Final Preparation for the Coming of Christ, part 2 (Mark 1:5-8)

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Final Preparation for the Coming of Christ

John the Baptist Mark 1:5-8, part 2


There are some battles in history I would like to have seen.  Thermopile, when 300 Spartans stood against a million Persians . . . the naval battle of Salamis, when the Athenians defeated the Persians . . . the defense of Little Round Top, and Picket’s charge at Gettysburg . . .   D-Day, June 6th, the beginning of the end for Hitler.  There are some places in history I would like to have seen.  Thomas Edison’s and George Washington Carver’s workshop . . . John Harrison, of Dreyer’s Ice Cream, on the day he invented cookies and cream ice cream–that is a big event in history to me.

There are also some moments in history where God made radical changes in the course of humankind, which I would like to have witnessed firsthand.  The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ . . . the birth of the church on the Day of Pentecost . . . the salvation of Paul the apostle on the Damascus road.

And throughout history, I would like to have seen John Knox, as he stood tall against bloody Queen Mary . . . or Hugh Latimer, after he offended Henry the Eighth in a sermon, then re-preached the very same sermon, giving the same offense to the same king the very next week, knowing it would offend him again . . . or Martin Luther, standing tall for the true Gospel while being evaluated by the rulers of the known world at Worms on April 18, 1521.

And I would like to have seen John the immersing one, as he prepared God’s people for the coming King.  Why?  Because Jesus himself, the Lord who never exaggerates nor lies, our God who always speaks the truth, said this of John in Luke 7:28.  “I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

 This is big–John, the wilderness man, breaking a 400 year silence.  No prophet has spoken since Malachi 400 years earlier.  Now John bursts on the scene, calling people to immerse themselves in repentance of sin, and to demonstrate their willingness to turn from their sin 24/7 by being immersed in water–an action, up to this point, only Gentiles did.  Gentiles were 1) circumcised, 2) made sacrifices, then 3) immersed in water to outwardly demonstrate their turn from their defiled Gentile ways, to now becoming a God-fearing Jew.  In preparation for the coming Messiah, John is calling Israel to admit that they are as sinful as the disgusting, defiled Gentile.  Yet the Jews are coming out in thousands to respond to the life and message of this one who is pointing to Christ.

Take your outline and open your Bibles to Mark 1, and read with me verses 1 to 8 from your outline in the NASB.  “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way; 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.”’ 4 John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. 6 John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey. 7 And he was preaching, and saying, ‘After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. 8 I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’”

Last week we saw . . .

#1  The purpose of John, to point to Christ

Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  Matthew begins with the ancestry of the Jewish Messiah.  Luke starts out with the ancestry of Christ back to Adam.  John describes Christ as God come in the flesh.  But Mark begins with the beginning of Christ’s public ministry, as proclaimed by John the Baptist.  And Mark calls this action of God for us Gospel–which means good news.  The Romans used the same word “gospel” to announce that a new emperor had ascended the throne.  But this good news was extremely radical.  Now instead of informing men what religious steps they must take to be saved, God announces that He Himself has taken the necessary steps to save men.  God has done the work through Jesus Christ–the God man would save His people from their sins.

This Gospel could not have come at a better time–the Jews were in desperate need of some good news.  God had not spoken to them for four hundred terrible years.  And now in Jerusalem, an Edomite monster, by the name of Herod the Great, sat on the throne of Israel.  The Promised Land itself had dwindled in its size and importance, being gobbled up and controlled now by the vast Roman Empire.

The land of Israel itself was ruled from Caesarea on the coast, a wholly Roman and very pagan city, with an amphitheater and hippodrome.  A pagan governor named Pontius Pilate presided over the monotheistic/only one God Jews, and he governed on behalf of a Gentile emperor in far off Rome, who demanded he be honored as a God.  As a country and as a people, it was all bad news all the time.

And all of this bad news was a mystery to the Jews.  They could not understand why God allowed this to happen.  Were they not the chosen people?  Was not Israel the Promised Land?  Why had God been so prophetically silent for so long?  But good news came at last in the form of a herald–the one who would precede the coming King.  In fact, He was promised.

