2818. Jesus And His Forerunner

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Jesus And His Forerunner

No. 2818-49:73. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, June 24, 1877, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Intended For Reading On Lord’s Day, February 15, 1903.

Therefore they tried again to take him: but he escaped out of their hands, and went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized, and there he stayed. And many resorted to him and said, “John did no miracle: but all things that John spoke of this man were true.” And many believed in him there. {Joh 10:39-42}

 For other sermons on this text:
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1924, “Cheering Incident at Bethabara, A” 1925}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2818, “Jesus and His Forerunner” 2819}
    {See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Joh 10:40"}
    {See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Joh 10:41"}
    {See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Joh 10:42"}

1. The unbelieving and infuriated Jews again and again took up stones to throw at our Lord, and here they tried to take him prisoner, but he escaped from them, apparently with the greatest possible ease. He did this on several occasions. When the men of Nazareth would have thrown him down headlong from the brow of the hill on which their city was built, he passed through the midst of them, and went his way. He made his escape, over and over again, in the same amazing way, so proving that he was not in the power of any man. Therefore, at the last, he did not have to die unless his death had been in accordance with his own will. He might have besought his Father, and he would have given him legions of angels for his deliverance; or he might, as Elijah did, have called for fire from heaven to destroy those who sought to arrest him. His divine power would never have been at any loss in providing means for his own protection. He might, readily enough, have killed those who came to take him in the garden; and he might even have come down from the cross, if he had so pleased to prove what power he possessed. Yet he did not so act, but voluntarily laid down his life, according to his own words, “I lay down my life, so that I might take it again. No man takes it from me, but I lay it down by myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. I have this commandment received from my Father.” Let us, then, bless and praise him for that wonderful, voluntary, substitutionary death on the cross. It was for our sins that he suffered. There was no reason for his death except what was found in our dire straits and in his own great heart of love. Whenever we think of the sufferings of Christ on the cross, let us remember how spontaneous was the sacrifice by which he redeemed us from sin, and death, and hell. Blessed, for ever blessed, be the name of this willing Friend of guilty men; and let us, in a similar way, always be ready to serve him. Let the willingness of Christ bring out willingness in us; let us not be as young bulls unaccustomed to the yoke, but cheerfully let us take his yoke on us, and learn from him. May the Lord grant us grace, not merely to be willing, but even to be eager for his service, since he was eager to serve us, for he could truly say, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I constrained until it is accomplished!”

2. Another thought is suggested by our Lord’s action. When he was driven from one place by the unbelief and malice of his adversaries, he did not therefore retire from his service altogether. If he could not speak to the people in the streets of Jerusalem, he would find a place of audience in the desert beyond Jordan; but, somewhere or other, he would be seeking the welfare of men. He went around doing good. They could not silence him, whatever they might do. When they, again and again, in one place, took up stones to stone him, he saw that his testimony would be useless to them, for it had already only increased their condemnation; so he went off to another place, away from those furious persecutors, so that others might listen to the message of mercy which they had despised and rejected. Jesus was always working, always teaching, always blessing; and, to this day, he is still diligent in his service on behalf of the sons of men. From the highest throne of glory, with both hands he scatters down mercies and favours, by day and by night, on us his unworthy creatures. Since he continues to serve us, let us continue to serve him; and if he is unwearied, let us be unwearied, too. If we can do little or nothing for him in one place, let us find another place where we can serve him; but never let us lay down our charge until we also lay down our lives, never let us cease to work until we cease to live. May this mind be in us which was also in Christ Jesus our Lord!

3. I. Now to come more closely to the subject of this evening’s meditation, the first thing that I see in the text is A FRUITFUL PLACE OF MINISTRY: “Beyond Jordan.” Our Saviour preached in the place where John at first baptized, “and many believed in him there.”

4. It is not every place that is fruitful, for there are some portions of the field, which is the world, that are like the wayside, where the birds of the air come and catch away the seed as soon as it is sown. There are other parts where the soil is very shallow, and there the seed springs up only to perish in the heat of the sun. Our Saviour had been in many places where he was unsuccessful as a preacher, where he was absolutely rejected by men, and his message altogether despised; for, when he spoke the truth, they even called it blasphemy, and took up stones so that they might stone him as one unfit to live. Christian ministers may have to work in such places, yet they are always glad when they get on the soil that yields a hundredfold. They are delighted if their Master asks them to cast the net where there are great shoals of fish. Our Saviour was evidently in such a place when he was preaching “beyond Jordan.”

