John 1:1-18 is the prologue of the gospel of John, nine sermons have been preached, just one sermon for two verses in average.
1. 福音概述An overview of Gospel of John
2. 太初有道In the beginning was the Word
3. 三位一体On the Christian doctrine of Trinity
4. 生命之源Life is in Him
5. 生命之光The Light of Life
6. 施洗约翰The identity and the mission of John the Baptist
7. 神的儿女How to become children of God
8. 道成肉身The Word became flesh
9. 恩典真理Full of Grace and Truth
You may have noticed, there are two themes in the prologue: the person of Jesus Christ and the testimony of John the Baptist.
In this great prologue, apostle John declared Jesus Christ’s Deity: His preexistence as the Word, His coexistence with God, and His self-existence as God.
Jesus Christ was the eternal Word, He is God Himself and the Creator of the universe, He is the origin of life and the true light of the world. Amazingly, the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among man, full of grace and truth. He is the only begotten Son of God tabernacled among man and made God known to the world.
As profound and far-reaching as it is, the prologue stresses the nature and person of Jesus Christ. He is the Christ, the Creator, the Life, the true Light, the Son of God, you will have eternal life by believing in Him.
This is how Apostle John states his purpose by the end of the book:
“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name.” （John 20:31）
Yet to our surprise, the prologue mentioned John the Baptist two times, both look like parenthesis in the middle of this wonderful passage, for John the Baptist was one of the most important witness for Jesus Christ.
John 1:1-18 was the theological prologue of the gospel（约翰福音的序言）, from John 1:19 and following（耶稣基督的生平事迹）, apostle John starts the historical narrative of the life, signs, wonders, and teaching of Jesus Christ, beginning with John the Baptist’s testimony.
In John 1:19-28, we will see the characters of John the Baptist the servant of the Lord: John’s honesty, John’s humility, John’s testimony. （约翰的忠诚）、（约翰的谦卑）、（约翰的见证））
A. John’s Uniqueness （约翰的背景）
Since the last prophet Malachi of Old Testament, God did not speak to His people for 400 years, when John the Baptist came to the scene of preaching and baptizing, he was immediately recognized by the people of Israel to be the man of God.
If someone is considered to be the prophet of God, he must have certain credibility acceptable to the people.
What was John’s credibility?
1. John was an extraordinary man, his origin was from the priest line of Aaron, the priest was revered and honored by people. （祭司家世）
2. He was sent from God directly (John 1:6), John was set apart by God for a specific purpose to be the forerunner of the Messiah. （从神而来）
3. His life was prophesied in the Old Testament as the messenger to prepare the way of the Lord (Mal 3:1; Isa 40:3). Almost all the servants of God in the Bible were called out by God in the middle of their earthly life, but John the Baptist was prophesied in the Old Testament long ago before his birth. （旧约预言）
4. His birth was a miraculous, for his mother Elizabeth was barren, and both of his parents were very old and past the child-bearing age when he was conceived. （神迹出生）
5. His birth was foretold by an angel (Luke 1:11-17). （天使预告）
6. John was also very unique for his lifestyle, he lived in the wilderness, wearing the garment of camel’s hair, and eating the locusts and wild honey. （生活独特）
7. His message was powerful and he performed with higher authority. （能力权柄）
Indeed, he has such a privilege more than anyone else in the human history except for Jesus Christ.
“There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.”（John 1:6）
“‘See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before Me.’… says the LORD Almighty.”（Mal 3:1）
“But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.” （Luke 1:13）
B. John’s Honesty（约翰的忠诚）（John 1:19-23）
John’s preaching and baptism had drawn the huge crowd from all walks of life, he warned them sternly to flee from the wrath of God by repenting from their sins, from the self-righteous Pharisees and the disreputable soldiers no one was spared.
“People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan, confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” （Matt 3:5-6）
It was a long expectation that the Messiah would come to overthrow the Roman conquerors and deliver the Israel nation from the bondage. When John the Baptist appeared to the scene and produced a phenomenal following along the Jorden, it could not escape the notice of the religious leaders. Could this one possibly be the anticipating Messiah?
The Jewish leaders sent a delegation of priests and Levites to him to make the inquiry.
“Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Christ." They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No."” （John 1:19-21）
“约翰所作的见证，记在下面。犹太人从耶路撒冷差祭司和利未人到约翰那里，问他说，‘你是谁？ ’ 他就明说，并不隐瞒。明说，‘我不是基督。’ 他们又问他说，‘这样你是谁呢？是以利亚吗？’他说，‘我不是。’ ‘是那先知吗？’他回答说，‘不是。’” （约1:19-21）
They asked him, “Who are you?” Σὺ τίς εἶ?
