Birth of John the Baptist

(Luke 1:57-80)

John the Baptist was born and in accordance with the law of Moses they brought him forth to be circumcised on the eighth day. At this time he was to be named and the people inquired as to what he should be called. Elizabeth said that he was to be named John, but the people thought this to be wrong as none of the child’s family or kin were named John. When they inquired of Zechariah, for they wanted to name him after his father, Zechariah still unable to speak wrote on a tablet, “His name is John.” (Verse 63).

His parents were following the instructions given them by the angel Gabriel of which the rest of the people were unaware. But we see their astonishment when Zechariah had written these words that his tongue was loosed and he began to speak and prophesy by the Holy Spirit. All the people seeing and hearing these things wondered and considered just what this child would become.

The prophesy of Zechariah is interesting. In it we see the Spirit speak of the blessing of the Lord and the role of this child, John the Baptist. We see his ministry described saying in verses 76-79:

“76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

John the BaptistJohn came to prepare the way for the Lord. He came to give knowledge of the way of salvation and the forgiveness of sins to the people. The people were not receiving this knowledge through the Law as it was being taught by the religious leaders of the time but the people were like sheep without a shepherd. They did not know where they were going or which way to turn.

But when John came he put their feet on the right path and showed them the direction they needed. He pointed them to God saying for them to believe in the one who was to follow him, Jesus Christ. And through the message of John the people did indeed receive light where they previously sat in darkness. They received the light of the knowledge of the truth about salvation and forgiveness of sin so they could learn to live as God wanted them to live. And as he taught them they received direction and were truly guided into the way of peace.

The work of John still rings true today. People are still in need of a Saviour and the way of truth. His contribution was enormous, so much so that we see here he was called, “the Prophet of the Most High.” Add to this the words of Jesus who said, “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John” (Luke 7:28) The message of repentance and the message of baptism in water still resounds as part of the New Covenant. The purpose may have changed with the introduction of the Covenant, but the underlying truth that we should repent and turn to God has never and will never change.

(Picture sourced from

The Baptism of Jesus

(Mark 1:9-11)

The baptism of Jesus was a significant event. It marked the beginning of his ministry as it was from that point on that he began to preach the good news of the gospel. But there are other significant matters pertaining to the baptism of Jesus that we need to understand as well.

John the Baptist was preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. However in Jesus case there was no sin. Thus he did not really need to be baptised. If this was so then why did he do it? We see the answer in the Matthew version of the baptism of Jesus. “John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented.” (Matthew 4:14-15)

Jesus did not need to be baptised for he was without sin. However he went through baptism as an example for all who were to follow him later on. It is through baptism in water that Jesus showed we fulfil the requirements of righteousness. Baptism is essential if we are to be enabled to reach a place of righteousness in him, for in baptism we are baptised into Jesus Christ and put on his righteousness. This occurs through faith, as baptism is a faith-based teaching. In it we believe through faith that we have died and been raised again with Jesus so that we are born again as new creations.

Also in the baptism of Jesus we see that he provided an example that we ought follow. If Jesus had not been baptised then people could have claimed it was not necessary to be baptised. But in the example of Jesus we see that no man can claim that they need not be baptised. And yet some do not baptise still today. How then is it possible to fulfil all the requirements of righteousness as Jesus pointed out to John the Baptist? If you are not baptised you cannot even begin to fulfil the requirements of righteousness.

We see further that these requirements are what will bring us into the kingdom of God. Jesus said to Nicodemus that being born again of water and the Spirit was necessary to be able to enter the kingdom of God. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) Baptism is the rebirth in water and receiving the Holy Spirit is being born of the Spirit. Jesus fulfilled both of these requirements at the time he was baptised for as he came up out of the water the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove. (Verse 10) And as the result of these two events we see God the Father speak audibly saying, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.” (Verse 11)

When we obey the Father and follow the example of the Son by being baptised and receiving the Holy Spirit and believing in Jesus Christ, we too will please the Father. In the end it is our hope that we will receive entry into his kingdom for eternity with the words, “Well done good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)

Baptism and John The Baptist

(Mark 1:1-10)

The Gospel of Mark is shorter than the other three gospels. It seems to me that it is in many ways included as witness to many of the events in the other three gospels, although it does have some quite different insights of it’s own. While Matthew seemed to focus on the fulfilment of prophecies to show who Jesus was, Mark seems to have presented a more general account of the times and events surrounding Jesus appearance and work on the earth. His account is more condensed and has focussed more on the principal teachings and events of Christianity beginning with baptism and John the Baptist in these first few scriptures.

