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A Voice for God

John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  45:18
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Today, we continue our study through the Gospel according to John. I encourage you to open your bibles if you have them, to chapter 1.
The Title of the sermon today is, “A Voice for God”. As I thought of John’s ministry, and looking for a graphic, I came across this title idea. It made me think, John was a Voice for God. How will I be remembered? Mike was a voice for… ?
For what am I a Voice? That is the big question for today when it comes to applying this portion of God’s word to our lives.
The author of this gospel was the beloved disciple, John. John was a fisherman from Galilee. When he wrote his account of the life of Christ, he was likely in Ephesus. Ephesus, a city in what is modern day Turkey, had a church which was known to be doctrinally sound. They knew what they believed. But they were a church that had lost their love for Jesus.
John wrote his gospel, so that the readers would know, believe and love Jesus. Then, in true belief, experience life that can only be found in Jesus.
John 20:31 NIV
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Many Christians today have a knowledge of what we believe. And many Christians today have lost their love for Jesus. We know what we believe, but we don’t experience the life Jesus offers because we have lost our love for him. We fill our hearts and minds with so many things, we are not thrilled with Jesus.
As we study through John, I pray, and I hope you will pray, that we will all fall in love with Jesus, and experience the life He has for us!
Let’s pray now.
I would like to start by reading John, chapter 1 up through verse 28. This will be everything we have talked about the last few weeks, and the portion we will be talking about today.
Let’s read it together. Those on my right will read the odd verses, and those on my left will join me on the even verses.
John 1:1–28 NIV
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ” Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
When John, the disciple of Jesus wrote his gospel, he did not write about himself. He was there, and can be found in the gospel, but not by name. In fact, next week, we will see him.
Since he did not refer to himself, he referred to John the Baptist, as simply John.
In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, we find more background to John and his ministry. John was telling people to repent because God’s kingdom was coming. He was preparing them for the Messiah who was coming.
As a result of his preaching, many people were going to him to confess their sins, and to be baptized. So many that Mark records it this way…
Mark 1:5 NIV
The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
People were coming in droves. The Spirit was at work through John and his preaching. As the people saw this, some began to speculate who John was. Luke records this.
Luke 3:15 NIV
The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah.
Could he be the Messiah? Messiah means anointed one. Back in the Old Testament, God would have the religious leader anoint someone to be king or priest by pouring oil on their head. This was symbolic, and showed that God chose them for this special position. The act of anointing came to be synonymous with the office. And, as God promised to send one who would be King and priest and to restore Israel, he was known as the Anointed One, or the Messiah. He was the one the Israelites were waiting for! When John came in the wilderness preaching, it was like Moses who led them through the wilderness. He was like Elijah who wore camel skin and a leather belt. He was of a priestly line. Somehow related to David’s line. Could he be the Messiah? The Anointed One?
Having a lot of people going out to this guy in the wilderness created a stir among the religious leaders. So they sent a delegation to find out who this guy thought he was. That is what brings us to the passage for today. John 1:19-28.
John 1:19–20 NIV
Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”
What we have here is a first hand account of what happened with John when these priests and Levites came to him. This is the first of a four day account given by John the disciple of Jesus and author of this gospel, who was at this time one of the disciples of John; that means he was following John the Baptizer as a student.
This was John’s testimony to those priests and Levites. The word for testimony is the same word we saw repeated back in John 1:6-8; the word from which we get our word martyr. It means to witness, or testify.
To witness or testify is the whole reason God sent John. “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” And that is what he did.
What is interesting is in verse 20. It is literally, “He confessed and did not deny, but confessed.” The word confessed is there twice, emphasizing that he did exactly what he was supposed to do. The word deny is what Peter did when he was confronted whether he knew Christ on the night of Jesus’ betrayal and trials.
John is face to face with a group of priests and Levites. These are the power brokers. These are the religious and political leaders of the day. They had power to shut him down. And it wasn’t one; it was a group of them. They were out specifically to see him.
Faced with this opposition, it would be understandable as a human to deny what was going on. It would be understandable to give in to fear. But that is not what John did. He gave the good confession. He did not deny Christ. He did not fail his calling of God. He confessed!

