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Why was John the Baptist great?

(compiled and formatted by Bill Stevenson)

On March 12, 21, while watching a weekly Bible study group discussion at Forest Lake Church,, the pastor
announced that his second favorite hero was John the Baptist. Some of the following passages were read
and discussed. I thought questions might help you the question above. (I recommend that you later
watch the hour long program via the above Internet link. It is a very good use of time and previous
programs are archive. And for those who English is their second language, they can repeat parts they
didn’t understand.) For this study, I have used the KJV Bible and slightly modernized and logically
formatted the verses. I bolded for further emphasis.

(By the way, I am using where my keyboard was below the desk, I have my NKJV Bible and “The
Evangelical Parallel New Testament” with 8 translations side by side. I used to have them on top of my
desk in the front area. Now I don’t have to reach for them. Also, I could put the E-Sword on the other
monitor, allowing me to see other translations, Bible commentaries and dictionaries, and “The 1828
Webster’s Dictionary” that I downloaded into that wonderful software. So the computer change was a
wonderful Romans 8:28 blessing. I didn’t realize how wonderful until I began doing this study. All last
week I was not able to work on my current Bible study project, so I am thankful for the Sabbath time to
rest in God’s Word.)

Introduction: Major themes of the Bible are God’s love and grace, good verses evil, selfishness verses
unselfishness, truthfulness verses untruthfulness, and last but not least repentance to
righteousness. I wrote this back in the 1970s: “What is Jesus Christ coming back for?
Where and how well is His bride, the church of believers in Him? Looking around at,
reading about, listening to, and being involved in various ministries, I do wonder about
this question. I know a lot of dogmatic Christian leaders are going to be made
unexpectedly ashamed (if I read my Bible right) about warnings to teachers and
"masters". I have heard and seen very few examples of agapéo love and I have heard and
seen a lot of examples of hatred, lying, name calling, gossiping, speculating,
unconstructive criticizing, condemnation, strife, fraud, deceit, taking advantage, man-
pleasing, etc. in Christian churches and schools. I have met only a few individuals who
are really striving for Biblical holiness and who are not ashamed of being properly old-
fashioned. Are we all going to be influenced to compromise to the ways of the world in
order to remain employed even in “Christian” service ministries? I will not!”
Ephesians 5:25-27
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it,
that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word,
that he might present it to Himself a glorious church,
not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing,
but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
That is why I share Philippians 2:1-5, Jude 20-23 and Proverbs 4: 5-6 frequently in my Internet
ministering. And the thought just came to my mind, each true Christian should be speaking as
courageously as John the Baptist did during his brief ministry because the Second Coming of Jesus
Christ could be soon. During a community prayer meeting for the 1996 Presidential election, the Holy
Spirit gave me the following anagram:
C -- commitment to God's truth
O -- obedience to the Holy Spirit
U -- understanding God's desires
R -- revival spiritually
A -- attentiveness for opportunities to minister
G -- gratefulness to God, especially for His protection
E -- enduring in faith of our Lord Jesus Christ

Luke 1:5-6
“There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea,
a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia;
and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
And they were both righteous before God,
walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord
***And why was John a miracle baby?

Luke 3:1-2
“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea,
and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis
and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,
Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests,
the Word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.”
Matthew 3:4
“And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair,
and a leathern girdle about his loins;
and his food was locusts and wild honey.”
Luke 3:3-6
“And he came into all the country about Jordan,
preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the Prophet, saying,
‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
“Prepare you the way of The Lord,
make His paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low;
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways shall be made smooth;
And all flesh shall see the Salvation of God.”’ (Isaiah 52:10)
***What do you think John did not follow his father in the Jewish priesthood?
What God hates in our churches:
R -- ritual
E -- earnestness for superficiality
L -- legalistic
I -- ignorant of a lot of what is God-pleasing
G -- going on with un-Biblical tradition
I -- “I” problem especially in pride and selfishness
O -- obnoxious
N -- nasty, hypocritical, and condemnatory like the Pharisees of old

Luke 3:7-9
“Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him,
‘Oh generation of vipers, who have warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance,
and begin not to say within yourselves, “We have Abraham to our father”,
for I say to you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees:
every tree therefore which brings not forth good fruit
is cut down and cast into the fire.’”

***Why do you think a “multitude” followed him to the dirty river? What in his preaching was to be
admired? Did you know that the Jews did have baptismal pools for spiritual cleansing? What does John
mean in his rebuke to the crowd? Have you ever heard any modern day preacher say similar?

Luke 3:10-11
“And the people asked him, saying, ‘What shall we do then?’
He answered and said to them,
‘He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none;
and he who has food, let him do likewise.’
***What is the common reason in every kind of sin? Remember the final commandment Jesus had for the
rich young ruler? Also remember the last of the Ten Commandments? And what did the first Christians
do? Why did the Apostle Paul say he had to die daily?

Luke 3:12-13
“Then came also tax collectors to be baptized, and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’
And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than that which is appointed you.’”
***Why were tax collectors not respected then and why are they usually not respected now? See
Matthew 18:17 and the Zaccheus conversion in Luke 19:1-10 before answering. What did John’s
exhortation mean?

Luke 3:14
“And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, ‘And what shall we do?’
And he said to them,
‘Do violence to no man,
neither accuse any falsely;
and be content with your wages.’”
***What unrighteousness did soldiers do? Do modern day soldiers have the same problems? What
does Ephesians 6:10-18 say is for Christians to do as Christian soldiers? No secular soldiering is
needed in the Kingdom of God (in Heaven or on the “New Earth” because all will be righteous!!!