The Greek grammar put the word “you” in the front position of emphasis, it literally reads: “You who are?”
The question behind this question is: Are you the Messiah?
The gospel of Luke gives a clue on the thoughts of the Jews: “The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ.”（Luke 3:15）
“He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Messiah.’” (John 1:20)
Interestingly, John the Baptist also answered in an emphasis way: “I am NOT the Messiah!”
Ἐγὼ οὐκ εἰμὶ ὁ Χριστός.
In the gospel of John, Jesus Christ claimed several statements concerning the identity of Himself—the I AM statements: (I am) Ἐγὼ εἰμὶ;
But now John the Baptist said: (I am Not) Ἐγὼ οὐκ εἰμὶ.
There was a sharp contrast between Jesus Christ and John the Baptist: the Lord and His servant.
“‘Then who are you? Are you Elijah?’ ‘I am not.’” （“‘这样你是谁呢？是以利亚吗？’他说，‘我不是。’”） (John/约 1:21)
The Jews expected that the Elijah would return to the earth prior to the coming of Christ, if John was not Christ, perhaps he was Elijah. Also, John’s message and dress style reminded the Jewish people of Old Testament prophet Elijah.
“John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.” （Matt 3:4）
Elijah “had a garment of hair and had a leather belt around his waist.”（以利亚身穿毛衣，腰束皮带） (王下/2 Kings 1:8) so did John the Baptist;
Elijah had the boldness to speak the words of God, so did John the Baptist have the boldness to speak the words of God;
Elijah called the people of Israel to repent and return to God, so did John the Baptist called the crowed to repent and return to God;
Elijah confronted the wicked king of Israel Ahab, so did John the Baptist confront the evil king of Herod.
Especially the last OT prophet Malachi ever predicted, “‘See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.’” (Mal 4:5)
When John the Baptist denied that he was the Messiah, people could not help thinking of him the prophet Elijah. “Are you Elijah?”
He answered, “I am not.” （John 1:21）
John denied it again.
Wait a minute, you may recall Jesus’ words, “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.” (Matt 11:13-14)
Jesus said John was Elijah, but John himself said he was not. What’s going on here? How to harmonize Jesus’ saying with John’s statement? Was he Elijah or not? （施洗约翰是以利亚吗？）
Notice what Jesus was saying here: “if you are willing to accept it（你们若肯领受）, he is the Elijah.” (Matt 11:14)
But did the Jews accept John the Baptist? No, they rejected him and finally they killed him.
And what did the angel predict to Zechariah the father of John concerning John the Baptist? （天使预告）
“And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17)
Therefore, John the Baptist was only in the spirit and power of Elijah, the actual Elijah will return prior to the second coming of Christ.
(It is widely believed that one of the two witnesses in the book of Revelation is Elijah.)
“‘Are you the Prophet?’” He answered, ‘No.’” （“‘是那先知吗？’他回答说，‘不是。’”）（John 1:21）
“Are you the Prophet?”
Moses had foretold, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to Him.” (Deut 18:15)
This predicted Prophet refers to Christ (John 1:45; 6:14; 7:40), both Peter and Stephen’s preaching pointed this anticipated Prophet to Jesus Christ (Acts 3:22; 7:37), John’s denial confirmed the Messiahship of Jesus Christ.
“After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world."”（John 6:14）
“For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything He tells you.”（Acts 3:22）
Notice John’s answer became shorter and shorter:
“Who are you?”---“I am not the Christ.”
“Are you Elijah?”---“I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”---“No！”
John confessed clearly without any hesitation about himself: He was not the Christ, nor the Elijah, nor the Prophet.
This made the delegation confused and embarrassed.
“Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"”（John 1:22）
“John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'"”（John 1:23）
John quoted the prophet Isaiah’s prediction. “A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.”（Isa 40:3）
John the Baptist finally confirmed that he was the voice in the desert. The desert not only referred to the physical and geographical place of John’s ministry in the desert, it also pointed to the spiritual situation of the people of Israel, they were in the desert of sin and therefore needed to repent and return to God.
John the Baptist, not only made his confession that he was not the Christ nor Elijah nor the Prophet, he also confirmed his commission to prepare the way for the true Christ, the Lord Himself.
C. John’s humility （约翰的谦卑）（John 1:23-27）
“John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'"”（John 1:23）
After denying three times, John finally said about his identity: I am the voice, I am the voice, I am only the voice.