I am not the Messiah.

And, in his confession, he stayed true to his mission. His mission from God was to witness to Christ, not to focus on himself. So, he did. He focused on Christ.
It does not come out in our English translation as much, but John emphasizes Christ in his reply. In English, we need to include the subject. In many languages, including New Testament Greek, the subject does not need to be included, and the first person pronoun when used, is usually for emphasis, because the verb indicates the first person.
If John would have used the normal response, ‘Am not the Messiah.’ He would have been emphasizing that he was not the MESSIAH (emphasis on Messiah). But, instead, he used the pronoun, ‘I am not the Messiah’; emphasizing that HE was not the messiah, but he was near.
OK. The priests and Levites get the message. Sort of. John is not the Messiah. Somehow the excitement of the Messiah being near seems to have passed them by.
But they still do not know who John is. So, YOU’RE not the messiah. So who do you think you are?
John 1:21 NIV
They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.”

I am not Elijah.

The prophet Malachi shared the word of the Lord that Elijah would come back before the dreadful day of the Lord.
Elijah never died on this earth, but was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. So the Jews believed that Elijah would personally come back.
John answered that he was not Elijah.
Some people think this is a contradiction with Jesus declaration that John was the Elijah to come in Matthew 11:14.
Matthew 11:14 NIV
And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.
How is it that John says he is not Elijah, and Jesus says he was? Well let’s look at a couple other verses.
Luke 1:17 NIV
And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
This verse speaks about John and his ministry when his birth was foretold.
Another passage to look at is Matthew 17:10-13.
Matthew 17:10–13 NIV
The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.
From this, I believe that Elijah will come before the ‘dreadful day of the Lord’ which is still future. That is the time beginning with the tribulation, or trials that God brings to purify Israel, and punish the nations. That is something we will study another time. But, related to our passage today, Elijah will come before that Day of the Lord, and John came in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn people’s hearts to Jesus.
So, in one sense John was Elijah, coming before the Day of the Lord to turn the people back to God, and in another sense he was not Elijah himself, who will still come.
Personally, I don’t doubt that John knew the prophecy about himself given by the angel. I don’t doubt that he knew his mission was to come in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the people’s hearts back to God.
However, John was not proud and wanting to call attention to himself. He was not personally Elijah, and he did not want to draw attention to his ministry coming in the spirit and power of Elijah. So, he stuck with the simple answer, ‘I am not Elijah.’
All the way through his interaction, he is not drawing attention to himself. He wants to draw attention to another; to Christ.
John 1:21 NIV
They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.”

I am not the Prophet.