#2  The promise of John, a part of Christ’s plan

God promised in Isaiah clarified by Malachi, that John would arrive and become the herald for the coming Savior King.  John was actually born to be a priest, but rather than following in his father, Zechariah’s footsteps, God had a different plan.  John was set apart by God to be a prophet.  And when you saw John, then heard John, you knew he was more like an Elijah than an Aaron.  And the people of Israel needed a prophet–apart from Roman oppression, spiritually the people of Israel had fallen into externalism and formalism.

Rabbinical tradition had replaced the Bible.  Instead of ministering to the heart on behalf of their God, religious leaders like the Pharisees were hypocritical and demanding–a lifestyle and sacrifices they themselves refused to bear.  The Sadducees infected people with a cynical skepticism, the Herodians modeled materialism and opportunism, and the Zealots only offered fanaticism and a meaningless death.

Someone needed to cut a path through the undergrowth of this “dead” manmade tradition.  And that is what God empowered John the Baptist to do in verses 2 and 3, “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way; 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.”’”  Mark quotes these passages to point to John the immersing one, but also he writes this to appeal to the Roman mindset.

Before Rome, there were no roads that traversed the world, but now the Romans had built a great worldwide highway system.  For the first time in history, nothing stopped men from building the most direct route to major countries around the globe.  Bridges were built over rivers and canyons, mountains were cut into, land was leveled and stone was cut.  This was part of the reason the Roman legions waged war so quickly and successfully.  The Roman road system was comprised of 50,000 miles of first class military highways and 200,000 miles of secondary highways.

So a Roman would love to hear verses 2 and 3, prepare your way, and make His paths straight–that is what Romans did.  They prepared the way and made paths straight with roads.  In verses 2 to 3, John was prophesied to prepare the way for Christ.  God pre-determined and God promised that John would cut a straight path through all the twisted, empty religion and all the manmade options, so that the road God would provide through Jesus Christ would be able to forgive people, transform people and rescue people from their sins now and forever.  God was going to cut a road through all the spiritual obstacles, just like the Romans cut roads through all the physical obstacles.  So how did John do it?

#3  The primary focus of John, our need of Christ

Verse 4  John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  John called for the people of Israel to immerse themselves in repentance.  See it in verse 4–a baptism of repentance, an immersion into repentance.  John was calling people to live aware of just how sinful they are.  This would start them on the path to forgiveness by seeking to turn from sin in their hearts.  Then their physical water baptism of immersion symbolized their willingness to immerse themselves in repentance.  This path would bring them to a place where they would be ready for Christ to come–they’d be ready for God’s grace.

You see, ultimately they would not be able to fully repent, nor turn from sin, even though they were baptized, because they still needed their hearts to be transformed, born again.  Without God’s Spirit internally giving life to a dead heart, unless God acts upon your internal sinful nature you cannot repent in your own strength, by your own will, even if you feel guilt for sin.  God must give you repentance, 2 Timothy 2:25, “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.”  Acts 11:18, “they . . . glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.’”  God gives faith, and God gives repentance–they are a gift from God.

But those hearing John call them to immerse themselves in repentance would be ready, since they would become more aware of their sin and their desperate need to be delivered from it.  The hearers would be convicted of their sin and ready for someone to rescue them from its punishment–free them from the guilt, and deliver them from the power of sin.  They’d be ready for Christ and the good news of the Gospel.

Parents, do you want your children to come to Christ?  You can’t make salvation happen, but you can prepare the soil of their hearts.  How?  Not giving them what they want, not protecting their delicate self-image, not defending them when they’re wrong, but through loving discipline and instruction, showing them their sin.  Showing them they can’t please God in their own strength–that is what John is doing here in the hearts of people . . . expecting them to obey so they discover they can’t.

