Arminian Today

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The Preaching of John the Baptist

In Matthew 3 we read the account of John the Baptist.  We read that this great prophet of God was the forerunner for the Christ (v.3).  We read that his appearance was not that impressive (v.4) and yet we read in verse 6 that “Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him.”  Impressive to say the least that large crowds were gathering to hear this prophet of the Lord.

What was John’s preaching?  What was it that drew large crowds to hear him?  We read in Matthew 3:2 that his preaching was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  We read in Matthew 3:7-12 the style of his preaching:

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Notice how confrontational his preaching was.  Notice how bold he was in his call to repentance.  John’s preaching on repentance was more than just theological in nature.  His preaching on repentance demanded a transformation in life.  Verse 8 is one of my favorite passages for preaching on repentance.

Amazingly we read of these large crowds that came to hear John preach.  Jesus said about John the Baptist in Matthew 11:11 that “there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.”  Yet we find nothing in the pages of Scripture about any miracles that John did nor do we read that John gathered a crowd through human means.  You’ll find no posters, no advertisements for his preaching, we find no glamour, no lights and whistles, nothing to create a stir with his own means.  John simply preached repentance and obeyed God faithfully.

John recognized the source of his success.  In John 3:27 we read these words from the lips of John, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from above.”  John knew that his ministry was from God.  He knew that his mission was to preach the gospel and leave the results to the Lord.  Large crowds came to hear John but his focus was on pleasing God.  He rightly acknowledged that Jesus had to increase while he decreased (John 3:30).

What an amazing focus.  Too often modern Bible teachers draw crowds using worldly means.  They think that a video, gimmicks, tricks, advertisement, music, showmanship, etc. will draw the crowds but certainly not the preaching of the Word of God.  Unlike the Apostles in Acts or the prophets in the Old Testament, modern preachers falsely believe that it is the duty of us to draw the crowds.  Further, we don’t even preach today what John preached: radical repentance.  We don’t call people to forsake their sins (perhaps because we ourselves are struggling with some pet sin) nor do we preach a call to complete transformation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).  We dare not preach that God requires us to be righteous before Him both by faith (positionally) and practically (Hebrews 12:14; 1 John 2:3-6; 3:6-10).  We dare not do as John the Baptist did and call out people for their sins.

I believe that what we need is a good balance of grace and law preaching.  Charles Finney said, “Where I found much grace preaching, I preached law.  Where I found much law preaching, I preached grace.”  Ray Comfort often says, “Grace to the humble; law to the proud.”  We need to preach grace to those who are humble before God and broken over their sins.  We read in James 4:7-10 that God draws near to us when we draw near to Him.  Further we read that God opposes the proud but He gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).  Yet we must preach the law of God to those who want to abuse the grace of God (Jude 4).  We need to warn those who falsely believe God’s grace allows them to abide in sin (Hebrews 10:19-39).  We need to warn those who would claim the name of Christ while living in sin and blaspheming His holy name with their lives.  The balance to preaching is grace and law.

Preaching is our duty.  The application of our preaching is up to the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit will bless faithful preaching such as that of John the Baptist.  I pray to the Lord that He would rise up and anoint great men of God such as men like John the Baptist or great women of God such as Deborah (Judges 4-5).  Saints of God who will powerfully declare God’s truth to this generation and will not fear the flesh.  Certainly we will face trials just as John did (Matthew 14:1-12).  Being faithful to God will cost us (Hebrews 11:32-38).  Yet our passion should always be like that of John the Baptist, to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and faithfully serve Him.  We may lose our heads but we will be rewarded in eternity for His glory.

Oh God raise up more true prophets of God!

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/27/2013 at 10:15 AM

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