In one respect John's account of the ministry of our Lord is to Mathew, Mark and Luke, what Paul's perfection epistles are to his earlier ones - it clears up some enigmas found in the other accounts.
There is no statement in the first three so-called "gospels," that baptism in water would bring salvation. And, as we read them, we naturally ask, "Why did John baptize?" A delegation from Jerusalem asked him this question, John 1:25.
John answered in these words: "But that He may be manifested to Israel, therefore came I, baptizing in water," verse 31. In other words, John was baptizing not in order that people might be saved, but that Christ might be manifested to Israel.
And how was this to manifest Him? John answers this question by saying, "He who sends me to be baptizing in water, That One said to me, 'Upon Whomsoever you may be perceiving the spirit descending and remaining on Him, This is He Who is baptizing in holy spirit.'" See verse 33.
John baptized those who confessed their sins and professed repentance, whether or not they were sincere in their profession. His job was to keep right on at this, until he should baptize One on Whom the holy spirit should descend and remain. This One would be the Christ. This was the way He was to be manifested to Israel. The holy spirit did descend on the Son of God, when He was baptized.
In this Christ was to be alone. If the spirit had descended and remained on others, the purpose of baptism would have been defeated!
The baptism of the Lord marked the end of the ministry of John. He had done what he had been sent to do. The Messiah had been manifested to Israel. A little later we find a Jew trying to arouse jealously in the heart of the Baptist, by telling him that Jesus was baptizing, and all were coming to Him. This was untrue! The Lord did not baptize, although He allowed His disciples to do so, John 4:2. But the Baptist was not jealous. He said the Lord must be growing, but that he, himself, was to be inferior, John 3:30.
Later in the ministry of our Lord, when His authority was questioned, He asked the questioners, "The baptism of John - whence was it? Of heaven, or of men?" Matt. 21:24-27. Upon the authority of John, His own authority depended. It is as if He might have said, "If John's baptism was of heaven - and you dare not deny it - then the coming of the holy spirit on Me was of heaven also. This is My authority!" When they refused to say whether or not John's baptism was of heaven, He refused to answer them. As a matter of fact, they could have answered their own question, by simply admitting the heavenly source of the authority of the Baptist.
The Lord knew His baptism had another significance, which John had not seen. John was baptizing sinners, only. It seemed out of place to baptize Christ, since in so doing, he would be treating the Lord as if He was a Sinner. But Christ assured him that in this manner all righteousness was to be fulfilled. His baptism was a figure of His later baptism into death, Luke 12:50. In the figure, as well as in the reality, Christ was to occupy the place of a sinner. If, in His baptism into death, He Who knew no sin, was to be made Sin for our sakes, that we may be becoming God's righteousness in Him, (II Cor. 5:21); and if God was to be the One Who makes Him Sin for our sakes, then God's representative on earth, (John the Baptist), must make Him Sin, in baptism, which is a figure of His death. This is why the Lord uses the word "us," in Matt. 3:15. In the figure, the partnership consisted of Christ and John; in the reality, it consisted of God and Christ.
The Lord used great precaution, just after His baptism, to keep us from imagining that baptism is necessary for pardon of sins. As soon as He had finished the sermon on the mount, He said to a paralytic, "Have courage, child. Your sins are being pardoned," Matt: 9:12. It is certain that the sick man was not being baptized at that time! In verse 22 of the same chapter, He said to an afflicted woman, "Courage daughter. Your faith has saved you." How did she manifest her faith? Not by being baptized, but by touching His cloak! And so it goes, all through His ministry.
The special sin that was denounced by Peter on the day of Pentecost, was that of killing the Christ. His denunciation of this crime, and his declaration that the same Christ had been resurrected and made Lord, was what pricked the hearts of the people with compunction, Acts 2:36, 37. They were frightened. He Whom they had killed had not remained in death. They considered them selves in grave danger at His hands, since He was alive. If I should kill a man and learn a few days later that he is alive, I would be wondering what to do to escape his wrath.
Whatever Peter meant by his promise of pardon and the gratuity of the holy spirit, in consequence of repentance and baptism, it remains a fact that Jews may be enlightened, taste the celestial gratuity become partakers of holy spirit, taste the ideal declaration of God and the powers of the future eon, and yet fall away to where it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, Heb. 6:4-6. In other words, they may have all these experiences, and still not be saved in consequence of them.
