And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. —Mark 1:4
Jesus told this parable— “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ “ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” (Matthew 21:28-31) What is your answer?
The elders of the people answer correctly when they said, “The first” and then “Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him” (Matthew 21:31-32).
In the context of Mark 1:4 we see that “whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (Mark 1:5). Who were these people coming out to John to be baptized? Luke 3:1-14 we see that the hated tax collectors and soldiers were there as well as the prostitutes. This baptism of John was for repentance, that is, there is a change of mind about sin and a change of direction as well. Instead of doing what I want to do or not doing what I should be doing, not I seek to do what God wants me to do or not do. There is a heart change that has taken place where now I want to serve and live for God when before I did not want to. John’s baptism was a statement that a person had repented and there would be outward evidence of a changed life.
So it is today when a person trusts the Lord Jesus Christ and is baptized. Baptism is an outward witness to an inward change. When a person goes under the water it is symbolic of dying with Jesus and then when a person comes out of the water it is symbolic of new life in Jesus. The person is stating that they have turned/are turning from their own sinful ways and will to following God’s ways and will. It also shows that their sin is forgiven. Baptism does not take away sin, but symbolizes that Jesus has already cleansed us from sin. Baptism should not just be some formality as it is in many places, but it is a statement that one truly has believed and is following Jesus— that I am a disciple of Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20).
Dear Father, thank You for touching my life back in February of 1979 and to have the joy to be baptized in the Sea off the Island of Eleuthera (meaning free) with four other friends who had trusted You about the same time. May Mark (PA), Andy (NY), Bob (OH), Bill (WA) and I (NH) truly be seeking to faithfully live for You in the authority of Jesus! May it be so!