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As the angel Gabriel said to Zechariah, whose son would be John the Baptist...

Luke 1:17 (NLT)

17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”

I remember Elijah as an Old Testament prophet that performed many miracles, as did Elisha who requested and received Elijah's power. Yet, I don't remember John the Baptist as having performed any miracles. So then, how did John the Baptist have Elijah's "spirit and power"? I'd prefer answers from a perspective as close to that of Wesleyan as possible.

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Good one. Also, how did John the Baptist convince the Jews? Without miracle, it could be difficult. –  Mawia Feb 6 '13 at 7:30
    
@Mawia: the same way that non-believers would turn to Christ today - because they are tired of searching for truth when the world offers nothing but smoke and mirrors. :) –  IAbstract Feb 26 at 1:59

5 Answers 5

The similarity between Elijah and John the Baptists is understood the same way by most Protestant Commentaries including John Wesley’s.

This is understood to mean:

With the same integrity, courage, austerity, and fervour, and the same power attending his word (John Wesley's Notes, Luke 1:17)

However to understand this brief comment by Wesley one really has to appreciate the history of Elijah to see how truly John the Baptist was almost exactly like him. The problem is simply that nowadays people are not that familiar with Old Testament figures and how the fit it into salvation history.

Anyone, after reading the history of Elijah in the Old Testament setting would probably make these sorts of observations.

He was a large looming figure, surpassing the greatness of most prophets, if not all. He was almost along the lines of Moses, which makes his appearance with Moses at the Mount of Transfiguration not so surprising as. Elijah’s greatness is probably due to the impression that the world and especially the apostasy of Israel had reached its lowest point. Prophets were essentially defenders of Jehovah and of the Laws of Moses. Elijah, ‘suddenly’ appeared on this deplorable state of the world, desperately needing reform, with a ‘ferocity’ and ‘stern ruggedness’ that leaps out of the scriptures in fiery, rebukes, challenges and contests. He essentially stands alone saying ‘Repent!’ to Israel with unmoving faithfulness and unflinching fearlessness, like a man with a face of flint.

This unbending, unfaltering spirit of sternness and severity, like a man cracking the whip of God, was predicted to come again to usher in Messiah’s entrance into the world. This expectation was a central one in the Jew’s mindset about the coming kingdom. For details refer here: What kind of Elijah did the Jews expect.

Even his and the Baptists appearance ‘with an upper garment of black camel’s hair with a leather belt’ (2 Kings 1:8) so aptly represented their spirit:

John had his raiment of camels' hair - Coarse and rough, suiting his character and doctrine. (John Wesley's Notes, Mathew 3:4)

I think it is under this perspective that miracles play no part in the idea of ‘spirit and power’, for although miracles are powerful to persuade people that God is speaking it is really the words and message that these men had to Israel, which reflects all the power they had in their spirit. Furthermore as the Baptist's mission was meant 'to decrease' while Christ’s 'increased', miracles would have not served the spirit of his mission. His main duty was to call every Jew to a Baptism of repentance in preparation of Christ ‘whose sandals he was not worthy to untie'. Just as Elijah called Israel back to Jehovah as a lost people under God’s anger, so the Baptist called the Jews to be baptized like Gentile converts, fully emerging into a new life of reformed expectation for a great salvation.

It is all these ideas that bring Wesley to make his brief notes on the subject as he does.

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Ray Vander Laan, That the World May Know Ministries founder, Faith Lessons video series creator, volume 11, session 2, "The Way of John the Baptist"; See it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbFARQTlfiA&list=PLFF19B5B720CA13E2&index=3.

Also: http://proclaimthytruths.blogspot.com/2013/06/ray-vanderlaan-june-27-2013.html 'Zachariah was told that John would be in the spirit of Elijah - that is the ultimate passionate man. If you are to be in the spirit and power of Elijah, he was going to be ON FIRE! John was going to be in that power. ...he baptized [in]...three Elijah spots. ...fed by Ravens. ...called Elisha. ...assent into heaven... John wore Camel hair with a leather belt. That may not be unusual, [except] the only other person in the Bible that is mentioned as wearing that way is Elijah.' 2 Kings 1:8.

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A major characteristic of the spirit of Elijah is to bring back to God his people. This is what Elijah did (1 kings 17,18), this is what JOHN did, turning the people back to God, preparing the way of the Lord. So Elijah and John had same mission, only means to fulfil their mission were different. Miracles were just a mean.

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Is that the only characteristic? I think there is more. Other OT prophets brought the people back to God also. Most of them, actually. –  fredsbend Nov 21 at 15:08
    
Welcoem to C.SE. When you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. This is a good summary, but it would have been helpful to take it a little further –  Affable Geek Nov 21 at 15:15

There is no record of miracle performed by John the Baptist in New Testament. Also, there were very few prophets during that time (if I am correct).

These are the factors which made John the Baptist having "spirit and power" of Elijah.

  1. His miraculous birth (Luke 1:5-25)
  2. His dressing style was that of Elijah (II Kings 1:8, Mat 3:4).
  3. He preached from the words of Isaiah (Isaiah 40:3).
  4. He preached with authority and courage saying "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 3:2)

Historian Flavius Josephus (37–100 AD) also confirms that John was a famous baptist and religious figure. He wrote (from wiki):

"Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God's displeasure to him.

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Similar spirits turning the people back to God.

1 Kings 18:21,37,39: And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. ... Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. ... And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.

Luke 1:16-17 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Similar power to boldly confront kings.

1 Kings 21:17-19 And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to possess it. And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou killed, and also taken possession?...

Luke 3:19-20 But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.

The people of Israel equated John with Elijah.

Matthew 16:14,17:13; Mark 6:14,8:28; Luke 9:19; John 1:21

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Welcome to the site! This next is just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites? –  David Stratton Mar 2 at 15:53
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