A short time after the day of Pentecost, Peter demonstrated how Israel is to be saved, in the case of the lame man who lay at the door of the sanctuary, Acts 3. A beautiful door was before him, but he could not enter. Is not this a picture of Israel? How could they be saved by works, when they were not able to do the works? The man was healed by faith. So shall Israel be healed!
In view of what has been shown in this series, and especially in view of what we have found in this installment, I may well ask my readers, "Why are YOU baptizing?" Some of you are; and others believe in its efficacy, in some respect.
I baptized hundreds of people in other years. Always I used the formula: "In obedience to the command of My Lord and Master, I baptize you, my brother (or sister) in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the holy spirit." I would have been greatly embarrassed if some one had asked me to cite the chapter and verse where Christ had commanded ME to baptize anyone. I claimed authority from the apostles also. It would have been another embarrassing moment if I had been asked to point out the passage that says any of the apostles ever baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.
The only ones to whom the Lord ever gave the command to baptize, were told to baptize INTO those names - not IN them, Matt. 28:19. Moreover, He clearly teaches that this is to be done when He is with them, and that He will be with them all the days until the conclusion of the eon. Again, they were Jews. I am a gentile! Nowhere, in all the scriptures, does He command a gentile to baptize anyone, at any time, either IN, or INTO, any name or set of names. Futhermore, there is no mention of any evangel in connection with that baptism. They are to TEACH. It is not said they are to evangelize. The fact that no disciple or apostle ever used that formula, shows that it is for the future time that we call "the millennium."
Almost all churches believe in, and practice, some mode of "baptism." I ask, in all seriousness, "Why are you baptizing?" Is it your job to manifest Christ to Israel, in the sense that the baptism of John did it? You are all gentiles. Are you absolutely blind to the fact that Paul said, "Christ does not commission me to be baptizing?" Or do you disagree with the scriptures when they declare Paul is the apostle and teacher of the gentiles?
There seems no reason to doubt that the ecclesia in Corinth was, at first, an organization - else how could a member be expelled? But, tired of sectarianism, which had partly filled the organization with unbelievers, Paul asked the saints to come out, II Cor. 6:17. Since that time the apostle to the gentiles has not recognized an organized church. The ecclesia is an organism. It is not known by any sectarian name. In the Ephesian and Colossian epistles it is known as the ecclesia which is the body of Christ; and in other passages it is called the ecclesia of God, while individual congregations are called the ecclesia of the saints.
With the exception of "the Great Commission," which is for the future, Christ has never commanded anyone to be baptizing. In all his writings, Paul never told anyone to baptize, or to be baptized. The writer of the Hebrew letter repudiated baptism, (6:2), just as Paul had previously done, (I Cor. 1:17). Peter decided that the baptism that saves is a matter of conscience, not flesh, I Pet. 3:21. Paul declares that in one spirit we are baptized, into the one body, I Cor. 12:13, and that there is only one baptism, Eph.4:6. In Col. 2:11-13, Paul couples circumcision and baptism together, and shows that believers have both, in Christ.
So, I ask, as the Jerusalem delegation asked John, "Why are you baptizing?" If you cannot honestly adopt John's answer, you may well ask yourselves the same question: "Why ARE we baptizing?"
Favors by mail from September 21 to October 20, (mostly renewal subscriptions). Bible Class, Chicago, E. W. Wheelock, Charles A. Rhodes, W. E. Grow, Henry Lindloff, C. E. Cleland, Harold Sawers, E. Wuinee, John Teigen, Walter H. Bundy, Eliot Thompson, Mrs. Rosa Thoma, C. G. Lamb, D. M. Hutchenson, Mrs. S. A. Waters, W. H. Payne, Oscar Gustaffon, Miss Grace Todd, Mrs. Emma Anderson, J. N. Needham, Mrs. L. B. Fields, W. E. VanGorder, H. Warren, Mrs.. S. Seaberg, D. Patterson, Mrs. G. Lunborg, Mrs. Minnie Adams. I thank God and those friends who have helped. Some of them sent donations.
Did you notice the sentence I marked out in the last issue? It should have read, "Those people were not asking for baptism." A typographical error made it say just the opposite. In reading that issue, please disregard that sentence. [changed to not]
If your paper was marked "Expired," last month, and you know I am mistaken about it, please write me. I can easily make mistakes in handing hundreds of names. If your subscription really has expired, and you have not renewed, please do so.
I am thankful for the splendid support that is being given. God bless every one of you.
The series on Baptism closes with the nest issue. Bound copies will be ready December 1.