1:30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.
1:31 And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
1:32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
1:33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
1:34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
SECTION 5 VERSES 29-34
THE WORD IN RELATION TO THE WORLD: THE SIN-BEARER
1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
The apostle is now giving us a sequence of days, culminating with the seventh day when the water is turned into wine in chapter 2. Jewish weddings were usually held on Wednesday, so working back, we find that we are now at Friday. In verse 26 Jesus is standing; in verse 29 He is coming to John; in verse 35 John stood. Jesus is coming to him after His temptation experience, in which he showed Himself to be untouchable by temptation, and therefore fully qualified to deal with the question of sin. Couple this with the idea suggested by “there standeth one among you” of verse 26, and a picture is being built up reminiscent of the Day of Atonement ceremony. To complete the picture, we have the announcement in this verse that Christ is the Lamb of God that bears sin.
Jesus coming unto John, the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets, is indeed what had been true down the centuries. The Messiah had been coming, so that He and the prophetic testimony might be merged together. Like John before He came, the prophets did not fully understood what they wrote, 1 Peter 1:10-12, but now is the time for all to be made plain. Remember John is son of a priest, yet instead of officiating at the laver he baptises in Jordan, and instead of ministering at the altar, he announces the Lamb of God. The time when animal sacrifices, literal altars and lavers will be needed is gone, a new era has begun. Isaac had said, “Where is the lamb?” Genesis 22:7, whereas John is in effect saying, “There is the lamb”. There were two goats on the Day of Atonement that made one sin offering. One was the goat on which the Lord’s lot fell, corresponding to “the lamb of God”, and the other was the scapegoat, on whose head was laid the sins of the nation to be taken away into the wilderness, corresponding to “beareth away the sin of the world”. These two aspects are seen in Isaiah 53, where in verses 4-8 the emphasis is on sufferings borne, (and Peter quoted from this section when he was writing about sufferings, 1 Peter 2:22-24), whereas in verses 7-9 the emphasis is on death endured, (and Philip used this section when he was talking to the Ethiopian eunuch, who immediately asked for baptism, which has to do with identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection).
As a result of the sin-bearing of Christ, the following things have been achieved:
The demands of God have been fully met.
To satisfy God as the Moral Governor of the universe, an adequate and final answer must be found to the question of sin. The demands of His holiness and righteousness are such that every sin must be responded to. Only Christ is adequate for this situation. He it is who has “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”, Hebrews 9:26. To put away in that verse means to abolish. As far as God is concerned, and in this context, sin is not. No charge can henceforth be made against God that He has ignored the presence of sin. On the contrary, He has taken account of each and every sin through his Son’s work at Calvary. John wrote, “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world”, 1 John 2:2. Of course “the sins of” is in italics in that verse. But the words must be supplied because they are implied in the “ours” of the previous statement. If John had written “not for us only”, then he could have continued “but also for the whole world”. Since, however, he uses the possessive pronoun “ours”, then “the sins of” must be inserted. Now the apostle will write later that “we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness”, 1 John 5:19. He sees mankind divided into two clearly defined sections, believers, and the whole world. The same whole world whose sins God took account of at Calvary.
God’s dealings have been vindicated.
In Old Testament times God blessed men by reckoning them righteous when they believed in Him. Romans 3:24,25 indicates that the propitiatory work of Christ vindicates God for so acting. In can be seen now that God was blessing anticipatively, crediting believers with the results of Christ’s work before they had been achieved. He also remitted, or passed over, their sins in forbearance, holding back from judging those sins in virtue of what His Son would do at Calvary.
God’s glory has been fully displayed.
There is no attribute of God that has not been fully expressed at Calvary. This is why the apostle Paul speaks of rejoicing in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement, Romans 5:11. Atonement in this verse means reconciliation, one of the effects of propitiation. By His sacrificial work at Calvary Christ has brought the character of God out into full and glorious display. Those who are brought by faith into the good of that work are enabled to behold that display, and rejoice in it. Would we know Divine holiness, or righteousness, or love, or wrath, or any other aspect of the Person of God? Then we must look to the cross for the sight of it. We shall not be disappointed.