The people were being prepared by John for the God man–the perfect man who would take our place and willingly die for our sins, and also the perfect God who would satisfy the Father’s justice, by providing the perfect, acceptable sacrifice.  Did it work?  That was all review!!!

#4  The particulars of John’s ministry for Christ

Verse 5 and 6, “And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. 6 John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey.”

Today, we would form a crusade team, create a vast organization of helpers to set up, take down and clean up, arrange for counselors to follow up, build a band, and plan the meetings.  But John needed no song leaders, instrumentalists, or soloists.  There was no need for posters, advertisements, or mailings.  There was no appeal for funds, transportation needs or PA system.  He raised His voice and the people of the region came.

First  The Preparation of the People for Christ

Read verse 5, “And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.”  When Mark says this, our jaws should drop–thousands of people are taking a 15 to 20 mile walk, or a mule ride, or a cart ride into the Judean wilderness, bringing water with them, since there is normally little or no water.  They have to be bringing protective clothing, for there was no relief from the heat in the day, and the freezing temperatures of the night.  There is no shade, there is no inn, and they are doing this in order to be able to hear this crazy dressed John the immersing one talk about their sin.

Yet John was no hermit or recluse.  He wanted people to come to hear his message.  He desired to serve people.  He was not like the ascetics of his day, the Qumran community who withdrew from the world and its people.  No, John welcomed people to come and hear the Word of God–isn’t that great?  It is.  But not as great as the King who would follow John.  Not only did Jesus welcome people who came to him, and His heart went out to them–but even more than that.

Our Lord is described as one who took the initiative to actually go out to meet the people.  More than having people come to Him, Jesus Christ actually came to seek and to save sinners.  That is why Jesus Christ is the good news–it is God seeking us, God pursuing us, God saving us who are helpless and hopeless.

But in preparation for the coming servant King and His good news work on our behalf, people were coming out to hear John.  How many?  Verse 5 says, “And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem.  John’s preaching may have actually coincided with the sabbatical year.  This would be a time when people could be free from their agricultural labors and take a trip to the Jordan to hear this revolutionary preacher.

When Mark says all the country and all the people, figuratively he is saying everyone was coming with rare exception.  John is the talk of the town, like the movie everyone sees and talks about.  Like Disneyland, almost everyone has gone once.  Everyone is traveling out to hear John the immersing one.

And Mark mentions Judea and Jerusalem, and in doing so is making a point you should not miss.  Jerusalem was a part of Judea–he could have said Judea, and that would’ve included Jerusalem already, but Mark mentions Jerusalem, the city in Judea, for emphasis.  For us, that might be like saying everyone in Los Angeles, and even Beverly Hills, is traveling out to Palmdale to hear John.  The entire region is coming to hear–the sophisticated Judeans and the even more cultured Jerusalemites . . . the middle class Judeans and upper class city dwellers.  The blue collar Judean country folks were coming as well as the rich, powerful city elite.

Plus, the verb going out, imi, in verse 5, “And all the country of Judea was going out to him,” tells us there was a steady, ongoing, never ceasing stream of people continually travelling out to hear John.  One crowd would be replaced by another crowd in a never ceasing flow.  Plus the verb going out to him indicates the people were coming out on their own–no one was making them go.

There was deep and widespread interest aroused by John’s ministry.  After 400 years of silence, a prophet finally speaks.  And John speaks of our hope–the Messiah is coming.  And John confronts our hearts and exposes our sin, and calls us to repent and be ready.  Like a sold out popular musical on Broadway that continues to extend its engagement, people just kept coming.

Look at the second half of verse 5, “and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.”  After 400 years of silence from God’s prophets, the prophetic voice of John created such a tremendous stirring among the Jews, some have estimated over 300,000 were actually baptized in the Jordan River.  In John 1:28 and 3:23, it indicates John was also baptizing near Galilee.  The Greek verb “were being baptized by him” tells us again there was an unending continual stream of people who were being immersed in the Jordan river by John himself.

