What is it? And how Is the Baptism of John different from the baptism of Christ?
Did you ever wonder? Why it is that John’s baptism came first? Why it didn’t come with the holy spirit? Why people who had been baptized by John had to be rebaptized later? And why it seems as if John and Jesus were almost in competition when baptizing?
John 3:22-23 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.
John 4:1-2 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)
What is this Baptism of John? Why does it no longer exist today? Why did it ever exist in the first place? How was it different? Let’s find out.
John had a prophetic purpose to do before the arrival of Christ which was very clearly stated in the Old Testament book of Malachi, and reaffirmed by the angel Gabriel to John’s father Zacharias…
Luke 1:17 And he [John] shall go before him [Jesus] in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
From this we can be sure that John was here to prepare a people for God – to turn Israel around to the point that they would be able and willing to hear Jesus, when He came. At least to turn some of them around. And He had an enormous impact on the nation, inspiring even the Pharisees to come and be baptized by him.
Matthew 3:1-3 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
John’s message is the same as Jesus’ later was – that you should repent, or change your ways, from breaking the laws of God. Of course, all of Israel and Judaea knew the law of God, but in the 500 years since the return from captivity in Babylon, they had fallen away from most of the truth that they knew, and were instead following the traditions of the Pharisees, who had made up their own rules and laws and rejected those of the Bible (Mark 7:7, Matthew 15, etc). And so it was John’s job to remind them of those laws and convince them that they were sinning and that they should stop it!
Verses 5-8 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
But unlike so many churches do today, John wouldn’t baptize just anyone – he flatly refused to baptize the Pharisees, whom he knew were largely the ones to BLAME for the present state of affairs and had, by their actions, shown that they obviously weren’t repenting, or wanting to change – they just wanted to be baptized because everyone else was doing it!
And so a great many people in Judea were baptized by John before Christ ever came on the scene, and then Christ (through His disciples) baptized many more into what was apparently the same baptism as John’s – the baptism of repentance, that is – before His crucifixion and resurrection. John said of Christ that…
Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
But we know for a fact that “the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39), so any baptism that Christ or His disciples did while He was alive COULD NOT have been a baptism with the holy spirit! And so why would not only John be sent to baptize, but apparently Jesus as well, into a baptism that would soon be obsolete? And why invent baptism at all – which didn’t exist in the Old Testament, as such – much less invent two of them, the baptism of John and later the Baptism of Christ. Because John’s baptism wasn’t good enough to get you saved!
Acts 19:2-5 He [Paul] said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And after being baptized in this new baptism, “in the name of the Lord Jesus”, this “holy spirit” came on them. Up until now they hadn’t had it, and although they seemed to understand a great deal, if any of them “have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Romans 8:9). So again I ask, why would Jesus and John baptize “unto repentance” for about 4 years, when that baptism wasn’t enough to get people saved, and was going to be rendered obsolete as soon as Jesus was glorified, and all the people have to be rebaptized from scratch? That doesn’t make much sense, does it?
And yet we know that there must have been a very good reason for it – after all, God’s no dummy, He doesn’t waste the man-hours of His prophets, there aren’t enough of them to go around as it is! We begin to see a glimmer of understanding of this confusion when we hear the trick question Jesus asked the Pharisees…
Luke 20:4-5 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not?
The point of this exchange was to force the Pharisees between the proverbial rock and hard place – the people believed John was a prophet, a belief which Jesus confirmed. The Pharisees didn’t dare deny that, or they might get stoned by the people. On the other hand, if they agreed that he was a prophet – and therefore his baptism was from heaven – then they would have to explain why they refused to repent and listen to him. For our purposes, all we need to know is that John’s baptism was from heaven.
Another fact which we must understand before we can proceed is that even though “the holy spirit” was not given until Christ was glorified, (John 7:39), Peter and the other disciples had A holy spirit while Jesus was yet alive!
Matthew 10:20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
Luke 10:21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that THOU hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.
Matthew 16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
This is the spirit of the FATHER – not the spirit of Christ. There is much to say on this subject, which you can read in my article “There Are Two Holy Spirits”, but for now suffice it to say that the Bible references specifically the spirit of the Father and the spirit of Christ doing different things at the same time. For example:
John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
You cannot come to CHRIST unless the FATHER draws you to Him! And then it is CHRIST who raises you up and resurrects you!
