DCLM Search The Scripture 5 June 2022 | Lesson 22

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DCLM Search The Scripture 5 June 2022

Adult DCLM Search the Scripture 5 June 2022 | Christ’s Testimony of John the Baptist

Deeper Life Search the Scripture 5 June 2022

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DCLM Search The Scripture 5 June 2022 | Lesson 22

ADULT STS LESSON 22 – CHRIST’S TESTIMONY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

MEMORY VERSE: “Verily 1 say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matt 11.11).

TEXTS: Matt 11:1-30; Luke 7:18-35

DCLM Search The Scripture 5 June 2022 | Lesson 22 | MESSAGE

The life and ministry of John the Baptist remain a challenge to every believer. From the circumstances of his birth to his ministerial life at a time when Israel was bereft of sound teaching of God’s word, to his martyrdom, John the Baptist presents rich lessons.

Christ’s testimony concerning him reminds us that the quality of our spiritual life, the dedication we bring to bear on our services and ministries as well as our motives are all known and noted by God. “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb 4:13).

To testify about John the Baptist, Christ asked three rhetorical questions in our text. First, He confirmed John’s steadfastness in ministry as “The voice of one crying in the wilderness”, with the question, “what went ye out to the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” (Matt 11:7b)

Next, Christ points to John’s simplicity of lifestyle and ruggedness of personality: “But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses” (Matt 11:8). Finally, Christ enunciates John’s position in the echelon of God’s prophets: “But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet” (Matt 11:9).

Christ’s rating of John as more than a prophet was predicated on the fact that, whereas other prophets predicted the advent of the Messiah, John actually saw and announced the actual arrival of “he that is to come” (John 1:29-36). In other words, Christ’s topnotch rating of John: “Among them that are born of women” lay in the fact that it was John that began to preach the dawn of the kingdom of God and the need for repentance and remission of sin for the penitent. DCLM Search The Scripture 5 June 2022 | Lesson 22

1. IMPERATIVE OF EVANGELISM AND THE IDENTITY OF CHRIST
Matt 11:1-6; Luke 7:18-23; Mark 3:14; Matt 4:19; 10:1-8; Mark 16:15; Gen 3:15; Deut 18:18; Luke 24:26; 1 Pet 4:12

“And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and preach in the cities” (Matt 11:1). The preaching of the gospel of repentance and salvation was always the topmost priority in Christ’s earthly ministry.

Having commissioned the twelve in the preceding chapter and given them both guidelines and specific terms of reference, He moved over to other cities also to preach. It was for the purpose of being instrumental to the divine purpose of reaching all men with the gospel message that Christ chose the twelve apostles. “And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach” (Mark 3:14).

Christ described the preaching to save souls as fishing for men when He said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt 4:19). By His allusion to fishing, Christ intended His disciples, past and present, to deliberately lead their fellow men to a penitent consciousness that they have walked astray from God’s will and purpose. They (Christ’s disciples) were to reveal the horrifying and eternal doom that await all who die in their sinful state.

The disciples themselves, having first repented, appropriated God’s gift of salvation and understudied Christ the Teacher come from God were here given the opportunity to preach to others. After His resurrection, just before He returned to heaven Christ commissioned every true believer to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel unto every creature” (Mark 1 6: 15).

From Christ’s personal example, purpose in calling, training and deploying His early disciples, and His most solemn valedictory commission to all believers, it becomes very clear that believers who neglect or downplay the imperative of obedience to Christ’s commission to preach the gospel to sinners do not please God. “Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matt 11:2,3).

The question posed by John was one that carried the weight and importance of eternal consequences so far as it has to do with the identity of the Messiah. The knowledge of Christ’s identity is too important to be neglected by any man. The Jews had long expected His coming.

God Himself first spoke of the coming of the Messiah (Genesis 3:15) and later by Moses (Deuteronomy 18: 18), and was confirmed by the prophets in Scripture. Because of their lack of understanding and neglect of the Scripture, the Jews could not reconcile their wrong expectations concerning the Messiah with Christ’s humiliation, humility, lack of pomp and finally crucifixion. They expected, contrary to the Scripture, that the Messiah would manifest great external pomp and physical power. Even the disciples of Christ also manifested the same misconception about the manner and nature of His ministry at His first coming. DCLM Search The Scripture 5 June 2022 | Lesson 22

However, the Old Testament Scripture “…testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” (1 Pet 1:11). Christ Himself rebuked His disciples, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25,26).

