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The Difference Between the Identity of the Lord Jesus and That of John the Baptist
By Ni Ming
The Bible recorded that John the Baptist preached, “Repent you: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, and just then his work was upheld by the Holy Spirit so he gained so many followers and had great influence on others. When the Lord Jesus came to work, He preached the gospel of the kingdom and the way of repentance as well. So why is the Lordwhile John the Baptist just a prophet? What’s the difference between their identities? We can get the answers from the following three aspects.
1. Based on the Testimony of the Holy Spirit
When the Lord Jesus was about to begin His work, He was witnessed by the Holy Spirit. Just as the Bible says: “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, see, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting on him: And see a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17). After being baptized, He began His ministry in earnest, which was that He began to do the work of redemption. At the end of His work, the Holy Spirit testified Him as Christ through Peter’s words. It is written in the Bible: “He said to them, But whom say you that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:15-17). From these verses, we can learn that the identity of the Lord Jesus is Christ and this has the testimony of the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, the identity of John the Baptist is different. The Bible records: “And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who are you? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Are you Elias? And he said, I am not. Are you that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they to him, Who are you? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What say you of yourself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said to him, Why baptize you then, if you be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there stands one among you, whom you know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s lace I am not worthy to unloose” (John 1:19-27). From these scriptures we can know John is only a man used by the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit did not witness him as Christ and John himself said he was not Christ but the way-paver for God’s work. In essence he was a created being, no matter how much work he did, his essence would not change. So, we can see the difference between the identity of the Lord Jesus and that of John the Baptist from the testimony of the Holy Spirit.
2. Based on the Nature of Their Words
Through what the Lord, we can recognize that His identity is God Himself because His words have authority and power, and they are the truth. Just as the Lord Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Hearing these words, we can feel they carry authority and power and that none of us mankind can say this kind of words. Among corrupt mankind, no one dares to say that he is the truth, the way, and the life because only God possesses this kind of essence and can say such words. The Lord Jesus talked with His disciples about the Beatitudes and what the way of was; He predicted that how He would return in the last days, what signs there would be when He returned, what work He would do, and how to separate sheep from goats, tares from wheat and good servants from evil ones, and so on—all He said is truth. We created beings are incapable of uttering those words. Only God is the truth. So, that the Lord Jesus can express the truth proves He is God Himself. In addition, all His words have been fulfilled and accomplished. For example, with a single word, He raised the dead; with another word, He calmed the wind and sea; He said He would be crucified and rise again the third day and then He was resurrected three days after being crucified, and so on. From these facts, we can see that every word of the Lord Jesus is full of authority and power, just like the words spoken by God when God created the heavens and earth and all things, what God says becomes true, and what God demands is realized. This proves that the Lord Jesus is the incarnate God Himself. However, to John, he cannot speak such words, for he is not the truth, nor able to utter the truth, much less does he hold such authority and power. It’s just because knowing that he is a created being that he said, “He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s lace I am not worthy to unloose”.
Moreover, the Lord Jesus is God incarnate Himself. He has complete divinity and normal humanity. So the words that He spoke in normal humanity reveal what God has and is, have God’s authority and power, and are the truth. In this way, we can make it clear that the Lord Jesus is God Himself, above any of creatures. However, John’s words that conform to the truth when he spread the gospel were not possessed by himself, but came from the Holy Spirit’s guidance. He does not have the truth, nor have the ability to express the truth, much less possess God’s authority. All of this proves that the identity of John is a created being.
3. Based on the Essence of Their Working
Regarding the understanding about this aspect of difference, I saw some words in a book: “As for John, he simply prepared the way. Though his work was great, his words many, and those disciples who followed him numerous, his work did no more than bring to man a new beginning. Never did man receive from him life, the way, or deeper truths, nor did man gain through him an understanding of the will of God. John was a great prophet (Elijah) who opened up new ground for Jesus’ work and prepared the chosen; he was the forerunner of the Age of Grace. … The work done by John and that done by Jesus were not alike as well as of different natures. It is from this that one determines whether or not he is God. The work of Jesus was to initiate, to continue, to conclude, and to bring to fruition. He carried out each of these steps, whereas the work of John was no more than making a beginning. In the beginning, Jesus spread the gospel and preached the way of repentance, and then went on to baptize man, heal the sick, and cast out demons. In the end, He redeemed mankind from sin and completed His work for the entire age. He also went about in every place, preaching to man and spreading the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. In this regard He and John were alike, the difference being that Jesus ushered in a new age and brought the Age of Grace to man. From His mouth came the word on what man should practice and the way that man should follow in the Age of Grace, and in the end, He finished the work of redemption. John could never have carried out this work. And so it was Jesus who did the work of God Himself, and it is He who is God Himself, and who directly represents God” (“The Mystery of the Incarnation (1)”).
From the outside, the work of John was great; it was upheld by the Holy Spirit and opened up a new way. But John was just used by God to pave the way for the Lord Jesus: He was used to prepare the chosen and pioneer new ground for His work. And the Holy Spirit only upheld such work of John. Thus he couldn’t do further work. Neither could he end the old age nor begin a new age. Although spreading the gospel of the kingdom, he did not have the truth so that he could not show people the path of practice, much less could he do the work of redemption or reveal the mystery of the heavenly kingdom. But the work of the Lord Jesus is different. He did the work of redemption, forgiving man’s sins, and saving those under the law from certain death. Not only did He end the Age of Law and begin the Age of Grace, but also showed man a path of practice in the new age. For example, He taught people to be modest and tolerant, to forgive others, and not to keep the Sabbath. He gave man commandments for the new age and other aspects of the truth. Furthermore, He revealed the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, and the conditions under which man enters it. It’s like what the Lord said, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10), “Truly I say to you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3), and “Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). The Lord Jesus clearly required us to be honest people, to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength, and to love others as we love ourselves, and so on. In addition, He healed the sick, cast out demons, forgave man’s sins and bestowed rich grace and promise to enter the heavenly kingdom upon humans. Finally, He was crucified for the sake of redeeming mankind and accomplished all the work that He should do in the Age of Grace. Such work could only be done by God Himself, and no man could do it. Clearly, the Lord Jesus did the work of the entire Age of Grace, whereas the work of John the Baptist was merely the whole work of a beginning. John merely did the work of preparation for the Lord, and what he did was just fulfilling the duty of a creation. The substance of his work cannot be compared to that of the work of the Lord Jesus. Thus, their identities can be obviously distinguished from each other.
So, we can see the difference between the identity of the Lord Jesus and that of John from these three aspects: who has the testimony of the Holy Spirit; who has the truth and can express the truth; who can open a new age and end the old age. Then we can ascertain that the Lord Jesus is God Himself, while John the Baptist is just a created being who was used by God to pave the way for the Lord.
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