John 1:21-25
John 1:21 (KJB)
And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
John the Baptist really had them going by only answering the questions as they were asked. They had asked if he was Elijah? (Mal 4:5 KJV) Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: John had a ministry similar to Elijah, in that one day he just shows up at the Jordan River and nothing is known about him. Elijah walks on to the scene in 1 Kings 17 in the time of Ahab and nothing was known about him prior to that. So John states that he was not Elijah. Then they ask him if he was ďthat prophet?Ē (Deu 18:15 KJV) The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; They did not know that Deut. 18:15 was speaking of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. John denied this also because he knew he was not that prophet. John must have had them in a quandary because he denied being the Christ, Elijah, and that prophet.
John 1:22 (KJB)
Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
They asked John a second time, who art thou? Up to this point all they were receiving was just negative responses to their questions and by now I am sure they were frustrated because they had to bring an answer back to those who sent them. If you notice, John the Baptist was not placing any emphasis on his ministry. His ministry was a conduit for the purpose of introducing the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a great principle and should be adopted by every Christian that we too are conduits to present the Lord Jesus Christ as the truth of salvation and should place no emphasis on our ministries. This is not to deprecate our ministries but just to keep them in proper perspective, which is always ancillary to the person of Christ.
John 1:23 (KJB)
He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
Straight - Straighten or (steer) straight
(Isa 40:3 KJV) The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Now John speaks about his ministry and he mentions the fact that it is a fulfillment of the prophecy found in Isaiah 40:3. He tells them that according to the prophecy, he is one crying in the wilderness to make straight, the way of the Lord. That is not to say that the Lordís path needs to be straightened out, but what John is alluding to is the fact that the people have had many misunderstandings concerning the way of the Lord and he was sent to straighten it out or to preach it correctly during his ministry. The way of the Lord before was through the law but through the ages, the leaders of Israel had added much to Godís law and had made the path to the Lord crooked but now it was the time of straightening. The truth of grace was about to be announced as the only way one can be saved and that would be a straightening out of the crooked.
John 1:24 (KJB)
And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.
The Pharisees were the religious leaders of Israel and they shared theological standing with the Sadducees. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection and angels. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection or angelic beings. Nevertheless, they were both the enemies of Christ. (Acts 23:8 KJV) For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.
John 1:25 (KJB)
And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?
What identified an Israelite as an Israelite was the fact that they were circumcised but now something else was happening. Baptism was taking place at the Jordan River and since John had spoken of the fact that his ministry was mentioned in Isaiah, they were now more curious as to why he was baptizing. Now there is an association between baptism, Isaiah, the way of the Lord. This was perplexing to the emissaries. What they would learn and fail to grasp is that at circumcision, blood was shed but in baptism, blood was not shed. This was looking forward to the fact that the Messiah was going to shed His blood and no longer would anyone have to shed blood, whether by self or animal sacrifice, for Christ would be the one and final sacrifice for sin. (Heb 9:12 KJV) Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Once Christ went to the cross and then resurrected on the third day, grace would now be the method of salvation, even though grace was already in effect from the beginning of the world, it would now be more pronounced and the Mosaic law would now be set aside, for a person can approach God who has become saved by grace and no longer is a high priest needed to offer a sacrifice yearly because Christís sacrifice was only done once and for all the Elect.