Are you the prophet goes back to Deuteronomy 18:15.
Deuteronomy 18:15 NIV
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.
Moses prophesied that God would raise up another prophet, one who would declare the word of the Lord and lead the people. When that prophet came, the people were to listen to him.
Was John that prophet? No, that also was Jesus.
John 1:22–23 NIV
Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ”
I am the voice of one calling… Notice, he is the voice of one calling. Not the one calling. He is just the voice. Who is calling?
Who has always been calling?
Who was calling in the garden when Adam and Eve hid themselves?
Who was the one calling when Cain killed his brother Abel?
Who was the one calling when all the world was corrupt, and only one would listen, Noah?
Who was the one calling to the idolater Abram?
Who was the one calling Isaac?
Who was the one calling Jacob as he ran from home? And later when he was despised by his uncle and cousins?
Who was the one calling Joseph?
Who was the one calling Moses?
Who was the one calling Israel, time after time, after time?
It is the one who is still calling today, the one who called you and me.
The one who calls out saying,
Ezekiel 18:31–32 NIV
Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!
And lest we think that is just to Israel in the Old Testament...
Acts 17:30–31 NIV
In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
God is calling to everyone to repent! God does not want to put anyone to eternal punishment. Rather, he wants people to repent and live! God is the one calling. Through the various ages He has called personally, and through his chosen prophets. John was one of those prophets, and a special one in that he was preparing the way for God himself to come and dwell among men, calling them to repent and live! John was the voice for God!
Wow! What a calling, to be the voice for God!
But this was lost on these priests and Levites. I can just hear their thoughts. ‘Yeah, we’ve read Isaiah before. No big deal.’ Because unfortunately, too many of us are like them. We hear the Word of the Lord, and we don’t get excited anymore.
Here is their response...
John 1:24–27 NIV
Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
Pharisees? Some of the lower priests and Levites were also part of the group called the Pharisees. These guys were fed up with the corruption of some of the ruling priests who were more interested in political power than God. They were leading a movement to return to the Word of God. But they made it all about themselves, and how they followed the Bible better than anyone else.
If John was unimportant, I mean not the Messiah, nor Elijah nor the Prophet, then what right did he have to be baptizing? And baptizing Jews none-the-less.
You see, baptism was done for filthy Gentiles (anyone who was not a Jew was a Gentile, and polluted by sin). When a Gentile decided to become a Jew and follow God, they went through a ritual baptism that symbolized being born as a Jew. Going through the water was like washing off the filth of being a Gentile, and being born pure as a Jew.
How is it that John would have Jews confessing sins, and being baptized to wash away the filth and be born pure as a Jew? He had no right to do anything like this. He was a nobody!
John could have defended himself. I probably would have tried to defend myself. I’m not a nobody! I am the voice of God! That is important! More important than you!
But, John did not come to testify about himself. So, once again, John points to Jesus.
John 1:26–27 NIV
“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
Matthew, Mark and Luke have more of his answer to these men, and to other people who asked…
Luke 3:16–18 NIV
John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.
I only baptize with water, the one coming baptizes with the Holy Spirit and Fire!! Wow! What imagery!
God has been known as a purifying, holy fire. He is coming to purify a people for himself. And people will either be purified by Him, or burned and punished by Him.

Among you stands one you do not know...

Once again, John is pointing to Jesus, the greater one. The one coming after him, who surpasses him because he was before him, the eternal God!
The problem is not that you are not accepting me. The problem is you do not know the one who is here in your midst, the one you really need!
I love how John just kept putting the focus back on Jesus. They wanted to focus on John, John stayed true to his mission, he was the voice for God, he was giving witness to Christ! Christ is the one they needed to see!

What about me?

How do we take what we are seeing here and apply it to our lives?
Have you listened to the one who calls?
Are you a voice for God?
Homework:
Read Matthew 3:1-17. Why do you think John would preach, “Repent!” to the Jews? They were religious. They worshipped the one true God. In answering this, consider, “What is repentance?”
Read the John 1:1-28 again this week. What verses show that Jesus, the Word, is God? What verses show that He is distinct from the Father, yet still God?
Read John 1:12-13. Some people think they are a Christian because they are born into a Christian home, or because they were raised as a Christian. What does this verse say to them? What does it take to be a Christian? What does it mean, ‘born of God’? What is so special about being to be a child of God?
Meditate on John 1:14. Why is it so special that Jesus made his dwelling among us? Why is it important that he was full of both grace and truth? Consider Wiersbe’s take on this: “Grace without truth would be deceitful, and truth without grace would be condemning.” What does that mean? Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 286.
Meditate on John 1:16. How have you been receiving “grace in place of grace already given” (NIV), or, experiencing “a steady stream of grace” (Measley translation)?
John was a witness, and experienced the power of God in his life. Meditate on John 1:6-8, 15, 19-28). John did not think of himself. He focused on God, and the message he had to share. How can we live like John and experience the power of God in our lives? Be specific about your life today / this week.
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