a world of many false doctrines. Let us not forget about what John the Baptist taught us. Would not it be great if all believers were as open to the will of God as John the Baptist?