Luke 3:15-17
“And as the people were in expectation,
and all men reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he were The Christ or not;
John answered, saying to them all,
‘I indeed baptize you with water, but One mightier than I comes,
the latchet of Whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose;
He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire;
Whose fan is in His hand,
and He will thoroughly purge His floor,
and will gather the wheat into His barn;
but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.’”
***Remember Luke 3:7 in the previous page? But also read Luke 49-53 and Matthew 25:31-46. Have
you hear any sermons or Bible study discussions based on those two passages?

John 3:22-36
“After these things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judaea,
and there He tarried with them and baptized.
And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there;
and they came, and were baptized.
For John was not yet cast into prison.
Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying.
And they came to John and said to him,
‘Rabbi, he who was with you beyond Jordan,
to whom you barest witness,

behold, the same baptizes,
and all are coming to him’.
John answered and said,
‘A man can receive nothing except it be given him from Heaven.
You yourselves bear me witness, that I said,
“I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him.”
He who has the bride is the bridegroom,
but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him,
rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice:
this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
He must increase, but I must decrease.
He Who comes from above is above all:
he who is of the Earth is Earthly, and speaks of the Earth;
He Who comes from Heaven is above all.
And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies;
and no one (fully) receives His testimony.
He (or she) who has received His testimony has certified that God is true.
For He Whom God has sent speaks the words of God,
for God gives not The Spirit by measure.
The Father loves The Son,
and has given all things into His hand.
He (or she) who believes on The Son has everlasting life;
and he (or she) who believes not The Son shall not see life
but the wrath of God abides on him(or her).’”
***How was the humbleness of John the Baptist shown in this? How does it show that he was not jealous
of the ministry of his 6-month younger cousin? Why did John rejoice about the news? How would you or
how do you speak about Jesus Christ?

Luke 3:18-20
“And many other things in his exhortation he preached to the people.
But Herod the tetrarch,
being rebuked by him
for Herodias his brother Philip's wife,
and for all the evils which Herod had done,
added yet this above all,
that he shut up John in prison.”
***Did Herod ever say that John the Baptist was not of God? There is a saying “the truth can hurt” and
spoken truths have caused a lot of anger in the past.

Matthew 11:2-20
“Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ,
he sent two of his disciples,
and they said to him, ‘Are you he Who should come, or do we look for another?’
Jesus answered and said to them,
‘Go and tell John again those things which you do hear and see:
the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk,
the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear,
the dead are raised up,
and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.
And blessed is he (or she), who is not offended because of Me.’
And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John,
‘What did you out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
But what did you go out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment?
Behold, they who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.

But did you go out for to see? A prophet?
I say to you, and more than a prophet.
For this is he of whom it is written,
“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
who shall prepare Your way before You.” (Malachi 3:1)
Verily I say to you, among them who are born of women
there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist;
but he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven suffered violence,
and the violent take it by force.
For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
And if you will receive it,
this is Elijah, who was for to come.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Also in Matthew 13:9 & 43 and in Revelation 2-3.)
But what shall I liken this generation to?
It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling to their companions and saying,
“We have piped to you, and you have not danced;
we have mourned to you, and you have not lamented.”
For John came neither eating nor drinking,
and they say, “He has a devil.”
The Son Of Man came eating and drinking,
and they say, “Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber,
a friend of publicans and sinners.”
But wisdom is justified by her children.’
Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works were done,
because they repented not:”
***How was this passage highly complimentary of John the Baptist?

Matthew 14:3-12
“For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him,
and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife.
For John said to him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’
And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude,
because they counted him as a prophet.
But when Herod's birthday was celebrated,
the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod.
In response he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.
And she, being before instructed of her mother, said,
‘Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger.’
And the king was sorry;
nevertheless for the oath's sake and them who sat with him at the banquet,
he commanded it to be given her.
And he sent, and had John beheaded in the prison.
And his head was brought in a platter and given to the damsel;
and she brought it to her mother.
And his disciples came and took up the body, and buried it,
and went and told Jesus.”
***Who was a famous Old Testament mother who gave wrong advice to one of her sons? What kind of
advice did she give? What does this Matthew passage say about being careful about making promises?
And why being sorry is not enough in most circumstances?

Matthew 14:13-23
“When Jesus heard of it, He departed from there by ship to a deserted place by Himself.
But when the people had heard of it, they followed Him on foot out of the cities.

And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude,
and was moved with compassion toward them, and He healed their sick.
And when it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying,
‘This is a deserted place and the time is now past;
send the multitude away that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.’
But Jesus said to them, ‘They need not depart; give them something to eat.’
And they say to him, ‘We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.’
He said, ‘Bring them to Me.’
And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass,
and took the five loaves and the two fishes,
and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke,
and gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples gave to the multitude.
And they did all eat and were filled;
and they took up of the fragments
that remained twelve baskets full.
And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
And straightway Jesus commanded His disciples to get into a ship,
and to go before Him to the other side,
while He sent the multitudes away.
And when He had sent the multitudes away,
He went up into a mountain apart to pray;
and when the evening was come, He was there alone.”
***And you know the rest of the story. What a wonderful response to a death of a courageous special
man of God. What would you think John the Baptist would have thought if he was able to witness Jesus
Christ’s response? How would you respond to the question “Why didn’t Jesus Christ or God the Father
via angels spare John the Baptist from such a horrible death?” And again, why was John put into prison
in the first place? Are you willing to say anything that the Holy Spirit urges you to say to someone with
power to do you harm?

So why was John the Baptist great? How can you become a better example of Christ-like righteousness
and compassion than you are now every day that God allows you to have? How can you avoid thinking
legalistically and avoid legalism in the church you attend?