John the Baptist’s question and Christ’s comment on it seem to show that John, in his prison experience, thought that Christ did not meet his interest and expectation. He therefore, sent to receive a reassurance. John’s question throws up the importance of being conversant with what we may expect on this pilgrimage as children of God. If our expectations are informed by the truth of God’s word, we may not feel disappointed or “…think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try [us], as though some strange thing happened unto [us]” (1 Pet 4:12).

The Baptist’s question concerning Christ showcases the need for believers to have their minds and spirits constantly renewed by the word, to keep a lively faith always. In response to his question, Christ sent back to John using the most reliable confirmation of His identity as the Messiah namely: the verifiable fulfilment of scriptural prophecies concerning Himself. “Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Luke 7:22,23).

John the Baptist knew that since the testimony of Christ’s activities and ministry were according to specific prophecies in Scripture, that He was the long-expected Messiah (Isaiah 8:20).

2. INSPIRING TESTIMONY BY CHRIST CONCERNING JOHN
Matt 1 1:7-15; Luke 7:24-29; John 1:36; Luke 16: 16; 2 Cor 3:7-11; Matt 14:3-10

As soon as John’s disciples departed to take the words of Christ to him, Christ turned to the crowd and poured praise and encomium on the Baptist. “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist…” (Matt 11:11). Christ, by speaking so glowingly of John only after John’s disciples had departed teaches us to avoid the common tendency of men, who in order to curry favour would flatter their fellow men always to their hearing.

While He praised John, Christ did not want those praises to be reported to John. Men are sometimes derailed by hearing their own praises. We may praise to encourage, but avoid situations and circumstances where such praises are likely to stir up vain glory and pride.

On our part, we must not be so solicitous of the praise of men as to displease God or allow such praises to becloud our sense of fairness. Also, we should not see the praise of men as certificate of perfection, thereby, excluding self-examination and selfrecrimination. Christ’s rhetorical question, “What went ye out into the wilderness to see…?” was meant to deliver compliment to John’s ministry, which at the present time was ebbing. DCLM Search The Scripture 5 June 2022 | Lesson 22

People flocked to hear John because his messages were fearless and embodied a godly conscience. As a true servant of God, John did not seek to please men (Gal 1:10). The tractive force of truth drove men in their droves to him, even in the wilderness. Christ asserted that John was more than a prophet. He rated him highest “Among them that are born of women” (Matthew 11:11).

However, Jesus statement that “…he that is the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” shows that Christ’s rating of John was not based on his personal character of eloquence or power of persuasion. It was based on his positional privilege as the prophesied forerunner of the Saviour.

Among the prophets, John was the only one who saw the Messiah and “looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:36). John’s greatness was therefore, rooted in the proximity and incidence of his ministry to the manifestation of the Saviour that was promised from the foundation of the world. We should learn from this that our true greatness resides in our relation to Christ.

The more intimate our fellowship with Him, the greater our position in the sight of God. John’s resolute preaching not only attracted large followers of sincere seekers but also won Christ s commendation because he stayed true to the call Of God. He was not like a reed pandering to popular applause. He would not be swayed even by the rage of Herod (Matt 14:3-29).

The more Christ-centered our preaching and the more Christlike our conduct, the more will be our true greatness in God’s reckoning. Christ testified to the exemplary life of John the Baptist for us to emulate. He had a relationship with God, godly parentage and heritage, was filled with the Spirit of God right from his mother’s womb and he accepted God’s ownership of his life (Luke 13-15,59-66,80). He was consistent in his walk with God. His ministry in the wilderness of Judea revealed his consecration and abstinence from worldly engagements (Luke 1:80).

He was humble and expressed this when religious leaders thought he should be concerned about Christ’s growing ministry. He said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). He was a fiery, fearless and fruitful preacher of the Word (Matthew 3:1,2,5,6; Luke 3:3,7-9). “He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light” (John 5:35).

