August 19, 2018

John the Baptist

By H. L. Bruce

Before the Christ would come and perform His mission and ministry there was a messenger that was to come first. He was to prepare the way for Christ (Mal. 3:1). From plain statement as well as viewing his work it can be readily seen that his work was preparatory in nature. Zacharias, the priest, was John's father and his mother, Elizabeth, was of the daughters of Aaron. John had a rich spiritual heritage (Luke 1:5-6). His parents "were both righteous before God, walking in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." Before John's birth the announcement was made to Zacharias that John would be born, that he would have the spirit and power of Elias, and would convert as well as have other preparatory aspects of his work.

John's message was two-fold in nature. Besides announcing the coming of the kingdom, he called the Jew to repentance, demanding evidence of their repentance (Matt. 3:1-3: 7-8).

In the very outset of his preaching he realized and began to fulfill his purpose relative to the coming Messiah. Concerning Christ he said, "1 indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: But he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire" (Matt. 3:11). With these words he announced the coming of the one who would be the King over his kingdom. This one would administer that which could not be administered by man: Holy Spirit and fire baptism. Holy Spirit baptism administered on Pentecost; and fire after the judgment (Acts 2:1-4; 2 Thess. 1:7-9).

The spirit, power, and attributes of Elijah were rightly descriptive of Him (Lk. 1:17; Matt. 11:14). He faced the people and rebuked their sins; he preached eternal damnation to the unrighteous (Matt. 3:12). He was dependable and stable. He was not a reed shaken with the wind, (Matt. 11:7) nor did he have the kingly diplomatic approach. He was not of the persuasion that compromise was the best way out. Concerning Herod's adulterous marriage, John said, "It is not lawful for thee to have her." He was fearless and uncompromising. He died as a result, with the frown of the elite but with the smile of God.

John never took glory to himself. He confessed, "I am not the Christ" (Jno. 1:19). He knew how to be second and put Christ first. His humility was demonstrated in announcing the coming of Christ as being "mightier than I," "preferred before me," "the lachet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose." He also said that he was not worthy to baptize Christ. He realized that Christ was to increase while he was to decrease (Jno. 1:19-20; 15; Mk. 1:7; Matt. 3:11; Jno. 3:30).

Some observations concerning John are in order. His name was John. "Baptist" was no part of his name (John 1:6). The word "Baptist" is used 14 times in the Bible. It means ''one who baptizes.'' Each time the word "Baptist" is used, it is in connection with John. He is the only one that was ever called "Baptist" in the Bible. The Bible does not teach that those who submitted to his baptism were Baptist. The Baptist church of today teaches things that John never taught! Where did John teach: 1. "Once saved always saved?" 2. Salvation at the point of faith? 3. Limited atonement? 4. Close communion? 5. That those baptized, by him, were Baptists? 6. That a Baptist church would exist? 7. That Christ was a Baptist? 8. That baptism was because of remission of sins and to put one into the Baptist church? 9. That the church was established during the personal ministry of Christ?

Since the doctrine of the Baptist church didn't spring from John, he must not have taught it. Since Christ didn't teach the doctrine of the Baptist church, it didn't come from Him. The doctrine of the Baptist church did not originate with the apostles. Therefore, they didn't establish the Baptist church. In view of the foregoing, man must have begun the Baptist church. The Baptist church is a plant that was not planted by our heavenly Father. Christ said, "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up."

Truth Magazine VIII: 8, pp. 6-7
May 1964