John 1:6-8 & 15 & 19-28 – John the Witness and the Not
1) WHO JOHN WAS – THE WITNESS
John 1:6–7 & 15 (ESV) — 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 15 John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”
To bear witness:
• “Witness” is the noun martyria – it denotes, for John, what his life was characterized by.
• He was born to, lived as, and died as a witness to the light of Jesus Christ.
o It is the word from which martyr came from – to die for a cause.
• “Bore Witness” is the verb martyreo – it denotes the testimony of a witness which carries legal weight in a court of law.
o The witness of John was authorized by God to hold men accountable to the truth it contained.
POI – Speaking of witnesses, John said he wrote his Gospel so that we might believe and he provided in his Gospel the testimony of multiple witnesses intended to warrant our belief.
• The Father (5:37)
• Jesus’ words (8:18)
• Jesus’ works (5:36; 10:25)
• Old Testament Scriptures (5:39)
• Some of those who met Him (4:29)
• The disciples (15:27; 19:35; 21:24)
• The Holy Spirit (15:26)
To what did John bear witness:
• John 1:22–23 (ESV) — 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
• Jesus is the Messiah!
How did John the Witness bear witness:
• John 1:15 (ESV) — 15 John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”
• John 1:23 (ESV) — 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
• John 1:26–27 (ESV) — 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
• John 1:30 (ESV) — 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’
• Luke 3:3 (ESV) — 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
It should come as no surprise that John used words to bear witness, to testify of Jesus Christ!
• We learned a few weeks ago that The Word Himself used words to convey His light to the darkness.
• The fact that words are used to convey the Gospel is obvious in Scripture but is it obvious in our lives?
John 1:36–37 (ESV) — 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
• John the Witness’ words led his disciples to follow and become disciples of Jesus Christ.
• Christ’s addition at the cost of John the Witness’ subtraction leads us to our next point.
2) WHO JOHN WAS – THE NOT
John 1:8 & 19-21 (ESV) — 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
“I am not the Christ”:
• John 3:28 (ESV) — 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’
• Acts 13:25 (ESV) — 25 And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’
There seem to be 2 reasons Scripture is so clear in showing that John the Baptist is NOT the Christ:
• Acts 19:2–5 (ESV) — 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
o So 1st, there were disciples of John that continued to hold an incorrect view of John’s meaning.
• And 2nd, as we will examine in point 3, is humility which is essential to be an effective witness.
“I am not” Elijah:
• Malachi 4:5 (ESV) — 5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.
• If John is not the Christ, he must be Elijah who will herald the Christ.
• After all John, like Elijah, wears camel hair and a leather belt – Mark 1:6 and 2 Kings 1:8.
• But John said he wasn’t!
POI – This is interesting because of the following:
• Matthew 17:10–13 (ESV) — 10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
• Matthew 11:14 (ESV) — 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.
So John says he is not, and Jesus says he is – we learn 2 things from this apparent contradiction.
• The first concerning the Bible and second concerning John the Baptist.
First, understanding the depth of the Bible’s truth involves an effort in research and study.
• Luke 1:17 (ESV) — 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
• So what Jesus meant is not that Elijah came back in the flesh but John acted in the way of Elijah…as a prophet calling people to the Lord.
• Given this, John and Jesus were both right.
So a thorough reading of all of the Bible’s revelation on John the Baptist is needed to reconcile this contradiction.
• I think God revealed much of His truth in this fashion on purpose (that is, spread out in different verses, chapters and books); it is how we find the meat of our faith as contrasted with the milk.
Second, we are again confronted with the humility of John:
• In the words of D.A. Carson, “John did not detect as much significance in his own ministry as Jesus did”.
• And in the words of the International Commentary on the N.T., “No man is what he himself thinks he is. He is only what Jesus knows him to be.”
“No” I am not the prophet (Moses):
• Deuteronomy 18:15–18 (ESV) — 15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.
• So if not the Christ and not Elijah how about the prophet Moses spoke of.
• John stated that he was not “a prophet like” Moses.
Again, in our effort to eat meat we learn the following of the “prophet like” Moses:
Peter and Stephen said of Jesus –
• Acts 3:22–23 (ESV) — 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’
• Acts 7:37 (ESV) — 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’
• Jesus is the prophet Moses spoke of.
3) THE HUMILITY OF THE NOT’S WITNESS
John 1:24-28 (ESV) — 24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
John’s humility is humbling:
• Here we see that John tells us that He considers himself unworthy to handle the sandals of Jesus Christ.
o There isn’t much about a person less clean than his sandals.
o And we must remember what the dirt and dust represented to the Jew – death and impurity.
o Yet John said he was not even worthy to handle these.
• We have seen already that John did not embrace the notion that he was somehow Elijah.
• Jesus also said of John, Matthew 11:11 (ESV) — 11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
• And yet John states over and over he is “not this person” or “not that person” and that he is “not worthy”, etc.
The humility of John’s witness is, as John Piper says, “the great not of our witness to Christ.”
• I am not the light (verse 8)
• I am not the Christ (verse 20)
• I am not Elijah (verse 21)
• I am not the prophet (verse 21)
• I am not worthy to untie his sandals (verse 27)
This humility is striking behavior, especially when we consider even more of John’s uniqueness:
• John was the first prophet to speak to Israel in almost 400 years.
• And he had the privilege of ushering in the promised Messiah!
Yet, John the Baptist was not done with the humility of his “great nots”:
• John 3:28–30 (ESV) — 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”
John’s humility is as striking as Paul’s:
• Ephesians 3:8 (ESV) — 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
• 1 Corinthians 15:9 (ESV) — 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
• 2 Corinthians 4:5 (ESV) — 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
The lesson for us:
• We must be his witnesses. It is a great necessity. Faith comes by hearing a witness. But we must not make much of ourselves. Beware of the witness that needs attention for himself. Beware of the preacher who constantly angles to put himself in a good light and returns again and again to his ministry and his achievements. Beware of the preacher’s subtle preoccupation with himself even when he speaks of his own flaws. Beware of your own bent to love the praise of men – John Piper.
• We must decrease; he must increase. We must make much of him; we must not make much of ourselves – John Piper.
How do we make much of Him in our witness?
• Share Christ – we are to witness with words
• Serve Christ – our witness will cost us – we must decrease (John 1:36-37 – one of a myriad of examples).
• Search Christ – these things and more are learned by diving in and studying Scripture
What is making much of ourselves?
• To not SHARE
• To not SERVE
• To not SEARCH
• Shirking our Sharing, Serving and Searching is making much of ourselves.
o Why do I say this?