JOHN THE BAPTIST’S MESSAGE
John the Baptist emphasized in his preaching a personal responsibility and repentance.
The Jewish people had trained themselves to think that because they were descendants of Abraham, they were saved. Many in our times, think they live in a Christian nation, go to a church, and have a Bible in the home, so they must be Christian and headed for heaven. Many are not.
"Do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our Father..."
His baptizing of the repentant in water was just a beginning of change in their lives, for he preached a bringing forth of "fruits worthy of repentance." (Luke 3:8).
To John, repentance, water baptism, were to be followed by radical change in life. John instituted a water baptism as a symbol of repentance and entrance into the new kingdom about to come. John saw himself as the forerunner of such a kingdom. He wanted to announce that One Who was coming. John the Baptist knew that this One would be greater than he was.
Seven times it is recorded that he announced a "greater One" (Matt. 3:11, Mark 1:7, Luke 3:16, John 1:25, 27, 30, Acts 13:25). John the Baptist knew that his baptism was only a preparation for the Messianic baptism.
THE WATER BAPTISM
Water baptism is a testimony of commitment. Jesus did not need to repent, but He still desired to be baptized. It happened at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. The Spirit anointed Him with power, God blessed Him from heaven. Jesus, at the same time, committed Himself to do God's will.
There are three baptisms for believers.
We are baptized:
1. into Christ at repentance and the time of our new birth:
"...were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death."
I Corinthians 12:13
"...for by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body."
"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
"Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through faith."
2. into Water, after one is saved, to testify to others what has happened to us at salvation:
"Go ye therefore and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
"He that believeth and in baptized shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned."
"...they were baptized, both men and women."
3. into the Spirit, to receive power for service:
"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He that cometh after me is mightier that I, Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear, He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
To John, water baptism was a sign. John knew that his baptism offered to repenters was only a beginning. He knew, from God, that there would soon be another baptism, that only the Messiah could offer:
"the man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is He Who will baptize with the Holy Spirit."
So, when John the Baptist, objected to baptizing Jesus, it was not because he knew that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus had not had the Spirit descend upon Him and remain, until after the baptism of John. Therefore, John had a different motivation to object.
John the Baptist and Jesus were related. Their mothers were very close (Luke 1:36-45). Both John the Baptist and Jesus were now about 30 years old. They had spent much time together as youngsters. They were at least at the annual feasts in Jerusalem.
John knew therefore that Jesus had no need to repent. John knew that Jesus had acted, talked, thought, etc. without sin. Jesus had love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. John knew that Jesus was already dedicated to God to His kingdom.
Once the voice of God spoke, and the dove remained upon Jesus immediately following the baptism in the Jordan. John had the fulfillment of his revelation concerning the Messiah. He now knew for sure that Jesus was truly the Messiah:
"This is My Son, Whom I love; with Him, I am well pleased."
God put His blessing upon Jesus, and at the same time completed a revelation to John the Baptist. When we serve the Lord, we become part of His revealing process. Revelation is a blessed part of serving as God's messenger. God gives the prophet the message, and adds more and more to His already revealed prophecies.
While John is being instructed, Jesus is being anointed with the power of the Spirit. Jesus committed Himself to the ministry of God, to do the work of the Messiah. From that event, Jesus went to the wilderness to be tempted to show forth the fact that He would not be contaminated with sin.
Jesus did not go from commitment to a "mountain top experience". Jesus went from commitment to a great trial of His faith. Jesus knew that His ministry would require strength, power, resolve, self-control, so He retired to the wilderness to pray, to fast.
The testing of His commitment to God and to His mission occurred immediately following His baptism. Immediately following our entrance into the kingdom via repentance, we too are tested, and grow in restoration of our mind.
The water baptism demonstrates commitment, and leads to trials and then miracles. Too often, believers of today assume that water baptism is immersing them into blessings and victories. The kingdom of heaven is still a battlefield, and when we enter into the kingdom, we should remember that we are still soldiers, an army of the king of kings. Battles await us, as they did for Jesus, and for all disciples buried with Him in baptism.
When John baptized Jesus, his ministry began to decrease. Some of his disciples followed Jesus at that point, and others followed later. However, we do also know that some of John's disciples went out and began to preach the same message as John. This we know, for twenty years later, Paul came to Ephesus and found they did not know of the Holy Spirit baptism, but only of the baptism of John.
The repentance that John the Baptist preached is the starting message of Jesus’ ministry also. We are commanded to preach repentance also. Repentance, as shown in the Word of God involves more than a few words of regret, they involve a change in the heart that changes also the actions.