The Forerunner (John 1:6-8)

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
John 1:6-8

In these three verses, John the apostle introduces us to John the Baptist, a man who was prophesied about all the way back in Isaiah 40:3. In this brief account of John the Baptist, the apostle draws our attention to three aspects that characterized the man and his ministry:

1. John was sent by God. God himself had called John for a specific purpose.

2. John witnessed about the light. The specific purpose God was calling John to was to come before Jesus to serve as a forerunner to him and to point him out for everyone.

3. John was not the light. The apostle emphasizes that even though John the Baptist had an incredibly important task, he was only a man and not “the light of men” (John 1:4).

While in one sense John had a unique task in that he was to serve as a forerunner to Jesus, in another sense our task is the same as his. The Greek word for “witness” (martureó) in verse 7 (from which we get our word “martyr”) also shows up in Acts 1:8 when Jesus tells his disciples that they will be his “witnesses” to the ends of the earth. While we have come to associate the word “martyr” with death, it simply means to bear witness to something. So to be a believer in Christ is to be a martyr. And so we too can point out three things that should characterize our lives:

1. You are sent by God. Your mission in life isn’t getting that job you want, making sure your kids get in to Harvard, or getting the house with the white picket fence. It is so much more. You have a mission in life which comes to you from the God of the universe.

2. You are to witness about the light. Your life is to be spent making Jesus famous by growing in your knowledge of him, helping other believers to know him more, and by telling others about him who don’t yet know him.

3. You are not the light. Your job isn’t to fix people or save them. You job is merely to point them to the one who alone can do both. God doesn’t need you to make himself famous, but he graciously lets you be part of his mission.

Discussion Questions
Do you sense your God-given mission throughout your normal day?
What would it practically look like to bear witness to Jesus in your day-to-day life?
Do you ever feel like saving people is your responsibility? How does this passage remove that burden from you?

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