Witnesses to the Christ, 1:19-51

ii] The Lamb of God


It is the "the next day", the day after the Baptist's confrontation with the religious authorities from Jerusalem. The Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him and so he gives his testimony concerning the one who comes after him, the one who is greater than he. Witnessing to the coming Christ is the Baptist's primary task and so he proclaims that Jesus is God's sacrificial lamb - the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This he does in a fact-to-face "revelational utterance", Ridderbos.


The Baptist testifies that Jesus is the sacrificial lamb of God.


i] Context: See 1:19-28.


ii] Background: The historical setting for the passage before us is somewhat limited. It is "the next day", the audience is undefined, but probably without the religious officials who dictated the debate on the previous day, and presumably Jesus is present throughout the Baptist's testimony.


iii] Structure: The testimony of the Baptist:

Setting, v29a;

The Baptist's testimony to Jesus, v29b-34:

"the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."

"a man .... who ranks before me, because he was before me."

"the he might be revealed to Israel."

"the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit."

"this is God's chosen one."


iv] Interpretation:

John the Baptist's purpose in life is to point away from himself to Jesus. His task is to prepare the way for the coming messiah, and he does this by calling on Israel to repent and to express this repentance outwardly in water baptism. In bearing witness to the coming one, the Baptist laid the corner-stone of Christian theology, namely, the atonement - the coming one is the sacrificial lamb of God.


The messianic testimony of the Baptist: The Baptist's testimony to Jesus provides a list of messianic titles - Lamb of God, Elect One, Messiah / Christ, Son of God and the mysterious "one Moses wrote about in the law, and about whom the prophets also wrote." The messianic nature of this testimony prompts some of the Baptist's disciples to leave and follow Jesus, although it would take some time for the disciples to fully believe that Jesus is the Christ, and even then their understanding will have its limitations, eg., Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ at Caesarea Philippi, but then he goes on to rebuke Jesus for the suggestion that the Christ must suffer, cf., Matt.16:13ff.


Jesus, the Lamb of God: This title is given great weight in Christian theology, although "lamb" appears only four times in the New Testament, first in this verse and then v36, followed by Acts 8:32 (a quote) and finally 1Peter 1:19. The last two quotes refer to a sacrificial lamb - an expiatory lamb (one that serves to transfer sin from the supplicant to the sacrifice). If "lamb" in this verse is a sacrificial lamb, what lamb does it represent? For example, does it represent the Passover lamb? The problem is the Passover victim did not necessarily have to be a lamb, nor was the victim called a lamb, rather the paschal victim was called "Passover". There are, of course, other possibilities, eg., the lamb led to the slaughter, Isa. 53:7, the lamb of the daily sacrifice, the scapegoat, the guilt-offering, Lev.14:12f, the apocalyptic warrior lamb, Rev. 5:6, 7:17, etc, so Carson. It is quite possible that the writer is just generalizing the idea of a sacrificial lamb.


Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit: The image is of the promised baptism / immersing / outpouring of the Spirit of God, eg., Ezk.36:25-26. Jesus receives the Spirit and shares the Spirit, or more correctly, the Spirit descends upon and abides with Jesus, and Jesus then pours out the Spirit. Yet, in what sense is the Spirit poured out? Morris suggests that "it is the bestowal of new life in God" (regenerative); Brown argues for "cleansing"; Others argue for "empowering", cf., 7:39, 14:16f, 20:22. Obviously Jesus' baptism with the Spirit fulfills the Baptist's baptism with water - the Baptist's baptism prefigured Jesus' baptism. Such identifies the absolute superiority of Jesus over the Baptist, but also of the Spirit's redemptive function, of his "cleansing, sin-removing power", Ridderbos. So, the messianic age brings with it the Spirit's purifying power.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 1:29

The Baptist testifies to Jesus - The Baptist declares that Jesus is the Christ / messiah, the one who saves humanity from sin and washes with the Holy Spirit. v29-34.

i] The Lamb of God, v29: As Jesus approached him, the Baptist tells his disciples, "here is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." As noted above, "Lamb" is being used in the sense of "sacrificial lamb", a lamb provided by God to take away our sin. "Jesus bears the consequence of human sin in order that its guilt may be removed", Hoskyns.

th/ epaurion dat. "the next day" - on the tomorrow. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the adverb "tomorrow" into a substantive, with the dative being temporal, giving the sense "on the next day".

ercomenon (ercomai) pres. part. "coming" - [he sees Jesus] coming [to him]. The participle serves as the complement of the direct object "Jesus", asserting a fact about Jesus.

ide "look" - [he says] look. Interjection used to focus attention, "take note."