He was so Christlike in life and ministry that “…the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not” (Luke 3:15). However, the Lord also placed some limitations on His high commendation of John the Baptist; “but he that is the least in the kingdom is greater than he.” This implies that though John was great and good, he came short of the perfection of the least of triumphant saints, “the spirits of just men [already] made perfect” whose places in heaven are already eternally secured.

Nothing, not even the great honour of announcing the arrival of the kingdom of heaven or teaching men how to press into it, can compare with our actual presence and participation in that eternal Kingdom.

“And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the Violent taketh it by force.” The violence the Lord refers to here is a holy violence. He was alluding to a great influx of people into the kingdom of God which had its emergence in John’s ministry, when he preached the imminence of the kingdom of God and called men to repentance. DCLM Search The Scripture 5 June 2022 | Lesson 22

Christ likened the large number of people pressing into the Kingdom to an army storming with violence into the city. The number and the vibrancy of the people’s faith were not comparable to what obtained under the law and the prophets. “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it” (Luke 16:16).

John served the Lord till the point of death. His courageous rebuke of King Herod, who had snatched his brother’s wife, is worthy of emulation. The heroic martyrdom of John the Baptist heralded his triumph and victory over sin, self, society and Satan, as the Scripture affirms, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor 15:55).

3. INESCAPABLE REPROACH AND WARNING AGAINST UNBELIEF
Matt 11:16-30; Luke 7:30-35; Matt 1:21; Jude 7; John 3:36

Christ did not only commend John’s ministry for the large harvest it yielded, and the foundation it laid to the full emergence of the gospel of salvation, He also berated those who would not allow themselves to benefit from the gospel because of unbelief. Those who did not embrace John as the forerunner of Christ would not be ready to own Christ as the promised Saviour.

Christ denounced the people’s unwillingness to be affected by any of the different appeals through which divine love sought to reach them. Christ illustrates the intransigence of men by a parable of children in their play, who would respond neither to the joy of piping nor the sombre call of mourning. Christ’s parables set forth the different approaches to the same end, represented by Christ’s and John’s ministries. John’s austere and secluded lifestyle fitted the message he preached but, it did not move them to repentance.

On the other hand, Christ came eating and drinking, relating familiarly with all sorts of people, devoid Of John’s austere and strict lifestyle; yet, His approach would not bring them to the faith of the gospel. One would have thought that those who were put off by John’s reserved lifestyle would be endeared to Christ’s inclusive friendliness and sociability.

The Scribes and the Pharisees refused to accept either the forerunner or Christ. They accused the Baptist of being demon-possessed and Christ of gluttony and drunkenness. However, Christ’s claims and divine approval were verifiable in the unprecedented miracles He performed, the perfection of His life and the transformation His doctrine made in the lives of those who believed: “…wisdom is justified of her children” indeed.

Though many in today’s world refuse to acknowledge Christ as the Saviour sent by God to “save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21), the holy lives of true believers provide eloquent testimony of the truth and the power of the grace of salvation in Christ. In the days of Christ’s earthly ministry, no city had more privilege of hearing His teachings than the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. Notwithstanding, they stubbornly clove to their sinful ways in unbelief.

The Lord warned that those cities that rejected Him would, on the judgment day, receive worse punishment than Tyre and Sidon or Sodom and Gomorrah, cities which were “set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7). Unbelief or the refusal to submit to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour will give men over to the torment of eternal burnings (John 3:36).

To escape God’s judgment, everyone must heed Christ’s call to “Come unto me”, repent of sin, receive Him as Saviour and thereafter, continue to learn from Him on how to please God and live with Him in heaven forever.

DCLM Search The Scripture 5 June 2022 | Lesson 22

QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW:
1. State the attributes Christ commended in John the Baptist’s life.
2. Explain why believers’ love and obedience to Christ and their knowledge of the eternal fate of sinners should compel them to win souls.
3. How can we dispel doubts and uncertainties on important truths and prevent errors and misunderstanding arising from our earthly?

  1. What can believers learn from the all-surpassing greatness which John’s ministerial relation to Christ confers on him?
  2. Based on Christ’s rating of the least in the kingdom of heaven above the greatest of men, what should be the attitude of sinners and believers to the gospel?
  3. How can a sinner escape the everlasting torments of hell?
  4. Why was John a bright and shining light?

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