Belief Plus Baptism (profession) Equals Salvation
Having made the proclamation that he was not the Christ, Elias or the prophet, John the Baptist placed himself in a serious predicament. Unlike today in the US, anyone who baptized and drew followers in those days came under careful scrutiny of the authorities. Baptism in that day was a commitment to a cause and many causes were springing up across the land that did not have the betterment of the present authority in mind.
I'm sure their eyebrows rose at John's reply and they may have thought, "You dress weird, you eat weird food and you say you are a voice crying in the wilderness. Are you dangerous?" John was gaining many followers. Was he a threat or merely a nuisance? They needed to know so they asked him under what authority he baptized.
John's answer, "I baptize with water," may seem cryptic but if we look at the parallel passage of this event found in Matt 3:7-12 we see John makes a comparison between his baptism and the baptism of Christ. In this comparison John brings out some very valuable insight concerning relationship with God through Christ.
He first states in Matthew 3:9-10 that their birth baptism will be ineffective in the presence of God. Being an Israelite either through birth or baptism will not save them from God's wrath. God is able to raise up children of Abraham from stones which lie on the ground for salvation is not a rite of natural birth but an action of recreation. Having Abraham as their physical father would do them no good if God was not their spiritual Father. Their fruit revealed the type of tree they belonged to. They may have been well versed in Jewish tradition and they may have religiously kept all the ordinances of the synagogue, but they fell far short of the kingdom of God when the true fruit of their lives was revealed.
John's baptism was important because it was a baptism unto repentance. John's baptism was a preparatory action necessary for acceptance of the coming Savior but water baptism cannot save in and of itself but it is the action of a good conscience before God (see I Peter 3:18-21: Because also Christ once for sin did suffer—righteous for unrighteous—that he might lead us to God, having been put to death indeed, in the flesh, and having been made alive in the spirit, 19in which also to the spirits in prison having gone he did preach, 20who sometime disbelieved, when once the long-suffering of God did wait, in days of Noah—an ark being preparing—in which few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. Also to which an antitype doth now save us—baptism, (not a putting away of the filth of flesh, but the question of a good conscience in regard to God,) through the rising again of Jesus Christ, 22who is at the right hand of God, having gone on to heaven—messengers, and authorities, and powers, having been subjected to him.).
Water is a cleansing agent but it does not cleanse permanently. We may wash but the instant we come in contact with dirt we are once again in need of cleansing. Many who came to John's baptism had repentant hearts at the time of their baptism and desired salvation but those same people were probably in the forefront crying "Crucify Him!" when the Lord was lead away to Golgotha.
Christ alone was coming with a baptism that would bring permanent cleansing. His baptism was with the Holy Ghost and fire. Fire is also a tool of purification but, unlike water, it destroys completely making re-creation necessary. Through fire the heart that is prone to sin is destroyed through God's judgment of sin at the cross. God, through His Spirit, then creates a new heart that will not deny Christ as Savior and Lord. Those who were baptized by the Spirit and fire on the day of Pentecost, unlike those who were baptized by John never turned their backs on Christ. They followed Him to their death.
The same is true today. Many follow the Lord in baptism telling the world they have a repentant heart but then they turn away. Only those who have been baptized by the Holy Spirit and fire of God have been re-created (see II Corinthians 5:17) and will remain faithful to Christ.
John knew the hearts of those who came to question him and he referred to Christ as someone they did not know because their hearts were unrepentant. God cleansed the earth once with water during the flood and one generation did not pass before sin once again took a hold of Noah and his sons.
A new cleansing is on the horizon. This cleansing will be with fire and sin will be destroyed forever as a new heaven and earth are created without sin. II Peter 3:10-13 tells us 10But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
11Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, 12looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
But belief in and of itself will also fall short for even the demons believe in Jesus Christ but they do not profess Him as Savior and Lord. James 2:14-16.
Saving faith will result in professing works: Acts 2:38 Romans 10:10. Note: In both areas belief (faith) and baptism (profession) are not acts which we do to make salvation possible. They are the by-products of salvation that are manifested in us and to the world. We believe because Christ His faith in us giving us the capability to believe. We profess that salvation and because a recreated heart causes our mouths and actions to glorify Christ.
While John the Baptist was in the wilderness baptizing those from Jerusalem, Judea and all of the regions around the Jordan in preparation for the coming ministry of Christ. During this time of baptizing the Lord came to John and was baptized by him and was then led away into the wilderness for the forty days of fasting and tempting by the devil. Matthew 3:13-4:11. In other words, while John was undergoing close scrutiny by the sinful scribes and Pharisees, his boss was undergoing scrutiny by their boss.
After completion of the 40 days of fasting and the temptation in the wilderness John sees Christ approaching and calls Him the "Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world." In so doing John makes reference to two things which Christ came to this earth to accomplish.
He was the Lamb of God- This is in direct reference to Exodus 12:3 where the Israelites were told to slay the lamb and place it's blood on the sides and lintel of the doors of their houses so that the death angel would pass over and not slay the firstborn in their homes. Being the Lamb of God Christ is seen as taking the place of that physical Old Testament type replacing it with the eternal blood of His sacrifice so that the wrath of God would never be felt by those who now dwell "under the blood." The lamb of the Old Testament was unable to purchase eternal redemption. All who sprinkled the blood that day died later on and went to the place of death called Hades. Some went to Abraham's bosom and others went to Hell but none were able to enter into the presence of God. Such is not the case for those who dwell under the blood of Christ. We will never be separated from God in Hades at our passing from this earth but because of Christ's shed blood we will be ushered into His presence as we pass instantly from death into life.