5. Notice about this place, first, that it was a place of retreat from persecution. I do not think that we should ever look at the most violent opposition to the gospel as anything to be altogether lamented, for, even in this case, it is just after the Jews have said that Christ blasphemed, and have tried to stone or to seize him, that he is most successful in his preaching. You may regard it as a very safe rule that, when the devil roars, it is because he has been hit pretty hard; and that, whenever there is the most rage against the gospel, it is one evidence of the gospel’s growing power. To go and preach in a town, or village, or hamlet, and to be scarcely noticed, — to deliver your testimony for Christ, and yet to produce no visible effect of any kind, — is horrible; but if all the hosts of hell are stirred up against you, and men even begin to act despitefully towards the preacher, you may take courage, and rest assured that something is being done. Depend on it, there would not be all that stir and uproar unless the Lord’s power had gone with his Word to the hearts and consciences of men. We are not to cease our preaching because of opposition, but we are then to be more earnest and zealous than ever; — possibly, in another place, as it was in our Lord’s case; — but still, somewhere our testimony for our Lord is to be given. After the thunderstorm will often be the very best time for sowing the good seed of the kingdom. It was so in our Saviour’s experience, for he had there a most fruitful time after he had encountered the most violent and bitter opposition.

6. If I am addressing any servant of God who has been passing through a time of fierce persecution, let him be encouraged. Brother, when the night is over, the day will be all the brighter because of the blackness that preceded it; so, be hopeful that, after the wearing and wearying time of opposition that you have had, you will come into smoother waters, and that God will bless you even more abundantly.

7. Perhaps another reason why that place was so fruitful was, because it was a retired place. It was “beyond Jordan.” It was away from the noise and strife of Jerusalem. Those who were there had evidently travelled a considerable distance with the desire to hear the Saviour. In the streets of Jerusalem, Jesus preached to many who did not want to hear; and we must do the same, for we are to preach the gospel to every creature; but, I think, we have the best hope of doing good when people take trouble to come to hear us, when they journey for miles to the place of preaching, when they are separated from their ordinary associations, and feel that they can in quiet listen to the Word. Chrysostom once preached a sermon on the last verse of my text, dwelling especially on the word “there” — “ many believed in him there.” Very exceptionally, he accounts for the larger numbers of women who are converted, beyond the number of men, from the fact that women are more at home than men are, and have more quiet times for reflection and consideration on the Word. I lay no stress on that thought, but it has occurred to me also, and when I read it in Chrysostom, I thought that there might be some force about it, for we do need quiet times in which we can think of divine things. Some of you men are busy all day long, — up in the morning early, and then right on until late at night. You are hacking and tearing away about your worldly business, and you do not get time to sit down, and calmly calculate this problem, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Let me persuade you sometimes to go into the desert, and rest for a while. Surely, heaven is worth a little thought if it is to be gained; it must be worth while to secure the necessary time for thought about how we are to escape from hell, and to be delivered from sin. I think that, if you — especially on Sabbath afternoons, between the morning and evening services, — I mean, you unconverted people, — would set apart an hour or even half-an-hour to really look into your case, to come to close dealings with yourselves and your God, we should preach, in the evening, with very great hope of blessing, because such hearers would have come to us prepared and anxious to learn the way of salvation. Do you not know that, when you go to a place of worship, you will generally catch what you fish for? Some of you come because the preacher is thought to be eccentric; you will, possibly, hear something which will confirm you in that idea. But, if you come because you want to hear about Jesus Christ, and to find salvation, you will get what you come for; it is the will of the Lord that those who seek shall find. I think there is something very suggestive in the fact that this fruitful place was a quiet spot away from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem.

8. And, again, one reason why our Lord was so successful on this occasion when many believed in him was, no doubt, that he had a large congregation. It is first said that “many resorted to him,” and then that “many believed in him.” It is a self-evident fact that you cannot have many converts if you do not have many hearers. Hence, we delight to see the house of prayer crowded. We are glad that, when we cast the net, we cast it among multitudes of fishes. If a man can preach the gospel to half-a-dozen people, he ought to do it with all his might; and if God should give him the souls of that half dozen hearers, it will be an abundant reward for him. But if there is any way by which half-a-dozen thousands of people can be brought to hear the Word, we may hope that the converts will be multiplied in equal proportion if God the Holy Spirit is pleased to bless the Word. At any rate, the greater the number of the preacher’s hearers, the greater is the likelihood of blessing to a large number of people. This puts an end, I think, to the foolish talk about the finest thought of the age being always delivered to an elite company of very few special individuals. If you preach with great thoughtfulness, especially after the style of the modern school of thought, you cannot expect that the multitude will come to hear you. Very well, then, let us not preach in that way; for “the greatest good to the greatest number” should be the motto of every man who loves his race, and desires its highest well-being. Let us endeavour to so adapt our style, if we are preachers of the Word, that the multitude will be willing to hear, and will be able to understand, for then we may hope that, with the blessing of God, many will be converted.

