In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
Preaching in the wilderness of Judaea. John Baptist was not a teacher; he was precisely a preacher, in the first and proper sense of that word. Everywhere in the New Testament it implies proclaiming after the manner of a herald. It is the term used in the Old Testament of the witnessing work of the prophets (see Nehemiah 6:7; Isaiah 61:1; Jonah 3:2, etc.). There is a distinct place for the preacher and for the teacher. They may be combined in one man, and the processes of preaching and teaching may go on together; but usually, if a man has the one gift, he has not the other; and we are constantly making the mistake of expecting a man to have the one gift because we see plainly that he has the other. Two things are gathered up in the term "preaching."
I. PREACHING AS PROCLAIMING A MESSAGE. The preacher is but the agency, or medium, by means of which a message is conveyed. So John calls himself a "voice," because what he said was the all-important thing. This is the idea of the prophet, who was the medium through which a message of God was carried into the minds of men. It is essential to every preacher that he should have something to proclaim; therefore what Christian preachers preach is called the "gospel," or "good news."
1. But the preacher must be sure of his message. Compare the expression used by prophets, "The word of God came to me." A preacher proclaims, not what he thinks, but what he knows; what he grips as the truth of God given him to declare. The "accent of conviction" is the test of the true preacher.
2. And they who hear must feel convinced of the authority of the messenger. Not an authority arising out of his office, but out of the evidence that he holds a commission, and has a message. In what sense can preachers nowadays be said to have their messages direct from God?
II. PREACHING AS PERSUADING TO RESPOND TO THE MESSAGE. This brings to view the personal force of the preacher. To be a herald he need but be a voice. To be a persuader he must be a voice with a tone in it; and that tone is the personal element. See, then, the kind of preachers that become men of power. They are men who "tell the truth;" but they are much more than this - they are men who, like John the Baptist, can "make the truth tell." - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,