Back to the Covenant
John the Baptist did not choose his career. God appointed him as the 'last of the Old Testament prophets' (even though his story is at the beginning of the New Testament). They all had the same task - to draw people back to God's covenant, and to look forward to the day when Jesus would institute a new covenant. After 400 years of prophetic silence since Malachi who predicted John's ministry (see Malachi 3:1), his task was to finish the prophetic relay race by personally identifying Jesus (see John 1:29-34).
The inspiration was to be God's - John would be filled with the Holy Spirit from before his birth. The example would be Elijah - who announced God's curse on sin, confronted false prophets, and spoke truth to the king who had abused his power. Like Elijah, John would be a lonely preacher who met with God in the desert - but that encounter would be with the physical Jesus, God the Son. The task was outlined in the last verses of the Old Testament, Malachi 4:5-6, "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse." In other words, John was to get all generations of the family of Israel ready and eager to meet their God.
John's ministry was unique; he was given a great privilege to introduce Jesus to the world. But our ministry is unique too. All God's people have a share in calling people to respond to God's new covenant in the gospel. Every Christian should understand it because we have received it ourselves, and by God's grace (along with repentance and faith) we have come into God's family (see www.crosscheck.org.uk if you are not sure). When we are born again, we are given the Holy Spirit: and as we are discipled, we learn God's Word for ourselves, and to pass it on. We too will have to face opposition and sometimes speak the truth to those who have never questioned their own authority. We too will find solace and strength as we talk in the secret place with Father God (see Matthew 5:6).
So there is a sense in which John's commission also describes the gospel ministry of the whole church (see Matthew 28:18-20) - a responsibility for every follower of Jesus who reads this message. Truth is in short supply in this world, but it has been entrusted to you! Use it to illuminate dark hearts and minds so that they too might receive Jesus who is the Light of the World.
© Dr Paul Adams