Why did John baptize people?

The Bible tell us that “John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sin” (Mark 1:4). John’s baptism was characterized by repentance. The act of baptism did not guarantee either repentance or forgiveness. But baptism was not genuine unless marked by these experiences.

John said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). John shows clearly that he understood his baptism to be preparatory to the work of Christ.

Baptism is a symbolic act of washing away sin. The Bible states that “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). It is a public testimony or repentance over sin and faith in the forgiveness of Jesus: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

And although Jesus was sinless, He gave us an example to follow when He “was baptized of John in Jordan” (Mark 1:9, 10). And He instructed His disciples saying, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them … Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19, 20).

Baptism represents following Christ into His death, burial, and resurrection. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Romans 6:4-6).

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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