“John the Baptist’s Doubt”?!

Here are some pseudo-pious Puritan platitudes put forth in a desiringgod blog post by Jon Bloom:

==John the Baptist’s Doubt

February 13, 2009 | By: Jon Bloom

Category: Commentary

“Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

This was a surprising question coming from John the Baptist.==

What is NOT surprising is Jon Bloom’s erroneous and presuppositional position that a Christian is prone to doubt. Bloom approaches the text with the idea that a true Christian can question the truthfulness of the Word of God.

==It’s unclear exactly when John first consciously knew that Jesus was the Son of God, whose way he had come to prepare. The Apostle John quotes him as saying, “I myself did not know him” (John 1:31) around the time he baptized Jesus.==

Let’s look at the context shall we?

“Then they said to him, Who are you, that we may give an answer to those sending us? What do you say about yourself? He said, “I am a voice crying in the wilderness:” “Make straight” “the way of the Lord,” as Isaiah the prophet said. And those who had been sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him and said to him, Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize in water, but One stands in your midst whom you do not know; This One it is who has come after me, who has been before me, of whom I am not worthy that I should loose the thong of His sandal. These things took place in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. On the morrow, John sees Jesus coming toward him and said, Behold! The Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the world! This is He about whom I said, After me comes a Man who has been before me, for He was preceding me. And I did not know Him; but that He be revealed to Israel, for this reason I came baptizing in water. And John witnessed, saying, I have seen the Spirit coming down as a dove out of Heaven, and He abode on Him. And I did not know Him, but the One sending me to baptize in water, that One said to me, On whomever you see the Spirit coming down and abiding on Him, this is the One baptizing in the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have witnessed that this One is the Son of God. Again on the morrow, John and two from his disciples stood. And looking at Jesus walking, he said, Behold, the Lamb of God! ” (John 1:22-36)

John obviously knows Him in the sense of being the one whom he is to prepare the way for. Also, even while in his mother’s womb, John did leap for joy over his knowledge of the Lord. John does not put forth an exact chronological order of events, but he tells us that God told him that whomever you see the Spirit coming down and abiding on — and the Spirit abode on Jesus. So John DID know the Lord, but there was a certain amount of time in which John had not seen Christ’s physical person and so did not know Him in the sense of not having seen his physical face and body.

==This is remarkable because John’s mother, Elizabeth, had known. She knew because John announced it to her in utero by leaping when she heard Mary’s voice. Was she not allowed to tell him? We don’t know. Regardless, John had known even before he knew.==

What does “John had known even before he knew” mean? John knew from the womb Mr. Bloom — THAT is why he did leap for joy.

==What is clear is that when the revelation came it was an overwhelming experience for John. That day, when Jesus approached him at the Jordan near Bethany, John couldn’t contain the shout: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” With awe and trembling hands he had baptized his Lord. And then saw the Spirit descend and remain on him.==

And seen in the verses cited above, John the Baptist knew who the Lord was and knew he himself was the forerunner of his Lord. John knew the doctrinal content of who his Lord was what his Lord was coming into the world to do.

Recall the infant John the Baptist leaping in his mother’s womb. The infant John was leaping for a reason as the Holy Spirit of God did testify. Again, what John didn’t know was what his Lord looked like physically. This is the conclusion I draw since God had told him that the One whom the Spirit descended and abode on was He who was to baptize with the Holy Spirit.

==That day had also marked the beginning of the end of his ministry. From that point he had joyfully directed people away from himself to follow Jesus. And they had.==

Yes Mr. Bloom, it is true that John the Baptist directed people away from himself lest they think that he was the Christ.  John emphatically and clearly stated that he was not the Christ.

“But the people were expecting, and all reasoning in their hearts about John, lest perhaps he is the Christ, John answered all, saying, I indeed baptize you with water; but He stronger than I comes, of whom I am not fit to loosen the thong of His sandals. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire, whose sifting fan is in His hand; and He will fully purge His threshing-floor, and will gather the wheat into His storehouse, but the chaff He will burn up with fire that cannot be put out” (Luke 3:15-17).

But what you appear to forget as evinced by your pernicious post, Mr. Bloom, is that not all of those whom John directed away from himself were so easily persuaded:

“And John was also baptizing in Aenon, near Salim, for many waters were there. And they came and were being baptized. For John had not yet been thrown into the prison. Then a question from John’s disciples arose with the Jews about purification. And they came to John and said to him, Teacher, the One who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have witnessed, behold, this One baptizes, and all are coming to Him. John answered and said, A man is able to receive nothing unless it has been given to him from Heaven. You yourselves witness to me that I said, I am not the Christ, but that having been sent, I am going before that One. The one having the bride is the bridegroom. But the friend of the bridegroom, standing and hearing him, rejoices with joy because of the bridegroom’s voice. Then this my joy has been fulfilled. That One must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:23-30).