Verse 45, 65 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. … And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
NO MAN can come to Christ unless the Father FIRST draws Him! This is not known by most of the world, but you can plainly read it in those verses from the lips of your Savior, Himself. Along the same lines, you must first know Moses and the Prophets before you can come to Christ…
Luke 16:29, 31 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. … And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
In this parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, (for which you can read a full explanation at the linked article there), Abraham represents God the Father, and the Rich Man represents an unsaved sinner who missed out on his chance at salvation in the first resurrection and is begging the Father to send Jesus back to his family to preach to them – so that they won’t end up where he did. But the Father (Abraham, in the parable) flatly refuses and says that “they have Moses and the prophets. If they won’t listen to them, they won’t hear even one risen from the dead”. Obviously, Jesus rose from the dead and equally obviously, the Pharisees didn’t listen to his spirit working through his Apostles and Church.
But this establishes a principle we can use – that before God can bring you to Christ, He first takes you to Moses and the Prophets – I.E., the Law. He shows you that you are sinning – and therefore that you should repent. He does this through books, teachers, ministers, or even the New York Times if He wants to – but in some way He shows you something that condemns you. And He watches. And if you reject it, and decide to do what you want anyway, He moves on to someone else.
On the other hand, if you like that, and want to change and be right, then He’ll show you something else. And something else. In time, if you’ve shown enough interest in Truth and willingness to humble yourself and change, He will “introduce you” to His Son. Now that you have HEARD Moses and the Prophets, and obeyed THEM, as Abraham said in the parable, now you CAN hear one “risen from the dead”!
(For the record, in the Bible, “Moses and the Prophets” or “The Law and the Prophets” symbolizes NOT the washings, sacrifices, and rituals which were done away by Christ, but instead the Ten Commandments, judgments, and prophecies which were and are Eternal – Psalms 119:44, Deuteronomy 29:29, Psalms 19:7-9, Romans 7:12, Matthew 5:17, etc)
And the final fact necessary to unlock this puzzle is that Baptism represents many different levels of the same thing, with one ultimate, umbrella-like meaning. Firstly, according to Colossians 2:11-12, Circumcision was the Old Testament “type” of baptism, the forerunner of it. It symbolized the entering into the Covenant to obey God in the letter – that is, Moses and the Prophets. Baptism itself symbolizes the signing of a greater covenant, the New Covenant, and agreeing to obey God not just in the letter, but in the spirit – and having the law, “written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” (2 Corinthians 3:3). This is what the Baptism we’re familiar with represents.
However the largest possible symbolism of it, in its most concise definition, is that Baptism represents being washed by a spirit of God.
1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are WASHED, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and BY the Spirit of our God. (See also Hebrews 10:22)
Now it will all start falling into place. When the Father “called” Cornelius, and started to lead him, via Moses and the Prophets, to Christ, He gave Cornelius HIS spirit – just as He had given it to Peter and the disciples, and no doubt to you, before he brought them to Christ and gave them HIS spirit.
Acts 11:9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common….
Note that GOD CLEANSED them – BEFORE they were Baptized – and that they had the spirit – BEFORE they were baptized!
Acts 10:47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
PETER had been baptized into the Baptism of John, and PETER had HAD the Father’s spirit according to Jesus, before Jesus’ own spirit was available! But the church is supposed to be, not the bride of the Father, but the bride of CHRIST! And in order to be a part of that BRIDE of Christ, you have to have CHRIST’S spirit IN you, and not just the Father’s!
Acts 11:16-17 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
But being baptized with the Father’s spirit IS NOT ENOUGH! The Baptism of John, symbolic of the receiving of the CALL of the Father, who is about to lead you to Christ, and who is “preparing the way for the Lord (Jesus)”, is NOT ENOUGH! You need MORE than just THAT spirit of water!
1 John 5:6 This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; NOT BY WATER ONLY, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
The Baptism of John was with water – but the Baptism of Christ is with blood! The Baptism of John was to repentance, to stop you from sinning, and thereby wash you of future sins by making them never happen – the baptism of Christ was to HIS spirit, to wash you in His blood for forgiveness of PAST sins!
Romans 3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
Revelation 7:14 …These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
John was sent to prepare people to hear Christ. God the Father’s job is to bring people to Christ, as it says “they shall all be taught of God” (Isaiah 54:13)
Luke 1:16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people PREPARED for the Lord.
John had to come first and prepare the people, just as God must call people first and send the chosen to Christ, because every man, woman, and child MUST be prepared for Christ by having first heard – and listened to – Moses and the prophets. And yes, that includes you. Because, as Paul put it “…the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ…” (Galatians 3:24)
John’s baptism couldn’t give the spirit, because his job was to baptize to repentance – Christ’s spirit hadn’t yet been given, for he hadn’t yet been glorified. John’s baptism was rendered obsolete because God the Father does the job directly – and always did – John’s sole purpose was to prepare a literal people for the literal coming of the literal Lord, and thereby to allow us to add this great piece of knowledge to our annals of understanding.
Once we put some thought into it, anyway. And there is a lot more to this particular area of understanding yet to be discussed… so don’t touch that dial!