John also uses the phrase who "takes away the sin of the world." The Passover lamb was never viewed as a remover of sin only a coverer of sin. The death angel passed over the house because the blood was there even though the house was full of sinful men. By adding the phrase "takes away the sin of the world" John gives Christ the rightful place of also being our scapegoat referring to Leviticus 16:7-10. 7 And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. 9 And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD'S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. 10 But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. Christ is not only the Lamb of God that covers our sin He is also the scapegoat which removes it from us having born its full consequences outside the gate at Calvary.
So we see John baptizing in the Jordan River and he sees Christ approaching and literally, in the Greek says Look! The Lamb of God who is taking away the sins of the world. Those who were being baptized by John were coming in repentance for the sins they had committed. They were sorry but sorry was not good enough to remove their sins. But here comes one who is good enough to remove their sins. This is the One I have been telling you about!
Then John says something in verse 31 that may cause the casual reader some problems. He says "I knew Him not." Now wait a minute! Wasn't Christ John's cousin! Surely John would have known his own cousin. What exactly does John mean when he says "I knew Him not." The answer can be found in the word following that phrase BUT. By adding that little word but to the phrase John is saying the total focus of his relationship with Christ his cousin is seen in the phrase that follows. That he should be manifest to Isreal How was he to be manifest or revealed to Israel? As the cousin of John. No! As the son of Mary and Joseph? No! Oh, Oh I know as a great teacher and mentor. Certainly not! He was coming as the Messiah therefore John was baptizing with the baptism of repentance in preparation for Christ's arrival.
John's entire knowledge of Christ was focused on nothing other than the fact that He was the Son of God who could only be acknowledged by those who came to Him with a repentant heart. Remember this and never forget it. If you are seeking Christ as a way to make friends and influence people you will never really know Him. If you wish to draw alongside of Christ in order to give an air of respectability to your lifestyle you will never find Him by your side. The only way you will ever know Christ the perfect Lamb of God is if you approach His presence with a repentant heart. The only way Christ can be truly known is as our Savior. He came to this earth for that sole reason and if we desire to know Him we must, with a repentant heart, ask Him to be our Lamb of God who will take away our sin. And there is only one way to identify who is Christ is and that is through the Word of God.
Notice verse 33. Again John uses the phrase "I knew Him not" BUT that He who sent me to baptize with water the said unto me. Who sent John to baptize with water did he do it on his own whim? No he was a prophet sent from God and the only means by which He identified Christ was through the Word of God who sent Him. The Word of God came to John and said "Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." Christ fulfilled the Word of God and therefore John knew Christ was the Son of God.
One of the lies that is being spread through the world today is that all religions will lead us to God. Unfortunately even our president has made the claim that all religions worship the same God only in a different way. If you search the major religions of the world you will find Christ is not denied as having lived on this earth. He is just identified as someone other than the person God's Word tells us he is. Judaism claims he was an imposter. Islam claims he was a great prophet much like the prophet Mohammed. Only the Word of God can give the correct identity of Christ for Christ is the Word of God. So if you want to really know Christ do what John the Baptist did. Listen and accept as truth the Word of God for God's Word alone can reveal the personhood of Christ to us.
We must get to know this Savior for it is only through Him that we receive the Holy Ghost. Notice how John was told by God that Christ was to be identified. "Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost"
We know from scripture that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has a way of showing those He indwells things that others around do not know. John's gospel does not give us any insight into the baptism of Christ but in reading the other gospels we can see that at Christ's baptism there were many people present yet the descending of the Spirit from heaven in the form of a dove was seen only by John the Baptist. Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10 both use the singular pronoun "he" in indicating the viewer of this event which implies that it was John alone who saw the Spirit descend. We see this action taking place elsewhere in scripture. Before Stephen was stoned he looked up and saw the heavens opened and Christ standing on the right hand of God. Those around him did not see this for when he related the incident to them they took him out and stoned him. Acts 7:54-58.
Scripture tells us that the natural man cannot receive the things of the Lord because they are only discerned through a spiritual mind. I Cor 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. This leaves man in a serious dilemma. He cannot know Christ or understand the Word of God unless the Spirit of God opens his eyes to understand what he is reading. That is why there are so many intellectuals in the world that claim the Bible is full of error. They are trying to grasp it with the finite mind of flesh instead of seeing it through the infinite mind of God's Spirit. This brings in the importance of prayer. We can read the Word of God from morning to night and it will be just another book unless the Spirit of God enlightens our minds to spiritual truth contained there. The only way to have the Spirit of God given to us is to ask God for it.
Luke 11:9-13. 9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? 12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
So in conclusion John has shown us the Savior. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Son of God that we too can know if we prayerfully study God's word. But there is one more thing that John shows us in this passage. There is a result in knowing Christ that goes beyond the personal relationship that we will gain with Him. That result is seen in verses 35-37.
35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; 36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! 37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
Our closeness to Christ will result in bring those close to us to Christ.
So seek Christ and make the cry and desire of your heart to "Behold the Lamb." Seek Him in your morning devotions, reveal Him to those who are close to you through your words and actions and those around you who have the same desire to know Christ will follow Him also.