John’s Testimony of Jesus

JOHN’S TESTIMONY OF JESUS

John 1:29-34

By Wayne S. Walker

     Several statements in the Old Testament prophesy that a forerunner would come to prepare the way for the Messiah.  As we come to the New Testament, it is affirmed that these prophecies found their fulfillment in a man named John, who was born to a priest named Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth about six months before Jesus was born.  Because John was sent by God to baptize the people of Israel so that they might be ready for the coming of the Messiah, he is known as John the Baptizer or John the Baptist, and we need to consider his testimony of Jesus in John 1:29-34.

     First, he identified Jesus as the Lamb of God in verse 29.  “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’”  Under the Old Covenant law, God required lambs and other animals to be sacrificed.  However, these animal sacrifices themselves did not provide forgiveness, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin’ (Hebrews 10:4).  Rather, the primary purpose of these offerings was to point forward to the fact that mankind would be redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

     Second, he said that Jesus was “Preferred before me” in verses 30-31.  “This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’  I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”  When John said that Jesus was “Preferred before me,” he meant that He “ranks higher than I.”  Jesus Himself later said of John, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11).  John was not the Messiah, and he humbly accepted his place in God’s scheme as the herald who would announce the Messiah.

     Third, he saw the Spirit in verses 32-33.  “And John bore witness, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.  I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”’”  This event occurred at the baptism of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 3:13-17.  God had apparently revealed to John that this would happen as a sign that would enable John to know exactly who the Christ would be and so to testify of Him.

     Fourth, he called Jesus the Son of God in v. 34.  “I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”  Based on the evidence presented to him, John identified Jesus as God’s Son.  Others have done the same.  Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:17).  And God wants us to do so also.  But how can we come to know this?  We didn’t see the Spirit descend on Jesus as John did.  We haven’t listened to Jesus in person as Peter did.  “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).

    What is the importance of John’s testimony?  Well, consider these questions.  Why do we believe that Alexander the Great lived 2,300 years ago, was king of Macedon, and conquered the known world?   Why do we believe Julius Caesar lived 2000 years ago, first ruled Gaul, and then crossed back over to Rome?  Why do we believe George Washington lived 230 years ago, led the colonial army against the British, and was the first President of this nation?  None of us was there, but we accept credible historical evidence.  And even though none of us was present when Christ lived on earth, we have credible historical evidence about Him—from many people including John the Baptist.  If believe can believe the historians’ testimony about Alexander, Julius Caesar, and George Washington, why should we not accept John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus Christ?

     wswalker310@juno.com ; taken from Expository Files – June 2010

Praise the Lord!

PRAISE THE LORD!

By Wayne S. Walker

     “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.  Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 150:6).  The Hebrew name for the book of Psalms is “Tehellim” which means “Praises.”  Not every Psalm is specifically a Psalm of praise, but many of them are, and Psalm 150 certainly is.  Based upon this Psalm, Henry F. Lyte, author of the beloved “Abide With Me,” wrote another hymn which, when set to the majestic Welsh tune Gwalchmai, begins, “Praise the Lord, His glories show, Alleluia!  Saints within His courts below, Alleluia!  Angels round His courts above, Alleluia!  All who know and share His love, Alleluia!”

     We should praise the Lord God because of who He is and what He has done.  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  Joachim Neander wrote a hymn which I love; it has not been in many of our older hymnbooks but is thankfully finding its way into some of our newer ones.  As translated into English by Catherine Winkworth, the first stanza reads, “Praise ye the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation; O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation.  All ye who hear, Now to His temple draw near; Join me in glad adoration.”  Of course, whenever we praise God, we are praising the Father, just as Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9).

