Jesus Identified:

None but Jesus can do Wretched Sinners Good

John’s narrative begins in the opening verses with a theological presentation of Jesus as essentially God, by persons the Son of God and in function the creator and sustainer and redeemer. He then continues with the beginning of the historical evidence for these claims. Jesus’ own words and actions and the confessions of those that experienced his presence and his teaching begin John’s furious pace of piling up the events that should lead one to confess that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

John Identifies Himself – 19-28

Who He is not – John gives a direct response to a question from the religious leaders. His unconventional dress, his place of ministry and his call to repentance from the least to the greatest, from the most profane to those that served in the temple. His call and practice clearly challenged the self-conceived authority of the Pharisees and their sense of moral superiority.

Messiah – John knew that they were wanting either some convincing manifestation of his right to be making religious requirements of the people or were wanting some reason to accuse him of blasphemy. So, immediately he disarms the accusation of blasphemy by stating clearly that he is not the Messiah. This disclaimer stands in stark contrast to Jesus claim in Matthew 16:16, 17 and John 4:26.

Elijah –  Malachi 4:5, cf. Mt. 11:7-19 (14); 16:13, 14. From these texts it seems that people were expecting a reappearance of Elijah. John, therefore, says he is not Elijah, for he was not in the sense in which they were asking it. So he identifies himself as below.

The Prophet –Deuteronomy 18:15 – This is another of the messianic prophecies that John disclaims. Essentially John already has identified Jesus as this prophet inverse 18 by saying “He has made him known.”

Who He is

Voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.”  He claims no identity other than as a mouthpiece

Baptizer with water (verse 26) – See vs. 31, “So that he might be manifest to Israel;” He seems to indicate that he is introducing the newness of identification as to what it means to be a child of God; Compare with Matt. 3:7-12; a baptism of repentance, a gathering in of true wheat. This leaves no permanent physical mark of identification, but  symbolizes a cleansing of heart, taken on voluntarily, not imposed physically apart from the involvement of the will of the recipient. The cleansing he symbolizes in water, Jesus actual bestows n the giving of His Spirit as a result of his reconciling work.

Verses 29-34 – John Identifies Jesus [Mt. 3:13-17]  This represents a summary of John’s statements concerning Jesus around the time of his baptism

Lamb of God Who Takes away the sin of the World  also v. 36 [called Lamb 27 times in revelation]

identified as an unblemished, unprotesting sacrifice; Passover sacrifice was a lamb. Peter, in writing of the ransom given for us says that it was done not with perishable things as silver and gold, “but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” Those things that were required of the Passover lamb in type were fulfilled completely and immutability through the anti-type, the unblemished, holy, sinless Savior.

Sets forth his mission as distinctly concerning sin; The lamb is symbolic of all the sacrifices and indeed serves for all of them: cf. the sacrifices made for the healed leper in Leviticus 14; the sin offering, the guilt offering and the burnt offering

Benefits expand beyond the nation of Israel – He takes away not only the sin of the remnant of his people among Israel but the sins of the world—that is, Christ’s Messiahship will gather to him all peoples from every tongue and notion.

Greater than John because of His pre-existence 30  – also see 27; John knows clearly that the one for whom he is forerunner is eternal and of infinite worth.

1. He consistently refers to the fact that Jesus, though coming after him was before him. John, the Evangelist, cites this testimony, from John the baptizer, as evidence for his theological argument that “the Word was God, . . . in him was life, [and] he was the true light” and in seeing his glory one saw the unique eternal manifestation of glory from the Father.

2. His worthiness is seen in such phrases as “ranks before me (15, 30) and “whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (27) and “this is the Son of God” (34)

Verses 32, 33 – One who Possesses and dispenses gifts of the Spirit – This function shows his eternal relationship with the Spirit; by his work he will immerse the church in the Spirit; cf 1 John 3:22-27; notice also use of oil in Lev. 14 after the sacrifices of the Lamb which shows by type that the operation of the Holy Spirit in regeneration adoption and sanctification is inextricably connected with the sacrifice of Christ for our sins and guilt.

