1. CHRIST, THE CENTER
a. To whom did John direct his hearers? Matthew 3:11; Acts 19:4; John 1:29.
b. What was the source of John’s knowledge? Luke 3:2. How should our manner of study be similar to John’s? Hebrews 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18.
“John the Baptist in his desert life was taught of God. He studied the revelations of God in nature. Under the guiding of the divine Spirit, he studied the scrolls of the prophets. By day and by night, Christ was his study, his meditation, until mind and heart and soul were filled with the glorious vision.”—Gospel Workers, p. 54.
“It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 83.
2. A CALL TO REPENTANCE
a. What was the content of John’s message? Luke 1:17; Matthew 3:1, 2, 8.
“The preaching of John the Baptist created intense excitement. At the beginning of his ministry, religious interest was very low. Superstition, tradition, and fables had confused the minds of the people, and the right way was not understood. Zealous in securing worldly treasure and honor, men had forgotten God. John went forth to herald the Lord’s anointed and call men to repentance.”—The Youth’s Instructor, May 17, 1900.
“John proclaimed the coming of the Messiah and called the people to repentance. As a symbol of cleansing from sin, he baptized them in the waters of the Jordan. Thus by a significant object lesson he declared that those who claimed to be the chosen people of God were defiled by sin, and that without purification of heart and life they could have no part in the Messiah’s kingdom.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 104.
b. What is the condition of people today? 2 Timothy 3:1–4. What message are we to give them? Acts 17:30; 26:19, 20.
“We must persuade men everywhere to repent and flee from the wrath to come. They have souls to save or to lose. Let there be no indifference in this matter. The Lord calls for workers who are filled with an earnest, decided purpose. Tell the people to be instant in season and out of season. With the words of life upon your lips go forth to tell men and women that the end of all things is at hand.
“Let us keep our souls in the love of God. The note of warning must be given. The truth must not languish upon our lips. We must rouse people to immediate preparation, for we little know what is before us. My faith is as strong as ever that we are living in the last remnant of time. Let every teacher present an open door before all who will come to Jesus, repenting of their sins.”—Evangelism, p. 217.
“Genuine repentance springs from a sense of the offensive character of sin. . . . There is a vast difference between admitting facts after they are proved, and confessing sins known only to ourselves and God.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 2, p. 997.
3. THE TRUE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM
a. What claim did the Jewish leaders make? How did John respond to this claim? Matthew 3:7–10.
“John rebuked [the Pharisees’ and Saducees’] selfish pride and avarice. He warned them of their unbelief and condemned their hypocrisy. He told them that they had not fulfilled the conditions of the covenant on their part, which would entitle them to the promises God made to a faithful and obedient people. Their proud boasts of being children of Abraham did not make them really such. Their exhibitions of pride, their arrogance, jealousy, selfishness, and cruelty, stamped their characters as a generation of vipers, rather than the children of obedient and just Abraham. Their wicked works had disqualified them to claim the promises God made to the children of Abraham. John assured them that God would raise up children unto Abraham from the very stones, to whom He could fulfill His promise, rather than to depend on the natural children of Abraham who had neglected the light God had given them and had become hardened by selfish ambition and wicked unbelief. He told them that if they were really the children of Abraham, they would do the works of their father Abraham. They would have Abraham’s faith, love, and obedience. But they did not bear this fruit. They had no claim to Abraham as their father, or the promises God made to the seed of Abraham.”—The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, p. 51.
b. How did Jesus later address this same claim made by the Jews? John 8:39, 40.
c. How can we be considered Abraham’s seed today? Galatians 3:26–29.
“While they were professing to be God’s commandment-keeping people, their works denied their faith, and without true repentance for their sins they would have no part in the kingdom of Christ. Justice, benevolence, mercy, and the love of God would characterize the lives of His commandment-keeping people. Unless these fruits were seen in their daily life, all their profession was of no more value than chaff which would be devoted to the fire of destruction.”—Ibid., pp. 51, 52.
4. TRUE GREATNESS
a. What is the strength and foundation of true greatness? Psalm 27:1; Exodus 15:2; Galatians 2:20.
“The strength of nations and of individuals is not found in the opportunities and facilities that appear to make them invincible; it is not found in their boasted greatness. That alone which can make them great and strong is the power and purpose of God. They themselves, by their attitude toward His purpose, decide their own destiny.”—Christ Triumphant, p. 180.
“True reverence for God is inspired by a sense of His infinite greatness and a realization of His presence. With this sense of the Unseen, every heart should be deeply impressed.”—Prophets and Kings, p. 48.
“What you say in the world will be marked with special consequence if it corresponds with what you say in the church. Your attitude, your words, your spirit, are constantly making an impression upon those with whom you associate.”—Christ Triumphant, p. 198.
b. What is more powerful than words in conveying a knowledge of God to others? Matthew 5:14–16; 2 Thessalonians 3:9 (last part).
“It is impossible for any of us to live in such a way that we shall not cast an influence in the world. No member of the family can enclose himself within himself, where other members of the family shall not feel his influence and spirit. The very expression of the countenance has an influence for good or evil. His spirit, his words, his actions, his attitude toward others, are unmistakable. If he is living in selfishness, he surrounds his soul with a malarious atmosphere; while if he is filled with the love of Christ, he will manifest courtesy, kindness, tender regard for the feelings of others and will communicate to his associates, by his acts of love, a tender, grateful, happy feeling. It will be made manifest that he is living for Jesus and daily learning lessons at His feet, receiving His light and His peace.”—The Adventist Home, pp. 33, 34.
“Let all seek to discover the excellencies rather than the defects. Often it is our own attitude, the atmosphere that surrounds ourselves, which determines what will be revealed to us in another.”—Ibid., p. 105.
5. THE REACTION OF THE PEOPLE
a. What drew such a large number of people to the wilderness? Mark 1:4; Luke 3:15.
“Steadfast as a rock stood the prophet of God, faithful to rebuke sin and crime in all their forms, in kings and nobles, as readily as in the unhonored and unknown. [John the Baptist] swerved not from duty. Loyal to his God, in noble dignity of moral character, he stood firm as a rock, faithful to principle.”—The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, p. 72.
“Multitudes accepted the preaching of John and followed him from place to place. Many cherished in their hearts the hope that he was the Messiah. But as John saw the people turning to him, he sought to direct their minds to the coming One.”—The Review and Herald, November 28, 1907.
b. What marked changes were taking place in people’s lives? Matthew 3:8; Acts 18:24, 25; 2 Corinthians 5:17.
“Salvation . . . is a living union with Jesus Christ to be renewed in heart, doing the works of Christ in faith and labor of love, in patience, meekness, and hope. Every soul united to Christ will be a living missionary to all around him.”—Evangelism, p. 319.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How should our daily study be like that of John the Baptist?
2. How is the message we are to give today similar to that of John?
3. How can we be considered children of Abraham today?
4. What are some ways in which we can exert a positive influence on others?
5. How were people changed by John’s message?