In the first eighteen verses of John 1, we are told about two cousins. One is called the Word or the Light. The other is called the witness of the Light and his name is John. This article will cover what these few verses say about this man John. This is a different John than the writer of the gospel. This John is John the Baptist.
At the close of the Old Testament, God told Israel that He would not speak to them for a while through a prophet. This actually lasted about 400 years! He promised that He would send another prophet when that silence would be broken, and that man would be the forerunner of the Messiah. That man would announce the coming of the Redeemer.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. – Malachi 4:5-6
The promise was that one would come in the same power and spirit that Elijah had, not a resurrection or reincarnation of Elijah. We have several New Testament verses that confirm that John the Baptist is the one who came in the spirit of Elijah and fulfilled this prophecy. For time sake, I will not discuss this evidence here. But please read Luke 1:11-20; Matthew 11:13-14; and Mark 9:11-13. For the remainder of this article, I would like to discuss what John the Evangelist says about this faithful witness named John.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. – John 1:6
First of all, John was sent from God. This means that the message that he had was not just his own. The words that he would speak in his ministry are the words of God.
The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. – John 1:7-8
Next, we learn that John was sent from God to be a witness to the coming of the Light. In fulfilling the prophecy, John would be the voice crying in the wilderness announcing the coming of the Messiah (Matthew 3:1-3; Isaiah 40:3). His ministry was vital because of the darkness on men’s minds because of sin. When sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, it damaged mankind so greatly that they are not able to recognize God even when He stands right in front of them. This gospel tells us as much in verses 5, 10, and 11. Therefore, John is sent so that men could understand that Jesus was not just a magician or prophet, He was God in the flesh.
John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. – John 1:15
Throughout John’s ministry, many speculated that he was the Messiah. John denied this every time. He always pointed to Jesus as the Messiah and confirms his belief in the eternal nature of Jesus when he declares that Jesus “was before me.” John was six months older than Jesus in the flesh, but he understood that Jesus was much more than just a man.
John’s ministry was devoted to declaring the arrival of the King. He had doubts, as we all do, at times. But he was faithful to his calling. I think his ministry can best be summed up in his own words that he spoke when many of his disciples stopped following him and started following Jesus:
He must increase, but I must decrease. – John 3:30