Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 8, 1949

Was John The Baptist A Christian?

Bonds Stocks

(Answer to a question sent in by a listener to a radio program)

No, John the Baptist was not a Christian. He lived and died before the Christian system was established. "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." (Matt. 3:1-3)

John the Baptist—or, more correctly, John the Baptizer, or, still more literally, John the Immerser—was the forerunner of Jesus. He was the friend of the Bridegroom. The work of John the Immerser was to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah. This he did by calling on them to repent, warning them the kingdom of heaven was at hand.

This significant testimony concerning John the Immerser is preserved, "Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: thus my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease." (Jno. 3:28-30)

John completed his work, and went the way of all flesh before the Christian system was established. At least six months after John was dead and buried, Jesus of Nazareth stood on the coasts of Caesarea Philippi and announced, "Upon this rock I will build my church;" (Matt. 16:18) — affirming to build his church in the future. That plan was accomplished on the first Pentecost following his resurrection. The church was then established and the gospel in its fullness was that day preached for the first time.

There is a popular idea that John was the founder of the church. Not only is such a conception completely erroneous, but the truth is that John the Baptist was never even a member of the church. Jesus shows this plainly in these words, "Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist; notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." (Matt. 11:11) John was not in the kingdom; he died before the church was established.

John lived and died under the Old Testament system of Judaism, which was not abolished until Jesus died on the cross. Therefore, he, like all faithful Jews who lived under the law of Moses, looked forward to the atonement to be made by the Messiah. He was not a Christian; he was a Jew who anticipated the establishment of the church of the Lord.