God’s mercy has been made available.
The repentant sinner who called upon God to be merciful to him, is the first person in the New Testament to use the word propitious- “God be merciful to me on the basis of propitiation”. He went down to his house justified, Luke 18:13,14. Under the terms of the New Covenant, God promises that “I will be merciful (propitious) to their unrighteousness, Hebrews 8:12. The mercy-seat was the same width and breadth as the ark, telling us that the ark (the person of Christ) and the mercy-seat, (the work of Christ), were perfectly matched. But we are not told the thickness or depth of the gold of the mercy-seat, for there is an infinite supply of mercy for those who believe, enough to keep them secure for all eternity.
God’s forgiveness is assured to those who believe.
In Hebrews 10:5-8 we have the Spirit of Christ in the psalmist telling of His work of sacrifice. Then we have the Spirit’s testimony telling us of the results of that work, Hebrews 10:15-17. God promises emphatically that He will not remember the sins and iniquities of His people any more, since He brought those sins into remembrance at Calvary, and Christ dealt with them effectively there. “No more” means in no way, nor at any time. Note that God pledges to positively not remember, not negatively to forget. We may forget, and then remember again, whereas God promises never to remember for ever.
God’s people are preserved.
The Lord Jesus spoke in the Upper Room of His brethren, then indicated that He was about to “ascend to My Father, and your Father, to My God, and your God”, John 20:17. Thus He would still be the link between his people and God, maintaining them in His dual role of Advocate with the Father, and High Priest in things pertaining to God.
The basis of His advocacy is two-fold. His person, for He is Jesus Christ the righteous, and His work, for He is the propitiation for our sins, 1 John 2:1,2. The apostle John was concerned about believers sinning. The sins of believers are just as obnoxious to God, and just as deserving of wrath, as those of unbelievers. But we are “saved from wrath through Him”, Romans 5:9, as He pleads the merits of His work. He is, says John, the propitiatory offering for our sins. Not was, but is. In other words, the one who acts for us in heaven as our advocate, is the very same one who hung upon the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.
He is also our High priest. The language of Hebrews 2:17,18- “Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted”. These verses form a bridge between chapter two, with its emphasis on the reasons why the Lord Jesus took manhood, and the way in which Israel were tempted in the wilderness. Note in particular the word “for” which begins verse 18-too little attention has been paid to this word, and hence the connection between verses 17 and 18 is often lost. The reason why we have a high priest who is merciful and faithful is that He has been here in manhood and suffered being tempted. When His people pass through temptation, then He undertakes to deal with their cause. Because He has been here, and has been tempted in all points like as we are, He is able to help us when we cry to Him for help. The word for succour is used by the woman of Canaan in Matthew 15:25 when she cried out, “Lord, help me”. He is able to point us to the ways in which He overcame in the wilderness temptation, and thus we are strengthened to resist temptation.
But what if we fall, and sin? In that case He comes to our aid in another way. We see it typified negatively in Leviticus 10:16-20. The priests were commanded to eat the sin-offerings, if the blood thereof had not been brought into the sanctuary. But at the end of the consecration of the priesthood, Moses was angry on God’s behalf, for the priests had failed in this. Moses said, “God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord”, Leviticus 10:17. One of the functions of priesthood, then, was to personally identify with the sin-offering by eating it, and by so doing bear the iniquity of the congregation, taking responsibility for their failure, but doing so safeguarded by the fact that a sin-offering had been accepted by God. As they did this the scripture explicitly says they made atonement for the people, Leviticus 10:17. We see then what the writer to the Hebrews means when he talks of Christ making reconciliation or propitiation for the sins of the people. He is indicating that Christ personally identifies Himself with His sin-offering work at Calvary, and thus takes responsibility for the failures of His people under temptation. This is acceptable to God, and His people are preserved, despite their failure.
God’s purpose for the earth is furthered.