9. But, once more, our Lord had found a fruitful place because it was a place of fragrant memories. For what was that spot “beyond Jordan” already noted? It was “the place where John at first baptized,” — where, in fact, Jesus himself had been baptized by John. We do not believe in the sacredness of places; but, still, where a good man has laboured for the Master, there often lingers a holy fragrance which is a means of blessing to others. Many of those people had probably heard John’s testimony concerning his Lord, and the trees by the river’s edge, and the flowing stream, would always remind them of the Baptist, who there urged them to repent of their sins. Now the good man is dead and buried, but the soil which he had ploughed is all the better prepared for the Master’s seed-sowing, and the Master knows that he will have all the greater harvest in that place because John has been there before him. Oh my brothers and sisters, it will be a grand thing for us to have lived so that, when we are dead and gone, those who come after us will have all the easier task because of our service for the Saviour! You Sunday School teachers are often like John the Baptist; you get the youthful minds ready for the preacher’s instruction; and you, who have, perhaps, been preaching for years without success, may, nevertheless, be John the Baptists for others who will come after you, and who may be the means of blessing to those for whom you think you have laboured in vain. When I go to some places to preach, I feel that I am sowing on stony ground; but if the preacher before me has wept over his hearers, and pleaded with them, and prayed for them, I find that they are as ready to drink in the Word as the thirsty soil drinks in the rain when the blessed clouds end the long and terrible drought.

10. II. Now, secondly, in our text you will see A TESTIMONY TO A DEPARTED MINISTER.

11. The people said, as they stood where John had preached and baptized, “John did no miracle: but all things that John spoke of this man were true.” Oh, how I hope that you will be able to say this of me when I have gone the way of all flesh! “He did no miracle: but all that he said concerning Christ was true.” There are some preachers, of whom people will say, when they are gone, “They were not very eloquent, they were not very learned, they were not very refined, they could not do any miracles; but” — oh, that blessed “but!” — “ but all things that they spoke concerning Christ were true.”

12. Notice the character which the people gave to John, three years, or thereabouts, after he was dead. He was still remembered by them, and they bore a most satisfactory testimony concerning him. First, they testified that he spoke concerning Christ. It was John’s business, it was all his business here below, to speak concerning Jesus Christ; and he did it so thoroughly that this was the one thing that his hearers recalled after he was gone. He rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees, but his main work was to testify concerning him who was to come after him, whose shoe’s latchet he felt that he was not worthy to unloose. Ah! brethren, there is no ministry that will stand the testing on a sick-bed, or on our death-bed, except what has been full of testimony to Christ. When there has been a great deal of philosophy, and only a homoeopathic dose of Christ in the preaching, — just enough of the latter to give it the name of Christian teaching, — may God have mercy on both preacher and hearer! But to preach Christ first, Christ last, Christ midst, Christ always, this is what John the Baptist did, and this is what all preachers should do. An American gentleman, who was here many years ago, came again about fourteen or fifteen years afterwards, and he said to me as he went out, “I see you are still on the old tack.” “Yes,” I replied, “I intend to be like Casabianca {a} on the burning ship, where his father had told him to stand, and where he meant to remain as long as life should last.” I will preach new doctrine when I find it in the Bible; until then, I will stick with the old. The State of Massachusetts passed a resolution declaring that it would be governed by the laws of God until there was time to make any better ones, and I have passed a resolution that I will preach Christ’s gospel until I have time to find out something better, and that can never be, for it is the only gospel that can ever meet the needs of the human race. There was no bite from any of the fiery serpents which a look at the bronze serpent could not cure; and this gospel of God’s grace is the one remedy for all the spiritual diseases to which mankind is heir, and therefore we will cling to it as long as we live.

