Sunday, April 28, 2019 -
John the Baptist was an “Old Testament” prophet who came from a priestly family after a dearth of 400 years without a prophet of God coming on the scene. He was very much like the prophet of old Elijah.
And like that of Elijah’s and that of other true prophets of God, John’s message was summed up in one word - - REPENT! The word simply means to change one’s mind and to act on that change. Admitting our faults is not repentance. Simply changing our minds and saying we are going to change is not enough. We must act on that moving of our spirit and heart, to indeed change. This was the undisputed message John was bringing to the people (Matt 3:2, 8).
The Pharisees and Sadducees even came to be baptized by John, recognizing he was a true prophet. But John could see straight through them, recognizing that theirs would be repentance that did not bring forth fruit (Matt 3:7-8) and so John called them a “brood of vipers,” as he knew their hearts and actions would not change. Perhaps they once again were making a show of themselves for the people, hypocrisy which Jesus later condemned.
John paved the way for the coming Messiah, who would bring the ultimate sacrifice that is required for forgiveness of the sin for which the people were repenting. For Jewish law said, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Lev. 17:11), a truth Paul repeated in Hebrews 8:22.
For John was the forerunner to the Messiah, the Christ, who would be the ultimate sacrifice whose death would provide the remission of sins for which the people confessed and repented. John very clearly announced to the religious leaders the coming of the Messiah who would judge the sin of the world – one who would also see through their hypocrisy.
What John was doing was emphasizing the fact that the first step to forgiveness must be repentance. For the blood of Jesus does not bring reconciliation with God unless we are truly contrite for our sin and are willing to turn from it to change our way. Repentance is too often missed nowadays. Rarely is it preached in many churches today! And John makes it very clear, without repentance there will be a judgment coming – a baptism of fire. Fire represents a future judgment. Baptism was a concept, I believe, the Jews were familiar with. I don’t have access to the Internet or any way to confirm with, but they practiced some ritual similar to baptism, although it is a fact pulled way back from the recesses of my mind. Jesus being sinless did not need to be baptized, and John was thus very reluctant to baptize Him. But it was Jesus’ way of showing publicly His approval of John, and God in turn miraculously showed His approval of Jesus, the one who would take away the sin of the world. But, as both John and Jesus preached, first must come the act of repentance.
John’s baptism was the baptism of repentance “Paul spoke about in Acts 19:4, “telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, Jesus.” We, who are saved through Christ Jesus, are baptized into His death, burial, and resurrection (see Romans 6:3-4 and Colossians 2:12).