The Book of John

Thursday: Jesus and John the Baptist


Theme: Witnessing and Believing
In this week’s lessons, we consider how John the Baptist served as a faithful witness to Jesus, and what that means in our witnessing as well.
Scripture: John 1:19-51
Yesterday we looked at the first point concerning John the Baptist’s witness to Jesus. Let’s now look at the second point, which is positive. In the second section of this first chapter, verses 29 through 34, John gives his positive witness, and it’s amazing how comprehensive it is when it was given in only a few verses. John was a preacher and so he undoubtedly elaborated upon this teaching at length, but when he elaborated upon it, it had two main focal points, and they’re here in these verses.
The first is that he says he has seen and testifies that this is the Son of God. That’s the testimony to the person of Jesus Christ, and if you ask what that means, you go back earlier in the chapter and you find John explaining it from the very beginning. This one whom John is identifying is the Word who was with God and was God from the very beginning and who was responsible for making all things. Secondly, John the Baptist says, “He is the Lamb of God.” So if the first term refers to his person, the second term refers to his work. “The Lamb of God,” to any Jewish person, immediately would signify the sacrificial lamb of the Old Testament system. And so it would be a way of saying, here is the one who has come to fulfill all of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the way in which a man or a woman can be saved.
Think about that for a bit. Here you have a verbal witness, and a verbal witness with substance. We have a kind of teaching about evangelism today that puts an emphasis upon what is called pre-evangelism. Pre-evangelism means you have to win a right to be heard, and you have to live in a way that is consistent with what you’re going to say. Of course that is absolutely necessary, but what I want to suggest is that pre–evangelism is not in itself evangelism. It is exactly what it describes itself as being. It’s what comes before evangelism. Real evangelism is witnessing verbally to Jesus Christ, which is what John the Baptist does.
As long as you’re concerned about yourself and focused on yourself, even if that only means that you’re focused upon your own needs or experiences, you’re never going to be worth much as a witness. If you realize that you’re not the answer to human problems, that you have no wisdom to help them get through life, but that Jesus Christ is the Savior, the one they need, then you can be a witness. And what you need to do is learn as much as possible about him.
John the Baptist certainly had. If you had been there when he said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” and had asked John to explain what he means, he would undoubtedly have gone back to the Old Testament and shown that this was the theme of the Old Testament, the very heart of the Old Testament anticipation. If you had asked every single one of the Old Testament characters about their faith, they would have answered that it is in the provision that God has made for the taking away of sins. It’s the sacrifice made on the behalf of the one who is guilty. The lambs signify that, but they point forward to the One who is to come. They didn’t know his name in those days, but they did know that that is what God had promised.
John the Baptist would have said, as Jesus himself undoubtedly also did in his teachings to the disciples, “Look the One who would come is going to be the Messiah, the very Son of God, and because he is the Son of God, can give himself for others. This is who Jesus is. Not others. Nobody else is the Son of God. He is the unique Son of God, the only begotten Son, and he is the only Lamb of God. Nobody else is able to take away sin. That’s what John the Baptist testified.
Now the third section of this deals with the results. If you go back to those verses that provide the outline, you’ll find that he came as a witness to testify concerning the light so that all men through him might believe. There’s a very interesting construction in the Greek language there. It uses the word hina, which always introduces a relative clause, and Greek can string them together. This means that you have an immediate object followed by an ultimate object. John the Baptist came, and the reason he came was to bear witness to the light. That’s the immediate object. But the distant object of his bearing witness to the light is that so all men and women might believe. That’s what a proper witness does. He does not draw attention to himself, but instead points to Jesus Christ, with the result that people believe and follow him.
The first people to believe were his own disciples. Andrew is mentioned, along with an unnamed disciple, whom most people think is John, the author of this Gospel. Andrew, we are told, then calls Peter, his brother. Then we find Jesus with these disciples going off to Galilee, finding Philip, who himself goes on and finds somebody that he can tell about Jesus, whose name was Nathaniel.
The interesting thing is that in each case their witness was like the witness of John the Baptist. What you have here is an unfolding of witnesses, one after the other, each one picking up the idea from the one who went before. John the Baptist didn’t call attention to himself; he pointed to Jesus. Therefore, the disciples, who have learned from John the Baptist, don’t call attention to themselves, but point to Jesus, too. Andrew goes and finds his brother, telling Peter, “We found the Messiah.” Philip did the same thing. Philip went to his friend Nathaniel and said, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and about whom the prophets also wrote.
Now if you ask how they really got to that point, only part of the answer is that they got an example from John the Baptist. The other part of the answer, and undoubtedly the most important part, is that they had spent a lot of time with Jesus. You see, there’s a little time reference there. John likes to give these from time to time. You find in verse 39 that there is one of these, when Andrew and this unnamed disciple were following Jesus. As they began to follow Jesus, he asked them what they wanted. In response, they asked Jesus where he was staying, which was a way of telling him they wanted to spend some time with Jesus. He told them to come and see.
At this point you get the time reference. They saw where he was staying and they spent that day with him. It mentions it was about the tenth hour, or four o’clock in the afternoon. You find later on that it’s the next day, which means they stayed with him overnight, undoubtedly talking about spiritual things. Something about Jesus and Jesus’ teaching so enthralled them and inflamed their hearts, that it was just impossible for them to keep quiet about it. As a result, the next day, as soon as they could, Andrew goes off to find his brother, and Philip goes off and finds Nathaniel.
Study Questions:

Explain what the term “Lamb of God” would mean to those hearing it.
What is pre-evangelism and how does it differ from actual evangelism?

Application: Ask the Lord for opportunities in which you can verbally witness to Jesus Christ.

Study Questions
Tagged under
More Resources from James Montgomery Boice

Subscribe to the Think & Act Biblically Devotional

Alliance of Confessional Evangelicals

About the Alliance

The Alliance is a coalition of believers who hold to the historic creeds and confessions of the Reformed faith and proclaim biblical doctrine in order to foster a Reformed awakening in today’s Church.

Follow Us

Canadian Donors

Canadian Committee of The Bible Study Hour
PO Box 24087, RPO Josephine
North Bay, ON, P1B 0C7