John 1:6-8, 19-26 - A look at John the Forerunner

Updated: Oct 30, 2019

John 1:6–8 refers to John, also known as John the Baptist, who is not the author of the Gospel of John. Who is this individual, and why is he preparing the way for Jesus Christ? The Gospel of Luke describes the birth of John. He is a relative of Jesus Christ. They are the same age (Luke 1:5–24, 34–27, 67-.80). We learn about the Baptist’s birth through the gospel of Luke. Since Elizabeth, John’s mother was unable to conceive, we must conclude that John’s conception comes from the Lord. The parents had been praying for children and figured this was not a choice due to their age, but God had other plans for this couple. We also learn that Elizabeth and Mary are related. John’s father prophesies he will become a prophet of the Lord, and that John will prepare the way for Jesus Christ.

Verses in the Old Testament that predict the coming of this person who will pave the way so that the glory of the Lord will be revealed: Isa. 40:3–5, Mal. 3:1. Isaiah tells us the reason is that a forerunner comes before Jesus. The New Testament confirms that the application of these verses to John the Baptist: Matt. 11:10, 21:25. Mar. 1:1–8. Lu. 1:15–17, 76. Without an Elijah, Jesus could not be the Messiah! The correlation between John the Baptist and the prophecy in the Old Testament is crucial to learning the Gospel of John. Elijah will return a second time, Mal. 4:5–6, as seen in Revelations 11. This distinction is essential. Students of the Bible must figure out which Elijah is in view since the Old Testament refers to three (the original, of course)

What does Jesus say? In Mark 9:11–13, Jesus validates that the prophecy that Elijah does come before him. Then Jesus states that Elijah had already come and died (Matt. 11:14) — as prophesied in the Old Testament. Elijah never dies in the Old Testament, instead is carried away by a chariot of fire (2 Kgs. 2:1–11).

In verse 7, the author calls John “witness” rather than “baptist.” While the Baptist did baptize in the Jordan, his primary duty was to be a forerunner to Jesus Christ. Baptizing after people changed their thinking about when the Messiah would return was part of that forerunner activity. The middle clause uses the idea of Jesus being Light (John 1:4–5). The bear witness that Jesus was this Light. In the original language, the word is where martyr comes from, and we know John did lose his life and was a martyr.

The author once again ensures that we don not confuse John, the Witness with Jesus Christ (John 1). The author continues to describe the Baptist in this way, verses 19–26. John attracts the attention of the priests and Levites. The come from Jerusalem to find out by what authority John baptizes and preaches. We know that God has chosen John to be the forerunner to the Son, so the authority comes from God. The Baptist justifies his actions when he claims the role we studied earlier from Isaiah. John never claims to be a prophet, but the author of the Gospel calls John a prophet. Scripture indicates that John was a Nazarite by his actions and appearance (Matt. 11:18, Luke 1:15, Luke 7:33).

The Pharisees asked John if he was the Messiah, Elijah, or a Prophet (John 1:24). His response is not a simple “no” this time; instead, he restates his role found in Isaiah (John 1:23). Most commentators take this as a negative response. If this is the case, he chooses to repeat what he stated earlier. The Gospel of John alone covers the events of John 1:1–26 to support the argument that Jesus is God. God’s plan is what overrides all. John indirectly asserts this by showing the fulfillment of prophecy.

If you are new to the faith, you may wonder who this Elijah was and what he did that was so great. Elijah came on the scene when King Ahab and Queen Jezebel ran the Northern Kingdom (Israel). Recall from the series on prayer that Solomon turned to other gods, and his punishment was a split in his kingdom after his death. The Nothern Kingdom turned to Baal worship due to its appeal and the fact that Jerusalem was in the Southern Kingdom (Judah). Jezebel had much to do with the rapid spread of Baal in Israel. These events prompt Elijah’s visit to Ahab (who later comes back to the Lord) and inform him that a punishment will be no dew or rain throughout the kingdom.

Three years later, God comes to Elijah. He tells Elijah to present himself to Ahab to restore moisture to Israel. At this point, Ahab is desperate for the rain to return to his lands. The Lord creates a scenario where Israel cannot help figure out that Baal is a false religion, and that God controls the rain. Elijah sets up the event on Mount Carmel. The choice of this mountain is no accident! Elijah allows for the Baal priests to show they can bring rain back to Israel. To do this, they must summon fire from their god on the bull they brought for sacrifice and consumed it with fire. Of course. They had failed thus far. Imagine 450 Baal prophets versus Elijah. The Baal prophets fail even with the helpful tips Elijah gives them (1 Kgs. 18:27).

Then Elijah is next. The Baal prophets have tried all day to summon fire from their God. Elijah does not start his try to bring fire until evening! He pours water on his sacrifice. Three times. God then consumes everything around the altar. Israel sees this result, and they act when instructed to kill all the false prophets. Jezebel attempts to kill Elijah rather than acknowledge God as the true God.


1. Blayney, B., Scott, T., & Torrey, R. A. with Canne, J., Browne. (n.d.). The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (Vol. 2, p. 64). London: Samuel Bagster and Sons.

2. Grassmick, J. D. (1985). Mark. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 143–144). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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