Preachers have different styles of presenting their material to congregants. Whilst it is true that not all preachers are called to preach, the first visible aspect of preaching must be the call of God with the Spirit’s anointing. The greatest work in all the world is to present God’s Word before people. There is nothing greater because preaching is serving God. The preacher can do nothing else in life. The only thing that makes sense is that he declare the riches of God’s glory as found on the pages of the Holy Bible. The second important aspect is the preacher’s ability to communicate. I enjoyed a young preacher’s sermon recently. He is a great communicator because his Church appointment is to teach middle school kids. My philosophy is that if one can teach children and teens, that person will be able to teach adults. Content then follows, with style. By style I do not mean being a promotional speaker, an actor or a comedian (like Trevor Noah). By style I mean being able to take God’s word and hold the hearers as you feed them the manna from heaven. Having said this, some are calm in their presentation, others use their body and voice whilst some are fiery. By fiery I do not mean “a doomsday speaker”. Rather I mean one telling the people what God says without fear or favor in a dramatic manner because of the urgency of the message. Such was the style of John the Baptist! We read:
Ac 13:24 “Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 25 As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you think I am? I am not that one. No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’”
1) John the forerunner. God promised He would send someone to introduce His Messiah by paving the way for His entrance.
Isa 40:3 A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.”
Mal 3:1 “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.
Add to this:
Mal 4:5 “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
In a figurative sense, this last prophecy of Malachi was fulfilled in part through John the Baptist.
2) John’s appearance and method of survival. John’s lifestyle was similar to some of the Old Testament prophets. He lived in the mountain area, dressed in garments made with Camel’s hair, tightened with a leather belt and ate locusts and wild honey. His life was simple, without distractions, enabling him to focus on Kingdom Ministry that God had ordained for him.
3) John the preacher. If ever there was a man fixed on God, ignoring the gallery, the ecclesiastical leaders, the politicians, the business leaders and critics … it was John the Baptist. He was like Isaiah. He only spoke what he heard God speak. In our day he would make the hairs of one’s neck stand on end. He attracted crowds of people interested in their spiritual and eternal life. His preaching was nothing other than calling people to repent, change their lifestyle, mindset and behavior and be serious about God and His Word. He did not mix his words with the self-righteous religious leaders. He called them a “brood of vipers”, saying their Jewish lineage would not count towards their salvation. Where most people in those days never addressed the leaders, John was fearless telling them what their real problems were to their face.
4) John the baptizer. He insisted that to prove true repentance, people be baptized. That is, they were to prove their turning from sin to be true by a public declaration for all to see, followed by living a repentant lifestyle in both private and public.
Mt 3:8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
5) John the servant. Unlike James and John who aspired to positions of power and authority in Jesus’ Kingdom, John was and wanted to be nothing but a servant.
Mk 1:7 “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
He knew whom he was serving. He had a high view and understanding of God. He knew who Messiah was to the point of feeling desperately unworthy as a human of even untying Jesus’ sandals. He even saw his ministry, although appointed by God, as inferior by far to that of the coming Messiah. Even though the crowds came, even though many were baptized, even though many were changed morally and spiritually, he refused to see his ministry as anything more than him being a servant of the great King Jesus. There are many lessons to learn from John the Baptist, as there are cautions.
(1) His appearance. We don’t dress like he dressed today, yet there are those who believe Christians need to dress in old fashion ways. Maybe their reasoning is, according to them, that modern clothing, especially for women are provocative … and women ought not to wear pants. Some believe women using makeup and lipstick is sinful and that men ought to wear beards. The age in which we live is hugely different to the age of John and even our forefathers. People of such persuasions need to hear Jesus speaking to the Jews about handwashing saying that it is not eating with dirty hands they make you unclean but what you put into the heart and comes out of the heart that makes you unclean. Maybe those fixated with outer appearance have a heart problem.
(2) Fearless preacher. Style is important in preaching. Accurate Biblical knowledge is far more important. The ability to communicate is vital. But more important is being fearless in teaching the Bible. It is God’s words. He wants people to hear it. A preacher might tell people what they want to hear but God wants people to hear His Word. One could gather the crowds as many have without the crowds ever hearing the Word of God. Pray for courageous preaching in our day.
(3) Cautious Baptizer. Baptism is a Christian sacrament. It is important that proper examinations take place coupled to proper education before baptism occurs. Often pastors are weak here because they either want to please people or see the numbers grow. Be it paedobaptism or believers baptism being done, Biblical procedures need to be followed.
(4) Humble servanthood. Too many of us want to be like John and James in their desire to be seen and praised. The greatest servant is the lowest one who desires to please his master in every way. Our Lord Jesus showed us this by His sacrificial service for us lost souls. We can’t do that but we can humble ourselves and be the Lord’s servants!
Mt 20:26 “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Greatness in God’s Kingdom is servanthood.
Father, thank You for giving this world John the Baptist. Help us to serve You and the Body of Christ sacrificially. Amen.