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - [the lamb] of God. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "God's lamb" or verbal, subjective, "a lamb provided by God", or possibly ablative, source / origin, "a lamb from God." "Here is the lamb of God", CEV.

oJ airwn (airw) pres. part. "who takes away" - the one taking away. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "lamb". Either: "to take up and carry" or "to carry off", Jeremias; see the sample sermon. Possibly referring to the removal of evil from the earth, therefore a futuristic present, but more likely referring to Christ's coming sacrifice as the sacrificial lamb, therefore a historic present; "who is to remove the sin of the world", Moffatt.

tou kosmou (oV) gen. "[the sin] of the world" - The genitive may be classified as adjectival, possessive, "the world's sin", or verbal, subjective, "the sin perpetrated by the world / humanity." The lamb does not just remove Israel's sin, but the sin of the whole world, "of all human beings without distinction, though not .... without exception", Carson.


ii] The One who ranks above the Baptist because he was before him, v30: The ancients believed in the superiority of the previous generation (an interesting notion reversed in modern society - we honor testosterone over wisdom!). Yet, the Baptist claims an inferior position, even though his ministry was before Jesus and therefore technically superior.

ou|toV pro. "this [is] the one" - this one [is] he. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. Again John uses a demonstrative pronoun for emphasis.

uJper + gen. "I meant" - about [whom I said]. Here expressing reference / respect, "with reference to / concerning", "this is he concerning whom I said", but possibly benefit / advantage, "on behalf of / for the sake of."

opisw + gen. "after [me]" - Temporal; "After" in time rather than space; "the man who is to succeed me"; Moffatt.

emprosqen + gen. "[has] surpassed [me]" - [comes a man who] before, in front [of me has become]. Expressing advantage. It is possible that time is again intended, but it is more likely referring to rank; "who takes rank before me", NEB.

oJti "because" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus surpasses the Baptist.

ptwtoV adj. + gen. "[he was] before [me]" - [he was] first = prominent, foremost, prior to [me]. Predicate adjective. With the sense "prior to" this adjective takes a genitive of persons / genitive complement. A bland, "he was alive before I was born", CEV, fails to capture the sense of preeminence that goes with Jesus' preexistence. Like the great "I am", he is the one who was and is and will always be. Better "for before I was born, he already was", NEB.


iii] God's revelation to Israel, v31: The Baptist's task was to reveal Jesus as Israel's messiah. To achieve this end he diligently performed his ministry - a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in preparation of the messiah's baptism with the Spirit.

kagw "I myself" - and i. Crasis; kai + egw. A commonly used conjunction by John which gives emphasis to the personal pronoun "I", so as NIV etc., "I myself" - it carries Semitic overtones.

ouk h/dein (oida) pluperf. "did not know [him]" - did not recognize [him]. Treated as a simple past tense. This doesn't mean that the Baptist didn't know anything about Jesus, but rather that he was not one of Jesus' disciples, one of his inner circle, an intimate of any kind.

all (alla) "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ......, but ...".

dia touto + acc. "the reason" - [that he might be manifested to israel] because of this. This causal construction is best treated as inferential, drawing a logical conclusion; "therefore." "I have had no relationship with him, but so that he might be made known to Israel, I therefore came baptizing with water."

baptizwn (baptizw) pres. part. "[i came] baptizing" - The participle is adverbial, modal expressing the manner of the Baptist's coming.

en + dat. "with [water]" - in, on, by [water]. Here possibly local, expressing space, "in water", or instrumental, "by means of", or probably better adverbial, modal, expressing manner, "with", as NIV. Again, the Baptist's role is depreciated in that he cleanses Israel with the symbol of water, whereas Jesus will cleanse with the Spirit.

iJna + subj. "that" - that [he might be manifested]. Introducing a purpose clause, "in order that." The Baptist may not have been an intimate of Jesus, but he came baptizing, "in order that he (the messiah) might be disclosed to Israel", Moffatt. By exposing Israel's sin and calling for its cleansing in repentance, expressed outwardly in the washing of water, the Baptist prepares Israel for the coming messiah. The hina clause in the Greek text comes before dia touto, "the reason [I came .....]", so as to emphasize the Baptist's role of displaying Christ to Israel. Interestingly, the Baptist's role in this disclosure may have nothing to do with his preaching. The disclosure referred to here may well be the divine announcement made to all present when Jesus is baptized.

fanerwqh/ (fanerow) aor. pas. subj. "might be revealed" - might be manifested. "To make Christ known to the people of Israel."

tw/ Israhl dat. "to Israel" - Dative of indirect object.


iv] The one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit, v32-33: The Baptist's knowledge of Jesus was not derived by personal deduction. He actually witnessed the Spirit of God descend on Jesus and "remain" (abide permanently) with him, and at the same time heard God declare that Jesus is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit; See "Interpretation" above.

emarturhsen (marturew) aor. "[John] gave this testimony" - [john also (adjunctive kai)] testified, bore witness [saying]. The Baptist describes what he has seen.

legwn (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant.

oJti "-" - that. Serving to introduce a dependent statement, direct speech, expressing what John saw.

