There is much confusion surrounding the ministry of John the Baptist. This is not to say that we shouldn't live a lifestyle of turning away from sin, but our goal should not be to model our ministries after old covenant prophets. Our goal should always be to bring out the victory we have received because of the cross. That being said, John wasn't a baptist nor was Jesus a Pentecostal. Let's take a look at the holy scriptures and learn about the importance of this great prophet and his ministry.
Who was John? According to scripture, John was the son of Zechariah. The angel said, "Fear not, Zechariah; for thy prayer is heard and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John" (Luke1:13). The angel then told Zechariah about John's ministry: "And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17). Before Christ came, John was sent to prepare the way. He was a prophet with a timely message for his generation.
Malachi prophesied about John the Baptist: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers" (Malachi 4:6). John was the fulfillment of this prophecy. He was to be a voice in the wilderness, preparing the way for Christ to come. It would be accurate to say that his message was for that specific time and season. "As it is written in the Prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight" (Malachi 1:1-3).
Jesus recognized John as the messenger, the voice sent before Him. "And His disciples asked Him, saying, why then say the scribes that Elijah must come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elijah truly shall come and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elijah is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed (wanted). Likewise shall the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that He spake unto them of John the Baptist" (Matthew17:11-13).
Jesus recognized John as the fulfillment of this prophecy spoken by Malachi. When John saw Jesus, he said, "Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world" (John 1:29). John saw Jesus and instantly knew that he was the messiah. Jesus was the very one that John had prophesied about. Once John discovered Jesus as the messiah, he then said "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). John wasn't talking about himself, or his personal walk with God. I have often heard this scripture taken out of context. John was talking about his ministry; John's followers were now to follow Christ. John's ministry was to decrease more and more, as Jesus' ministry was to increase.
Even though John was a prophet in the New Testament, he was not under the new covenant, because the new covenant had not yet been established. The New Testament does not necessarily mean "new covenant." There was a transitioning happening from the old to the new. John is not a prophet that we should model after, nor is his ministry continuing today. He was a prophet of the old covenant, with the unique purpose of preaching repentance, to prepare the way for the messiah. Now, the transition has already taking place, through the cross and blood of Christ, from old to new. John was, however, a voice, helping to prepare the way for Christ to come and establish a better covenant.
Listen to what Jesus spoke about John. "Verily I say unto you, amount them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist; notwithstanding he that is lest in the kingdom is greater than he" (Matthew 11:11). Jesus spoke this about John as John was in prison awaiting his execution. Its clear to see that Jesus had great respect for John, and much compassion for him. He was giving honor to John for his ministry and sacrifice. Jesus said that John was a prophet and even more than a prophet (Matthew 11:9). Jesus was saying that John was the greatest born among women. Why? Because he was the greatest of Old Testament Prophets, the only prophet to prophesy about Christ's coming and to live to see the fulfillment of what he prophesied. Yet, The least in the kingdom is greater than John? John did not have Christ within him, and any believer that has Christ abiding in him is greater than John. Why are we greater than John? Because we have a better covenant with better promises (Hebrews 8:6). "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you will receive it, this is Elijah, which was for to come" (Matthew 11:12-14). It is clear for us to see that Jesus was talking about John as the one that would come in the spirit and power of Elijah. It is important for us to know that John was an old covenant prophet. John's ministry has been fulfilled is and is no longer continuing today. Jesus came with a greater baptism than John. We have a greater covenant and a greater glory than Moses and Elijah, and even John! (2 Corinthians 3:7-11). We have entered into a new dispensation! The Bible says that the prophet's prophesied about a great grace that would come, and longed for it to come! (1 Peter 1:11). My friends, we have it so much better on this side of the cross!
In His Love,
Freedom from the Law
"As sure as you are in the law, you are in judgement, and judge everybody. Law is always judgement, and no one is right except those people who are keeping the law.They are full of judgement. But we have passed from death, from judgement, from criticism, from harshness, and from hardness of heart.''
- Smith Wigglesworth -
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty where with Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Galatians 5:1).
If you read what Paul is saying in context, you will find that Paul wasn't talking about sin as bondage, but the law as bondage. That's right; the law is bondage. Now we know that sin is bondage, but so is the law. That's why Jesus made a way for us to be free from both. Why, after we have converted to Christ, do we still feel that we must practice the Law? If you really take the time to study out the book of Galatians, you will find that Paul was combatting a spirit of legalism within the church of Galatia. Those that taught the law taught that it wasn't enough for them to receive Christ by faith. According to Paul, the church was doing well before this happened.
"You did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth" (Galatians 5:7).
What is legalism? It is a mindset that says, I am righteous because of what I have done. It is a false humility that stems from pride and self-righteousness. God will never be pleased with it. It is a spirit that brings a mindset upon people that isn't composed of simple faith. The simplest way to define legalism is this: unbelief. What makes the gospel so amazing is that none of us deserved it and couldn't do enough to earn it, but Jesus gave it to us freely.
"Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (Matthew 16:6).
What is the leaven of the Pharisees? It's unbelief. Jesus was warning his disciples not to be subject to their mindset. The Pharisees saw many of the miracles, signs, and wonders that Jesus performed, but never came to the conclusion that he was the Messiah. They couldn't enter into faith because of their unbelief. This is what polluted the church in Galatia.
What was the purpose of the Law?
Paul said that the Law was good (Romans 7:12). Why is the Law good? The law came to point the way to Christ .
"Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith" ( Galatians 3:24 NASB.)
The Law was given to expose a sinful nature in man, and reveal to man a need for a savior. The Law was entirely based upon man's performance to try to be righteous and holy through works. Yet, man cannot do it. The New Covenant is based upon our faith in what Christ accomplished on our behalf. "...not by works lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:9) By grace, through faith, we receive it.
"Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).
Though it is clear that righteousness can only be received by faith alone, this legalistic mindset that we must work our way into righteousness is still at work in the church today. Somehow we have bought into the lie that we need to mix our salvation with law.
"Christ is the end of the Law" (Romans 10:4).
Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for your sin and mine. All your self-effort and sacrifice to become holy could never measure up to the price that Christ paid. Righteousness is a free gift that we have the privilege of accepting by faith. When we repent and come to Christ, we are made free from the works of the Law, free from it's bondage.
"My righteousness is just as good as Jesus' righteousness, because it is Jesus' righteousness." - E.W. Kenyon
I love this quote by E.W. Kenyon because it is so true; we are partakers of Christ righteousness. This is how the father sees us: justified before him, or just as if we have never sinned. The Bible says that, "He hath made him to be sin for us who knew know sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV).
Isaiah said our righteousness is as filthy rages. Yes, if you are claiming your righteousness based on what you have done, then it's self-righteousness that equals nothing. But we are not claiming our own righteousness, we are claiming Christ's righteousness.
Walking in Righteousness
Am I saying that since we are saved, we should live however we want to live? Absolutely not. Am I saying that the Lord won't ask you to repent of certain things? Absolutely, he will. Yet, the answer isn't following after the law. The answer isn't, let's live however we want, because there is an abundance of grace. The answer is in the cross. Peter said that we are ''partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). The moment that you received Christ, he placed his word on the inside of you, his nature, his power. His nature inside of you empowers you to overcome this world, it empowers you to walk without sin, to resist every temptation. God expects the believer to develop faith in the righteousness that has freely been given, so that you and I can walk in righteousness.
The Ministry of Death and Condemnation
"For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. for even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious" (2 Corinthians 3:9-11KJV).
The Law was a ministry of death and condemnation. Its glory was to be done away with. The New Covenant is a ministry that is more glorious, because it is a ministry of righteousness. It is a ministry of mercy, rather than judgement.
Read this quote below by church father and general, Smith Wigglesworth,
"The Lord has brought in a new covenant, putting his law in our minds and writing it in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33) - this new law of the spirit of life. As the holy spirit comes in, he fills us with love and liberty, and we shout for joy, "Done away! Done away!"
There is a new cry in our hearts: 'I delight to do your will, O my God'" (Psalms 40:8).
"He takes away the first that he may establish the second" (Hebrews 10:9).
In other words, he takes away "the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones" (2 Corinthians 3:7), so that he may establish "the ministry of righteousness." You ask, does a man who is filled with the Spirit cease to keep the commandments? I simply repeat what the Spirit of God has told us here, that this "ministry of death, written and engraved on stones" (and you know that the ten commandments were written in stones) is "done away (with)" (v.11 KJV). However, the man who becomes a living epistle of Christ, written by the Spirit of the living God, has ceased to be an adulterer, or a murder, or a covetous man: the will of God is his delight. I love to do the will of God; there is no irksomeness to it. It is no trial to pray, no trouble to read the Word of God."
- Smith Wigglesworth -
"This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more" (Hebrews 10:17 KJV).
The Old Testament law is not what is written upon the believer's heart. It is a new nature!
"Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered to by us, written not with ink, but the Spirit of the living God; not in tablets of stone, but in fleshly tablets of the heart" (2 Corinthians 3:3 KJV).
Christ is the word of God; he moved inside of you and brought his nature with him.
"Therefore seeing we have received this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Corinthians 4:1 KJV).
Paul is talking here about how we are ministers of the new covenant, not of the old covenant. The old covenant is the "letter that kills." The law was a letter that was impossible to perform; it brought judgement and condemnation. The new covenant is "the spirit that gives life." We are ministers of the new covenant, which is a ministry of the spirit which brings life. I have often heard people say, you cannot have too much word because it kills. No, the word of God imparts life and power to you. The word of God is not a letter that kills! Jesus said, "the words I speak unto you, they are spirit and life" (John 6:63 KJV).
"God want you in a new order. It is "the law of the Spirit" (Romans 8:2). It is a law of life. It is not a law of death and bondage."
- Smith Wigglesworth