13. John the Baptist spoke concerning Christ, and what he said about Christ was true. That is the important point, for it is possible for Christ to be preached, and yet for the truth about Christ not to be preached. His humanity may be left out, or his deity may be kept in the background, or there may be lisping and hesitancy with regard to the doctrine of his atoning sacrifice; and if this is the case, then the ministry will be without power. It used to be said, of a certain noted preacher, that his doctrine of the atonement was, that Jesus Christ did something or other, which, in some way or other, was connected with our salvation. That cloudy kind of teaching is not preaching Christ in truth; but to declare that he was made a curse for us, — that the Lord caused to meet on him the iniquity of all who believe in him, — that he, who knew no sin, was made sin for us, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, — to clearly preach the definite substitution of Christ on our behalf, — this is to tell the truth about Christ; and I pray that all of us, whether preachers or teachers, may not only speak about Christ, but also, like John the Baptist, speak the truth about him.

14. One other thing about John was that all he said about Christ was the truth: “All things that John spoke of this man were true.” Not merely some things, but “all things.” Any part of Christ is precious, but a whole Christ is what the sinner needs. As far as we know him, we are bound to honestly make him known to others; and even if we have to do it with very little ability, and if, when we die, we have to regret that we had such slender powers, yet it shall be a sweet thought to us if we know that those we leave behind will be able to say, “All things that he spoke concerning this man were true.”

15. There was one thing which the people did not say, and which they had no need to say, because it was self-evident; that is, that John the Baptist had preached Christ so that they could not forget it. He had been dead for some years, yet they remembered what he had preached about while he was with them. They remembered how he preached it, too, — that he preached Christ in truth, and that all he said about Christ was the truth; so that, when the Messiah himself stood before them, the savour of John’s ministry was still fresh on them. Oh, that it might be our lot, and the lot of all God’s servants, to make the gospel arrows stick as well as strike, and to cause men to carry with them, for many a year, the memory of the things which we have spoken to them while we were still present with them!

16. III. Now, thirdly, I am going away from the text in order to notice WHAT THE DEPARTED MINISTER’S TESTIMONY REALLY WAS. What did John say concerning Christ?

17. Well, first of all, John said that Jesus was the Son of God. His testimony was, “I saw, and bore record that this is the Son of God.” John delighted to extol his Lord; he felt that he was not worthy to take the place of the slave who took off his master’s sandals; it was too great an honour for him to be the personal servant of Christ. How sweetly did John speak about Jesus as “the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father”! Do you all believe that blessed truth of the sonship of Christ? Do you all believe that the man of Nazareth was “very God of very God”? If you do, then trust him to be your Saviour; and, doing so, you shall be saved by him. Let the testimony of John be accepted by you, for it is now borne out by the life of Christ, and a thousand proofs besides. Jesus of Nazareth is God in human flesh; trust yourselves with him, and you shall be eternally saved.

18. John also bore witness to another grand truth about his Lord and Master, namely, that he was the Lamb of God. How plainly he cried to all the people, and afterwards to his own disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Did John have the paschal lamb in his mind’s eye? Very likely he had. “This,” he said, “is the Lamb of God, whose blood is to be shed to preserve his people, just as the blood of the paschal lamb, when it was sprinkled on the lintel and the two side-posts of the houses in Egypt, saved the Israelites when the destroying angel had unsheathed his terrible sword.” Oh dear hearers, I wish that you would all receive Christ as the great Sin Offering, — the only Preserver and Defender against the destroying angel in the day of God’s wrath!

19. But did John, do you think, have that passage in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah in his mind, “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he does not open his mouth.” When he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” do you not think that he had in his mind that passage, “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all?” It is extremely likely that this was the case. This was a choice topic for John to expound on, and we would expound on it, too, if we had the time; but, since we have only a few minutes left, we cry to you, “Behold the Lamb of God!” That Jesus, who is now reigning in heaven at his Father’s right hand, suffered in the room, and place, and stead of all who will believe in him. Behold him! Look to him, and be saved. If you trust in him, you will prove by it that your sin was laid on him; and if so, all that sin of yours has been put away by his sacrifice of himself. Why do you not trust him? May the Holy Spirit bring you to do so, for John’s testimony was true when he said that Jesus was the Lamb of God.

20. John also bore witness, concerning Christ, as the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit and with fire; and this, too, is true. Any of you, who have trusted Christ, know into what sacred fire he plunges your spirit, so that it refines and purifies your soul, and burns up all the dross. He immerses us into the Holy Spirit, so that we are —

    Plunged in the Godhead’s deepest sea,
       And lost in his immensity.

