It is clear to me that God was impressed with John the Baptist; the fact is that within the Gospels Jesus Christ affirmed John’s ministry more than any other single prophet. My recommendation to us is that we studiously examine this man to find out why.
One of the great compliments Christ made of John was this: Matt 11:11 (& Luke 7:28) ‘Among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist…‘ before we consider the words that follow this – which are typically more heavily emphasized – let us consider this statement: ‘Among those born of women…‘ this is an interesting choice of words, for was not EVERYONE born of a woman, prophet or otherwise? Jesus Christ, Himself was born of a woman, so why would he choose a phrase like this?
There is, in fact, one prophet, and only one prophet who was NOT born of a woman: Adam, the first man to live. Jesus was not only comparing John to all other prophets, but with this statement He was also referencing the first man ever to live. Jesus here compares John the Baptist to Adam.
Of those born of women there has not risen a greater prophet than John. So… what? John was greater than every other prophet with the possible exception of the first one, who was NOT born of women. ‘Well… what was so great about Adam?’ We might ask.
Every man who was born AFTER Adam was born into a universe that was tainted with sin. The whole creation was subjected to frustration as a result of this one man’s sin. So what is ‘great’ about Adam?
Adam was the only man who ever lived for any length of time in complete innocence. We point to the fact that he sinned, but before eating the forbidden fruit Adam lived completely without sin. The created Universe had not been subjected to sin until the sin of Adam (Rom 5:12 & 14). Why? Because Adam was God’s lawfully placed authority over the whole of God’s created universe. The devil was not attributed with causing the world to fall into sin. (In fact, you will notice that Eve sinned first, but the fall of creation is attributed to Adam. Yet this is for an entirely different message, the point for us now is in the context of John Baptist.)
Adam for a time lived entirely free from sin – that is what separates him from everyone who was born of women. So Jesus essentially says that since the fall of man into sin, no one has has been greater than John the Baptist. WOW! That’s pretty high accolades from the very Son of God!
But why? Why was John so great?
John’s central message was the message of repentance. John’s Baptism is the baptism of repentance (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24; 19:4). John the Baptist had to come before the ministry of Jesus Christ. According to both the Father, and the Son, John’s message, the message of repentance had to come into the world BEFORE the world could even receive the ministry of Jesus! (Mal. 3:1; 4:5; Mark 1:2; Matt 17:11-13, etc.).
The First Principal Doctrine of Christ
This message of repentance is the first foundation upon which Christianity is built. It is, in fact, the first principal doctrine of Christianity. The writer of Hebrews also affirms this, when he lays out for us the first six principal doctrines of Christianity in Hebrews 6:1 & 2.
…the principles of the doctrine of Christ: …the foundation  of repentance from dead works, and  of faith toward God,  Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and  of resurrection of the dead, and  of eternal judgment. (Numeric references added by me.)
The first principal doctrine is repentance – faith is the SECOND (actually faith and repentance could be counted as one in the same in certain contexts, but must in this case be separated by way of making distinction of what repentance and faith are). This because repentance is the preparation of the heart necessary to receive Christ. One may believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ, the Messiah, one may believe that He died to take our sins – but if that one has not repented of his/her sins, then they are still living in them. Those who abide in their sins, and refuse to repent are not saved; (James 4:4 & 5 (more on this in a moment)).
To quote John: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’
In fact John did not just say one thing to the people and do another – no, John’s lifestyle was a lifestyle of repentance. Everything he taught centered on it, and he lived repentance CONSTANTLY. He talked repentance, walked repentance, slept repentance, breathed repentance. He wore repentance for his clothes and ate it for every meal.
Recall that John was a prophet like Ezekiel, who wore and ate certain things as directed by God for a sign and wonder to the people. So it was with John; our teachers thought the verses about his wearing camel’s hair and eating locusts (Matt 3:4; Mark 1:6) just meant that he lived like a hoboe, or something. No, it is written almost word for word exactly the same in two different books of the bible for a reason. John’s clothes and food were prophesying to us, but we didn’t have eyes to see it. Each one of those things mean something very specific, and it is all about repentance.
Let us consider just one part of John’s prophetic actions for the moment: John wore a garment of camel’s hair; this was notable in his day as camel’s hair was not, generally, garment material. What is the aspect of repentance that this speaks of?
A camel is known for its ability to survive enormously long spans of time in the desert with no water, it can go for days, and days. And then, when it does require nourishment, it takes what is needed and is immediately ready to go for days, and days again. I’ll call this aspect or repentance portrayed by John: ‘LONGSUFFERING.‘ It is self-controlled through drought, hardship, difficulty.
