Study 1 JOHN THE BAPTIST: THE PIONEER SOUL-WINNER
Ten New Testament Soul-Winners
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: John 1:19-37)
In this series of studies on New Testament soul-winners we hope to form a composite picture of the way in which we can all engage in this great task of bringing others to the Lord Jesus Christ. John the Baptist is the first soul-winner of whom we read in the New Testament, and we call him The Pioneer Soul-winner because he was a pioneer in every sense of the word. He not only prepared the way for the Lord (Luke 3:4), but as we study him this should prepare us to do this work to which he was called and in which he engaged so effectively.
There are few people in the Gospels concerning whom we have so much detail and of whom the Lord had so much to say, yet John’s period of service probably covered only six months. He was a unique personality – rugged, severe, yet humble and self-effacing. He was the child of godly parents (Luke 1:5-6); his birth was super-normal (Luke 1:7); he was Spirit-filled (Luke 1:15); he was our Lord’s forerunner (Luke 7:27); he experienced a period of great doubt and testing (Matthew 11:2-15); and finally he was beheaded because of his unflinching loyalty to the Lord (Mark 6:14-29). As we study John 1:19-37, let us remember that God’s plan and purpose is that every Christian should be a soul-winner. Notice, therefore, the following points about this pioneer soul-winner:-
1. HE OBEYED A DIVINE COMMISSION
John’s work was undertaken under a strong sense of divine commission, and in verse 33 five words emphasise this: the one who sent me. He had been sent to do the work of soul-winning. Who had sent him? – see John 1:6. It is important to notice, however, that if we are Christians we too have been sent – look up John 20:21. Jesus was sent by God (John 6:44; 7:16; 9:4, and compare 1 John 4:14), and just as God sent Jesus, so He has sent us – look up Matthew 28:19. So John obeyed a divine commission.
2. HE DESCRIBED A SPECIFIC TASK
Why was John sent? What did he come to do? In verses 19-22, we read of a deputation sent by the Jews to ask John who he was, and in his reply he describes the work to which the Lord had called him. He was “the voice of one calling in the desert.” We also are to be a “voice”, we are to speak, to cry out in the desert and wilderness of this world. How wonderful to be a “voice” for God, a channel through whom He can speak to others! Every Christian can engage in this, and on every hand people are waiting to hear this voice that tells them of the Saviour. How did John the Baptist use his voice?
3. HE INTRODUCED A WONDERFUL PERSON
In all the records of John’s public ministry (and in particular John 1:19-37), we see that he always pointed people away from himself to the Lord Jesus – see verses 24-27. Who was this Christ whom John introduced to people? In verses 30 and 34 we read that Christ was (and is) the eternal, pre-existent Son of God. We too are to speak of the Lord and to introduce Him to others. There is no vocation in the whole wide world to compare with this. Do you catch the wonder of it? This is the work of the evangelist, the missionary, the minister and the individual Christian. But notice what John the Baptist said about the Lord Jesus:-
4. HE PROCLAIMED A GLORIOUS MESSAGE
John proclaimed two special things about Christ. First, that He is the sin-bearer – see verses 29 and 36; and second, that He is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit – see verses 32 and 33. Thus the message that John proclaimed to his hearers was that through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ they could have deliverance from their sins (Acts 13:38-39), and the gift of a new life (1 Corinthians 12:13). There is only one who can bestow these great blessings, and that is Jesus, the Lamb who was slain for us and through His sacrificial and substitutionary death upon the cross bore our sins away and provided pardon and cleansing – look up and compare Exodus 12:13; Acts 8:32; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:19; 2:24; Revelation 1:5-6; moreover, Jesus alone is the one who can baptise us with the Holy Spirit. Only He can take guilty sinners and, by the miracle and mystery of His sovereign grace, unite us “into one body”, and “we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13) – making us “participate in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), “fellow-citizens with God’s people, and members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19), and “a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). This is the glorious message that we have to proclaim and that this poor old world so desperately needs to hear. Christ alone has the true answer to man’s need for pardon and the gift of eternal life, because only Christ can give these two great blessings. We as Christians have the privilege and the responsibility of proclaiming this message. Are we doing it? If so, will there be any results from our labours? Yes – for this work bears fruit, as it did in the case of John the Baptist.
5. HE SECURED A RICH HARVEST
At first sight the harvest recorded in John 1:35-37 did not seem very spectacular, but think a moment. Who were these first trophies of grace who were brought to the Saviour directly through the ministry of John? They were Andrew and John; but not only Andrew and John, for verses 40-42 tell us that Andrew found his brother Peter and led him to the Lord. (Notice the position of the word “first” in verse 41. It does not say, “he found his own brother first”, but “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother” – signifying that John found his brother James, but that Andrew was the first one to find his brother Peter). They both found their brothers! So here was a rich harvest from John the Baptist’s ministry – Andrew, John, Peter, James – and the rest…for think of the multitudes who were led to the Lord through those few!
(PLEASE NOTE: In the original series of these Bible studies PHILIP THE EVANGELIST was included. As, however, this study was included in Series No. 10, we are publishing two studies on Paul. This series therefore contains ten studies but only nine soul-winners.)