When Adam the head of the first creation fell, all creation had to be subjected to vanity, or else a fallen man would have been head over an unfallen creation. Now that He has obtained rights over the earth by His death, the Lord Jesus is able to bring in new conditions for God. He can now righteously deliver the present creation from the bondage of corruption that the fall of man brought it into, Romans 8:19-23. Colossians 1:20 assures us that on the basis of the blood of His cross, all things, whether in earth or in heaven, can be reconciled to God, for that alienation between God and His creation which took place at the Fall, can be remedied.
God’s intention to create a new heavens and new earth can be realised. Unless the sin which has marred the first creation is dealt with, God cannot righteously introduced an eternal earth and heavens, for it would not have been evident that He was able to deal with the fall if the first creation. Having dealt with it through Christ, He is able to bring in new things that will never be spoiled. Daniel was told that Messiah the Prince would bring in “everlasting righteousness”, Daniel 9:24, and this He will do, on the basis of His death. It only remains for God to announce “Behold, I make all things new”, Revelation 21:5, and a “New heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness”, will be established, 2 Peter 3:13. At last there will be a settled and congenial place for righteous to dwell in, after all the turmoil brought in by Adam’s sin. At last those profound words spoken by John the Baptist will be fully brought to pass- “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, John 1:29.
1:30 This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for He was before me.
John now repeats his statement to the Pharisees about Christ’s superiority to him, but now adds the reason. The Pharisees had shown no interest, and God does not enlighten those who show no interest in Divine things, Matthew 13:12. He was before me, says John, even though he was older than Christ and began preaching before He did. His goings forth have been from of old, (as indicated in verse 10, He had been active providentially before He came into manhood), even from everlasting, (as verse 1 indicates He was already there when time began). He could say, “Before Abraham was, I am”, John 8:58. He was the one that Melchizedek was made like unto, Hebrews 7:3, and He was the substance that cast the Old Testament shadows, Colossians 2:17.
1:31 And I knew Him not: but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
John was the porter to open to the Good Shepherd, John 10:3, Acts 13:24, (where “coming” means entrance). Even though his mother was kinswoman to Mary, he did not know Him to be the Messiah. He had been in the deserts much of his life, Luke 1:80.
1:32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him.
It is beautifully appropriate that the Spirit should come “in bodily shape like a dove”, Luke 3:22, for this was in harmony with the character of Christ. The dove could be used for sacrifice, so was holy; it was noted for harmlessness, Matthew 9:16; noted too for shunning defilement Song of Solomon 5:2; and was a bird that frequented the wilderness, Psalm 55:6,7. As such, it represented perfectly He who was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners”, Hebrews 7:26.
1:33 And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
John’s ignorance came to an end when the dove descended and remained on Him. This told him that here was the Son of God, a Divine person, who could bestow another Divine person, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had left Saul, and he was deposed from his office as king. David feared lest his sin with Bathsheba meant that the Spirit would be taken from him and he would lose the kingship. But there is neither disobedience nor sin with Christ. The four gospels present Christ as the baptiser with the Holy Spirit in different ways:
Matthew has Israel nationally in view, and shows that when the Messiah comes to reign He comes to His floor, (the nation and the land), and will first apply the Spirit like the wind to separate the chaff from the wheat, and then gather the wheat into His garner, the kingdom, Matthew 3:11,12. Remember that the word for wind and spirit is the same. The Spirit of fire will then burn up the chaff, see Isaiah 4:4.
Mark’s account is very brief, and simply indicates that if any are to serve God they must have the Spirit within, Mark 1:18. The same Spirit that energised God’s Perfect Servant indwells all believers, Galatians 4:6.
Luke has the sphere of profession of this age in mind, and Christ divides men according to whether they believe or not, and incorporates the true believers into “the garner”, the church, Luke 3:16,17.
John, as is his policy, emphasises the person of Christ and not His offices, ands sees in His role as baptiser testimony to His Deity.
1:34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
So John the Baptist and John the apostle concur in their belief. And both testified so that all might believe also, for verse 7 says of the Baptist that he bore testimony to the light, so that all men might believe, and John the apostle indicates in 20:30,31 the same desire. It is fitting that John should announce Him as the Son of God, for this marked the start of the manifestation of eternal life in the world of men, the “beginning” of 1 John 1:1, when the Son came forth from the Father.