21. And, once more, John called Jesus the Bridegroom. That is one of his sweetest names. John spoke of himself as the Bridegroom’s friend, or best man, he was that, but nothing more, so his work was done when the Bridegroom came. Oh beloved, the Lord Jesus Christ, by his love for his Church, has proved himself to be her true Bridegroom! She was taken out of his side when he fell asleep, even as Eve was taken out of the side of Adam, and his love goes out to her for ever, for he says to her, “You are bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” For this purpose he left his Father, that he might cleave to his Church, that they two might be one. Truly does Paul write, “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” This is another grand truth for us to talk about, — the union of Christ with his Church, — the blessed bonds that bind him to us, and us to him, so that we are able to defy the whole universe to “separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

22. IV. So I have given you a summary of what John’s testimony concerning Jesus was, and of which the people said, “All things that John spoke of this man were true.” Now, the last thing I have to speak on is, THE BLESSED RESULT. Our Lord was preaching in a fruitful place, he was following a man who had left a precious memory behind him, and that memory was all about himself. What was the result?

23. First, the people standing on that spot, where John had stood, began to consider. “John said such and such about the promised Messiah; this man exactly answers to the description that John gave. All men acknowledge that John was a prophet, so what he said concerning Jesus is clearly true, and he must, therefore, be the Christ whom God has sent into the world. He must be the Son of God, the Lamb of God, the One who is to baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire”; and, therefore, after careful consideration, they believed in him. Beloved hearers, have you ever given due consideration to divine things? It would be worth while for you, who are unsaved, not to do any more business until you are saved. You are very “cute” and clever about worldly things; but I tell you, solemnly, that you are great fools with regard to your immortal souls. I am certain that, if the life of any one of you were, at this moment, in peril from some very dreadful disease, you would not wait long without seeking the best advice concerning it that you could afford. If you were told, while I am preaching, that your house was on fire, you would not wait until I had finished the sermon; you would be off home at once, so concerned are you, and rightly so, about your earthly things. Yet your souls are even now abiding under the wrath of God. You dare not say you do not believe that; yet you do not really believe it, or you act in a way which implies that you do not. Suppose your breath were to stop for one minute, where would you be? You would be where you would ask in vain for a drop of water to cool your parched tongue. Every instant, life is in jeopardy; let some one of the ten thousand strings of this poor harp only snap, — and harp-strings often do snap, — and the soul must appear before its God, — unready, unwashed, unclothed, for ever lost. Oh beloved, do as these people “beyond Jordan” did; begin to consider, see whether Christ is not the Son of God, and the Lamb of God; and if he is, believe in him, trust him with your souls, and so find eternal salvation.

24. Further, having considered, these people did believe in Jesus; that is to say, they did accept him as the Lamb of God, and the Son of God. They did receive him as the Bridegroom of their hearts, they did believe that he would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire; and so they were saved. Will not the same result follow this service? Will not some of you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is so worthy of confidence, — yes, who demands that we believe in him, for this is what he says, “He who does not believe shall be damned?” It is said, in our text, “Many believed in him.” I will be thankful if only two or three believe in Jesus Christ, yet I cannot be satisfied unless many believe in him. He is so true that it is a grievous crime to doubt him. He is so abundantly able to save that it is the greatest folly not to trust him. It sometimes puzzles me how God can have such patience with unbelievers. When he has given his only-begotten Son to bleed and die for the guilty, and he says, “This is my well-beloved Son, bleeding and dying for you, only trust him,” — if men say that they will not, what can be conceived of more horrible than that, and what clearer proof can there be of the desperate malignity of the human heart that it will not even accept the Son of God himself when he comes dressed in robes of love to save mankind?

25. I finish with the last word of my text: “Many believed in him there”; that is, on the spot where he then stood and preached. I wish that many would believe in Jesus Christ in this Tabernacle, there in the area, or in that aisle, or up in the galleries. Alas, many say, “We will go home, and think about it.” Do not do that. Believe in him there. I know how apt you are to indulge in idle chat on your way home. I know how, at the supper table, too often the Word which you have heard is driven away by the foolish talk which is unfit for the Sabbath. The devil only wants you to wait, for he knows that he can then come and steal away the good seed of the kingdom; but if the Lord should give you the grace to decide for him at once, if you were to believe in Jesus now, what joy there would be among the angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect! They would “ring the bells of heaven,” and rejoice over lost ones found. What peace there would be in your own heart; and what thankfulness and delight there would be among the people of God when they heard of it! You Christians, try to get a quiet, earnest talk with the unconverted, if you can, before they get away from this building. It may be that they will be led by you to believe in Jesus here and now. May God grant that it may be so, for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.

