A watershed moment
There is definitely nothing old hat about the message of John the Baptist. In fact, it is highly current. Here is a divine service by Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider in which he examined the preaching of John the Baptist, bringing his message into the present.
“The message of John the Baptist does not need to be adapted to our time.” This was the conclusion the Chief Apostle drew at the end of his service on 1 December last year in Bloemfontein in South Africa. He had based his sermon on John 1: 6–7: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.”
In the tradition of the Old Testament prophets
“John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for the Messiah, the Son of God, who came to earth,” the Chief Apostle explained. As a prophet of the Old Testament John proclaimed a message similar to that of earlier prophets:
- “God will judge every human being and He will reject those who do not do His will and accept those who do His will.”
- “Come back and repent. Come back to God and do the will of God.”
- “God will send you a Saviour, the promised Redeemer, and this Saviour will deliver you.”
Special messages for the new covenant
John the Baptist had a special message for the people. He told them that the Saviour was already here and that He was in their midst. John also said: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin o f the world!” The Jews understood this image only too well. When the firstborn sons were killed in Egypt, the Hebrew families were spared because God had commanded them to paint the lintels of their doors with the blood of a freshly slaughtered lamb.
And John still had another special message which related to the Saviour Jesus: “…this is He who baptises with the Holy Spirit.” This means “that with His life you will get a new life”.
As the last prophet of the Old Testament, John the Baptist announced the new covenant.
- “Jesus is the new light. You have to consider and understand the law of God as Jesus did.” The law was no longer the way it was seen by their forefathers.
- “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3: 30). That meant, the Chief Apostle explained, that the doctrine of Jesus was now above that of the prophets.
- John the Baptist was not disappointed that he was the last prophet of the old covenant. “It was a great joy for him to announce that this was the end of the story and the beginning of a new story, in which God would have fellowship with His people.”
The message is still valid today
The message of John the Baptist is still valid for us today, the Chief Apostle said. “Let’s look at the message of John the Baptist in our time. Message number one: God will judge every human being.” Even if nobody wanted to hear it then and nobody wants to hear it today: “He will accept those who do His will and reject those who do not.”
Another thing that John the Baptist prophesied was that anyone who wanted to be accepted by God would have to accept the Saviour. The Saviour is Jesus Christ. The Chief Apostle made it clear: “Jesus did not die on the cross so that you would become rich or successful on earth. He came to bring eternal life, fellowship with God in His kingdom.” This is salvation, the Chief Apostle said, adding, “And this salvation can only be obtained through Jesus Christ.” So we have to believe in Jesus Christ and follow Him and His teaching.
Just as the old covenant ended with John the Baptist and God’s new covenant began with His people, so the doctrine of Jesus replaced the Mosaic Law. Some rules were more important for the Jews than others, the Chief Apostle said. “Is it really different today in the Christian world?” the Chief Apostle asked. “Have you noticed that the sin committed by your neighbour is always more serious than yours?” This is not how it should be: “Look at the law of Moses in the light of Jesus Christ.” That means: “You have to trust Him. And you must love as He loved.”
John the Baptist had made it clear to the people that the Saviour was already in their midst and that they would have to act immediately. This is still very relevant today: “The Holy Spirit tells us, Hey, wake up. Hurry up, He is coming soon, and you don’t have enough time to prepare yourselves.”
Don’t forget, the Chief Apostle said, “John the Baptist was a perfect tool in God’s hand. He was a blessing for the people in his time. And he is still a blessing for us today because his message is still valid. But he could not be saved because he would not follow Jesus.” The Chief Apostle explained to the congregation that we can be just as good a tool and a blessing for others. However, that does not mean that we will be accepted by the Lord at His return. Because we will not be saved through our actions or deeds.
In summing up, the Chief Apostle said: “We are saved because we will be transformed into the image of Christ and because we see everything in the light of Christ, because we believe, and because we trust and love. Let us listen to the message of John the Baptist. It is a relevant message for today.”
South Africa, Chief Apostle, Divine service