These Jews were willingly identifying themselves with a practice that up to this point, only hated Gentiles had performed, in order to become a Jewish proselyte.  As these Jews were immersed, they were declaring their desire to be immersed in repentance of sin.  Their immersion was as an outward indicator of a heart desire to be repenting.  And Mark adds one more outward indicator–they were also confessing their sins.

They were not merely participating in the outward action of immersion once–they were verbally admitting their sins.  And it was not merely a one-time verbal confession–their confession was ongoing.  Literally, they were confessing out, indicating the openness and fullness of their confession.  It was a public acknowledgement of sins, though certainly not in full, colorful detail.

Confessing basically means “speaking the same thing.”  They openly agreed with God’s verdict concerning their deeds.  They agreed God’s Word said one thing, and their lives lived another.  Confession is agreeing with God regarding all the implications of my sin.  It’s looking at sin from God’s point of view and acting accordingly.  True confession implies our willingness to call our sins by the name God gives them in His Word–not alcoholic, but drunkard . . . not bad self-image, but proud.

When you come to Christ, you will confess your sins.  As you live with Christ, you will still confess your sins.  Though you’re freed from punishment and forgiven for eternity, in this life you will still agree with God concerning His assessment of your sins, accepting the responsibility for your sins and alleviating God from all responsibility for your sins.  And no matter how long you have been a Christian, genuine believers admit their sinfulness and their specific sins.  So Mark emphasizes two main facts in verse 5.

#1  the entire Judean region and beyond, hundreds of thousands were continually going out to hear John.  As they did, they were  . . .

#2  being immersed in water by John, indicating a heart which desired to be repenting of sin 24/7, shown by their willingness to continually confess their sins publicly in preparation of their coming Savior King.  All of this clearly tells us, there was a tremendous passion on the part of John for people to hear this message.

Second  The Passion of John for Christ

Now Mark shows us a visual introduction to John’s character.  Look at verse 6, “John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey.”  You won’t see John on the cover of any men’s magazine–John was definitely not making a fashion statement.  His loose, scratchy burlap-like woven camel hair robe was the kind worn by the very poor, and his belt, unlike the fancy belts so popular in those days which indicated your wealth, was simply a leather strap.

This was desert wear–it was rugged apparel, which was durable and economical.  It was also unusual and distinctive for that day.  It reminded people of the role of the prophet Zechariah–13:4 actually describes prophets as those who wear a hairy robe, just like John’s camel hair robe.  Elijah was described 2 Kings 1:8 as a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins like John.

Jesus actually makes mention of the fact that John did not wear fine clothes in Matthew 11:8 and 9, “But what did you go out to see?  A man dressed in soft clothing?  Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! 9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet.”  The cheap leather belt fastened at the waist not only kept the loose robe from blowing and tearing apart, but also enabled it to be tucked in, to facilitate walking.  And John’s idea of a good meal was to pop on down to MacHoppers and Honey and order a Hoppy Meal, which includes a 10-pack of locusts with honey dipping sauce.

In France this last summer, we ate snails.  Andrew Alva (our go-for-it guy) couldn’t wait, but Chaser said, “No way.”  But after some pressure, after trying one, Chase ended up eating about 24.  This is not as gross as you might think.  Let me ask you all:  who of you have eaten mussels?  Clams?  Calamari?  Frog legs?  Shrimp?  Snails?  Then you should find no fault with anyone eating locusts.  John’s food was as simple as his clothing.  He ate the food he could gather in the wilderness.  It’s the kind of food you can live on, even if you are not Bear Grylls, starring in Man vs. Wild–locusts!

Locusts were prevalent everywhere, sometimes as a plague, and honey was not viewed as a sweetener, but a food made by bees and found in the wilderness under rock outcroppings or in hollow trees.  Plus, with their legs, wings and sometimes heads removed and their bodies roasted or baked with a little salt added, locusts taste a lot like roasted peanuts.  Yet, I might add, if I had to eat locusts, I’d dip them in honey too.

