The Baptism Of John


Before Jesus ever utter the words  Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.   Mark 16:15-16


Before Peter cried out to his audience on that memorable Pentecost day… .”Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”.  Acts 2:38


Or before the Gentiles were commanded to be baptized in the name of the Lord, (Acts 10:48) — John the forerunner of Christ was both preaching and practicing "baptism for the remissions of sins."


The Gospel  of Mark introduces the ministry of John in these simple and easy to understand  words:

4John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.  5And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.         Mark 1:4-5


When John introduced baptism, he did so by preaching. Does this not show the importance of baptism?  In 1 Cor.  1:21

“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe”


In Romans 10:12-17 we read:

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him: 13for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15and how shall they preach, except they be sent? even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things! 16But they did not all hearken to the glad tidings. For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”


God has chosen preaching to reveal to men that which is unknown by men’s wisdom and thus produce a saving faith.  Faith that comes by “hearing God’s Word”.


Two questions that people ask regarding John's baptism

First, “What was the purpose of John's baptism”?  To answer this we turn back to Mark 1:4-5

“John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.  5And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins”.        


Whatever “for remission of sins” means Mark 1:4,  then  Acts 2:38 means, for the same Greek words describe both passages:

eij" a[fesin aJmartiw'n.   eij" a[fesin tw'n aJmartiw'n


Notice another interesting passage : Matthew 26:26-28


“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.  27And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.


The Greek in Mark 1:4 and Matthew 26:28 are the very same. You tell me why Jesus shed His blood, and I’ll tell you the purpose of John’s baptism. We all recognize that Jesus shed his blood “for the remission of sins”  Likewise, John’s baptism was  “for the remission of sins” Every reputable Bible translation (I  looked at forth of them in preparation for this lesson) says “for in or into


That John's baptism had a direct reference to remission of sins is further shown,     Mark 1:5

And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.”.


If baptism is because of remission, because we have been forgiven as some affirm,  why would they come confessing sins, Why would they not come confessing before baptism, "I believe that God for Christ's sake HAS  forgiven me."  But  “these came confessing sin, not salvation! “  The purpose of John’s baptism, was for the remission of sins,  and like his ministry served to prepare the people for the coming of Christ.


A Second question that naturally arises then is: “Why was the sinless Christ baptized of John”?  We turn to Matthew 3:13-17      


“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 14But John would have hindered him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 15But Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffereth him. 16And Jesus when he was baptized, went up straightway from the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him; 17and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”.


John knew the purpose of his baptism.  John knew he was baptizing “for remission of sins”. When Jesus came to be baptized, John objected, John did not regard the sinless Christ to be a proper subject for baptism.    Notice the word of Christ.   Matt 3:15

“And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him”


Foy E Wallace states the following: “Bulwarks of the Faith.”  Page 331 sec 5


Jesus approved John’s preaching on baptism and indorsed its design (for remission of sins) When Jesus came to be baptized, John forbade him, saying, “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?”


Why did John not want to baptize Jesus? Because he was preaching the baptism of repentance for remission of sins, and Jesus had no sins for repentance or remission.  John forbade him--showing that it was because of his sinless ness that John did not consider Jesus a subject of his baptism.


But Jesus said, “Suffer it to be so now.” (to permit,) page 608 Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words. We do not “suffer” the rule; we suffer the exception--so Jesus was an exception to John’s baptism. Jesus was the one and only exception to John’s baptism. 


 Christ's baptism stands alone and apart from all others, the purpose given in John 1:30-36, hear it.


29On the morrow he seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man who is become before me: for he was before me. 31And I knew him not; but that he should be made manifest to Israel, for this cause came I baptizing in water. 32And John bare witness, saying, I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven; and it abode upon him. 33And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize in water, he said unto me, Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him, the same is he that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit. 34And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. 35Again on the morrow John was standing, and two of his disciples; 36and he looked upon Jesus as he walked, and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God!


 Remember,  at the baptism there was the Spirit descending and remaining upon Jesus, and  accompanied by the voice out of heaven “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased


The context shows that Jesus did not receive the baptism of John, though John baptized him, it was not “John’s baptism.” The baptism of Jesus was singular--stands alone and apart from all others before and after--was peculiar in purpose and in manifestation of his messianic mission


John’s baptism was, 1st, for those who believed on the One to come; 2nd, the baptism of repentance; 3rd, for the remission of sins; 4th, to those who confessed their sins; 5th, and those who did not qualify were rejected (Matt 3:7-10)


Many say, Christ was baptized as our example. He indeed is, but, if he was baptized “for an example” why was He not baptized first instead of waiting  (Matthew 3:5-6)


5Then went out unto him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about the Jordan; 6and they were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.


If Jesus was baptized for an example, He would have come first, showing Himself an example.  Where is the example? It is nowhere stated in scripture, that the baptism of Jesus was “for an example”. It was too late for that after multitudes responded.

The final question we will deal with on this time: “Were those who submitted to John's baptism required to be baptized again after Pentecost”?


Many would say yes and refer us to  Acts 19:1-7     


“And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples: 2and he said unto them, Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? And they said unto him, Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was given. 3And he said, Into what then were ye baptized? And they said, Into John’s baptism. 4And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is, on Jesus. 5And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. 7And they were in all about twelve men”.


