John the Baptist is the last of the OT prophets
John had a massive amount of people coming from Jerusalem and Judea, to prepare for the Messiah, at least on a superficial level, when he was baptizing them and so he became known as John the Baptist. He is the last Old Testament prophet.
There hasn’t been one for 400 years until he arrives. You can read about him in the early chapters of Matthew, the early chapters of Mark, and the early chapters of Luke, the details of his story.
He is the last Old Testament prophet; he is the greatest man who ever lived, up until his time, Jesus said in Matthew 11:11. Why? More intellectual? No. More spiritual? No. More influential? No. He’s the greatest man who ever lived up until his time because no man ever had a greater responsibility or a more privileged duty.
He introduced people to the Messiah. That made him greater in terms of responsibility and privilege than anyone who had ever lived. He was bold, forthright, and yet he was humble. He was resolute; he was so faithful to the preaching of the truth that it cost him his head, as Matthew 14 tells us–the story of his being beheaded.
What gospel ministry is truly about
I can’t emphasize that enough. Gospel ministry is about the Light. It is about Christ.
It is giving the facts, the truth, the evidence concerning who He is, why He came, and what He has done.
That’s gospel ministry, to give the facts concerning the One who is the Word, the Life, the Light, the Lord Jesus Christ, and to demonstrate that indeed the Word became flesh, dwelt among us for thirty-three years, put His glory on display, the very glory that belongs to One who proceeds from the Father, full of divine grace and truth. All true Christian ministry is established here as being Christ dominated, Christ centered. This is the true nature of Christian ministry, it is about Jesus Christ. John points people to the Savior.
Difference between Johns light and Christ’ light
So verse 8 says John was not the Light. Now some people have brought up an issue and it’s an important issue to mention, so I want to point you to it. In John 5:35, in John 5:35 a comment is made about John, John the Baptist. And it says “he was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.”
Well, wait a minute. John at the beginning in chapter 1, John the apostle says, “[John the Baptist] was not the Light.” John himself says, “I’m not the Christ. He is and I give testimony to that.” But here it says “he was the lamp [or the light] that was burning and shining, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.” What’s the issue here?
The word “lamp” in 5:35 is luchnos; it means “a portable lamp”–small portable oil lamp with a little wick. John was that kind of light.
He was a derived light.
But in chapter 1, verse 8, when it says Jesus is the light it’s the word phos, which is essential light from which you get “photography,” “photosynthesis.” Any time you see the phos that’s from that Greek word “light.” Jesus is essential light; John is a lamp that reflects that light in the same sense that you and I are the light of the world, and we’re not to hide our light.
People believe through men
Why? Back to verse 7, “So that”…Here’s the purpose…“so that all might”…What?…“believe through him.” Who’s “him?” Not Christ. Through John, in this case. “He came for a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.”
You say, “Wait a minute, do people believe through a man?” Yes, yes. That seems like a stretch. Look at Romans 10. What’s the Great Commission? You know what the Great Commission is? “Go into all the world and”…Do what?…“preach the gospel to everybody.” Why, why do we need to do that? Why do we need to do that? Because if they don’t hear the gospel, they can’t be saved. In Romans 10, we could pick it up in verse 13, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord”…Jew or Gentile, there’s no distinction he says back in verse 12…“whoever believes will not be disappointed,” verse 11.
Then verse 14, “How will they call on Him in whom they haven’t believed? How will they believe in Him whom they haven’t heard? How will they hear without a”…What? A what?…“preacher. How will they preach unless they’re sent?” No wonder they say, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” Verse 17, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word concerning Christ.”
The sun compared with Christ
The light of salvation shines only in Jesus Christ. J.C. Ryle put it this way:
“Christ is to the souls of men what the sun is to the world. He is the center and source of all spiritual light. Like the sun, He shines for the common benefit of all mankind, for high and for low, for rich and for poor, for Jew and for Greek. Like the sun, He is free to all, all may look at Him and drink health out of His light. If millions of mankind were mad enough to dwell in caves underground, or to bandage their eyes, their darkness would be their own fault and not the fault of the sun. So likewise, if millions of men and women love spiritual darkness rather than light, the blame must be laid on their blind hearts. But whether men will see or not, Christ is the true sun and the light of the world, there is no light for sinners except in the Lord Jesus,” end quote. What a great statement.
To those that are perishing, the light is foolishness. They didn’t know God in Romans 1. They don’t know the Son of God in John 1. Still true today.
Verse 12 tells us the plan was not thwarted in spite of the world’s rejection and the rejection of Israel. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” What does it mean to receive Him? It means to believe. They’re parallels.
…So the true nature of a believer, not a follower of somebody in the sense of a student, not a person who is guided by a moral code, or an ethical system, but the true nature of a believer is that he is a new creation, a child of God everlastingly true.