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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
Dr. Stanley Anderson
A spectacular revival would likely come to a church if John the Baptist were in it. Immense crowds came to hear him, even though they had to travel far to his desert pulpit. Though he was a marvelous success as a preacher, some present day pastors seem to ignore him. But he was a Baptist preacher, and Baptists of all people should know him.
John the Baptist is one man who was "great in the sight of the Lord" (Luke 1:15). He whom the Lord calls great deserves attention and emulation. What made John great?
The first Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his birth. That means that he magnified the Lord Jesus Christ consistently, for such is the ministry of the Spirit (John 16:13-14). It also means that he had the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
He was respected by the Pharisees who sent a committee to interview him (John 1:19-24); by Herod, who when he heard him, did many things and heard him gladly (Mark 6:20); and by the people, who recognized him as a true prophet of God (Luke 20:6).
John preached the deity of Christ in unmistakable words. "And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God" (John 1:34). He used no foggy phraseology, but he used facts, verities, with a firm authority "Thus saith the Lord!"
This first Baptist preacher declared Christ to be "the Lamb of God which taketh the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
John was called "Baptist" by divine inspiration
The word for "Lamb" is amnos in the Greek, meaning the sacrificial lamb without blemish, the one reserved for sacrifice on the great Passover Day. Here, then, is a great text for sermons on the substitutionary atonement. Again, John preached Christ as the universal Savior He was to take away the sins of the world. He declared that long before Peter in Acts 10 learned it the hard way. John was a true missionary Baptist.
Further, John magnified the Lord Jesus, although he knew his own popularity might suffer thereby. "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). Some preachers subtly and cleverly manage to praise themselves, even while they seem to praise Christ. But John was filled with the Spirit of God and with genuine humility. He got results for God that way.
Conversion was John's aim in every sermon. His text was so good that Jesus used it verbatim, and Peter at Pentecost found it effective (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Acts 2:38). "Repent "be converted" for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." The Greek word is metanoeite which means "be converted"!
John's disciples were converted from sin and worldliness. They were converted from the stiff, formal "orthodoxy" of the Pharisees with their sterile self-righteousness. They were converted from the subtle and "scholarly" vanities of the Sadducees. They were warned of the coming judgment, the "wrath to come", and the "unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:7-12).
John's disciples were converted to Christ, to complete consecration, and to fruit bearing as regards good works. They were promised the baptism in the Holy Spirit and in fire, indicating sanctification with its hatred of sin and love of purity. Remarkable conversions they were, and they were secured in an unusual way.
John combined evangelizing and baptizing.
"Baptizing" is the one word used in the inspired word of God to record and describe John's entire ministry in certain places (John 1:28, 31; 3:23; 10:40). This same word "baptizing" is also used to describe Christ's ministry in two passages (John 3:22, 25; 4:1-2). We know that this great word includes soul-winning as well as soul-nurture, and therefore it can aptly describe the life work of every true preacher of the Word in our day.
John was called "Baptist" by divine inspiration (Matthew 3:1). The name is therefore divinely approved; it is descriptive; and it is indicative of our entire Gospel. If we believe and teach as John the Baptist did, then the Lord could call us real Baptists as well. The name is highly honored in Scriptures; it should be in our communities.
Why did John baptize? He tells us why in John 1:31: "That he (Christ) should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water." To make Christ manifest, to reveal Him, is our aim also. John did it by means of baptizing. The convert's burial in water is made to preach Christ's dying for our sins.
The convert's coming up out of the water proclaims Christ rising from the dead for our justification. What could be plainer? Baptism pantomimes the Gospel beautifully. Paul explains this clearly in Romans 6:4. Burial with Christ in baptism cancels all past sins, symbolically. Rising to "walk in newness of life" indicates life long service for our Lord.
John the Baptist, by his evangelizing-baptizing ministry, prepared people for the Lord (Luke 1:17). We may do likewise. We must do so if we are faithful to the Great Commission which emphasizes baptism among the "all things" we are told to teach to our converts. Baptism is the one thing we are told to do in the name of the blessed Trinity. How then, can anyone make light, or neglect, this divinely emphasized ordinance?
John the Baptist started baptism. He was divinely commissioned to do so (John 1:6, 33). We are divinely commissioned to continue baptizing (Matthew 28:19-20). This is the message of John the Baptist, the message which Christ endorsed.