LEAVING THE DOCTRINE OF BAPTISMS #9
JOHN’S BAPTISM AND ITS PURPOSES-III
BASIC TEXT: “Therefore leaving the [first, Heb. 5:12] principles of the doctrine of Christ, ... Of the doctrine of baptisms” (Hebrews 6:1, 2, KJV)
This article explores the significance of John’s baptizing.
John’s Baptism Readied A People
John’s baptizing represents the culminating work of the voice crying in the wilderness as prophesied in Isaiah 40:3. The baptism’s purposes can be collected under the theme of “making things ready for the Lord.” Even as the angel Gabriel predicted to John’s father (Luke 1:17), “And he shall go before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17; compare to Matthew 3:1; Mark 1:3).
The incarnate Jesus was not left helpless as a stranger on Earth to work cold, so to speak. God sent John as a harbinger, ahead of Jesus. Representing the message, John’s baptism straightens the road “before God” and facilitates the arrival of “the Lord of the Covenant to His Temple” (John 1:23; Malachi 3:1). John’s job was to make ready a people for the Lord Jesus.
According to the text in Luke 1:17 John’s readying was:
TurningG1994 the people i
1. Turning their heartsG2588 - figuratively, mind.ii
2. Turning the disobedientG545 – unbelieving.iii
3. To turn them toward wisdomG5428 – intellectual and moral insight.iv
4. To turn toward the justG1342 – righteous; innocent; holy.v
Target: A Just and Holy People. John’s mission then was to turn a people from disobedience to righteousness. As Jesus told John, “Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness (from justG1342)” (Matthew 3:15b). Now John’s job was to make people “just”; i.e., righteous, blameless, and holy. God’s person is summed up in this passage: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
“WhollyG3648” means “complete in every part”.vi The whole of an individual in this context include (1) bodyG4983, (2) soulG5990, and (3) spiritG4151. “SanctifyG37” is to make holy; i.e., “sacred: physically pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially consecrated.”
The Whole Body.G4983
John’s Baptism Covered The Whole Body. Recall that baptizingG907 is “1. immersion, to submerge (e.g., of vessels sunk); 2. to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash oneself, bathe; 3. to overwhelm” (Thayer’s). Strong’s Greek Dictionary says baptizing comes from the word baptoG911 which meant “to whelm, that is, cover wholly with a fluid.”
The fluid that covered the body was water, the historical “fluid” used in OT ceremonial cleansingH2893 (Leviticus 15:13, etc.). John: “I baptizeG907 you with (Greek: envii) water” (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:26; John 1:33). This had to do with physically surrendering one’s body to another who “dips” him/her under [in, not just “with”] water. This made John’s baptism unique from the self-purification acts. “And John also was baptizingG907 in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized” (John 3:23). Also, it is recorded, “And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:6).
Baptizing the whole body:
1. The action meant a full immersion of the body. The Greek word does not mean sprinkling or pouring. No version translates or suggests that it does. Men have invented such definitions. Even the OT passages quoted by them clearly make a distinction: e.g., Leviticus 4:6 (H2881 & LXX’s G911, “dipping” the finger into blood and then sprinkling the blood: the finger does two (2) distinct actions; not one: it baptizes itself and then sprinkles the subjects.
2. Much water was required. There were multiple pools in and around Jerusalem for the Mosaic purification immersions, but John was preaching in the wilderness where he relied on natural springs or streams (John 3:23; Matthew 3:5).
3. One’s complete body (head to toe) had to go down into the water for John to baptize it and in order for it to come up. “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water” (Matthew 3:16).
The Whole Soul.G5990
The words soul and spirit generally are used interchangeably. However, the Bible does distinguish between created animals and created man. Both have souls. Strong’s Dictionary says that the soul can refer to the animal senses only; thus distinguishing it from zoo and spirit. So if there be any distinction, the baptism of John covers them both. We can consider the animation definition as being covered wholly by baptism.