John did not assess himself to have ‘attained’ mastery over sin by one time repentance, or even occasional repentance. He lived repentance as a lifestyle; day in and day out. Jesus described this repentance phenomena [longsuffering] this way: ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross DAILY and follow me.‘ (Luke 9:23)
John showed that repentance is of necessity CONSTANTLY. We didn’t much believe this because we have had a hyper-emphasis placed on certain verses like Rom 8:1 ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…‘ In fact I’ve heard this used often to argue AGAINST a continued need for repentance in our lives; but what does the remainder of the verse say? ‘WHO WALK NOT AFTER THE FLESH, but after the Spirit.‘
The first part of this verse does not apply without the second part in place. REPENTANCE IS THE ACT OF TURNING FROM THE WAYS OF THE FLESH UNTO THE WAYS OF THE SPIRIT. Paul wasn’t telling you that there is no need to repent anymore because there is no condemnation for you, in fact just the opposite; if you repent (or, rather ‘are repenting’) and live (or, rather ‘are living’) in the ways of God there is no condemnation for you.
Of course many ‘ministers’ will kindly affirm you, as though you are automatically walking in the Spirit, because you have accepted the saving knowledge (that Jesus is the Christ, the savior of the world (Matt 16:16)). Kind of them to affirm you… not kind of them to lie to your face before God. In fact the entire context in which this often-quoted verse is nestled is what? Paul speaking to Christians about how they need to walk in the Spirit, rather than the flesh.
Is it, then, possible for you to be in the flesh even though you are saved? Its clear that Paul thought so, or there is no reason for this information to be in the bible! Why are we reading about HOW to walk in the Spirit, if this is something that comes automatically with salvation? Is God just wasting our time with useless information?
No. The fact is, you may believe the saving knowledge, you may even be saved, but still your natural condition is – as described in Romans 7 – to be helplessly trapped in the flesh. We must needs repent. Do you see how that the foundation of repentance, which John laid permeates the whole Truth of the Gospel? Do you see that without the right first foundations, we will fail to attain – or even comprehend the others?
The pagans said: ‘All Truth is one.’ Its actually a True statement… just not the way that they thought (All Truth is in Jesus Christ). You see how that without the right foundation even that simple thought is warped into a perspective about what is politically labelled ‘tolerance’?
But now there are so many misconceptions and misconstructions of the meaning of scripture because the proper foundation of understanding has not been laid. The nations are deceived, they walk on in darkness, and too much of the church is unenlightened about the very basic statements of God’s word because they are not founded upon the correct foundations.
You have heard that God’s mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:22 & 23). Ought we not to respond appropriately by availing ourselves to His mercy? How is that done? Through repentance. Do you want to grow correctly? Do you want to be able to understand God’s Word when you read it? Start right now with repentance.
Repentance is the first entryway into the presence of God. I have had people ask me – people who have been Christians for years – how to enter into the presence and fellowship of God. Is it not tragic that I would have to explain it to someone who has been a Christian for years? But this is the state of many believers because we have not been taught this first entry-point unto God. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:10)
The Violent Take it by Force
Now again, why would Jesus compare John the Baptist with Adam?
Adam was naturally made without sin, yet fell to its trappings; John was born with a sinful nature; born subject to sin, yet he overthrew it. He defied the nature of sin within himself with every fiber of his being. Through repentance, this John placed sin back under his feet.
Adam elevated sin by pride (‘Ye shall be as Gods…‘); John dethroned sin by humility (‘He must increase, but I decrease‘). Adam was deceived and mastered by sin, John took the mastery and ruthlessly oppressed sin in his flesh.
It is as God prophesied to Cain: ‘…sin lieth at the door: also unto thee his desire shall be subject, and thou shalt rule over him.‘ (Gen 4:7 Geneva translation) Or, as written in the Amplified: ‘sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, BUT YOU MUST MASTER IT.‘
God has been calling men to repentance since the day sin entered into the world. He strives to rectify within us the mastery of all things – as Adam had before the fall.
Is the nature of repentance, and its power beginning to become real to you yet? We are just getting started. The ‘rabbit hole’ is far deeper than we ever imagined; we don’t know a thing about repentance yet. (If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know (1 Cor 8:2))
Jesus followed his statement about John with (Matt 11:12): ‘From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.‘ A generation in Israel had begun to learn the True power of repentance from this great prophet, John the Baptist. They took his lessons to heart and ‘pressed in‘ (Luke 16:16) VIOLENTLY to take it! These were those who began to have the mastery over their flesh, over the world, and over the devil. These are those upon the backs of whom the church of Acts was built.
Remember: Only those who received John’s ministry were able, then, to receive Christs’; and only to the EXTENT that they received John’s message could they receive Christs’.
We have a generation of Pentecostals who have overlooked, neglected, or outright rejected (by their theology) True Repentance. Will they then see God’s kingdom in full force?
But: ‘I indeed baptize you with water UNTO REPENTANCE, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear, He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.‘
Ah, so if you wish to receive the benefits of Christs’ ministry, repentance must be the first foundation built within you. It is not a one time act, which you got over and done with at the time of your conversion, but establishing yourself as master over your own flesh; over your own desires through True LIFESTYLE repentance.