Is there evidence in scripture that John the Baptist needed salvation like everyone else though he was filled with the Holy Ghost from the womb?
It is Luke who tells us that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit ‘even from birth’ (Luke 1:15), which could cause someone to wonder if John was exempt from the need to believe the gospel for the forgiveness of sins. There are several evidences from scripture that in spite of being filled with the Holy Spirit, John still needed to be saved.
First, the scripture says that John was filled with the Holy Spirit it does not say that John was sealed with the Holy Spirit. Paul teaches us in Ephesians 1:13 that those who believe the truth of the gospel are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. The Greek word behind the English ‘sealed’ is quite literally ‘to set a seal upon, to mark with a seal’. The next verse goes on to teach us that this action of God in marking the believer as His own is the equivalent of God making a down payment on the believer so as to show his intent of completing the redemption of those who belong to Him. So John was ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit, but nothing in the text indicates that he was ‘sealed’ with the Holy Spirit.
Second, John is not exempt from the “all” of Romans 3:23—‘for all have sinned (including John), and come short of the glory of God.’ When Paul writes ‘there is none righteous no not one’ (Rom 3:10), John is included in that statement. In fact, we seem to see John’s own understanding of his need for the forgiveness of sin when Jesus approaches John for baptism in Matthew 3 and John is hesitant to proceed. John responds, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Third, while John was filled with the Holy Spirit, the wrath of God still abided on him until he believed in Christ (John 3:36). Certainly one could suppose that being filled with the Holy Spirit would lead to John believing the truth, but nonetheless, John still had to believe. No one is exempt from the requirement to believe in order to be saved. Those who do not obey the gospel imperative to ‘believe’ will experience the wrath of God (2 Thess 1:8).
The fourth reason from scripture that John still needed to be saved comes from John 3 and Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. Jesus told Nicodemus very plainly that everyone (including John the Baptist) had to be born again (or born from above) in order to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Again, being filled with Spirit in order to be the forerunner of Jesus is not the same as being born again.
Fifth, John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets (Luke 16:16), and the Holy Spirit’s activity among the people of God in the Old Testament, oftentimes called “theocratic anointing’, was temporary in nature and usually designed to empower the recipient for a specific task. The scripture is replete with these events: Bezalel is anointed with the Spirit to build the Tabernacle (Ex 31:2-3); Judges such as Gideon and Samson are given power (Judges 6:34; 14:6); and of course, both Saul and David are filled with the Holy Spirit as kings of Israel (1 Sam 10:10; 16:13). The Holy Spirit rather dramatically departed from Saul (1 Sam 16:14), and David pleads with the Lord not to take His Spirit from him (Ps 51:11), indicating the tenuous and temporal aspect of the Old Testament ‘filling’ of the Spirit.
Finally, nothing in the scripture indicates how long this state of being filled with the Spirit lasted and to what degree it impacted John’s actions, but we see the fallen nature of John when he is in prison. In Matthew 11, we see John asking a question that did not come from the Holy Spirit’s leadership. Matthew writes, “Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2-3). Evidently being filled with the Holy Spirit does not keep one from doubting. John’s doubts unequivocally show us his vulnerable humanity.
In spite of being filled with the Holy Spirit from birth, John was born a member of Adam’s fallen race, and all who are in Adam die (1 Cor. 15:22). John still needed to be born again, marked as God’s own by being sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise and placed in the body of Christ in order to be saved from sin and the wrath of God. Ultimately, John had to believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the world (even John’s), which he seems to do in John 1:29 when he prophecies of the atoning death of the Son of God.