Friday, July 21, 2006

John the Baptist vs. Jesus the Christ

"The greatest born among men" (7:28-35)

You're going to have to help me out here. Jesus said that there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist. This doesn't tell me that Jesus was saying that he was the greatest born among men. Of course, I don't read Greek, so maybe that is what he really said. But even if he did, he followed it by saying that "the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." So who is Jesus talking about when he talks about "the least"? And how does that come out to mean that John was the greatest and therefore the standard? You see, I am lost as to what the writer was talking about.

"I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." (Luke 7:28 NASB)

Jesus is making a differentiation between this world and the Kingdom of God which is in this world. The Gospel message that Jesus proclaimed is the message that the Kingdom of God is here. It has arrived in this world in the person and ministry of Jesus and it will continue through Jesus and His Spirit in all His followers, from least to greatest.

Generally, the “least” in the kingdom of God are those who have just entered the kingdom and have just embarked on their journey of following Jesus and turning towards God. They do not have to be children though they can be.

These new “Christians” are quite important and need to be given sufficient attention (like a new child, as it were) so they do not stumble or fall away from the Faith. So forceful is Jesus about this that he states that those who causes one of these to become scandalized or to stumble is in for due punishment.

“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and [that] he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt 18:6)

But in Luke 7:28 (and in the parallel passages in Matthew and Mark), Jesus is stating that among those individuals who are born into this world, John the Baptist was the greatest. However, the Kingdom of God is greater that this world. So great it is the Kingdom of God that even the newest believer (the least spiritual progressed follower of Jesus in the Kingdom of God) is better than the greatest individual of this world.

John the Baptist is a great standard for the world, but the only standard in the Kingdom of God is Jesus. There is no other. This is why the alcohol abstinence issue is such an important issue. It is an issue about Jesus as the standard for the Christian life.

The person who wrote the article that I referenced in my post was accidentally setting up John the Baptist as a better standard for the Christian life than Jesus! Now I fully admit that I think that this person did so inadvertently, but the mistake is there nonetheless. By posting the rest of the passage in Luke I was allowing Scripture to comment on the error.

Unfortunately, too many people in the SBC are so determined to get their way on this issue of alcohol abstinence, that they are not only neglecting their own important pet issues of Scriptural inerrancy and sufficiency but they are neglecting an undoubtedly more important issue that cuts across every strand of Christianity, conservative, moderate and liberal – Jesus as the full representation of God and as the perfect example of the Christian life.

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