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The Cloud of Witnesses

Former title Lessons From the People of the Bible


John the Baptist

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Lesson 6: John the Baptist – Overcame The World


Mark 6:14-29.

Overcame The World

Herod beheaded John the Baptist at the request of Herodias through her daughter Salome, thereby re-enforcing the maxim that if you have a problem with the law, change the law. He continued the custom of changing moral codes of practice by changing the law, rather than submitting himself to the law which condemned him.

It continues today. If we don’t like the straight-jacket of the moral law, we change the law so the jacket fits easier. The fact that a moral code needs to be fixed by external values has escaped us. Once we become the arbiter of the moral code, it will, of necessity, be continually reduced until it reaches the lowest common denominator as perceived by the law-makers – in a democratic society, the political party which happens to be in power or holds the balance of power.

The interesting fact is however that it is very difficult to legislate values. Try as we may we will still find a legal system has a few flaws in its make-up. It is not omnipotent. The outworking of the law often exposes its own weakness or misunderstandings – hence the need to constantly revise and change laws – it keeps governments busy.

However, I need to emphasise here that overcoming the world does not equate to illegality. John overcame by being honest in a hypocritical society. John overcame by understanding that the eternal values of the cosmos are greater than the temporary laws established by a political council. The eternal values of the cosmos only expose the inadequacies of the laws of the land.

A life of honesty, purity, generosity, and faithfulness will always overcome a world system that doesn’t practise those values. It will challenge the world system, whether or not it changes it. Ironically, people who choose to live that way will also find huge benefits in doing so. Others may not follow them; they may even be mocked and derided, but the reality is they will be the better off for pursuing that way of life.

It’s a better way of life for society on earth, and it will be a foretaste of what is to be experienced in Heaven. This world is passing away but eternity is a very long time. Those who want to overcome the world have to keep their eyes fixed on the goal – the goal of an eternity with the Creator God who has already established His irreversible moral code.

John the Baptist may have been beheaded by Herod but John had the last laugh. John is the one who has gone into the presence of God. He is the one who has been saved from having his soul and body consigned to Hell.

Yes, John the Baptist joined that great throng that the writer to Hebrews describes as the great cloud of witnesses. Those who walked this earth in such a way that they challenged the ways of the world and chose to follow the ways and wisdom of the Creator of the Universe.

John was a trail-blazer. We have the choice – to follow in his footsteps, which always point to Jesus, or choose our own path dictated by the world.

John the Baptist would say to us today...

As Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Remember Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.” (Matthew 10: 28.)


Father, it is so easy to go for an easy way of life, and yet I know it is neither best nor satisfying. Indeed, I know it is contrary to what You desire. Please help me have the courage to stand for what is right even if the cost to me is total. Thank you that this is not my final resting place – Heaven is. Amen.

Additional readings

Revelation 12:10-11; Matthew 10:17-42; 2 Timothy 4:1-8; Hebrews 11:32-40.


You may not be forced to die for Christ – but will you live for Him?

How is your life different from the lives of those of the world?

What is there about Christianity, which makes it worth giving your life for?

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