{a} “Casabianca” is a poem by British poet Felicia Dorothea Hemans, first published in the New Monthly Magazine for August 1826. The poem starts:

       The boy stood on the burning deck
       Whence all but he had fled;
       The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
       Shone round him o’er the dead.

See Explorer "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casabianca_(poem)"

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Mt 3:1-12 Joh 1:15-37 3:22-36}

We are going to read three passages relating to John the Baptist’s testimony concerning Christ. From Matthew we read: —

3:1-4. In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."’ ” And the same John had his clothing of camel’s hair, and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.

Everything connected with John the Baptist was in harmony with his message. He was the preacher of repentance, so the place where he preacher was most suitable; it was in the wilderness, where there was nothing to distract his hearers’ attention, as there would have been in crowded cities. His dress was striking, and everything about him, even down to the food that he ate, went to show that he was the rough pioneer preacher preparing the way for his master. John did not teach the fulness of joy and peace; that was left for our Lord Jesus to proclaim; but John came to prepare the way of the Lord by preaching repentance.

5. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region all around Jordan,

There seems to have been, about that time, a wide-spread anticipation of the coming of the Messiah; so, no sooner did the news come that a prophet was preaching in the desert, than great multitudes went out to hear him.

6-8. And were baptized by him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said to them, “Oh generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore produce fruits agreeable to repentance:

Did he not speak in the style of the prophet Elijah? Yet those bold speeches of his were not at all stronger than the evils of the age required. When the self-righteous Pharisees and the sceptical Sadducees — the Ritualists and the “modern thought” men of that day — came to him to be baptized, he did not welcome them, but told them to “produce fruits agreeable to repentance,” evidences of a change of heart and life.

9. And do not think to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our forefather’: for I say to you, that God is able from these stones —

In the bed of Jordan, where he was baptizing, —

9. To raise up children to Abraham.

John told them not to boast of their descent from Abraham; yet that was the great thing in which they boasted. They despised the Gentiles as so many dogs outside the true fold. Note how John the Baptist really preaches the gospel to us indirectly while he is denouncing these people’s confidence in their carnal descent. Regeneration is “not by blood, nor by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man, but by God.”

10. And now also the axe is laid to the root of the trees: therefore every tree which does not produce good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Other teachers came, as it were, only to lop and prune the trees, but the time had come for the felling of those who were fruitless. John did this, and so did our Lord Jesus Christ, for his preaching dug up the very roots of sin, superstition, and evil of every kind.

11, 12. I indeed baptize you with water to repentance: but he who comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to carry: he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Now let us turn to the Gospel according to John, where we have another account of the ministry of John the Baptist.

1:16. John bore witness of him, and cried, saying, “This was he of whom I spoke, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.’ ”

He was not before John in the order of human birth, yet he was truly before John, for he had an eternal pre-existence, since he was none other than the uncreated Son of God.

16-21. And we have all received from his fulness, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him. And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” And he confessed, and did not deny; but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then?” “Are you Elijah?” And he says, “I am not.” “Are you that prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

Since they meant, “Are you, literally, the prophet Elijah risen from the dead?” John said, “I am not.” “Are you that prophet of whom Moses foretold?” And he answered, “No.” John gave short, sharp answers to these critics. He was not a man of dainty words and polished phrases, especially in dealing with such people as they were.

22, 23. Then they said to him, “Who are you that we may give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say for yourself?” He said, “I am the voice —

Not “the Word.” Christ is that, but John was “the voice.” —

23-37. Of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as said the prophet Isaiah.” And those who were sent were from the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said to him, “Why do you baptize then, if you are not that Christ, nor Elijah, neither that prophet?” John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water: but there stands one among you, whom you do not know; it is he who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and says, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who is preferred before me: for he was before me.’ And I did not know him: but that he should be revealed to Israel, therefore I am come to baptize with water.” And John bore record, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it rested on him. And I did not know him: but he who sent me to baptize with water, the same said to me, ‘On whom you shall see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I saw, and bore record that this is the Son of God.” Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples, and looking at Jesus as he walked, he says, “Behold the lamb of God!” And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

In the third chapter of the same Gospel, we have yet another testimony by John the Baptist concerning Christ.