John the Baptist said his disciples witnessed to him that he told them that he was NOT the Christ. So the question is WHY then do John’s disciples seem to have a problem with all those coming to Jesus? This is NOT to say that John’s disciples didn’t believe him when he clearly and unambiguously told them that he was not the Christ; but it DOES seem to show that John’s disciples were not yet persuaded that Jesus was the Christ.

==What he hadn’t expected was to be tormented by such oppressive doubts and fears. Since the Jordan, John had not doubted that Jesus was the Christ. But stuck alone in this putrid cell he was assaulted by horrible, accusing thoughts.==

Mr. Bloom is not talking about the horrible, accusing, bizarre thoughts merely popping into one’s mind that believers jettison, reject, and quench by the Sword of the Spirit and the Shield of Faith. Bloom is actually entertaining the idea that John the Baptist — while in that “filthy prison,” that “putrid cell” — actually began to doubt whether or not Jesus was the Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Bloom is saying that John the Baptist has succumbed to an evil heart of unbelief and has failed to take up the Sword of the Spirit and the Shield of Faith (Ephesians 6:16, 17). In short, Bloom is saying that a true believer like John the Baptist can be an unbeliever for a time. Of course, Bloom would not say explicitly that doubt is out-and-out unbelief, but just a sin due to weakness (or something along those lines).

“But hearing in the prison of the works of Christ, sending two of his disciples, John said to Him, Are You the One coming, or are we to look for another? And answering, Jesus said to them, Going, relate to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, and the lame walk; lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear; the dead are raised, and the poor are given the gospel. And blessed is the one, whoever shall not be offended in Me. But as these were going, Jesus began to say to the crowds about John, What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed being shaken with the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man being clothed in soft garments? Behold, those wearing soft things are in the houses of kings. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one more excellent than a prophet. For this is the one about whom it has been written: “Behold, I send out My messenger before Your face, who shall prepare Your way before You.” Truly I say to you, There has not arisen among those born of a woman any greater than John the Baptist. But the least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is” (Matthew 11:2-11).

“And fear took hold of all; and they glorified God, saying, A great prophet has risen up among us; and, God has visited His people. And this word about Him went out in all Judea, and in all the neighborhood. And his disciples reported to John about all these things. And having called near a certain two of his disciples, John sent to Jesus, saying, Are You the One coming? Or should we expect another? And having come to Him, the men said, John the Baptist sent us to You, saying, Are You the One coming, or should we expect another? And in the same hour He healed many from diseases and plagues and evil spirits. And He gave to many blind ones ability to see. And answering, Jesus said to them, Going, report to John what you saw and heard; that blind ones are seeing again, lame ones are walking about, leprous ones are being cleansed, deaf ones are hearing, dead ones are being raised, poor ones are preached the Gospel. And blessed is he who is not offended in Me. And John’s messengers going away, He began to speak to the crowds about John: What did you go out to the deserted places to see? A reed being shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man who had been dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those in splendid clothing and being in luxury are in king’s palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, Even more than a prophet. This is he about whom it has been written: “Behold, I send My messenger” before Your face, who “will prepare Your way before You.” For I say to you, Among those born of a woman, no prophet is greater than John the Baptist. But the least one in the kingdom of God is greater than he is” (Luke 7:16-28).

From these two sets of passages above, where does Mr. Bloom get the idea that John the Baptist was oppressed by fears and doubts? It certainly looks to me like the prophet is making the most of his situation by teaching his stubborn and slow-to-learn disciples that Jesus is indeed the Christ. First, the disciples hear certain things about Jesus. Then they report what they heard to John. John in turn sends them to ask Jesus if He is the “One coming? Or should we expect another?” Jesus tells them to report back to John what they have seen and heard. Even one of Bloom’s own prophets gave the following very plausible explanation for why John might have sent his disciples to Jesus:

“He [Jesus] points them to what they heard and saw, which they must tell John, that he [John] might from thence take occasion the more fully to instruct and convince them out of their own mouths” (Matthew Henry).

It appears John’s disciples hear reports of Jesus. Then they go and tell John. John sends them Jesus so they may hear what Jesus is about first hand. John’s disciples hear and see these things and are told to report back to John. Now, as Matthew Henry said, John will teach his disciples out of their own mouths and from those things which they saw and heard Jesus do.

Mr. Bloom falsely accuses John the Baptist as being a “broken reed” or a “reed shaken by the wind.” But Jesus with rhetorical emphasis makes it quite CLEAR that John the Baptist is the VERY OPPOSITE of what Jon Bloom would wish him to be.

==What if he had been wrong? There had been many false prophets in Israel. What made him so sure that he wasn’t one? What if he had led thousands astray?==

This is ludicrous in the extreme. John knew exactly who he was and Whose paths he was to prepare beforehand.