John the Baptist came as prophesied to prepare the way of the Lord. He was the messenger sent before the Messiah to prepare a people ready to receive the words of Jesus and the New Covenant. We see in this section that John came preaching a baptism of repentance telling the people to be baptised in water for the forgiveness of their sins. (Verse 4) At the end of this section John also spoke of his baptism in this way saying, “I have baptised you with water; but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.” (Verse 9)

He speaks of two baptisms, one of water and one being a baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus also spoke of two baptisms as well for he said in John 3:5, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Being baptised is the process by which a Christian is born again. As Jesus clearly shows here, we must be born again of water and of the spirit.

Now in fact this process of being born again of water is baptism, but it is not the baptism that John preached. John taught a baptism for the repentance from sins, but being born again is not merely repentance but the complete removal of sin. Paul showed this difference when speaking to a group of disciples at Ephesus. He said, “And he said, “Into what then were you baptised?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptised with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:3-5)

Thus we see that Paul makes this distinction between the baptism of John the Baptist and the baptism where people are baptised into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Both are water baptisms, but the second baptism is the important one. John the Baptist prepared the way by introducing the process of baptism and teaching about repentance and forgiveness, and in Jesus this baptism was expanded to have a much greater meaning.

The distinction between the two baptisms is that John the Baptist taught repentance and forgiveness of sin through baptism. But the baptism into Jesus removes sin for we symbolically die and are resurrected with Jesus in his baptism. And as we are symbolically resurrected as we are lifted out of the water we are reborn as new creations, no longer under the power of sin but in a new life ready to walk in the ways of the Lord. Following this baptism for rebirth into Jesus Christ we are prepared to receive and be baptised with the Holy Spirit so that the work of transformation that occurs under the New Covenant can commence.

It is in the baptism into Jesus Christ that we must come as Paul showed the Ephesians for we are not looking for forgiveness of sin but the complete removal of sin from our lives. In this way we are made ready to come into the presence of God and be prepared for his kingdom. Forgiveness of sin was already attainable under the law for the people were required to offer sacrifices for the forgiveness of sin. But perfection and removal of sin could not be achieved until Christ came and died for our sins. This is then the true purpose of Christian baptism, the release from sin and the law so that we are transformed into the image of Christ and walk with him in the new life of the Spirit.

The Great Commission Part 2

(Matthew 28:16-20)

The second element of the Great Commission after telling the eleven to go and make disciples was, “…baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Verse 19) Some churches have either ignored this element of the Great Commission or given it only lip service. They do not understand the importance and significance of baptism, especially water baptism.

Given that these words from the Lord to his disciples were probably the last words he spoke to them on earth, you would expect they would be extremely meaningful and important. Nothing that Jesus said in teaching his disciples was ever without meaning and valuable as a lesson. So in these last words of his you could naturally expect Jesus to emphasise the very important matters that they were to recall and do under the Great Commission.

This baptism in water in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit was incredibly important both then and now. The fact that this message was given in the last words of the Lord makes it incomprehensible that some churches today do not take these words seriously. They either do not observe this command of the Lord at all, or treat baptism as a kind of initiation into the church and a naming ceremony for babies. It was never intended as such. They fail to see and understand the truth and ramifications of water baptism. Since Jesus made a point of telling his disciples to do this specific thing as they made disciples, especially as Jesus himself was baptised before he began his ministry by John the Baptist, then it is evident that the Lord placed great importance on baptism. When we learn and understand the truth about baptism we begin to see why the Lord emphasised this requirement for all his disciples in his final words.