I read now from JW McGarvey’s commentary on Acts page 233


This passage is valuable chiefly because it shows how the apostles dealt with parties who, at that time, were immersed (baptized) with John's baptism. This, no doubt, was Luke's object in introducing it.


 In order to understand the case, it is necessary to keep distinctly in view the facts stated of the parties previous to and subsequent to their baptism by Paul. They are called disciples, and were known as such when Paul found them; for it is said “he found certain disciples


They were disciples, not of John, but of Jesus; and is evident from Paul's question, “Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?” The term believed evidently refers to Jesus as its object. They were known, then, as disciples of Jesus, and were so recognized by Paul.


Up to the moment of his conversation with them, Paul knew nothing of any irregularity in their obedience; for this was made known, to his surprise, during the conversation. When, therefore, he asked the question, “Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? 


Had they received Christ’s baptism it would have been  into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:   Matt 28:19     


Their answer at once revealed to Paul that there was some irregularity in their religious history; for no one could be properly discipled without learning that the Holy Spirit was to be given. He at once perceived, too, that the irregularity must have been connected with their baptism; for he inquires, “Into what, then, were you baptized?”


Their reply, that they were baptized into John's baptism  relieved the case of all obscurity, and Paul then understood it perfectly. He explained to them John's baptism and  commanded these twelve to be “baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus,


These points of defect however, were not peculiar to the baptism of the twelve apostles nor  the 120 disciples, and the 500 who saw Jesus together in Galilee after the resurrection, none of whom were re-baptized .


What, then, led to the baptism of these parties? (these 12 men in Ephesus)… If their baptism  had taken place, like that of all the others just named, while John's baptism was still an existing institution, no reason could be given for their re-baptism.


This, then, forces us to the conclusion that they had been baptized with John's baptism after it had ceased to be administered by divine authority.


Apollos had been recently preaching this obsolete baptism in Ephesus, (Acts 18:24-28) and these persons may have been baptized by him. If so, they submitted to an institution which had been abrogated more than twenty years, and this was the defect that led to their re-immersion.


The general conclusion, from all the premises, is this: that persons who were baptized with John's baptism, while it was in lawful existence, were received into the Church of Christ without re-immersion. But persons who were thus baptized, after the introduction of apostolic baptism, were re-baptized.


The reason why Apollos was not re-baptized as well as these twelve, was, doubtless, because, like the apostles and the other original disciples, he was baptized during the ministry of John.”


To assume these needed to be re-baptized is to assume they remained sinners from the days of John’s ministry until Pentecost Day.  Those to whom Peter preached to on this day were:  It is specifically stated that these were told to


Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,   Acts 2:38 then there is a very significant statement in Acts 2:47


And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.


Again I quote from  Foy E. Wallace 

The word church is not in the text but implied. There were added to their number that day about 3000.  What number? Those who had received John's baptism for the remission of sins, and continued to walk therein, before the baptism of the great commission was introduced. (the 12, the 120 in the upper room, and the 500 spoken of by Paul in 1 Cor 15) 


 You cannot add something to nothing. These then became the nucleus of the New Testament church of Pentecost.  John's disciples plus those garnered by the Lord and his disciples prior to this time. “


John preached urging them to bring forth works or fruits worthy,

or in keeping with their repentance.


Understanding then the meaning of repentance, a change or mind, heart and will, which produces a reformation in our ways, we understand what John was requiring from those who came to be baptized.


Repentance and baptism are in separately linked together for the remission of sins.   Peter would later say to those believing Jews on Pentecost

Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins”.   Acts 2:38


Again Mark 1:4 Repentance and baptism are linked.

“John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins”.   


The Greek preposition [eij"]  (for) is always prospective or looking forward in time, not retrospective, or backward. John's  baptism therefore was one “for remission of sins”.

But again, John's baptism reminds us that it is not an act without meaning. It seems in Matthew account in chapter three, the Pharisees and the Sadducees may have thought they could go through it simply as a form.   But John reminded them that it was not an escape for people who did not understand it.


In Matthew 3:8-9

“Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:  9And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham”


The significance of John's baptism is clearly seen in our text Luke 7:29-30—         


29And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. 30But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.


Note John's baptism was a mark of justification.  The words justified and rejected  are used to determine the meaning of the  each other. The word justified its primary meaning is to  render or declare righteousness  to one. We understand the meaning of reject. "to do away with disannul to bring to nothing."


 This word is used in Mark 6:26 where the daughter of Herodias danced before Herod.  The verse says he was exceedingly sorry, yet for his oath's sake he would not reject her.  He would not break his word he had given to her.


If the Jews rejected God when they rejected John's baptism,  what is it when men today come to Christ, and say Lord, Lord, and refuse the baptism of Christ? Brethren let it be noticed therefore, the true test of conversion was baptism, it was then, and it is now.


Today many times I am asked if one must understand the purpose of baptism in order to submit to it.   My answer is Yes. How can one come to be baptized where no repentance has been manifested? If we have truly repented and confessed sins, do we not recognize the need for cleansing?  And this cleansing comes when one is baptized for the remission of sins.  Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16


 Paul clearly shows this in Romans 6:5-7

“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7For he that is dead is freed from sin


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Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ


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