The gospel of God was proclaimed by the Lord Jesus Christ as the kingdom of God. But it was John the Baptist who was the first to proclaim this kingdom. Jesus then laid the foundation for it through His death and resurrection and finally established it through the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Mark 1:1,14).
The kingdom of God is heavenly and not earthly. It consists of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). Believers who are citizens of this heavenly kingdom should possess these heavenly qualities. Unfortunately, the majority of believers do not enjoy this privileged life of God's kingdom. Instead, they live a sub-standard life, not much different from that of earthly people who are part of the kingdom of darkness. This is because most believers have not learnt the first principle of God's kingdom from the first two who proclaimed this kingdom - John the Baptist and Jesus.
If something does not originate in God, it can never become perfect. God does everything perfectly right from the beginning. Only that which begins in perfection can end in perfection. Those who did not accept John the Baptist could not accept Jesus either (Mark 11:29-33). Those who do not repent genuinely cannot come to genuine faith; and faith without repentance is a meaningless illusion. The early apostles were followers of John the Baptist and of Jesus. Just like children learn about earthly life from their parents, those apostles learnt about the life of God's kingdom from their spiritual parents - John the Baptist and Jesus.
John the Baptist came proclaiming the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4).That message was like a baby conceived in its mother's womb. This "baby" came to "birth" in Jesus. Those who responded to John's message were ready to be born into God's kingdom. As they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, they were born of the Spirit and thus became children of the heavenly family.
The fellowship enjoyed by John the Baptist and our Lord Jesus with each other is our example for everything in this kingdom-life. We have to learn from them.
Look at the attitude of John the Baptist whom God used "to prepare the way of the Lord" (Mark 1:2,3). He had such a humble attitude about himself that he refused to be called a prophet. He said he was only "a voice in the wilderness". His attitude was "I have come only to fulfill a specific purpose of God. So who I am is not important. I am just a nobody before God." Such was the humility of John the Baptist. No wonder Jesus declared that he was more than a prophet (Matt.11:9).
Anyone who is overly conscious of his gift or his calling and who asserts them, cannot be used by God to build His kingdom. Proud and arrogant people who want to promote their name, their gift and their ministry will not remain in God's kingdom forever, even though God may permit them to build their own kingdom on earth for a while.
Jesus Christ did not hesitate to take baptism from John the Baptist, because He was aware of John's deep humility. He publicly declared that John's baptism was from heaven (Matt.3:15; Mark 11:13). If Jesus had not accepted baptism by John, He would not have been revealed to others as the Son of God who baptizes in the Holy Spirit (John 1:32,33). And if John the Baptist, in false humility, had refused to baptize Jesus, he would not have known Jesus as the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit. He would then have died without fulfilling God's purpose. But, both Jesus and John were humble enough to esteem each other. They submitted to one another in humility, thus preparing the way for the establishment of God's kingdom on earth.
Where such humility and submission are seen by God, even today, either in a husband and wife or in two elders of a church, the voice from heaven will once again be heard 'These are my beloved children in whom I am well pleased'. Such are the ones God uses to build His kingdom today.
Unfortunately, we are not as humble as John the Baptist and Jesus were. That is why there is so much friction, strife, quarrels and lack of peace in many churches, that ends in many factions. John the Baptist and Jesus were together for only a very short period. But they had such perfect fellowship with each other during that period. Thus they laid a foundation for the church to be established by the apostles later.
Consider now how the Stronger One (Jesus Christ) dealt with the weaker one (John the Baptist) when John's faith was shaken. When John was imprisoned, he sent his disciples to Jesus asking, "Are you the expected one? or do we look for someone else? (Luke 7:20).When Jesus perceived that the people might despise John for his unbelief there, He exalted John in their eyes by saying "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? I say to you among those born of women, there is no one greater than John" (Luke 7:24-28). He went on to say, "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and violent men take it by force" (Matt-11:12).In other words, Jesus was saying that the kingdom of heaven began with John the Baptist.
If we begin in humility as John began, we will also end well - as our Lord Jesus did. The message of repentance and restoration of fellowship with God came through John, who came in the spirit of Elijah (Matt-11:14). The message of faith and perfection came through Jesus Christ. Those who refused to believe John, did not believe in Jesus either. But "violent men" (those who repent radically and believe) will take God's kingdom by force even today (Matt.11:12).
When the Stronger One's (Jesus') fame began to spread, the weaker one (John) quickly humbled himself and acknowledged the Greater One saying "He must increase but I must decrease" (John-3:30).
And the Stronger One also in humility, refused to promote Himself at John's expense: "Jesus realized that the Pharisees were keeping count of the number of baptisms that He and John performed...They had posted the score that Jesus was ahead, turning him and John into rivals in the eyes of the people. So Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee" (John 4:1-3 - Message Translation).
The kingdom of God had such a perfect beginning in the humble attitude of John and Jesus towards each other. It continues today and will last forever. In eternity, we will discover that it was humble saints who built God's kingdom. God's true family in heaven and on earth consists only of such people (Eph 3:15).
Those who have failed to learn this heavenly life of the kingdom of God from its two founders will only cause confusion and chaos wherever they go - whether in their homes or in the church - because the earthly life is jealous and selfish. "And wherever jealousy and selfish ambition exist there will always be disorder and every evil thing (James 3:16) Jealousy will also lead to strife and contradiction - as we see in Acts 13:45
To build the kingdom of God in the church today, we need brothers and sisters who are willing to learn humility from John the Baptist and Jesus.
May God raise up prophets such as John the Baptist in our midst, who have the spirit of Elijah, who will turn the hearts of God's people towards each other, restoring peace and building fellowship (Malachi 4:6). Amen.