John 1:6-8,19-42 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. How is John the Baptist described in verse 6 (printed below) and what was his calling (see verse 7 printed below?)

There came a man, sent by God, whose name was John. (7) He came as a witness, so that he might bear testimony about the Light, so that all men might believe through him. (John 1:6-7)

John the Baptist is described as “a man sent by God.” That is to say, he had a divine calling (note Luke 1:13-17). According to verse 7, a man sent by God is called to bear witness to the Light (the person of the Lord Jesus Christ). More specifically, the man of God is called to bear witness to the Light with the intent that men might believe in Christ through his witness. We read that John “came as a witness, so that he might bear testimony about the Light, so that all men might believe through him” (verse 7). A man sent by God presents Jesus to his hearers; and he does so in such a way that the hearers must respond to Jesus, they must deal with Jesus, they cannot simply ignore Him.

2. What answer does John the Baptist give the religious leaders when they ask him, “Who are you?” See John 1:19-23 (printed below)

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, Who are you? (20) He admitted and did not deny; indeed, he admitted, I am not the Christ. (21) So they asked him, What then? Are you Elijah? And he replied, I am not. Are you the Prophet? And he answered, No. (22) Therefore they said to him, Who are you? Tell us, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself? (23) He said, I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, Make the way straight for the Lord, just as Isaiah the prophet foretold. (John 1:19-23)

John the Baptist truthfully asserts, “I am not the Christ.” He points men away from himself: he does not claim to be the Messiah, he does not claim to be able to personally save men and solve their problems, he does not encourage men to set their hopes upon him and exalt him—he faithfully points men to Jesus Christ. John goes on to identify himself as “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, Make the way straight for the Lord.” (verse 23) There is a deep and genuine humility: John declares, I am not the Messiah. I am not the great prophet. I am only a voice. But there is also a deep and genuine certainty of being commissioned by God and bearing a message from God: I myself am only the voice, but mine is the voice that has a message for you from God—John recognizes himself to be the fulfillment of the prophecy proclaimed by Isaiah.

3. What does John the Baptist say about Jesus? See John 1:29 (printed below)

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

In verse 29 we see this man sent by God in action, we hear him proclaiming his God-given message: “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” He deals with universal and eternal issues. He does not identify Jesus as merely a Jewish liberator, but as the Savior for the world. The man sent by God does not deal with men in a superficial manner, he compels them to come to grips with the realities of sin, guilt, judgment, and he points them to our only hope: Jesus Christ and His cross.

4. What was the result of John the Baptist’s witness on this occasion? See John 1:35-39 (printed below)

The next day John was again standing with two of his disciples. (36) He looked at Jesus as he passed by, and said, Look, the Lamb of God! (37) The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. (38) Jesus turned and saw them following. He said to them, What do you want? They said to him, Rabbi (which, being translated, means, Teacher), where are you staying? (39) He said to them, Come, and you shall see. So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day; it was about the tenth hour of the day. (John 1:35-39)

Men are pointed to Jesus Christ: Jesus becomes the focal point (verses 35-36). Men seek after Christ: their attention has been focused on Christ and they become interested in becoming acquainted with Him (verse 37). As men seek out Christ they come to have a personal encounter with Him (verse 38). Such men come to commit themselves to Christ (verse 39). Note: the outline of verses 35-42 is one blessed result of proclaiming Christ, but it is not necessarily a universal result, nor the only result. The Pharisees rejected John’s message. King Herod opposed John, imprisoned him, and eventually had him beheaded.

5. What does John the Baptist tell us about himself and his ministry in verses 30-34 (printed below?)

This is he of whom I said, After me there comes a man who surpasses me; because he was before me. (31) I did not know who he was; but the reason I came baptizing with water is so that he might be revealed to Israel. (32) Then John testified, I have seen the Holy Spirit descending out of heaven like a dove; and he remained on him. (33) I did not know who he was; but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, Upon whomever you shall see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, he is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. (34) I have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God. (John 1:30-34)

In verses 30-34 John confesses his dependence upon God. John acknowledges that he was sent to prepare the way for the Savior; he further acknowledges that he himself did not know who that Savior was. John had to rely upon God the Father to point out to him His Son so that he might fulfill his ministry of presenting Him to Israel and pointing men to Him. A man sent by God recognizes his dependence upon God; and this recognition makes him a man of prayer.