John the Baptist and His Doubt: Part 1

“Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’” (Matthew 11:2–3).

Countless Christians since John the Baptist’s time have dealt with doubt, which might better be called perplexity or confusion. Here John did not question the truthfulness of Old Testament Scripture or the veracity of Jesus’ baptism, which he himself had seen. Rather, John was simply uncertain about his understanding of those truths. And the kind of question he asked could come only from a believer. In that transitional period between the Testaments, many things seemed unclear and called for further explanation.

Until this time, John the Baptist was the greatest man who had ever lived (Matt. 11:11); so when believers are confused, they can take comfort that even John was perplexed for a time. Also encouraging for us is that Jesus often said to His disciples, “You of little faith” and “How long will you doubt?” (e.g., Matt. 8:26; 14:31; Mark 11:23; Luke 12:28).

Although Christ understands His children’s doubts, He is never pleased with such misgivings because they reflect against Him. When messengers from the Gentile Cornelius arrived where Peter was staying, the Holy Spirit told the apostle, “Get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself” (Acts 10:20). James warns us that “the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6; cf. Eph. 4:14). But John’s doubt derived from weakness, not sin, and the only remedy for similar doubt by us is sincere inquiry, prayerful confession, and reliance on Scripture for reassurance.

Ask Yourself
How do you respond to people in crisis, especially when the trauma of their situation has left them doubting God’s goodness or shaken in their faith? How do you go about reassuring them of the Lord’s faithfulness when they will hear none of it or aren’t ready to listen?

From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610