Lesson 56

John the Forerunner

"It is of him [John] that the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
‘A voice crying aloud in the wilderness, "Prepare a way
for the Lord, clear a straight path for him."’

Matthew 3:3 (New English Bible)

Lovely young Mary had her baby, Jesus, the most wonderful baby in all the world. Six months previously her cousin Elizabeth also had a child, John, and he too was used of the LORD. He became known as John the Baptist.

The overruling providences of God brought about the birth of John. Luke 1:5-25 will tell you all about it. He was the one who would point out to the people that the Messiah was near.

Luke 1:80 tells us that the child (John) grew and became strong in spirit. He had lived a very simple life in the desert, but a life that would help him in his work of ministering to the nation of Israel. Desert life would call for much courage and strength of character.

John was the last of the prophets of the Jewish Age. Jesus began a new age, the Gospel Age, which would see the development of the church class.

John believed God’s promise that he would send someone to deliver Israel. He realized that the Messiah would come and sinners would not be able to receive his blessings. So John preached to the people, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." And when some did repent (were sorry for their sins against the Law) John baptized them. It was as though their sins were washed away.

John’s baptism was not intended for Gentiles for they were not under the Law of Moses and therefore could not sin against it.

John’s baptism was not for faithful Jews (those who were striving to follow the Law), but for those Jews who cared nothing for the Law and constantly sinned against it.

John’s baptism is not for Christians. Their baptism is for a very different purpose, and not to wash away their sins against the Law. Instead it shows a new life devoted to God.

When the nation of Israel left Egypt to follow Moses, it was a picture of baptism in the Gospel Age. The Israelites agreed to do God’s will and follow Moses when they marched after him into the sea (which separated so they could pass over). Just so, Christians agree to do God’s will and follow Jesus, leaving worldly pleasures, when they are baptized.

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