     However, when we praise God, we are also praising Jesus Christ because of what He has done for us.  “…For you have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).  Fanny Crosby wrote, “Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer; For our sins He suffered and bled and died.  He our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation, Hail Him! Hail Him! Jesus the crucified.  Sound His praises, Jesus who bore our sorrows; Love unbounded, wonderful, deep, and strong.  Praise Him! Praise Him! Tell of His excellent glory; Praise Him! Praise Him! Ever in joyful song.”  Jesus deserves our praise because of who He is.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

     Also, when we praise God, we are praising the Holy Spirit as well because He is the one whom Christ sent to guide the apostles into all truth and through whom they revealed the will of God to mankind (John 16:13, Ephesians 3:3-5).  Brethren have debated through the years whether it is scriptural to sing songs addressed to the Holy Spirit, but how often have we all sung the well known doxology by Thomas Ken, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him all creatures here below.  Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”?  The Holy Spirit is equally worthy of our praise because He too is God, divine in nature (Acts 5:3-4).  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all fit objects of our praise.  Therefore, when we sing, when we pray, and when we live our daily lives, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD”!

Instrument of Your Choice?

INSTRUMENT OF YOUR CHOICE?

By Wayne S. Walker

     “Let them praise His name with the dance; let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and the harp” (Psalm 149:3).  We understand that many things were allowed and even commanded in worship under the old covenant, such as burning incense, offering animal sacrifices, dancing before the Lord, and instrumental music in worship, which are not authorized for the church under the new covenant.  An otherwise good book of devotions on the Psalms made the following comment about Psalm 149:

     “What’s the right way to praise the Lord?  Do you use a stringed instrument or a tambourine?  Do you sing a beautiful melody or recite an eloquent speech?  Do you bow your head or raise your hands?…David himself praised God on an instrument, with dancing, and through writing psalms.  He didn’t limit the creative ways he could express his adoration for God.  Neither should you.”

     Well, the fact is that David did limit himself.  He didn’t try to praise God by committing ritual fornication, which was characteristic of many ancient religions of his day.  He didn’t seek to praise God by offering his children as burnt offerings, like many of the nations around Israel.  He limited himself to praising God only in ways that were authorized by the covenant under which he lived.

     Therefore, we need to be very careful that when we strive to praise and worship God, we do only those things which God has said in His new covenant are acceptable to Him, and do them only in the way that He has authorized.  Just because something makes us feel good or expresses our exuberance does not necessarily make it right with God.  “There is a way that seems right [i.e., feels good or sounds fine] to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).  Let us be most concerned with God’s choice.

Hallelujah!

HALLELUJAH!

By Wayne S. Walker

     “Praise the LORD!  Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights!” (Psalm 148:1).  Do you know what the word “hallelujah” (or its somewhat Latinized form “alleluia”) means?  According to the New King James footnote on Psalm 148:1, it means “praise the Lord” or “praise Jehovah.”  In the famous song based upon this psalm, with music by William J. Kirkpatrick, the unnamed author begins with the transliteration of the Hebrew term and then follows it immediately with the English translation: “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah!”  The last six Psalms are called “Hallelujah Psalms” because they all begin, “Praise the Lord!”

     Many other hymns and gospel songs use this term or a variation of it.  Philip P. Bliss wrote, “Hallelujah! What a Savior!”  John E. Thomas wrote, “Hallelujah! We Shall Rise.”  In another hymn, “Praise the Lord, Ye Heavens Adore Him,” also based on Psalm 148, attributed to John Kempthorne, the chorus reads, “Hallelujah! Amen! Hallelujah! Amen! Amen, Amen.”  One of my favorite hymns, though not in many of our books, was written by William C. Dix and entitled, “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus.”  And there is the ubiquitous praise song often just called “Alleluia.”

     There is certainly nothing wrong with praising the Lord using the word “Hallelujah” whether in song or prayer or common speech.  However, we must be very careful that we do not allow “Hallelujah” to become just another interjection of surprise.  Since “Hallelujah” literally means “praise the Lord,” is there any difference in shouting out “Hallelujah” when startled than in saying, “O my God” or “Good Lord”?  It seems to me that using “Hallelujah” as an everyday exclamation comes rather close to taking the Lord’s name in vain.  Those who truly wish to praise the Lord will want to avoid that.

Do You Fear God?

DO YOU FEAR GOD?

By Wayne S. Walker

     “The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy” (Psalm 147:11).  The Psalmist tells us that the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him.  One of the reasons that Paul gave for why all people, both Jew and Gentile, are under condemnation by God is, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).  What does it mean to “fear” God?  The word “fear” is commonly used in two slightly different senses. 