 He pours forth the Spirit – Acts 2:33 > cf. Joel 2:28, 29; Ezekiel 36:24-27

At Pentecost Jews were gathered from all nations

The Book of Acts records how the Gentiles also were made to partake of this same work of the Spirit

His sacrifice creates the reality of Life in the Spirit – Romans 8:1-4

Christ’s sacrifice enables the work of the Spirit

The Spirit gives us union with Christ, resulting in imputation of righteousness and transformation into his image

He creates the church by the Spirit – 1 Cor 12:3, 12, 13

He creates the spiritual life which is the foundation for the character of the church

He gives gifts by which the church grows into a unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God {“unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace . . . One body and One Spirit Ephesians 4:3, 4}

The operations of the Spirit in calling, regeneration, sanctification gifting of the saints and permanent indwelling come because Christ removes the offense hindering the outpouring of divine favor. The giving of Christ by the Father, the giving of his life by Christ, are fundamental to the giving of the Spirit and the effecting of all that He brings. Presently we have the “firstfruits” of the Spirit (Romans 8:23) with the abundant harvest of his work yet remaining to be fulfilled in eternity. Even so, because God has given us his Son he will freely give us all the blessings that he procured (Romans 8:32) both here and hereafter “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11)

Son of God – This is fundamental to the other aspects of Jesus’s identity

only as Son can he be an adequate propitiation 1John 4:10; Hebrews 5:5-9. The death of a mere man could not effect a restoration of sinners.

A mere man could not endure divine wrath and fully propitiate it even in eternity.

A mere man does not, by his death, give an equivalence of glory in his suffering to the implied loss and rejection of glory by a creature’s disobedience to a divinely-given law.

As Son his pre-existence and surpassing excellence is established, because it is not bare existence that is excellent but his full expression of the essence of God – Hebrews 1:1-4

As Son, he receives and reciprocates the full joy and blessing of the Spirit. This mutual reciprocation constitutes the unity of the godhead in eternity; As Messiah, God and man in one person, his person has the Spirit without measure

Transfer of Attention from John to Jesus [35-51]

Two of John’s Disciples go to Jesus [with John’s encouragement35, 36] Note the titles they immediately attribute to him  Rabbi (38), Messiah (41)

Andrew brings Simon, his brother, telling him “we have found the Messiah.” – Jesus identifies and re-identifies him. He knew his name and his progeny and said that he would be called Cephas, which mean Peter, both of which mean rock. [Paul regularly used the name “Cephas” to refer to Peter (Galatians 1:18, 2:9 and 11; 1 Corinthians 1:12, 15:5) Jesus reaffirms this after Peter’s confession at Caesarea Phillipi (Matthew 16:15-17).

Jesus Calls Philip – When Philip has spent time with Jesus he immediately found Nathanael and identified Jesus as “One about whom Moses and the Prophets spoke” (45)

Philip brings Nathanael – When Jesus tells Nathanael that he saw him under the fig tree, Nathanael calls him “Rabbi” and confesses that Jesus is “Son of God, King of Israel.”

It is for verification of the legitimacy of these conclusions drawn by these early disciples that John approaches his narrative the way he did. “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31).

Jesus’ ministry observed by angels (51 cf 1 Timothy 3:16) – If Nathanael concluded that Jesus is Son of God and King of Israel merely from his perception that Jesus had first hand knowledge of his identity and character. This probably shows that Nathanael was praying for the redemption of Israel at a place of secret devotions, and Jesus in his continuing omnipresence a Son of God had received and interceded for him in these prayers. Beyond that, during his work as Messiah, as Son of Man, angels attended Jesus in every stage–Annunciation, temptation, Garden, Tomb, Ascension. This will ad continuing verification of Jesus’ role as Messiah. Angels not only are in the picture as God’s servants giving aid as he instructs them, but they are also advancing in the knowledge of the divine wisdom and power in salvation. see 1 Peter 1:12

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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