As future evangelists in the church of Christ, we have seen the job postings for vacancies to be filled in local congregations. These job descriptions tell us if we either qualify for the job or even desire to pursue and attempt to achieve that position. Most are familiar with the protocol of securing a future career. But what if your job description was; “To turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). Would you apply for the job? And if you continued to read the elders’ requirements and you came to this section of qualifications; “…Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His Paths Straight” (Luke 3:4b). Would you still be interested in the work? Would you close out the file and seek another job opening or continue to read? If you continue to read, you see the hard work ahead of you; “Every ravine will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be brought low; the crooked will become straight, and the rough roads smooth” (Luke 3:5). You would be able to tell this congregation would want more than the “run of the mill” pulpit preacher. This eldership is looking for a hardworking man who is not scared to jump into the trenches of life and help people see the cross of Jesus Christ. You may become hesitant to continue to read, but if you did, you would read their purpose statement for such an evangelist; “And all flesh will see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:6).
These Bible verses that I used were the job description of a man during Jesus Christ’s lifetime. A man, like you and I, made of flesh and blood, but a most humble man, recognized and honored by Jesus Christ, “there is no one greater than John” (Luke 7:28b).
John the Baptist is a man who we should look towards in our ministry today for not only inspiration but for an applicable purpose statement in our reason to show “the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6). As Christians, we imitate Christ and listen to Him (Luke 9:35), but we can also look to others in Scripture who lived their lives faithfully till the end, one such as John the Baptizer.
As we consider the life of this humble servant of God that prepared the way for God’s Anointed One, let us consider how we will allow John’s simple life to move us to preach repentance and show this world the Christ, our only hope and salvation. Humble? Yes, yet popular. Down-to-earth yet wise and strangely prevalently heard from the simplest mind to government steps of Rome. The voice that called all these vastly diverse men called them from the wilderness. What was it about John the Baptizer that attracted men to hear his message? Why would Roman soldiers, tax collectors, and religious leaders come to listen to a man dressed in camel hair in the wilderness? As we study the Word of God, we realize the power of preaching repentance. Repentance that comes from the Message of God with nothing added or taken away. The power rests in God’s word, not ours. Consider the prophet Jonah because he preached repentance, and 120,000 people fasted, prayed, and repented of their sinful life. Salvation came to them, not because of any fancy-dressed man with a long oration between right and wrong. Consider Paul’s thesis statement in Romans 1:16, “The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power to save.”
John preached repentance, a simple message that pointed the listener back to God. John’s message exposed the bad news, their transgression; then he showed them the good news; forgiveness of their sins. Consider John’s audience’s reaction in Luke 3:10 and the apostle’s audience’s reaction in Acts 2:37. Both groups ask, “What shall we do?” They came to this conclusion because the message of God was preached to them.
Consider how seriously John took his job; read Luke 3:18, “So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people.” The idea conveyed here is John preached and then continued to preach. Unlike Jonah, the prophet who preached the message of God and, as far as we know, never preached again. John’s job of “turning the hearts of the fathers back to their children” is a task that can only happen with continual preaching. This is why we read similar words as the apostles of Christ preach repentance that led to being baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins in Acts 2:40, “…he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”
John was a chosen vessel, but he had parents that helped mold him into the role he would fulfill. Luke chapter one verse six indicates that John’s parents, Zacharias and Elizabeth were both, “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of God.” These parents would mold and guide their son into the man he would become. When the angel of the Lord visits Zacharias in the temple and shares with him the good news regarding his son, Zacharias is astonished to the point of disbelief. His being mute till the day of his birth is not only a consequence of doubt but confirming to him and others that God had spoken to him (Acts 1:21,22). No wonder when he is born and Zacharias’ tongue is loosed, his first words glorify God (Acts 1:64). As he comes to the end of his honoring God, he speaks to his baby son and gives us a glimpse into his understanding of the purpose of his son’s life. We read, “And you child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins” (Acts 1:76,77).
Today as evangelists, we are to do the same. But we must have an Acts 20:20 attitude and preach the message of salvation both “publicly and house to house.” John’s parents had a vital role to see thoroughly till its end. To prepare the man, who would prepare the way of the Expected One (Matthew 11:3a). Luke chapter one ends with us learning that John continued to grow and to become strong in spirit. We see that Jesus’ parents did the same thing for Him in Luke 2:22,39,42,51,52. John’s parents prepared him to be the voice that the prophet Isaiah spoke of some eight hundred years prior (Isaiah 40:3- 5). John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John’s parents did an excellent job in raising their son.
John knew who he was, and he knew what he had to do. This preaching of the gospel would turn men’s hearts but not all of them. One of these men, Herod, and his unlawful wife, Herodias, did not appreciate sermons of repentance and had John locked up. Eventually, Herodias would use her husband’s perverted pleasures to secure John’s death (Matthew 14:1-12).
John should be for every gospel preacher an inspiration of faith. He reached into the people’s lives, and he preached salvation of God. Today those of us who preach the gospel need to follow suit and show the salvation of God by preparing the way of the Lord into their lives as well. Today we do this with Bible study that they may know the truth that will set them free (John 8:31-36).
In conclusion, John pointed people to the Lamb of God (John 1:29), and today you and I should do the same. We are to remain humble, and just as John decreased so that Jesus could increase (John 3:30), we too must stay focused on the message of salvation and Who is doing the saving; not you or I but God through His Son, Jesus Christ. We must be bold and preach repentance even if it may cost us our earthly freedoms or even our life; we must preach the gospel to all the world (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16). After all, John’s purpose statement should be ours as well, “And all flesh will see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:6). Let us all do a better job showing Christ to all people, and then once they have become Christians, let us continue to teach them as John the Baptizer did with his disciples (Luke 11:1).
Raoul Ferris is a 1st year student at the Southwest School of Bible Studies.