By declaring of his fulfillment of Isa 40:3, John claimed himself to be the forerunner of Christ the Lord.
The voice is to be heard, it is nothing without a word, John was the voice, but Christ was the Word. The voice was heard only for the Word, to testify for the Word.
John did not draw the crowd’s attention to himself, but to the One who came after him.
“Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" "I baptize with water," John replied, "but among you stands One you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie."”（John 1:24-27）
“Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” （“你既不是基督，不是以利亚，也不是那先知，为什么施洗呢？”）（约/John 1:25）
John did an unusual thing by baptizing Israelites. In the Old Testament, if gentiles would like to convert to Judaism, they would be baptized as a symbol to cleanse their sins so that they could be accepted in the Judaism. But John baptized the Jews, the Israelites. John not only baptized Jews, he also sternly urged them to repent from their sins, his words were very harsh and severe with irresistible authority.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”（Matt 3:2）
“"You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”（Matt 3:7-8）
He was just like his predecessor as the angel predicted, “he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah…” （Luke 1:17）
“Why then do you baptize?”
In the context of John’s gospel, the Jews always referred to the hostile unbelieving Jewish religious leaders, the only thing they cared for was their own power and authority. They considered John to be a threat to their power, and later they believed that Jesus was a much bigger threaten to their authority.
“"I baptize with water," John replied, "but among you stands One you do not know. He is the One who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie."” （John 1:26-27）
John was saying, there is One who was among you, but you do not know Him. He came after me, yet the thongs of His sandals I am not worthy to untie.
To untie the thongs of someone’s sandals was the work of the lowest slaves, the Jewish Rabbi could ask anything of his disciples except for untying his sandals.
Yet John said, “The thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”（John 1:27）
John was saying, I am lower than the lowest slave, I am not worthy to be called His slave.
John testified again and again, “This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'”（John 1:30）
“He must become greater; I must become less.”（John 3:30）
God can only use the servant who has a humble heart. “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”（Matt 23:12）（“凡自高的必降为卑，自卑的必升为高。”）（太23:12）
John the Baptist had absolutely no interests of his own name, reputation, wealth, followers, he even encouraged his own disciples to follow Jesus Christ. “He must become greater; I must become less.” （John 3:30）
D. John’s Testimony （约翰的见证）
John’s specific mission was to testify concerning Jesus Christ, not to draw the attention to himself, his mission was confirmed even in the very prologue of the gospel John.
“He came as a witness to testify concerning that Light, so that through him all men might believe.”（John 1:7）
“John testifies concerning Him. He cries out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'"”（John 1:15）
“Now this was John's testimony.” （约翰所作的见证，记在下面。）（约/John 1:19）
"I baptize with water," John replied, "but among you stands One you do not know. He is the One who comes after me, the thongs of Whose sandals I am not worthy to untie."”（John 1:26-27）
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”（John 1:29）
Again and again, John was pointing people to Jesus Christ. John referred Jesus Christ as the Bridegroom, he himself was only the friend of the Bridegroom. “He must increase; but I must decrease.”（John 3:30）
What we learn from John the Baptist?
First, John knew for sure who he was not, John also knew for sure who he was.
Do you know who you are not?
Don’t exalt yourself, don’t overestimate yourself. You are not the savior, you cannot save anybody, you cannot save your spouse, you cannot save your children, you cannot save yourself. You have to come to Jesus Christ, and lead others to Jesus Christ too.
Do you know who you are?
A sinner, a trivial person, deserves only death and judgement. Yet you don’t need to look down upon yourself, to underestimate yourself, you are a trivial person but at the same time, you are distinguished children of God, sons and daughters of the Most High.
Second, humble yourself before the Lord.
John said, I am nothing, I am only a voice, just a voice, the One who came after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.
If you want to be a servant of God, if you want to be used by God, you have to humble yourself before God like John the Baptist. For “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” （“因为神阻挡骄傲的人，赐恩给谦卑的人。”）（彼前/1 Pet 5:5）
Third, you are called to be witnesses of God.
You need to point people to Jesus Christ, not to draw people to yourself. All you need to do, is to be faithful to the One who called you.
Someone said, “Jesus Christ wants you to be His witness, not the salesmen.”
You are just a witness of Jesus Christ.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”（Acts 1:8）
Jesus Christ said to Apostle Paul：
“I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you.”（Acts 26:16）
So what we learn from John the Baptist?
Faithful, humble, and always be ready to be a witness of Jesus Christ.
Lord Jesus said, “Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, My servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me.” （John 12:26）