The Rise and Ministry of John the Baptist

February 3, 2019


February 3, 2019

Mike Rose
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Galatians 4:4-5 remind us of an important  Truth Point:

God is sovereign over time and space. He knows the beginning to the end and is in no hurry to see His plans accomplished.

God’s plans were established before the foundation of the world and have a time-frame in which to be accomplished. He’s at work to see His plan carried out in the time frame He established.

What does that have to do with Luke 3?   EVERYTHING!

If John’s life story were a documentary, we would have long since changed the channel saying this is just too slow, nothing exciting here. With a 30 year gap between his birth and the start of his ministry, we would likely say… why is this taking so long?

The point I make is that God has a perfect program. Despite the swirling winds of chaos about us, He has everything perfectly under control.

Scripture Reading Luke 3:1-20

Chronological Context – VS1-2

Chapter 3 begins with 7 historically verifiable personalities to pinpoint the timeframe of the events recorded. 5 are Gentile leaders of the Roman Empire and 2 are leaders of Judaism.

This testifies that John was a real historical person and that God’s story is NOT a “once upon a time” fairy-tale, but one of real times, real places and real people.

“…God’s Word came to John, son of Zechariah in the wilderness.”

NOT saying John received The Word of God, as in Scripture to record… this “Word of God” was a calling. The Spirit moving upon John to step out of seclusion and begin his ministry.

Pivot Point of The Gospel – VS3-6

John began to travel and proclaimed a distinctive message… “The baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

Definition of Terms:

Baptism = baptizo = to immerse, completely cover.

Repent = metanoia = to turn from something to something.

Before Christ, the Jews had a baptism that communicated the same message, only it was targeted at Gentiles. If a Gentile wanted to become part of the covenant people of God, they would undergo a “baptism” that symbolized turning away from all that was non-Jewish to fully embrace all that is Jewish.

The interesting thing about John’s message was, it was primarily being proclaimed to Jews. Since Jews already embraced Judaism, what was it they there were to reject and then embrace?        Self-righteous works.

From the start God’s plan was to cover His people with His own righteousness on the basis of FAITH.  A point clearly articulated by The Apostle Paul.

In Romans 3:3, Paul cites Genesis 15:6 which tells us that Abraham was justified by his FAITH in God, not the works he performed.

So John’s message was for people to TURN from the sin of self-justification, (human works to earn God’s favor) to FAITH in the righteousness of God which would ultimately come through The Messiah.

Thousands were drawn to the wilderness to hear John and when the invitation was given to respond, water baptism was the symbol of their turning.

TRUTH POINT: Being dunked in water did NOT change people’s standing before God. It was the symbol NOT the means, of one’s trusting in the righteousness of God and His Messiah to save them.

It remains the same today. Water baptism does NOT SAVE us from our sins, but is our FAITH BASED OBEDIENT TESTAMONY that we have repented of sin and embraced Jesus as Savior and Lord.

FAITH BASED REPENTENCE remains the PIVIOT POINT that moves one from the curse of condemnation to the freedom of God’s loving acceptance.

Suspect Professions – VS7-9

As we can see in VS7-9, not everyone came to the wilderness to repent and some who were baptized only offered superficial repentance.  

John issued an uncompromising warning to these people…

To those who did not see a need to repent because they were of the bloodline of Abrahamm, John warns them that heritage has  no part in right standing with God.

To those whose profession may have been superficial comes the warning that profession itself is not the deal, where true profession exists, transformation follows. James 2:14-18

Truth Point: Good works will NEVER generate saving faith, but saving faith will ALWAYS generate good works. Ephesians 2:10

John made it clear that God’s expectation was that true repentance would result in a transforming life. If there was no transformation one should expect judgement not grace. VS9

Call To Gospel Transformation – VS10-14

As John preached repentance, many came asking what they should do?  

The question wasn’t: what should we do to be saved from God’s wrath… BUT …how should I be living in the face of my repentance?

The everyday man = don’t worship possessions. Be open and free with the resources God has entrusted to your care.

The Tax Collector =  don’t take more than the government requires to pad your pockets. Giving rather than stealing reflects the righteousness of the kingdom of God.

The Soldier = don’t use your might to extort, lie and take what you covet. Instead be grateful for what you earn and use your position to help, not hurt.  


Wrap Up

John’s task was to prepare the people for The Messiah and to introduce The Messiah to the people In this passage we see John preparing the people. Since The Messiah’s message would be one of repentance in light of the arrival of The Kingdom of God, John began laying the foundation by challenging the people’s comfort in the status quo, calling them to the walk of faith The Messiah would require.