BibleAsk Team

What did the baptism of John stand for?

The Baptism of John

In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist gives us the reasons for performing the water baptism: “I baptize you with water for repentance.” The apostle Matthew tells us that people, “Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (Matthew 3:6). Also, Paul confirms that John’s water ceremony was for repentance of sin and points out that John foretold and prepared the way for the mission of Christ: “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus” (Acts 19:4). The Baptist’s cleansing ceremony was a symbolic service that signified forsaking the old evil ways and believing in the Messiah to come.

A deeper understanding of of this rite is found in Romans 6:3–11 where Paul teaches that this rite represents death. To be “baptized,” Paul says, is to be “baptized into his [Christ’s] death” (verse 3), to be “buried … into death” (verse 4), to be “planted together in the likeness of his death” (verse 5), to be “crucified with him” (verse 6).

Paul then concludes, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin” (verse 11). Please note that pouring and sprinkling are not symbols of death and burial. Paul clearly states the important fact that coming forth from the water symbolizes being “raised up from the dead” (verse 4). It is evident that the writers of the Bible knew only the conducting of this ceremony by immersion.

This ceremony is simply a symbol and does not guarantee salvation. Unless an individual believes in Jesus Christ (Acts 8:37; Romans 10:9) and repents of sin (Acts 2:38; cf. ch. 19:18), this ceremony can be of no merit. There is no saving grace in it without faith and action in the person of Jesus Christ.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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