Sunday, March 1, 2015

Reliable Testimony

Scriptural Reading: John 1:29-34
Devotional Reading: Joel 2:23-27

“The Voice” returns for Season 8 with the strongest vocalists from across the nation invited to compete. The five stages of competition are the Blind Auditions, the Battle Rounds, the Knockouts, the Live Playoffs, and the Live Performance Shows. I was most interested in the Blind Auditions because all identifying factors of the vocalists were taken away with an attempt to only showcase their talent. In the end, however, the season of “The Voice” is only one of entertainment.

What is reliable testimony? Our judicial system requires that the testimony of witnesses be reliable in order to safeguard rights. If a witness’ character is bad for truth, or his/her reputation is bad in other respects affecting their moral character, then the jury may infer the witness is not reliable. A witness must be credible and trustworthy in order to have his testimony (evidence) entitled to be believed in law and legal proceedings and have his oath or affidavit accepted as reliable. If it is reliable it is unimpeachable.

The author of the book of John is believed to be the Beloved Disciple, the Apostle John. Having walked closely with Jesus, he was considered a reliable witness to the many miracles, the Transfiguration, the Resurrection, and so much more. He had purposed in his heart to write this book to witness that Jesus was in the world from the beginning and in Him life was given. The Apostle John called Him the light that darkness could not comprehend.

We also see that God sent John the Baptist to give witness to the light. Unfortunately, all people did not accept the light of Jesus Christ, but those who did, received the right to become children of God. John bore witness and said, “…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 sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”. (John 1:26b-27 NKJV)

News of John the Baptist’s preaching on repentance and the Messiah was far reaching. He had become very popular among the people. John was considered a rabbi or at least a son of a priest whose teachings and baptism by immersion was political as well as offering purification for repentance. To baptize in the Jordan River was a silent protest in opposition of the temple priests who acquiesced to the Roman soldiers who issued threats and forced the Jews into unfair labor. He even had twelve disciples. (Acts 19:1-10) A group of priests and Levites were sent from Jerusalem to inquire whether John the Baptist was Elijah or the Prophet. In response to their inquiry John quoted Isaiah 40:3 stating he was, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (NKJV) (See also John 1:23). John the Baptist did not want to upstage the LORD. He knew he was only the forerunner who would testify with his voice to Israel, the wilderness. His voice was not for entertainment purposes. Israel had become like the wilderness, dry. John was only the voice while Christ was the Word. The Word needs a voice to make it known and the voice is of no value without a Word.

This quarter of study is entitled “The Spirit Comes.” We are in Unit I – “The Pledge of God’s Presence” of the three units of the quarter. This is the first of a five-lesson study focusing on the promise of the Holy Spirit. In our lesson today we review the ritual of baptism. John the Baptist testified that the baptism of the Holy Spirit surpasses water baptism and that the Spirit bears witness that Jesus is God’s Son, and that Jesus’ ministry exceeded his own.

Our print passage begins after our witness, John the Baptist’s, encounter with the priests and Levites. As he is baptizing converts with water in view of his disciples, followers, believers, and unbelievers, he sees Jesus approaching and directs the crowd’s attention to Jesus with a loud shout. “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NKJV) My first question was, “How would John know this?” He had a relationship with God who sent him to testify. His testimony as a vessel for God was that Jesus was the Lamb of God who would be offered up as a great sacrifice to atone for our sins. The prophecy of Isaiah 53:7 would be fulfilled. It reads, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.” (NKJV) A lamb being used for sacrifice was familiar to the Jews. John the Baptist used this title for Christ to symbolize His future sacrificial death on the Cross for the sins of the world. All godly Jews had waited for this Lamb. Now John the Baptist had announced his appearance on the scene as the Lamb of God.

When he stated that Jesus would take away the sin of the world he did not mean that everyone’s sins are automatically forgiven. His death was great enough to pay for everyone’s sins, but only those persons who accepted Him as their Savior would have their sins forgiven.

As the great sacrificial Lamb, no longer will lambs be brought to the slaughter to atone for sin every year. He did it once and put away sin by sacrificing Himself. Also, the Jews only sacrificed for the Jewish nation. The sacrifice of Christ is for all nations. We are all blessed. It is our duty, with an eye of faith, to behold the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world. See Him take away the sin of the world, and let that increase our hatred against sin and our resolution against it.

John the Baptist never grew weary in telling others his mission as the forerunner for Jesus Christ. His testimony continues at John 1:30-31, “This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” (NKJV) Here John receives an honor above all other prophets. The other prophets spoke of Jesus as One to come. John has the honor to see Him come as he had faithfully believed He would come. Jesus did not come in any pomp or circumstances, but John the Baptist insisted He was the Man preferred before him. He knew because of his divine relationship with God. John knew the people would not believe this person they saw would do such great things. Jesus looked like them. John began to protest that he “did not know Him”. Yes, there was blood relationship, (his mother Elisabeth was cousin to the virgin Mary), but there was no acquaintance. It is probable John had no personal knowledge of Jesus until He came to the baptism. Their manner of life had been different. John spent time in the wilderness in solitude and Jesus at Nazareth in conversation. There does not seem to be any communication between the two. The whole point of John’s ministry and baptism by water was to introduce Jesus Christ.

To vouch for his testimony of Jesus, John the Baptist testifies as to the extraordinary appearance at His baptism, upon God’s witness as recorded at John 1:32-34, “And John bore witness, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” (NKJV) These verses reflect a scene where all three persons of the triune Godhead are at work, the Father Almighty, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The reference here is to when John baptizes Jesus in the Jordan. After the LORD comes out of the water the Spirit of God descended on Him like a dove and remained on Him. Immediately after the baptism of Jesus Matthew 3:17b indicates, “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” (NKJV) John testified as to what he saw. He did not see the Spirit, but he saw the dove which was the sign and representation of the Spirit. The Spirit descended from above for all good and perfect gifts are from heaven. The Spirit remained with Him. Also, John testified that he had been told by God to expect the Spirit descending on the One would be the Son. He stated again that He did not know Jesus, but He did know God who had sent him to baptize with water with specific instructions regarding the descent of the Spirit. Because John had a relationship with the Heavenly Father who had given him divine instructions, he believed what he had seen and testified in excitement that Jesus is the Son of God! John the Baptist could not do anything else but be a reliable witness to what he had seen.

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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