We are going to look into the Gospel as recorded by Luke and the third chapter.
I suppose most of us can quote John 3:16 without looking at it. How many of us can quote Luke 3:16? It’s the other side of the coin, it should be as well known. Well, here it is… in the good King James version. Luke 3 verse 16: "John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost"
Between Malachi and Mathew you’ve got
Four hundred years of blackness without any prophetic light.
Four hundred years of stillness without any prophetic voice.
And then suddenly, dramatically, unexpectedly this strange man, John the Baptist, came streaking across a sky that was totally black. The Word says he was a "burning and a shining light." Jesus, the greatest character in history, says, "There was no man comparable to John Baptist." Not Isaiah not Jeremiah not any of those towering saints. He is a very, very remarkable character.
John the Baptist appears in the wilderness. It was not only
a wilderness geographically,
it was a wilderness morally,
it was a wilderness politically,
it was a wilderness religiously.
You see, you go back in the Scripture and you read about Ezrah and Nehemiah. They established a governership over Israel made of a hundred and twenty priests and rulers. These priests and elders ruled over Israel. Four hundred and fifty years they dominated that nation. I say: this was a jungle, theologically.
In 170 BC there was a man with the strange name of Antiochus Epiphanes. You need to look up his name and his relatives. He took over Jerusalem, he polluted the temple, he made the Jews sacrifice to idols, he built a statue of Jupiter where the the altar of the burnt offering should have been. He burnt the Scriptures publicly. He prohibited the worship of Jehovah. And all this horrendous stuff went on. In 37 BC came Herod the Great. He betrayed the nation to the Romans, he fostered immorality, he massacred the noble people, he built that magnificent temple that was standing.
Now with this horrendous background of murder and rape and debauchery and suffering and agony, John Baptist steps on the stage. A remarkable character.
You see, today we try to organize. We try to get a bunch of people together. God never did that. God takes individual men. He takes Moses to the backside of the desert. John the Baptist was in the wilderness until the day of his showing forth.
Jesus, the Son of God who had left the Glory, spent thirty years in training
John Baptist thirty years in training.
The apostle Paul at least thirty years.
Moses at least forty years;
and we want to go to Bible School six months and come out like a super prophet! It’s the time factor that kills most of us. Tell me how much time you spend alone with God and I will tell you how spiritual you are.
Not how many meetings you go to.
Not how many gifts you have.
Not how many sermons you preach.
Not how many records you’ve made.
Tell me what time you spend alone with God...
and I’ll tell you how spiritual you are.
The Word here tells me about this remarkable man, John the Baptist, that he was in the wilderness until the day of his showing forth. Going forth at the command of God Himself, of course.
He was in the wilderness, of all places. It says he had his dwelling among wild beasts, ferocious things. The remarkable thing to me, as I read this again today, is this: he had no role model. Elisha had Elijah. Joshua had Moses as a role model. Timothy had Paul as a super model in front of him. And right through the Scripture you find these men that have lived with some giant and they’ve become like him. But this man has no model before him. What did he do wandering on the rocks? "He ate wild honey," it says. And he was with wild beasts… and he was a wild man.
Luke chapter 3 gives you a kind of run down on the awesomness of this man’s ministry. Look this first verse.
"… the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Ceasar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip the tetrarch of Iturea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests,"
That’s about as refreshing as a mouth full of sand, isn’t it? What in the world do you do with it? Except it gives you a framework. "Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests," that’s illegal. They could only have one high priest and they got two. Then came "John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." Boy, that’s a dirty thing to preach these days. Who preaches repentance? There is an old hymn that says, Repentance is
"to leave the sins I’ve done before,
and show that I in earnest grieve,
by doing them no more."
Repentance is more than saying, "I’m sorry." Repentance is mental. It’s something in my mind, I’m going this way and I turn that way.
When I’m going this way I’m saying,
"God is in the wrong and I am in the right."
When I turn around I say,
"God is in the right, if He sends me to hell He is in the right."
That is repentance. It’s not just repenting for the sin I’ve done, it’s repenting about the motive that made me do the sin. It’s going past the fruit to the root because if the root of corruption is there, there is going to be fruit coming out that is wrong. Romans 6 talks about having your fruit unto Holiness and it’s talking there to regenerate people, not people that claim to be filled by the Holy Ghost.