The Baptism Covered The SoulG5990. The baptism required confessionG1843. “And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessingG1843 their sins” (Matthew 3:6). ConfessionG1843 is “to acknowledge or (by implication of assent) agree fully: - confess, profess, promise” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary). SinG266 means “1e. to wander from the law of God, violate God’s law” (Thayer’s Greek Definitions). The verb “confessing” is a participle in this passage’s original language and its translations. This verbal tells us that it is not necessarily an additional act from the baptizing. For example, there is no coordinate conjunction to separate the acts. However, in the secular writings, Josephus, ’Ant.,’ 8.4. 6, describes the people as actually being specific and "confessing their sins and their transgressions of the laws of their country [which would be the Law of Moses].” According to the confessings in Acts 19:18 there can be a declaring along with the confessing, "confessingG1843 and declaring their deeds" (ASV).
The Whole Spirit.G4151
Strong’s definition includes “the rational soul, (by implication) vital principle, mental disposition, etc.” This contrasts with the animation definition.
John’s Baptism Covered The HeartG2588. John’s mission was “To turn the hearts.” John declared that one purpose of his baptizing was for repentance (μετάνοιαG3340) (Matthew 3:11). Paul confirms this in : “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
“Repentance” requires people to be readied mentally in their hearts. RepentanceG3340 is a turning and means “to think differently or afterwards, i.e., reconsider (morally to feel compunction); by implication reversal (of decision)” (Strong’s Dictionary). Compunction from what? The only standard for Jews to violate was that of the Law and the Prophets (OT). Like John the apostle, Paul associates repentance with a resulting turn (fruit) to God in one’s life: “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20; cf. 2 Corinthians 7:9,10). That is why John critically “said to the Pharisees and Sadducees, ‘...Produce fruit in keeping with repentance’” (). Repentance, then, is a change of mind that results in a change of action toward God. The people were prepared to think spiritually.
John’s Baptism SanctifiedG37viii The Whole Person.
John’s baptism was “to turn [them] toward the justG1342 (Strong’s: holy)” (Luke 1:17). It was “in order for” the remission of sins. God remitted their sins, and hence, making a people sanctified, and hence, holy for Jesus. By obeying God’s counsel, the people became prepared spiritually as saintsix for the Kingdom.
Unlike the OT ceremonial washings which were to cleanse only from ceremonial defilement (like touching a dead body), John’s baptism was unto (eisG1519) the forgiveness of each one’s personal sins (Mark 1:4; Luke 1:77; Luke 3:3). Thayer’s definition of eisG1519 is “into, unto, to, towards, for, among”. Strong’s Dictionary defines it as “to or into (indicating the point reached or entered).”
John’s baptism was not because the people were free from sins. Rather, it was the step of getting free from their sins. An example for eisG1519 is Jesus in Matthew 26:28 saying, “This is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for eisG1519 the remission of sins.” Jesus was to shed His blood in order for remitting sins [Hebrews 9:15] and not “because” sins were already remitted. Jesus’ death was the cause for remission and not a result of remission. The same language is used for John’s baptism.
From their viewpoint, John’s baptism looked toward Jesus’ shedding of His blood. Although their sins were thereby remitted in the baptism, just as the temple sacrifices were, the benefit of remission was contingent upon Jesus going to the cross. “And for this cause [Jesus] is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of [His] death, for (eisG1519) the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).
THROW OUT THE LIFELINE
i epistrephōG1994, “to revert (literally, figuratively or morally): - come (go) again, convert, (re-) turn (about, again)” (Strong’s); “to make to turn towards - (epi)” [cf. James 5:19,20 “to convert”] (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).
ii καρδίαG2588, “the heart, (figuratively) the thoughts or feelings (mind); also (by analogy) the middle” (Strong’s).
iii ἀπειθήςG545, “unpersuadable, that is, contumacious.- disobedient” (Strong’s).
iv φρόνησιςG5428, “mental action or activity, that is, intellectual or moral insight: - prudence, wisdom” (Strong’s).
v δίκαιοςG1342, “equitable (in character or act); by implication innocent, holy (absolutely or relatively)” (Strong’s).
vi ὁλόκληροςG3648, “complete in every part.” Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionary.
vii EnG1722 “A primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state), and (by implication) instrumentality (medially or constructively)” (Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries).
viii 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “SanctifyG37” is to make holy; i.e., “sacred: physically pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially consecrated” (Thayer’s Greek Definitions).
ix “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:” (1 Corinthians 1:2).