3:22-29 After these things Jesus and his disciples came into the land of Judea, and he stayed with them there, and baptized. And John also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet thrown into prison. Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came to John, and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond Jordan, to whom you bore witness, behold, the same baptizes, and all men come to him.” John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing, unless it is given to him from heaven. You yourselves bore me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but that I am Sent before him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.

“I have introduced the Bridegroom; and, henceforth, it will be my part gradually to disappear from the scene.”

30. He must increase, but I must decrease.

Just as the morning star fades when the sun itself arises, so it was the joy of the herald of Christ to lose himself in the supreme radiance of his Lord’s appearing.

31-34. He who comes from above is above everything: he who is of the earth is earthly, and speaks of the earth: he who comes from heaven is above everything. And what he has seen and heard, that he testifies; and no man receives his testimony. He who has received his testimony has set his seal that God is true. For he whom God has sent speaks the words of God: for God does not give the Spirit by measure to him.

Did not the Holy Spirit descend, and remain on him, and that without measure or limit?

35, 36. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hands. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life:

He has it now; and he can never lose it, or else it would not be everlasting. He has a life that must exist for ever and ever.

36. And he who does not believe the Son shall not see life;

He shall not even know what spiritual life is, he shall not be able to understand it, or to form any idea about it. While he is an unbeliever, he is blind to spiritual things. What a dreadful sentence that is! “He shall not see life”; —

36. But the wrath of God rests on him.”

God is always angry with him because he has rejected his own Son, and refuses the great salvation.

 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Jesus Christ, In Heaven — The Power Of The Risen Lord” 331}
 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Jesus Christ, Names and Titles — Immanuel” 384}
 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Gospel, Received by Faith — ‘Be Not Afraid, Only Believe’ ” 550}

Jesus Christ, In Heaven
331 — The Power Of The Risen Lord
1 Jesus, the name high over all,
   In hell, or earth, or sky,
   Angels and men before it fall,
   And devils fear and fly.
2 Jesus, the name to sinners dear,
   The name to sinners given,
   It scatters all their guilty fear,
   And turns their hell to heaven.
3 Jesus the prisoner’s fetters breaks,
   And bruises Satan’s head;
   Power into strengthless souls it speaks,
   And life into the dead.
4 His only righteousness I show,
   His saving truth proclaim;
   ‘Tis all my business here below
   To cry, “Behold the Lamb!”
5 Happy, if with my latest breath
   I may but gasp his name;
   Preach him to all, and cry in death,
   “Behold, behold the Lamb!”
                     Charles Wesley, 1749.

Jesus Christ, Names and Titles
384 — Immanuel <7s.>
1 Sweeter sounds than music knows
   Charm me in Immannuel’s name:
   All her hopes my spirit owes
   To his birth, and cross, and shame.
2 When he came, the angels sung
   “Glory be to God on high”;
   Lord, unloose my stammering tongue;
   Who should louder sing than I?
3 Did the Lord a man become
   That he might the law fulfil,
   Bleed and suffer in my room,
   And canst thou, my tongue, be still?
4 No; I must my praises bring,
   Though they worthless are, and weak;
   For should I refuse to sing,
   Sure the very stones would speak.
5 Oh my Saviour, Shield, and Sun,
   Shepherd, Brother, Husband, Friend —
   Every precious name in One!
   I will love thee without end.
                           John Newton, 1779.

Gospel, Received by Faith
550 — “Be Not Afraid, Only Believe” <>
1 My faith looks up to thee,
   Thou Lamb of Calvary,
      Saviour divine:
   Now hear me while I pray;
   Take all my guilt away;
   Oh let me from this day
      Be wholly thine.
2 May thy rich grace impart
   Strength to my fainting heart,
      My zeal inspire:
   As thou hast died for me,
   Oh may my love to thee
   Pure, warm, and changeless be,
      A living fire.
3 While life’s dark maze I tread,
   And griefs around me spread,
      Be thou my guide;
   Bid darkness turn to day,
   Wipe sorrow’s tears away,
   Nor let me ever stray
      From thee aside.
4 When ends life’s transient dream,
   When death’s cold sullen stream
      Shall o’er me roll,
   Blest Saviour, then in love,
   Fear and distrust remove;
   Oh bear me safe above,
      A ransom’d soul.
                     Ray Palmer, 1834.

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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