teqeamai (qeaomai) perf. "I saw" - i have seen [the spirit]. This is probably an example of a dramatic perfect where the perfect tense is used to dramatically recall a past event, "I was there and saw ...." CEV. The seeing, of course, is with the eye. "I saw" underlines the fact that the Baptist witnessed the event.

katabainon (katabainw) pres. part. "come down" - descending [as a dove]. The participle serves as the complement of the direct object "Spirit" standing in a double accusative construction and asserting a fact about the Spirit; the Spirit is coming down from heaven.

ex + gen. "from [heaven]" - out of, from. Expressing source / origin.

wJV "as" - Comparative; either, descending as a dove would descend, or looking like a dove.

peristeran (a) "a dove" - a dove, pigeon. Accusative direct object. The symbolic intention of the dove is unclear. It seems best to take the line that the divine / the Spirit is being represented as a bird-like creature coming to rest on Jesus to authorize him as the Spirit-filled corporate Israel, rather than the Spirit comes down like a dove comes down from the sky.

emeinen (menw) aor. "remain" - it remained, abided, continued. This verb is presumably a constative aorist expressing the beginning of the permanent abiding of the Holy Spirit with Jesus during his ministry on earth.

ep (epi) + acc. "on" - upon [him]. This preposition with the accusative implies movement upon, or onto. If a static "on" was desired it would be followed by a genitive. The use of this preposition here continues to reflect the idea of the Spirit's coming upon Jesus, a coming which resulted in his abiding with him.


ouk h/dein (oida) pluperf. "I would not have known / [I myself] did not know [him]" - i did not know = recognize [him]. Although this verb is pluperfect, it is best translated as a simple past; "I myself, did not recognize him", Moffatt.

all (alla) "except" - Strong adversative in a counterpoint construction; "not .... but ....."

oJ pemyaV (pempw) aor. part. "the one who sent [me]" - the one having sent [me]. The participle serves as a substantive; "he who sent me", NEB, ie., God.

baptizein (baptizw) inf. "to baptize" - The infinitive is used to introduce a final clause expressing purpose; "in order to."

en "with [water]" - As above: locative, "in water"; instrumental, "by means of water"; modal, expressing manner, "with water." Most translators go for "with", although the NEB goes for "in". It is often argued that "with water" is a gloss.

eipen (eipon) aor. "told" - [that one] said. Here John reveals that he has had a direct revelation from God.

moi dat. pro. "me" - to me. Dative of indirect object.

oJn an + subj. "the man [upon] whom" - [upon] whomever. This construction introduces an indefinite relative clause; "someone", CEV.

katabainon (katabainw) pres. part. "come down" - [you see the spirit] descending [and remaining upon him]. This participle, as with "abiding / remaining", serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "Spirit" standing in a treble accusative construction, asserting a fact about the object; "he on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain", ESV.

oJ baptizwn (baptizw) pres. part."[is] he who will baptize" - [this is] the one immersing / the one outpouring / washing. The participle serves as a substantive.

en + dat. "with" - Probably adverbial, modal, expressing manner; "with the Holy Spirit", but possibly means, "by the Holy Spirit." See above.

pneumati aJgiw/ "the Holy Spirit" - Translators handle this differently. Most reject "a holy Spirit", Anchor, some have "the holy Spirit", "holy" not capitalized since the Baptist would know nothing of Trinitarian theology, but most have "the Holy Spirit", given that the author understands the full nature of the Spirit's person.


v] He is God's Chosen One, v34: So, the Baptist was able to testify that Jesus, the lamb of God, is the messiah, the Son of God, God's Chosen One, the one who washes people clean with the Spirit of God. In the new age of the messianic kingdom, Jesus, the messiah, is able to apply the Spirit's purifying power to God's repentant people.

kagw "I" - and i. Crasis, kai + ego. Emphatic.

eJwraka (oJraw) perf. "have seen" - have seen. Extensive perfect, ie., John has witnessed, as a past event, the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus, and this observation has ongoing consequences.

memarturhka (marturew) perf. "testify" - [and] i have born witness. Intensive perfect, ie., John's past testimony is ongoing into the present, thus best translated as a simple present tense; "I tell you", CEV.

oJti "that" - that. Introducing a dependent statement, both perception and indirect speech; "I have seen and testify that ....."

ou|toV adj. "this" - this one. Demonstrative pronoun used as an emphatic personal pronoun; "this one" = "he", but he is a special he. "This one", namely "the Son of God", is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, ie., the one who "takes away the sin of the world", Ridderbos. Ridderbos argues that this adjective, emphatic by position, is codeterminative with "Son of God". So, this Jesus, whom the Baptist saw coming toward him, v29, is the messiah who take away the sin of the world.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the Son] of God" - [is the son] of god. The genitive is adjectival, relational. Meaning "the messiah", ie., a messianic title rather than filial. "The Son of God" serves as a variant reading, the other possibilities being "the chosen one of God" and "the chosen Son of God." All are messianic titles.


John Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]