John goes out, stands and ministers there. And they come to him. He is a success any way you count it. Geographically - they come from the North and South and East and West. He is a success socially. They came from all levels of society. . He said to the multitude that came to be baptized, "you generation of vipers." Isn’t that pleasant? Do you know anybody who’d dare stand up in the First Baptist or the Last Baptist Church tomorrow morning and say, "You generation of vipers. I’m sick of talking to you." Uh? They would sure take a love offering for him, wouldn’t they? To get him out of town! "Oh generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" He was not only condemning their sin, he was saying, "there is a gate, and when you get through it, it is eternal wrath from God."
*Here's the balance of the "wrath of God" perspective, as John's message was not in the locall church, not established yet, it was to the religious leaders of that day - the hypocrites and false teachers of the day, and not in the assembly of a christian church where the sheep of God (for the most part) come to hear THE TRUTH, The Gospel of Christ, of Grace in it's right perspective as well. This is, my note here, the author of Bible Talk Cafe
When the Holy Ghost came in the upper room, how did He come? Did He come as a dove? -- When Jesus received His baptism the Spirit came as a dove upon Him. There was nothing in Him to purify. He comes to us in fire because we need purification.You see, there is a great deal of difference between revival and evangelism. I am so sick to death, I hardly read any reports of meetings that come to me. Everybody is getting half of America saved. If you add all the lists of people saved, everybody in America, the whole population has been saved and filled with the Holy Ghost about six times over in the last ten years. And yet we are as dumb and as dead and as damned as we were when we started off.
You want to know what preaching is? Study this third chapter in the Gospel of Luke, and when you’ve read that read the twenty-sixth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles where Paul is standing before a heathen king in a pagan court and says, "God called me to preach." And He summarizes what preaching is:
it’s to open the eyes of the blind,
to turn them from darkness to light,
from the power of Satan unto God,
that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified.
* This "forgiveness of sin" in the time of John The Baptist was a serious threat to the religious leaders of the day, who relied on the people sinning who need to come to them yearly to pay for their sins. Jesus took all this away, and when it says: "Behold The Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world" this meant John's life would be in great danger from that time on. This explanation here is my own, the author of "Bible Talk Cafe."
So John moved the people. They say, "What shall we do?" The publicans cry out. They are a bunch aren’t they? Stony-hearted rascals. And yet with the conviction of the Spirit they cry out, "What shall we do?" And John gives the answer in verse 16, he says, "I indeed baptize you with water, but One cometh after me, I am not even worthy to carry His shoes. He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with Fire." Or with Holy Ghost Fire.
We talk about the baptism of the Spirit - it’s really the baptism of Jesus. There’s nothing you can get this side of eternity that didn’t come through Jesus Christ. My dear old principal used to call the coming of the Holy Ghost upon us, "The coronation gift of Jesus."
"His fan is in His hand. He will thoroughly purge His floor. But He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. And many other things did he…" I wonder what they were. I wish He’d left a list, don’t you?
Here is a man with no financial backing.
He has no program.
He has the favor of nobody.
He has the Roman army against him.
He has the religious army of the Jews against him.
He has the Pharisees against him.
He has the Sadducees against him.
He has no money (he doesn’t need it) and
he doesn’t have a miracle ministry -- It says very clearly: "John did no miracle" -- Nobody ran after him pleading: "Have mercy on my son he is a lunatic." Nobody cried, "Unclean, unclean, unclean" or "open my eyes," or "I’m deaf," or something. Nobody said that.
He never unstopped deaf ears.
He never opened blind eyes.
He never cured a withered leg or withered arm.
He didn’t raise a dead man -
He raised a dead nation. SINGLE-HANDEDLY.
God had this man in the school of silence. He’s been talking to God and walking with God and weeping before God. He’s lived with Jeremiah. He’s lived with the prophets. He knew what Isaiah said that one day a man should come in the wilderness crying, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God." Isaiah 35 says that highway shall be called the way of holiness, and that a wayfaring man, though fool, need not err therein.
"He shall baptize you with Holy Ghost and with Fire." God always works with the minority. You’ve got a wonderful list in I Corinthians 15 of people who saw Jesus in His resurrection power. And then it ties the knot at the end of the cotton and it says He was seen of 500 brethren at once. And I am convince in my spirit it was those 500 to whom He says, "Tarry ‘til ye be endued with power." How many went? 120! 380 of them never bothered. It’s always like that. God uses a minority.
** To view the full message of Leonard Ravenhill click the link below. I have removed only portions of this message that personalized Mr. Ravenhill's life and experiences, making for an extremely long message, yet careful not take anything out of context in such a way that it changed a meaning or intent of message.