It is through baptism that we die with Christ as we go down into the water. And then as we are raised out of the water we are symbolically resurrected with Christ. By faith in believing that we enter into the death and resurrection of Christ as we go through baptism we then gain entry into the kingdom of God. It is by this faith in entering the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through baptism that we are set free from past sins and set free from the bondage to the law. In baptism we take on the death of Jesus Christ as if it were our own death, and that is what we believe. And if we believe that we have died through the body of Christ by proxy, God says that he accepts us as having died to our old life and being reborn as new creations in Jesus Christ.

Now when a person dies they are no longer under the power of sin and the law. Paul showed this in Romans 7:4 saying, “Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ.” And if we are dead to the law we are no longer under it. And if we are no longer under the law we can no longer break the law and so we are set free from sin. And if we are set free from sin we can stand righteous before God, but only by faith. We still have all the weaknesses and failures of humanity and we still fall down and make mistakes, but as new creations in Christ we come to the place where God can and will work with us to transform us into the image of Christ. He will slowly work with us and take away all those human weaknesses and failures until we can stand righteous not just by faith, but in the way we live. We may not achieve that place in this lifetime, but the work will commence immediately once we are baptised and hold on to these elements of faith.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to do the transformation within us as Paul wrote, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) The veil that covers a persons face referred to here is the law. When the law is removed, then the Holy Spirit is able to do the work of transformation.

All of this commences and is based upon being baptised in water into the death and resurrection of Christ and understanding through faith what that baptism is all about. This is why it is so important and why Jesus took pains to emphasise the need for baptism in his last words to the disciples.

There is a great deal of scripture that discusses the purpose and power of baptism throughout the New Testament and space here does not permit a full discussion. If you would like to look at this in more depth and check the scriptures that deal with baptism, I recommend to you to look at my free eBook on the “Foundations of Christianity” which is located elsewhere on my website.

I will look at the last element of the Great Commission in the next post.

The Baptism of Jesus and John the Baptist’s Ministry

(Matthew Chapter 3)

Here we see the beginning of John the Baptists ministry. John came to do two things. He came to prepare the way for the Lord and to bear witness to Jesus as being the Christ. Was it necessary for him to do this? Probably not, but under the law a matter was considered true if two or more people witnessed it. And besides, it was prophesied that John would appear and do this work. He was the prophet that came in the spirit of Elijah as spoken of elsewhere.

Now we see John preach baptism as a sign for the repentance of sins, and this was very important. He introduced this process that was later carried forward into the New Covenant. John also made the point that it is not enough just to be baptised for repentance but you needed to be live a repentant life. He told the Jews that they could not simply rely on their genealogy to save them; they needed to “…bear fruit that befits repentance.” It is the same today. You cannot go through the motions and expect salvation; you need to live in accordance with the word.

Now the New Covenant did not exist in John’s time because it was not ratified and could not come into existence until after Jesus had died. The Old Covenant required the sacrifice of goats and bulls and the blood of these animals sufficed to do two things. Firstly they brought the covenant into existence & secondly they were the offering for sin. Jesus death was similar in that His blood brought the New Covenant into effect, but it was not an offering for sin but took away mans sin. To enter the New Covenant then we need to enter into Jesus’ death, which is done through baptism.

Now John also recognised Jesus was mightier than himself for he said when Jesus came for baptism that he (John) needed to be baptised by Christ. But we see in Jesus’ answer a very interesting response. Jesus said he needed to be baptised by John, “…for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Baptism is necessary to meet the requirements to fulfil all righteousness and without baptism this cannot be achieved. In Jesus’ case he did not need to be baptised, as John knew, but by being baptised Jesus provided an example for us all to follow. No person can say they do not need to be baptised because Jesus was not baptised. That is how important baptism is in the new covenant. Indeed baptism is the mechanism by which we enter the New Covenant through Christ Jesus. He said elsewhere that, “I am the door” and we need to enter by the door. We do that through being baptised into his death.

We also see that God the Father was pleased with Jesus and this process because God the Father gave his seal of approval saying from heaven, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.”