     Sometimes it is used to mean a sense of terror or being frightened.  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).  This is not the kind of fear in which the Lord takes pleasure.  “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.  But he who fears has not been made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).  This kind of fear leads to cowardice.  In fact, in Revelation 21:8, the term which in some versions is translated “fearful” in others is rendered “cowardly.”

     However, the word “fear” is often used in the sense of a deep reverence and respect for God that leads to obedience.  “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:  Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).  This is the kind of fear in which the Lord takes pleasure.  “Therefore, since w are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28).  Indeed, Peter reminds us in Acts 10:35 that only those who fear God and work righteousness are acceptable to Him.  Do you fear God?

Do Not Trust in Princes

DO NOT TRUST IN PRINCES

By Wayne S. Walker

     “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help” (Psalm 146:3).  I have always been interested in politics because I believe that a Christian has a civic obligation to the government of the nation in which he lives (note Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-17).  I also believe that my civic obligations are one way that I can fulfill my responsibility before God to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16).

     One aspect of this responsibility is expressed by the statement, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).  Therefore, I choose the political party with which I identify myself and the candidates whom I support based upon how likely they are to reflect a respect for the principles of righteousness.  At the same time, I try very hard not to make my political convictions any kind of standard by which I judge others, especially my brothers and sisters in Christ.

     However, there have been times when I have been disappointed.  Politicians for whom I have voted have failed to do what they promised and what I expected of them.  Even the party in which I claim membership has sometimes strayed away from what it says that it stands for and what I believe to be right.  While this always perturbs me, I do not put my trust in these “princes” because they are but “sons of men” who are weak, frail, and subject to making mistakes.

     Rather, I put my trust in the living and true God who “rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Daniel 4:33).  He still sits on the throne of the universe and works out all things according to the good pleasure of His will to accomplish His divine purpose.  Oh, I still try to elect the people who I think will best represent His virtues, and am glad when they win.  But my trust is not in them.  “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God” (v. 5).

“I Will Extol You, My God, O King”

“I WILL EXTOL YOU, MY GOD, O KING”

By Wayne S. Walker

     “I will extol You, my God, O King; and I will bless Your name forever and ever” (Psalm 145:1).  The word “extol” means “To praise in the highest terms; exalt; laud.”  The Psalm expresses several reasons to praise, exalt, laud, and bless God in the highest terms.  Based on the first eleven verses of this Psalm, Richard Mant wrote a majestic hymn, which is usually set to a lovely melody attributed to Christian F. Witt.  It should be in every hymnbook published by brethren, but, alas, it is not (except three stanzas in Hymns for Worship Revised, set to a woefully mismatched tune). 

     Take the poem and put your Bible open to Psalm 145 beside it so that as you read the words you can compare the hymn to the Psalm.

1. (vs. 1-2)

God, my King, Thy might confessing, Ever will I bless Thy name;

Day to day Thy throne addressing, Still will I Thy praise proclaim.

2. (vs. 3-4)

Honor great our God befitteth.  Who His majesties can reach?

Age to age His works transmitteth; Age to age His power shall teach.

3. (vs. 5-6)

They shall talk of all Thy glory, On Thy might and greatness dwell,

Sing of Thy dread acts the story, And Thy deeds of wonder tell.

4. (v. 7)

Nor shall fail from memory’s treasure Deeds of love and mercy wrought:

Deeds of love surpassing measure, Deeds of mercy passing thought.

5. (vs. 8-9)

Full of pity and compassion, Slow to anger, vast in love,

God is good to all creation, And His works His goodness prove.

6. (vs. 10-11)

All Thy works, O Lord, shall bless Thee; Thee shall all Thy saints adore.

King supreme shall they confess Thee, And proclaim Thy sovereign power.”

     There now.  How is that for really offering up “the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15)?  In my estimation, it surely beats a lot of the currently faddish pop-culture “praise songs” which simply talk about how “I feel” about the Lord.  We could certainly use a lot more hymns in our books like this one!