==There had been false messiahs. What if Jesus was just another? So far Jesus’ ministry wasn’t exactly what John had always imagined the Messiah’s would look like. Could this imprisonment be God’s judgment?==

It might seem superfluous of me to say that this is an absolutely repugnant statement by Jon Bloom. Bloom is slanderously putting wicked thoughts into the head of John the Baptist — or at least he is speculating about what thoughts John could have been thinking in order to supposedly cause him to doubt the Messiahship of Jesus.

==It felt as if God had left him and the devil himself had taken his place. He tried to recall all the prophecies and signs that had seemed so clear to him before. But it was difficult to think straight. Comfort just wouldn’t stick to his soul. Doubts buzzed around his brain like the flies around his face.==

No Mr. Bloom. Flies buzz around the speculative dung that you threw at the feet of a true prophet of God who SO CLEARLY knew his God-ordained business.

==The thought of being executed for the sake of righteousness and justice he could bear. But he could not bear the thought that he might have been wrong about Jesus. His one task was to prepare the way of the Lord. If he had gotten that wrong, his ministry, his life, was in vain.==

Compare Bloom with a passage like John 10 where Jesus says that His sheep follow Him and that they can NEVER follow a false shepherd. Jesus says that His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. In contrast, Bloom is saying that it is possible for one of these sheep to believe that they might have been following the wrong Jesus. That’s an unbiblical and repulsive doctrine that is being perniciously promulgated by Mr. Bloom.

==But even with his doubts, there remained in John a deep, unshakable trust in Jesus. Jesus would tell him the truth. He just needed to hear from him again.==

Pseudo-pious Puritan Reformed nonsense. What a blatant contradiction. Bloom is saying that one can be wavering all over the place, and tossed to and fro, while at the same time having deep unshakable trust. What?

==So he sent two of his closest disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

The affection that radiated from Jesus was palpable. Jesus was familiar with John’s sorrows and grief and the satanic storms that break on the saints when they are weak and alone. He loved John.==

Jesus called the Baptist “more than a prophet” and implied that he was NOT one to be shaken like a reed in the wind (contrary to Bloom).

==So he invited John’s faithful friends to sit near him as he healed many and delivered many from demonic prisons.

Then he turned them with kind tears glistening in his eyes and said, “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 and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” John would recognize Isaiah’s prophecy in those words. This promise would bring the peace John needed to sustain him for the few difficult days he had remaining.

Out of love for his friend, Jesus didn’t include Isaiah’s phrase “proclaim liberty to the captives.” John would understand.==

“Kind tears glistening…” Where does it say that? And “out of love for his friend” Bloom alleges that Jesus omitted that particular phrase lest Jesus appear to be mocking (??) or something. Mr. Bloom has already falsely accused John the Baptist as doubting whether or not Jesus was the Christ, so what’s another false speculation regarding what Jesus’ alleged reason was for leaving out that particular phrase and what John’s reaction might have been if Jesus had included the rest of Isaiah’s phrase. What kind of liberty is Isaiah talking about? Freedom from a cell? Is that perhaps how John the Baptist interpreted Isaiah? Bloom is a buffoon.

==When Jesus had sent John’s disciples away, he said something stunning about John: no one born of women had ever been greater. This, right after John questioned who Jesus was.==

No again, Mr. Bloom. You, due to your unbiblical notions are twisting the Scripture and slandering a true prophet of God.

==In this age, even the greatest, strongest saints experience deep darkness. None of us are spared sorrow or satanic oppression. Most of us suffer agonizing affliction at some point. Most of us will experience seasons when we feel as if we’ve been abandoned. Most of us will die hard deaths.==

Basically what Bloom has been saying is that sometimes true Christians seek to establish their own righteousness (contra Romans 10:1-4) and they sometimes stagger and waver through unbelief (contra Romans 4:20).

==The Savior does not break the bruised reed. He hears our pleas for help and is patient with our doubts. He does not condemn us. He has paid completely for any sin that is exposed in our pain.==

A bruised reed is NOT what Bloom thinks it is. A bruised reed still believes and does NOT doubt that Jesus is the Christ. A bruised reed is NOT tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, let alone by fiery trials. Fiery trials are for the testing of the Christian’s faith that it may be shown as genuine. If a fiery trial causes one to doubt that Jesus is the Christ, then that one has been shown to be void of true faith.

==He does not always answer with the speed we desire, nor is his answer always the deliverance we hope for. But he will always send the help that is needed. His grace will always be sufficient for those who trust him. The hope we taste in the promises we trust will often be the sweetest thing we experience in this age. And his reward will be beyond our imagination.

In John’s darkness and pain Jesus sent a promise to sustain John’s faith. He will do the same for you. ==

More nonsense about a person having remnants or a seed of genuine faith despite the person’s unbelief concerning Jesus being the Christ.

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