People Who Were There
Message #6 in a series on New Testament Personalities

John the Baptizer

Read: Mark 1:4-11, 14-15; Luke 7:18-23

Text: Mark 1:8 (KJV) I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

Theme: John teaches us the importance of repentance as a prerequisite of salvation, baptism as a testimony to salvation, and faith as the only means of salvation.


Today we study John the Baptist, the man of whom Jesus said, "I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist" (Luke 7:28).

John was an amazing individual.

Of him, it has been said, "The nature of John the baptist was full of impetuosity and fire - a very Elijah. His life, however, was characterized by the graces of self-denial, humility, and holy courage. His abstinence was so great that some thought him possessed, and said, 'He hath a devil.' In his humility he declined the honors which an admiring multitude almost forced upon him, and declared himself to be no one - a voice merely - calling upon the people to prepare for the reception of the one whose shoe-latchet he was not worthy to unloose. And when that one came, he recommended his own disciples to attach themselves to him, furnishing the world an example of gracefully accepting the fact, 'He must increase, but I must decrease.' For his courage in speaking the truth he went a willing victim to prison and to death." (Unger's Bible Dictionary, pg. 600)

This is the man we study today.

I. John's Ministry

QUESTION - How would you describe John's ministry? What one-word descriptions come to mind? (ANSWER - make sure words "preaching" and "baptism" surface in discussion)

QUESTION - What is the significance of the fact that John "preached?" What does it mean?

QUESTION - What is the significance of the fact that John "baptized?" What does it mean?

A. John pointed the way to the Messiah. (Mark 1:3-4, 7-8)
John 1:6-8 (KJV) There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

John 1:22-23 (KJV) Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

Luke 3:16 (KJV) John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:

John 1:15 (KJV) John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.

John 1:29 (KJV) The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

1. John's message was simple.

- The Messiah is coming.

- Repentant and prepare.

- Be baptized to demonstrate your preparation.

2. John's message was for all.

- He preached to the poor.

- He preached to the Pharisees.

- He preached to Herod!

3. John's message didn't change.

QUESTION - How can we apply the lessons about John's message to our own efforts at witnessing for Jesus Christ?

B. John's preaching explained how to get ready for the Messiah.
QUESTION - What is meant by the term "repentance?" (ANSWER - A change of mind that leads to a change of direction and action.)

QUESTION - Why did people need to repent in preparation for the Messiah's coming?

QUESTION - Do we need repentance today? Is it necessary for salvation?

C. John's baptism symbolized a people ready for the Messiah.
1. Baptism means immerse.

DEFINITION - From Greek "BAPTIDZO" which means "to dip, to place into a liquid."

QUESTION - What does this teach us about the mode of baptism. (ANSWER - Only immersion is scriptural.)

ILLUS. In Qumran, which is not far from where John was baptizing in the wilderness, baptismal pools have been uncovered, which have steps leading down into them, and are clearly large enough for immersion. This is the way it was practiced at the time, and is why the word "immersion" was used in the first place!

2. Baptism is always a symbol.

QUESTION - What did John's baptism symbolize? Believer's baptism?

- With John it symbolized repentance and readiness to meet the Messiah.

- With Christians it symbolizes identification with the finished work of that Messiah. (cf. Romans 6:3-4)

3. Baptism is important.

- Not for salvation.

ILLUS. Thief on the cross - Luke 23:42-43 (KJV) And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. (NO BAPTISM HERE!)

- For public witness. (cf. Romans 6:3-4)

- For obedience to command of Christ. (cf. Matthew 28:19-20 "...baptizing them...")

DISCUSSION - Pastor Ray Stedman, in a message titled "The Meaning of Baptism" quotes from an Ipswich, England newspaper account: "Mrs. Katie Barrett, 90 years old, will be baptized by total immersion at Bethesda Baptist Church here next Sunday. 'I've been pondering this step since I was 18,' she says, 'and now I've made up my mind.'" This woman pondered this step for 72 years. What do you think of this? Why do some people wait so long to obey Christ? How soon should a believer be baptized? Are there any valid reasons for not following the Lord in believer's baptism?

II. John's Lifestyle

A. Mark 1:6 (KJV) And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
QUESTION - What do we learn about John's lifestyle from the above verse? (ANSWER - Humble, not concerned with the affairs of this life.)
B. John 3:30 (KJV) He must increase, but I must decrease.
QUESTION - What do we learn about John from the above verse? (ANSWER - Completely submitted to His Lord.)

III. John's Doubt

Luke 7:19 (KJV) And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?

A. The question
QUESTION - Did John know who Jesus was? How?

1. John knew from the prophets that he was the forerunner of the King.

Isa 40:3 (KJV) The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

2. He believed the message he preached enough to be imprisoned for it, and eventually to die for it.

3. He had seen Jesus' authenticity verified by both the Father (voice) and the Holy Spirit (dove).

John 1:34 (KJV) And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

4. He was confident enough to persuade his own disciples to forsake him and follow Jesus.

John 1:29 (KJV) The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

QUESTION - If John was confident of Jesus' authenticity, then why did he now doubt?

B. The answer.
QUESTION - How did Jesus answer him?

1. With a demonstration that fulfilled scripture. (Luke 7:21)

2. With a response that still demanded faith from John. (Luke 7:22)

3. With a mild admonition to not lose faith. (Luke 7:23)

QUESTION - When we lose heart and begin to doubt, how can we apply John's experience?


Jesus said of John, "I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist" Luke 7:28 (KJV)

Truly we can learn much from this wonderful forerunner of the king.

He teaches us the importance of repentance as a prerequisite of salvation...

... baptism as a testimony to salvation...

... faith as the only means of salvation...

... and continual faith as the only cure for doubt.

May we learn from him.

May we be like him.

Please direct questions, comments, and submissions to William E. Johnson
Copyright 1996 William E. Johnson.