Purpose of the Baptizer

Published on December 9th, 2020

“He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.”(John 1:7)                                                                        

John the Baptist was God’s greatest and last Old Testament prophet.  The Christ (Messiah) was THE topic of the prophets before John, as attested by the highly regarded Jewish writing called the Talmud.  This commentary on Scripture and Jewish belief stated, “All the prophets prophesied not but of the days of the Messiah” (Sanh. 99a).  Now here stands John the Baptist (JB as opposed to John the Apostle) in the midst of those very days of the Messiah.  So JB, like his Jewish prophetic predecessors, was sent by God to prophecy of the days of the Messiah (Christ); but even more, JB was sent to introduce the Christ.

The Gospel-writers John and Mark briefly introduce Jesus in their opening verses, but then their writings appropriately turn to JB, the official introducer of the Christ.  Jesus is the Light, and the Apostle John says of JB, He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light (1:7).  By divine mandate JB directed people to Jesus as the light of the world.  JB officially pulled back the curtain, and the light of Christ shone upon mankind. It was only because JB had had been authorized to pull back the curtain that anyone could believe in Jesus, for as John would explain, …all might believe [in Jesus] through him [JB].

JB understood that he was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that foretold a voice crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord (v 23).  Isaiah was here not only predicting the days of the Messiah, but he was also predicting a voice in the wilderness which would introduce the Messiah. That voice of preparation and introduction for the Christ is none other than the voice of JB. 

The very purpose of JB’s God-ordained baptism was to manifest the Messiah.  He explains,…in order that He [Christ]  might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water (1:31; see also Acts 19:4).  JB thus fulfilled his God-given responsibility by introducing the Christ, but the introduction involved more than his baptism.  To prepare people for Christ’s introduction, JB preached repentance.  This preparation was necessary because only repentant hearts would be ready to hear the introduction of the Christ. 

Unto penitents JB then planted the gospel-seed which identified the person and work of the Christ.  Of Christ’s person JB announced not only his unworthiness to untie the sandal of the Christ, but this Christ is greater than JB because—even though JB was six months older than Jesus—Christ existed before him (v 15).  The Christ is pre-existent; through Him the world was created (vv 3,10).  To further set forth this divine nature of Jesus, JB had a foundational testimony:  I have borne witness that this is the Son of God (v 34).  To be by nature the Son of God meant that the Christ was equal with the Father, thus truly having power to save.

JB finally identifies the work of Jesus by calling Him the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (vv  29,36).  Penitents could thus “see” the cross of Jesus. Andrew—a devout Jew who heard this proclamation—not only understood that this meant Jesus would be the sacrifice for sin, but this meant Jesus is the Christ.  This is a key for penitents: the sin-bearer has come. It is because of this sin-bearing Lamb that JB’s baptism could offer forgiveness of sins.  Now Andrew and the other disciple with him broke from following JB and began to follow Jesus; and Andrew—recognizing that JB had identified Jesus as the Christ—then shared this with his brother Simon: we have found the Messiah (v 41).

Thank God then for John the Baptist, for through him penitents come to see the light, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the sacrifice who removes the sins of the world.