This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before your face, which shall prepare your way before you.
I. WHAT DID JOHN THE BAPTIST PREACH?
1. He delivered the whole law against sin, arousing the consciences of people.
2. He made a demand for immediate repentance (Matthew 3:11).
3. He heralded Jesus as the Messiah predicted of old.
4. He announced the special office of Jesus as a Redeemer of men (John 1:29-36).
II. Now WHAT DID JESUS TEACH WHEN IT CAME TO HIS TURN?
1. Christ testified to the entire accuracy of John's doctrine (Matthew 11:11).
2. He proclaimed the full necessity of an atonement.
3. He declared that the necessary sacrifice was now to be accomplished by Himself (John 3:16, 17). It shocked and stumbled His disciples, but He persisted in declaring that He came into the world to die.
4. He thus raised no new issue between men and God, but the rather narrowed down all the old into one; He made it clear that faith was to be the instrument of salvation (John 6:28, 29),
III. Thus, then, we reach the conclusion that, so far as Jesus' teaching and John's teaching had value in the New Testament, THE POINT OF GREATEST IMPORTANCE IS THE ORDER BETWEEN THEM. John's came earliest in fact, and earliest in logical necessity.
1. The historic position of the two men is enough to show all that is here claimed. There is an order in doctrine under the gospel arrangement as strict as the order of demonstration in problems in Euclid's geometry. John's work was a necessity and a solemn pre-requisite to the work of Jesus.
2. The similar form of procedure which in all their teaching these two preachers preserved, adds confirmation to the proof. John presented the law first, then the gospel; but his office was plainly to press the law into prominence. Jesus presented the law first, then the gospel; but His office was to bring the gospel into prominence. In both cases the law came earliest.
3. Our conclusion, therefore, is inevitable and clear. There remains no reason now why a single proposition should not be framed for permanent recollection and use: law-work preceded gospel-work in all God's dealings with souls.Practical inferences in conclusion:
1. We see why religious instruction in our day sometimes appears so tame, and proves so inefficacious. It is because Christian people preach Jesus without John.
2. We see why inquirers are so slow in finding peace at the cross. Peace? Why, there has been no disturbance! (see Ezekiel 33:32).
3. We see why there is so much of unrest and misgiving among Christian people. They have no intelligent sense of Christ's legal work in bearing the curse of the law in their behalf. Hence they labour to keep up a mere fire of fervour in their souls. They have studied regeneration more than justification; and it is by justification that one finds peace. So, not united consciously to Christ as a Surety, they are not sure.
4. We see why backsliding is so frequent as the sin of converts. Some have never been taught what leaving first love implies.
5. Finally, we see how the new life begins and continues, according to the revealed plan (Romans 5:1, 2).
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.