Outer and Inner Baptism
We cannot do everything, but we must do what we should do. John the Baptist's role in introducing Jesus to Israel was important, but literally short-lived. When his job was done, Jesus took 'centre stage' and John was eventually imprisoned and executed (Mark 6:25-29). He had not failed - although he wondered if he had (Matthew 11:2-15) – he had simply fulfilled his mission. Jesus' mission then began.
John baptised people who admitted their sins and wanted to be prepared for the Saviour (Mark 1:4). They were immersed under the water as a sign that they had confessed their sins (Mark 1:5). Jesus Himself was baptised. Why? Surely, He had done no wrong. Indeed, He had not. But He wanted to identify with the sins of the people: that is why He came – to be punished for the sins of the world (Isaiah 53:12; 1 John 2:2). 'Baptism' comes from two Greek words: 'bapto' (meaning to dip) and 'baptizo' (meaning to submerge or overwhelm). They were ordinary domestic words. The Greek poet Nicander's instruction for making a pickle was first to dip the vegetable in boiling water (bapto) and then immerse it (baptizo) in vinegar. The first process was a temporary prelude and the second produced an irreversible change. In the same way, John dipped the people in the Jordan River, but Jesus was going to overwhelm repentant people with His love and soak them in His Holy Spirit (Isaiah 44:3) and make them children of God (Romans 8:9).
Everybody saw the Holy Spirit coming upon Jesus as He came up out of the water, and the Father spoke to affirm His ministry (Mark 1:11). The whole of the Godhead united together at the Jordan. After that, Jesus was described as being full of the Spirit (Luke 4:1). John 7:37-39 says, "Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.' By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." The Holy Spirit was poured out on the church at Pentecost (Joel 2:28-29).
We too have been given the task of announcing Jesus (Acts 1:8). We must not underestimate our role but we cannot do it alone. If Jesus needed to be flooded with the Holy Spirit, then so do we. Like John the Baptist, we must explain and persuade sinners that Jesus wants to forgive them and not punish them. The rest is up to God, as repentant people are born again by His Holy Spirit. We may, and must, be clean in our living and vigorous in our verbal witness; but we can never put the life of God into anyone. But that does not mean we should be inert or passive. Our job is to introduce people to Jesus.
© Dr Paul Adams