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John 1:21

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Art thou Elias? - The scribes themselves had taught that Elijah was to come before the Messiah. See Matthew 17:10; and this belief of theirs they supported by a literal construction of Malachi 4:5.

Art thou that prophet? - the prophet spoken of by Moses, Deuteronomy 18:15, Deuteronomy 18:18. This text they had also misunderstood: for the prophet or teacher promised by Moses was no other than the Messiah himself. See Acts 3:22. But the Jews had a tradition that Jeremiah was to return to life, and restore the pot of manna, the ark of the covenant, etc., which he had hidden that the Babylonians might not get them. Besides this, they had a general expectation that all the prophets should come to life in the days of the Messiah.

I am not - I am not the prophet which you expect, nor Elijah: though he was the Elijah that was to come; for in the spirit and power of that eminent prophet he came, proclaiming the necessity of reformation in Israel. See Matthew 11:14; Matthew 17:10-13.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Art thou Elias? - This is the Greek way of writing Elijah. The Jews expected that Elijah would appear before the Messiah came. See the notes at Matthew 11:14. They supposed that it would be the real Elijah returned from heaven. In this sense John denied that he was Elijah; but he did not deny that he was the Elias or Elijah which the prophet intended Matthew 3:3, for he immediately proceeds to state John 1:23 that he was sent, as it was predicted that Elijah would be, to prepare the way of the Lord; so that, while he corrected their false notions about Elijah, he so clearly stated to them his true character that they might understand that he was really the one predicted as Elijah.

That prophet - It is possible that the Jews supposed that not only “Elijah” would reappear before the coming of the Messiah, but also “Jeremiah.” See the notes at Matthew 16:14. Some have supposed, however, that this question has reference to the prediction of Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
John disowns himself to be the Christ, who was now expected and waited for. He came in the spirit and power of Elias, but he was not the person of Elias. John was not that Prophet whom Moses said the Lord would raise up to them of their brethren, like unto him. He was not such a prophet as they expected, who would rescue them from the Romans. He gave such an account of himself, as might excite and awaken them to hearken to him. He baptized the people with water as a profession of repentance, and as an outward sign of the spiritual blessings to be conferred on them by the Messiah, who was in the midst of them, though they knew him not, and to whom he was unworthy to render the meanest service.
Ellen G. White
The Upward Look, 284.7

It is our privilege to be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. God has plainly stated that He requires us to be perfect; and because He requires this, He has made provision that we may be partakers of the divine nature. Only thus can we gain success in our striving for eternal life. The power is given by Christ. “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12).—Letter 153, September 27, 1902, to Brother and Sister S. N. Haskell. UL 284.7

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (EGW), 1115

From all eternity Christ was united with the Father, and when He took upon Himself human nature, He was still one with God. He is the link that unites God with humanity [Hebrews 2:14 quoted] (The Signs of the Times, August 2, 1905). 5BC 1115.1

76, 77 (ch. 3:2-4; Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:1-3; John 1:19-23). John Born for a Special Work—In every stage of this earth's history God has had His agencies to carry forward His work, which must be done in His appointed way. John the Baptist had a special work, for which he was born and to which he was appointed—the work of preparing the way of the Lord.... His wilderness ministry was a most striking, literal fulfillment of prophecy (Manuscript 112, 1901). 5BC 1115.2

80. No Suitable School—There was a great work appointed for the prophet John, but there was no school on the earth with which he could connect. His learning must be obtained away from the cities, in the wilderness. The Old Testament Scriptures, God, and the nature which God had created, were to be his study books. God was fitting John for his work of preparing the way of the Lord. His food was simply locusts and wild honey. The customs and practices of men were not to be the education of this man. Worldly engrossment was to act no part in the formation of his character (Manuscript 131, 1901). 5BC 1115.3

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 132-6

This chapter is based on John 1:19-51.

John the Baptist was now preaching and baptizing at Bethabara, beyond Jordan. It was not far from this spot that God had stayed the river in its flow until Israel had passed over. A little distance from here the stronghold of Jericho had been overthrown by the armies of heaven. The memory of these events was at this time revived, and gave a thrilling interest to the Baptist's message. Would not He who had wrought so wonderfully in ages past again manifest His power for Israel's deliverance? Such was the thought stirring the hearts of the people who daily thronged the banks of the Jordan. DA 132.1

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 224

The childhood, youth, and manhood of John had been characterized by firmness and moral power. When his voice was heard in the wilderness saying, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight” (Matthew 3:3), Satan feared for the safety of his kingdom. The sinfulness of sin was revealed in such a manner that men trembled. Satan's power over many who had been under his control was broken. He had been unwearied in his efforts to draw away the Baptist from a life of unreserved surrender to God; but he had failed. And he had failed to overcome Jesus. In the temptation in the wilderness, Satan had been defeated, and his rage was great. Now he determined to bring sorrow upon Christ by striking John. The One whom he could not entice to sin he would cause to suffer. DA 224.1

Jesus did not interpose to deliver His servant. He knew that John would bear the test. Gladly would the Saviour have come to John, to brighten the dungeon gloom with His own presence. But He was not to place Himself in the hands of enemies and imperil His own mission. Gladly would He have delivered His faithful servant. But for the sake of thousands who in after years must pass from prison to death, John was to drink the cup of martyrdom. As the followers of Jesus should languish in lonely cells, or perish by the sword, the rack, or the fagot, apparently forsaken by God and man, what a stay to their hearts would be the thought that John the Baptist, to whose faithfulness Christ Himself had borne witness, had passed through a similar experience! DA 224.2

Satan was permitted to cut short the earthly life of God's messenger; but that life which “is hid with Christ in God,” the destroyer could not reach. Colossians 3:3. He exulted that he had brought sorrow upon Christ, but he had failed of conquering John. Death itself only placed him forever beyond the power of temptation. In this warfare, Satan was revealing his own character. Before the witnessing universe he made manifest his enmity toward God and man. DA 224.3

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