Jesus’ First Followers
Here we see that because of the testimony of John the Baptist, Jesus’ gets his first followers. They did not stop following John and start following Jesus because he gave them a better religion, but because Jesus fulfilled their religion. This is the whole point of John the Baptist’s ministry was to point others to Christ.
We also see that the most effective way to win people to Jesus is to point them to Jesus and to tell them who He is. Jesus did not gain followers because He gave a really good altar call after an emotion driven sermon. Jesus did not gain followers by going door to door asking people if they wanted to go to Hell or not. Jesus did not gain followers by asking people to say prayers or fill out commitment cards. He gained followers first by the testimony of John the Baptist. And then, those followers go and tell others about Jesus and who He is.
We see this again because once Andrew starts following the Messiah, he has to go tell his brother Simon and Philip. Philip has to tell Nathanael. Peter becomes the first in a long line of successors who have discovered that the most common and effective Christian testimony is the private witness of friend to friend, brother to brother. (Carson, 1991)
I am not knocking the other forms of evangelism because they sometimes have their place in ministry, (it is possible for God to still use these tactics) but our failure is that we glorify the least effective means of evangelism and miss out on the most effective way of ministering to people the ones we actually have a relationship with us that actually trust what we are saying to them because we have already showed to them that we care for them and that we are not some religious wacko that is walking into their home.
We often glorify the Paul-like conversions, when scripture sets the pattern of Timothy-like discipleship. However, Paul-like conversions are not only the exceptions in scripture, but they are also dangerous because we run the risk of making false converts instead of disciples of Christ. We dangerously reassure people that they are OK with God because they said a prayer or got dunked in water at church. We sometimes mistake the purpose of the church. We forget that the church is not here to merely win the lost, but to congregate the converted.
So what does this mean? Do we stop doing evangelism because we fear that we might make false converts? Absolutely not! However, we need to know what Gospel we are preaching to this world, not only by our words, but by our actions. Are we living lives that are saying that Jesus will make you healthy and wealthy or are we living lives of humble servants that are saying we were sinners deserving Hell, but Jesus graciously came and forgave us of our sins and adopted us into His heavenly family.
We do need to be conscious of what we are winning people too. Because what we are winning people too is what they will worship. And a decision based purely on emotions will be a decision that falls away when those emotions fade. We need to be pointing people to the Jesus that is the Messiah, the one that will forgive them of their sins. Not the one that is useful for them in not going to Hell. Or, useful for them in fulfilling their already fleshly desires.
Jesus makes it clear in the passage that He wants to know why people are seeking after Him. In verse 38 it says, “Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”” Jesus wants followers that love Him and realize, who He is and wants to live a life to Glorify His name. Jesus does not want followers to use him to make them rich, or for power, or for food, or for water, or to keep them out of Hell.
Jesus sees that they see him as a Rabbi, which means teacher, and tells them to come and they will see all that they are seeking.
Spurgeon encourages us to evangelize in a way that is steady and well, “Do not number your fishes before they are broiled; nor count your converts before you have tested and tried them. This process may make your work somewhat slow; but then, brethren, it will be sure. Do your work steadily and well, so that those who come after you may not have to say that it was far more trouble to them to clear the church of those who ought never to have been admitted than it was to you to admit them.” (Dever, 2012)
Therefore, I encourage us to seek out ways to share Jesus with people we already know and have a relationship with. Just like the examples we have in the Bible, tell others who Jesus is, so that they too may share in the joy that comes with living with Christ. And tell everyone the Gospel, not just people outside the church. There are people in this church that need the Gospel. So be like John the Baptist and Andrew, do not just ask if they know of Jesus, tell them who He is and what He has done for you. Tell everyone the Gospel and allow God to call His sheep to Himself.
In verses 45 through 51 we see an example of how to share the Gospel with someone that is skeptical of Jesus being our Lord, Savior, and Treasure. We see that Philip sought out Nathanael to share the Good News of Jesus with him. Nathanael is skeptical at first mainly because he knew his scriptures well and knew that the messiah was not to come from Nazareth, but from Bethlehem.
But also, because of his prejudice of people from Nazareth, “could anything good come from Nazareth?” What does Philip do? Does he try to argue with him or force him into believing? No, he simply says “come and see”. He leaves the conversion up to Jesus. He is certain that Jesus is the Messiah because he knows that Jesus is the one that Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote about. Therefore, knowing that Jesus is the Messiah he lets him do all of the talking.
How can we do this today in our lives when someone is skeptical of our faith? First of all, we have God’s Word and if we want to show people Jesus we only need to turn to the first four books of the Bible. So we need to know God’s Word well enough to be able to share it with others.
Second, when Jesus left He assured us that He would send one that is better. That was the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if we are true Christians then we will have the Holy Spirit in our lives. Therefore, our lives should be a testimony to Christ and will guide us in our conversations about Christ to those that are skeptical of Christ. However, this is where apologetics comes in because we study apologetics not to argue people into heaven, but to be able to give a good defense of the faith to be a link in the chain that leads someone from thinking that Jesus is non-sense, to accepting Him as their Lord, Savior, and Treasure.
However, we will never know everything, so we cannot be afraid to witness to someone just because we are afraid that we will screw-up. We just make ourselves available to be used by God and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us because we realize that it is not our job to save people it is Jesus Christ’s. All we do is say come and see.