The Preaching of John the Baptist Applies Just as Much Today

Reading from the beginning of Luke chapter 3.

Luke 3:1-2: “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, 2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.”

God did not choose the political or religious establishment of the time (to confront mankind with His Word through).  He rather chose a man who was in the wilderness and well removed from both.

Luke 3:3-6: “And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; 6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

There is an obvious metaphorical application to these things.  Note that it says every valley shall be filled and every mountain brought low, the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth.  There cannot be any shortcut to the salvation of God.  Sin must be departed from without compromise.  It cannot be harbored at all.  No one can properly receive Jesus Christ who does not acknowledge their sins before God and wholeheartedly turn from them.

John 1:1-15 says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John (the Apostle John who wrote this is referring to John the Baptist here). 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.  9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. 15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spoke, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.”

Back to Luke chapter 3 then.

Luke 3:7: “Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

With all these alleged, so-called Christian revivals that are happening, imagine if the preacher at one of these, instead of coaxing people up to an altar to profess Jesus and get baptized, or playing music to do the same, what if the preacher actually dissuaded people with everything their power to ensure that they didn’t baptize anyone who was not persuaded that they were an object of God’s wrath who was going to face His wrath, and be sent to the fire of hell, if they did not wholeheartedly put away their sins and do works worthy of repentance?  Can you imagine a preacher insisting that those whom they baptize do works worthy of repentance?  Imagine if Billy Graham had done it this way instead of coaxing people to the front through smooth words and emotional manipulation through music, imagine if Calvary Chapel and all these other groups claiming to be experiencing revival had the mindset of John the Baptist and imitated him instead of using the carnal tactics which they use to persuade people to profess faith in Jesus Christ?  Yeah, that’s hard to imagine.  They are not being faithful to Scripture, and they are greatly misleading people through their man-made techniques and their practically lawless (antinomian) gospel.

John continues in Luke 3:8: “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”

Wait, did John just tell Jewish people that they are not unconditionally in God’s favor because of their Jewish heritage?  Yes, that is essentially what he said.  Oh, John the Baptist, despite being Jewish himself, would be labeled as antisemitic now for saying this.  The common support of modern Israel by those who profess faith in Jesus Christ now is one of many key signs that professing Christians now are out of line with the actual Christian faith.  Anyone who thinks that anyone, Jew or gentile, who does not actually walk in the faith of Abraham and worship Jesus Christ in wholehearted subjection to His Word, would actually partake of God’s covenant mercies, is greatly in error and out of line with the faithful men whom God used in the Bible to speak His Word.

Continuing in Luke 3:9-10: “And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn (chopped) down, and cast into the fire. 10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?”

The people understood that John meant that true repentance must be accompanied by works worthy of repentance.  Their question implied they knew this; and John’s answer implies that he indeed intended to be understood that way.  

Luke 3:11-14: “He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat (food), let him do likewise (our duties to the poor we see in need should take precedence over our own happiness). 12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? 13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you (we need to be honest in all of our dealings, we need to not possess anything by fraud, and we need to be faithful before God in the areas of our lives which He alone can see, though we might be able to hide deceit in these areas from other people). 14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages (do violence to no man is a reference to extortion, not to the defense of others who are threatened by aggressors who ought to be stopped).”

Any power, exalted position, privilege, or influence any may have here should be used to protect and serve others.  Such must not be used for obtaining unlawful gain or for harming those who are one’s enemies on a personal level or oppressing any who stand in one’s way of obtaining further gain and/or power.

Continuing in Luke 3:15-18: “And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; 16 John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: 17 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable. 18 And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.”

The Old Testament passage in Isaiah chapter 40, which foretells John the Baptist coming to prepare the way for Christ, which was quoted from earlier in Luke chapter 3, also says the following of John the Baptist’s preaching.

Isaiah 40:6-8: “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry?  All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: 7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit (wind) of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”

No one is going to get right with God, and walk by faith in righteousness before Him, who does not really recognize the vanity and unprofitableness of the things which the world in general values and pursues.  

1 John 2:15-17 says: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

Those who actually do some logical thinking will know that every moment which we now consider to be ancient history was once here and now, was once today.  And if they logically think a little bit more, they will know for certain that what is here and now, what is today, will eventually be regarded as ancient history.  The accumulation of things, the respect of people, the accomplishments that the world values, the pleasures of life, the momentary fun that people had in the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans doesn’t help anyone from those times now, does it?  The things people gained then at the expense of wholeheartedly seeking the true God and doing right in His eyes aren’t worth it for them now, are they?  Our lives will likewise one day be ancient history.  Yet God’s Word stands forever and that consequences of our responses to that Word will affect us forever (see our previous message on Judgment Day- and verse 17 of Luke 3, which we just looked at, implies a Judgment Day which carries eternal consequences).

Now we will look at a man who didn’t learn his lesson in relation to these most weighty things.

Luke 3:19-20: “But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s wife (God’s Law forbid a man from marrying a woman who had been his brother’s wife, except for in one narrow instance which didn’t apply to Herod) and for all the evils which Herod had done (one sin persisted in will send a person to hell), 20 Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.”

We read in more detail about what happened here in Mark 6:17-29: “For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her. 18 For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife. 19 Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: 20 For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. 21 And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; 22 And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. 23 And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. 24 And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. 25 And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. 26 And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother. 29 And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.”

Despite his earthly power, Herod was ultimately a slave to his lust, a slave to his wife, and a slave to the opinions of others.  He had a desire to really get in line with the Lord, yet he wouldn’t ultimately let go of his sin and choose to suffer for the sake of righteousness.  Like the typical American, and the typical person in many places now, his life was just too big (in his own eyes, that is), to let go of so he could really get right with God and serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords whose salvation was ultimately what he needed.  Don’t follow his example.  Many follow his example now though and still want to be regarded as Christians.  Ultimately though, they serve a false jesus (the Apostles warned about this).  At the very least, their own words about the real Jesus will condemn them.  

If you are thinking like Herod, that your life is too big to surrender to the Lord and wholeheartedly pursue what is right in His eyes rather than whatever you have been pursuing, then be honest about that.  And then receive the medicine of God’s Word related to your condition, as bitter as it is to take it.  You need it; and we all need to be reminded.

James 4:13-14: “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

Matthew 16:24-27: “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”

Aaron’s email is: [email protected]