It is clear from Leviticus that the Lord permitted the eating of four kinds of insects, which we in the USA would call locusts.  Leviticus 11:22, “These of them you may eat:  the locust in its kinds, and the devastating locust in its kinds, and the cricket in its kinds, and the grasshopper in its kinds.”

Verse 6 is not giving us the complete diet and dress of John, but the main point is this–by means of his simple mode of life, evidenced by his food and clothing, John was a living protest against all the selfishness, materialism, self-indulgence, lack of giving and lack of serving of his day.  In Israel at this time, widows were starving, orphans were abused, responsibilities to aging parents were ignored, love for one’s neighbor was nonexistent, and John’s clothing and food choices were a statement against that.  His lifestyle gave his sermons a cutting edge–he practiced what he preached.  His dress and diet accented his powerful preaching.

No human example is perfect, but example is powerful and desperately needed in the home, church, and world.  To tell your children what to do without showing them how through your example, is like telling them verbally to go to heaven, while leading them by the hand to hell.  How is your example?  John the Baptist was an “eating, dressing and living” example to repent of your “comfort-loving, live-for-yourself” ways–and ready your heart for the good news of a coming Savior.  What did John preach?

#5  The Preaching about Christ

John was a powerful preacher.  His diet, dress and lifestyle gave him strong credibility.  But it was his life of continual repentance, uncompromising devotion to God, and fearless proclamation that made his entire ministry one that no one could ignore.  He spoke to everyone, and no one was able to disregard him.

He rebuked the Pharisees, saying in Matthew 3:7 and 8, “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance.’”  For the common people, there was instruction on giving in Luke 3:11, “And he would answer . . . ‘The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.’”  John told tax gatherers to be fair, in Luke 3:13, “And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.’”  John even warned solders to be content, and not abuse authority in Luke 3:14, “Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, ‘And what about us, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.’”  John was as fearless as he looked.  He was also, in keeping with his dress and diet, a self-forgetting and humble man.

Later, when Jesus’s star began to rise and John’s ministry was being eclipsed, alarmed over this change of popularity, John’s disciples came to him with concern over John’s diminishing role.  And John’s response to his disciples exposes his godly humble heart.  He said in John 3:27 to 28, “John answered and said, ‘A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, “I am not the Christ,” but, “I have been sent ahead of Him.”’”  John saw himself like a joyous friend of the bridegroom in verse 29, and concluded with these immortal words in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Why was John the Baptist so effective?  Because His life embodied his message.  Nothing will make our words penetrate more than living the truth we teach from a sincere heart.  If we want to become more fruitful, we must humbly ask God to make our lives demonstrations of the truth of our message, and point to Christ.  John was an amazing man of God whose joy it was to decline in the dark shadow of the One who was the Light.  John loved to focus all the attention of others on Christ.  So it is no surprise to see John preach this in verse 7 of Mark 1.

First  The superior person of Christ

Read verse 7, “And he was preaching, and saying, ‘After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals.’”  John preached about the coming of the God man, Jesus Christ.  Don’t miss Mark’s point–John himself was mighty, and the people trembled before his fiery eloquence.  Even powerful and wicked Herod Antipas was afraid of John.  Plus the Pharisees and Sadducees cringed when John called them a generation of vipers (that’s snakes not cars).  Yet, the religious leaders would not dare touch John for fear of the people.

John was a mighty prophet, and Jesus Himself said, no one compares to John.  John was mighty.  The New Testament even tells us John was so mighty, the people thought he might be the Messiah.  Luke 3:15, “Now while the people were in a state of expectation, and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ.”  Yet Mark 1:7 states as John continually proclaimed the coming Savior, John said that His own might was nothing compared to Christ’s might.

John was mighty, but the one coming was ALMIGHTY

John was a mere man, but Jesus Christ is the GOD-man–more than man

John was a prophetic voice, and Jesus was the very WORD OF GOD

John called for repentance, Jesus demanded REBIRTH

John was a messenger, and Jesus was the MESSIAH

John was finite, Christ is INFINITE

John was temporal, Christ is ETERNAL

John was the reflected light of the moon, Christ is the LIGHT OF THE SUN

The Greek word mighty means strong, able, capable, powerful–John says, Christ is more powerful, more capable and stronger than I.  John says, Christ can do for you that which I can never do, and His awesome might is so much greater than mine.  The difference between the coming Christ and I, John, is so great, let me illustrate it this way in verse 7, “I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals.”

