Baptism 101 (Mark 1:4-8)
I’ve baptized many folks, and I’ve seen people make big changes when they were baptized. I baptized a good friend who had to make a painful break with the denominational background of his parents. I baptized a lady who had to move out of her boyfriend’s house on the day she was baptized. I’ve baptized folks in jail who dared not go back to their sin.
I suspect there are many in this congregation who needed to make big changes when you were baptized into Jesus. Maybe you had to leave a denominational body where you had friends and loved ones. Maybe you had to let go of some fun “hobby” you learned was sinful. Maybe you had to give up friends who enticed you to sin.
Some folks in this morning’s passage made some drastic changes when they were baptized. As John was baptizing, he taught about Jesus and prepared the way for his ministry; John called on people to make big changes in their lives.
John taught us “Baptism changes your life.” We want to think about how “Baptism changes your life,” and make practical application.
Scripture (Mark 1:4-8)
John appeared in the wilderness. The Greek indicates John just popped on the scene one day; in this way, Mark demonstrated John’s appearing was the fulfillment of the prophecy he quoted in verses 2-3. God had a plan in saving man, John played a significant role in that plan, and God was fulfilling his plan by having John show up preaching in the wilderness.
You recall that the Israelites left the wilderness by crossing the Jordan to go to the Promised Land (Josh 1:11). There is likely symbolism in the wilderness and Jordan here; the people left the bondage of sin and entered a new life of freedom.
John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John’s preaching had to be a shock for the Jews. They believed as long as they were descended from Abraham, circumcised, and did not reject the law, they were going to heaven—no questions asked. John’s baptism would have been insulting to most Jews. Yes, they had many ceremonial washings, but the only true baptism was for Gentiles who become proselytes. Their baptism indicated a change in life. John preached that being a Jew wasn’t enough—they needed to turn from sin and be baptized to indicate a new life.
John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. As their baptism indicated a new life, the Jews turned from their old life and repented of their sins. “A baptism of repentance” likely means that this baptism put the Jews in a state of repentance. In other words, repentance became their way of life.
John’s baptism was also “for the forgiveness of sins.” The Greek grammar here is the same as we find in Acts 2:38. Just as we are baptized in order to have our sins removed, the Jews in John’s day were baptized in order to have their sins forgiven.
As these Jews were baptized, they claimed a new life. They began a life of repenting of their sins instead of living in sin, and they began a life where they were no longer bearing the guilt of sin.
The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to John. Yes, there is surely hyperbole, but don’t lose sight of the fact that people and people and people were streaming from their homes to be baptized by John. Going out to John demonstrated a commitment, for the people had to travel to him. They put forth effort to change their lives.
The people, confessing their sins, were baptized. Apparently, these folks confessed their sins in order to forsake their sins before they were baptized. This again connects sin and baptism.
John’s clothing was like the clothing Elijah wore (2 Ki 1:8); this again shows that John fulfilled the prophecy of Elijah’s coming before the Messiah’s appearance. John wore camel hair clothing—sackcloth—and showed John’s mourning over the people’s sins.
John ate locusts and wild honey. It was not unusual for people to eat locusts and honey in that day, but this was John’s total diet. This likely also harkens back to Elijah who had a diet of ravens and who drank water from a brook (1 Ki 17:4); as Elijah relied on the wilderness for food, John relied on the wilderness for food.
The parallels between John and Elijah shows God planned all of this—God is fulfilling prophecy, preaching about a new life, and preparing the people for the Messiah’s coming.
John understood his message was about Jesus and his life-changing message. Since John was there to proclaim a baptism that would change lives, he pointed people to Jesus, not himself.
“Baptism changes your life.” Baptism changed the lives of those in John’s day, and baptism will change your life today. Since “baptism changes your life,” how should you live?
You need to be baptized into Christ.
Some of you have not obeyed the Lord Jesus in baptism. Understand that immersion into Jesus will change your life:
- Baptism allows God to forgive your sins: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
- Baptism permits you to live a new life in Christ: “We were . . . buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom 6:4).
- Baptism saves you: The water of the Flood which saved Noah and his family “symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God” (1 Pet 3:21).
If you have not yet been baptized into Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins to change your life, let me urge you to do that today. If the elders or I can help you in any way, please let us know.
You all need to remember what life was like before your baptism.
Before you were baptized into Christ, you lived in sin. Coming to Jesus through baptism meant living a new life. After listing a host of sins which will keep one from heaven, Paul told the Corinthians: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11). “You have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry” (1 Pet 4:3).
Spend serious time thinking about what your life looked like before you were baptized. Memory is a powerful tool for good; Jesus told the Ephesian church: “Remember . . . from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (Rev 2:5, ESV). What if we used that same principle, and turned it on its head? “Remember from where you have risen through baptism; do not go back there.”
How has your life changed since you were baptized into Jesus? What heartache do you no longer bear? What sin do you no longer carry? What relationships have been restored? What hope do you now have?
You all need to think about what changes you still need to make.
Even those who have been baptized into Christ sin. Peter, an apostle, sinned: Galatians 2:11-13. Simon the sorcerer was baptized into Christ, changed his life, and fell back into sin. The Galatian Christians had fallen from grace (Gal 5:4). Because falling from grace and back into sin is such a real possibility, Paul told the Corinthians, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Cor 10:12). Since you can fall back into sin after changing your life, you need to be ever so careful.
You need to be growing as a Christian. “Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity” (Heb 6:1). “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18).
Ask yourself this question: “What changes does baptism still need to bring to my life?” In other words, what changes do you still need to make? Where do you still need to grow?
Scripture provides a wonderful way of gauging your spiritual growth—2 Peter 1:5-7. The New International Version reads, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness. . . .” Take a pencil and put your own name before the word “make.” It would then read something like this: “For this very reason, Justin, make every effort to add to your faith goodness. . . .” Make it personal. Go through the list and see what you still need to be doing and what you still need to be changing.
You are surrounded by brothers and sisters more than willing to help you continue your change after baptism: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). What burden do you need help carrying this morning? Who can help you make necessary changes in your life? How can we help you this morning as we stand and sing?