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Luke 7:29-30 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)

Here the Pharisees are judged for not following this new practice instituted by John, but how were they to now that John was God's messenger and not just some passionate person with an active imagination?

Did he perform any miracles or signs proving his conmands came from God?

Is there any biblical or extra biblical accounts that explain how one was supposed to judge the validity of John's message. Was it merely his confidence?

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    The evangelists give the answer to your question, for example Mark in the beginning of his book : Isaiah and Malachi had already prophesied of John's ministry. All Israel should have been looking for this one. These are the 'biblical accounts' that are relevant.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 18:21
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    @Nigel, I don't know how the existence of a prophecy confirms the validity of John's message. Would John simply saying, "I'm the man of the prophecy sent by God," prove he is the man of the prophecy sent by God? In the case of Jesus, he didn't simply claim to be the Christ sent by God, but proved it with miracles.
    – Austin
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 2:00
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    @Austin The same ones who rejected John's message (about the one who was to follow) also rejected Jesus and the miracles. Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 11:53
  • see topics on judging/discern prophets teachers spirits etc. We judge a man on his teachings on whether it is consistent with the old prophets. No need for any miracles.
    – Michael16
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 13:19
  • @Michael16, I get that, to the extent that John taught what the prophets taught I'd believe him, but it's the institution of baptism for all Jews, that which is not taught in the Old Testament is at issue. Personally sympathize with the priests and Levites line of questioning in John 1:25. Why are you baptizing? And he doesn't give a direct answer to why he is specifically authorized to institute this. It seems that whenever there was a new requirement in OT either public miracles proved the authority of the instituter or God provided personal miracles/vision to those already having authority.
    – Austin
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 14:42

4 Answers 4

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Matthew 3:1-8 ESV

1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” 4 Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

Many of those who rejected John's baptism in Luke chapter 7 were refused baptism by John at the outset of John's ministry. John's was a baptism of (upon) repentance, not for repentance, and John, recognizing in them no "fruit in keeping with repentance" would not baptize them.

This lack of repentance, which is the heart's preparation for the Lord's coming, resulted in utter rejection of the Lord when He came. When we reject the light that we are given we are certain to reject further light:

Luke 7:29-30 ESV

29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)

Even John himself needed confirmation of his own message; that Jesus was, indeed, the one who was to come:

Luke 7:16-22 ESV

16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country. 18 The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, 19 calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 20 And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” 21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 23 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.

It is important to remember that John was the last of the prophets in the "OT style". These men were often given messages to preach whose actual content and ultimate fulfillment were both God-breathed and also mysterious to them:

1 Peter 1:10-11 ESV

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.

The response of faith toward what is being revealed leads to further revelation and strengthened faith. It has always been this way because faith in God is what Adam abandoned, what we all (by nature) lack, and our only path to salvation. A wicked generation seeks after signs. Graciously, God has lifted up His Son.

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In Matthew 19:8 and Mark 10:5, Jesus described the Pharisees' hearts as hard. Once the Pharisees saw Jesus having dinner with many tax collectors and sinners, they criticized him. In response, Jesus said;

"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:12-13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32)

The Pharisees were unable to see that John was God's messenger because they saw themselves as healthy and not sinners. Instead, many people and the tax collectors, with their repentant hearts, were able to recognize John's message.

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In the Old Testament, miracles and signs did not prove that a prophet came from God. For most of the OT prophets we have no record of any signs or miracles. The way to know if a prophetic message was spoken by the Lord was to see if it came true or not (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).

John the Baptist's message was about the coming Messiah. He announced that one greater than him was coming who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and this prophecy was fulfilled within the same generation in the space of just a few years.

So complete certainty could only have come in retrospect, however, this was the case with all the prophets, since their prophetic messages always preceded the fulfilment. Nevertheless it seems that Yahweh expected his people to recognize the prophets he sent. I do know of any explicit statement in Scripture of the following principle but it seems that God's people were expected to compare the message of the prophets with previous revelation and judge on the basis of whether their message was in tune with God's previous words. That is why Isaiah and other prophecies are quoted in connection with John, since his contemporaries saw that he fit in with previous Scripture.

It doesn't seem that the Pharisees are condemned for not being baptized in the Jordan but for rejecting John's call to repentance. All the prophets in the Old Testament called God's people to repentance and to fulfil the Torah they were expected to know that this was true prophecy because it was in harmony with God's previous revelation.

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    – Community Bot
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 14:21
  • "It doesn't seem that the Pharisees are condemned for not being baptized in the Jordan but for rejecting John's call to repentance." Why do you say this when the verse I quoted specifically judges the Pharisees for their lack of baptism by John?
    – Austin
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 14:48
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All four evangelists repot the preparatory ministry of John the Baptist as fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 40:1-5:

  • In Matt 3:1-6
  • In Mark 1:1-5
  • In Luke 3:3-6
  • In John 1:19-28

Jesus confirmed this when he said what is reported in Luke 7:24-35. Further, Jesus offered two lines of evidence for the validity of the ministry of John:

  1. It fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah 40:1-5 as claimed by John
  2. That John's ministry was to prepare the way for Messiah, viz, Jesus Christ, whose ministry was confirmed by the miracles He performed.

Thus, the "Pharisees and the lawyers" had no excuse - by the times they asked this question and were rebuked by Jesus, the validity of John's ministry was common knowledge; so much so that John was imprisoned in a wasted effort to silence him.

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  • @Dottord, I don't know how the existence of a prophecy confirms the validity of John's message. Would John simply saying, "I'm the man of the prophecy sent by God," prove he is the man of the prophecy sent by God? In the case of Jesus, he didn't simply claim to be the Christ sent by God, but proved it with miracles.
    – Austin
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 23:46
  • @Austin - that is the point - Jesus, who did the miracles, confirmed John's ministry.
    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 23:57
  • that's after the fact. Once Jesus is confirmed then there is no longer an imperative to be baptized under John, but under Jesus see John 3:26-30.
    – Austin
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 2:02
  • @Austin - that is true but at the same time many thousands accepted John's message of repentance by faith on the basis of Isaiah's prophecy.
    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 5:18

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