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STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
—INTERNATIONAL S.S. LESSONS—
SUGGESTIVE THOUGHTS DESIGNED TO ASSIST THOSE OF OUR READERS WHO ATTEND BIBLE CLASSES WHERE THESE LESSONS ARE USED; THAT THEY MAY BE ENABLED TO LEAD OTHERS INTO THE FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL
THE FIRST DISCIPLES OF JESUS
III. QUAR., LESSON VIII., AUG. 19, JOHN 1:35-49
Golden Text—”We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.”—John 1:41
These were among the first disciples* of the Lord, and, being attentive hearers and believers on him, they received a special call to follow him, both as learners and assistants in his ministry. And having obeyed this call they were afterward formally ordained as apostles and in due time endued with favor from on high and with authority as apostles of the gospel dispensation.
*For a full treatment of the subject of this lesson see our issue of May 1, 93—”The Twelve Apostles, Their Calling, Office and Authority.”
In addition to the review of the above subject, which we trust all will notice, it is also interesting to note several other features in the narrative before us.
(1) Observe the humility and self-abnegation of John in pointing out his cousin according to the flesh as “The Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world,”—the long-looked-for Messiah, whose rising popularity must soon eclipse his own. John had no ambition to be greatest, but esteemed it a privilege and honor to be simply—”a voice crying in the wilderness, Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” And when some of John’s disciples came to him, evidently expecting to find in him some of the spirit of rivalry, saying, “Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold the same baptizeth, and all men come to him, John answered and said, A
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man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven. 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: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He [as the light] must increase, but I must decrease.”—John 3:26-36.
And when a deputation of priests and Levites came from Jerusalem to ask him—”Who art thou? he confessed, … I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?”—what a temptation there was here to claim to be some great one and to exalt himself in the estimation of his fellow-men. But there was no sign in him of self-exaltation. He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the Prophet Esaias. … I baptize with water, but there standeth one among you whom you know not; he it is who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.”
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How beautifully this grace of humility and self-abnegation shines in the characters of those ancient worthies whom the Lord was preparing for the earthly phase of his Kingdom. And verily, said Jesus, “among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” (Matt. 11:11.) Well have the apostles Paul and James directed those who are called to share in the spiritual phase of the Kingdom to the patient, humble faithfulness of the ancient worthies (Jas. 5:10; Heb. 11), as examples for our imitation.
VERSES 29-37 show how deliberately John turned his disciples over to Jesus. Previous to his baptism John knew Jesus only as his cousin. The spirit of God had directed him to baptize with water and to proclaim the coming Messiah; but he testifies that he knew not who it would be until he saw the promised sign fulfilled in the descent of the holy spirit upon his humble cousin, Jesus.
To a proud or ambitious mind familiar acquaintance or relationship is generally more conducive to a spirit of rivalry; but it was not so with John. He was ready at once to exclaim in the presence of his disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
(2) Next we note the manner in which the several disciples here named recognized Jesus as the Messiah. John had specially drawn attention to the prophecies concerning him, and by his correspondencies with those prophesies they recognized him, saying, “We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” They, in common with others, supposed him to be the son of Joseph, the mystery of his incarnation evidently not being generally known at that time.
The law and the prophets and his works were God’s witnesses of Christ at his first advent; and to the same testimony we are referred for the evidences of his second advent.* In addition to the testimony of the law and the prophets these early disciples were invited to “Come and see” for themselves, that the power and wisdom of Jehovah rested upon his Anointed. And they came and saw, not only that the spirit of holiness and grace was in him, but also that the power of discerning of spirits (of reading the thoughts and intents of the hearts) and of working miracles was granted to him. (Verses 47,48.) Thus God ratified the testimony of his holy prophets, and fully convinced those who were Israelites indeed and in whom was no guile. Later the same gifts—of miracles, discerning of spirits, healings, prophecy, etc., were granted to the Apostles, and for the same purpose.—Heb. 2:3,4; 1 Cor. 12:1,4,8-11.
*See M. DAWN, VOL. II., Chaps. 3,4.
— August 15, 1894 —