We don’t get the full implication of this.  In the New Testament, only the servant would remove sandals by bending down and untying the straps of the shoes.  Only a slave would wash feet or render a shoe removing service.  He would do so by literally stooping down to the ground and untying your laces, then removing your shoes.  You don’t get it yet–in the New Testament, a disciple is willing to render almost any service to His master.  Below that, a slave would be willing to render any and all services to His master.  But mighty John says, the gulf between the coming King and myself is so great I’m not fit to even serve him as the lowliest slave.  Even the lowest task by the lowest person is not low enough, because this coming one is so great, mighty, and superior.

Let me show you just how low this is.  Come up here and let me remove your shoes for you.  Notice I have to stoop down to the ground in the humblest position.  Then I actually do the humblest job to another adult.  And the mighty John says, I am not good enough to do even that for Christ–He is so far greater, mightier and superior.  John is telling us just how mighty Christ is, by expressing his unworthiness to perform the lowliest and most menial task for Him.  John is telling all, the coming Christ is superior in every way.  Not only superior in His person, but in verse 8 . . .

Second  The superior process of Christ

Verse 8, “I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  John tells us just how superior Christ is by comparing what John does for sinners, and what Christ will ultimately do for sinners.  John will impact them externally through water immersion, but Christ will transform them internally through Spirit immersion.  John is humbly describing the limitations of his ministry.  He is preaching here.  He is proclaiming to all, telling them clearly,“I can’t change you inside, I can’t give you a new heart, I can’t make you a new person internally, I can’t save you from your sins.  I can symbolically point you to your greatest need externally, but Christ can actually rescue you and transform you internally.

“Yes, I John pointed you to Christ–I drenched you with water, which was only external.  But one would come who will drench you in the Holy Spirit, which is internal.  You are immersed in water with me, but with Christ you are immersed in the Holy Spirit.  Your clothes get wet with me, but your internal man is now washed anew with the Holy Spirit.  You are doused on the outside with water from me, John, but you will be drenched with the very person of God the Spirit on the inside from the coming Christ.”

In verse 8, John tells us what he does is a general fact, but what Christ will do is a future coming fact.  What is Spirit baptism?  Literally, Spirit immersion is the act of God, at the point of salvation, where He incorporates you into the Body of Christ–you become a part of the Church, a member in His Church, a functioning spiritual organ in the spiritual Body of Christ.  Look at the Christians around you—go ahead.  There are hearts, livers, kidneys and spleens–all in the Body. Hopefully you’re not a wart, pimple or mole merely attached to the body.

Jesus later said this Spirit immersion was going to be crucial in John 16:7, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”  The Spirit’s coming was going to be an advantage.  At the birth of the Church on Pentecost, the Spirit was now promised to all who turned from their sin and put their faith in Christ.  Acts 2:37 to 38, “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ 38 Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”

So now, the book of Romans tells us, partly to make the nation of Israel jealous, we Christians as individuals and as a Church experience most of the promise of the new covenant, where God said in Ezekiel 36:26 to 27, “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”  Christian, now you are indwelt with the Holy Spirit–God lives in you.  So Paul says live like it in 1 Corinthians 6:19 to 20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”

John, the immersing one, could hold you under water–but Jesus is going to immerse you into His Body.  You’ll become one with Him, and one with all genuine Christians.  For all true believers, at their conversion, are immersed into the Church, the Body of Christ, by the Holy Spirit, Who is fully God, equal to the Son and Father, the third person of the Trinity.  First Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”

Would you agree?  This by far is a superior process to getting wet externally.  And John tells the crowds, his ministry is only externally symbolic of the One who is coming, whose ministry will be internally transforming.  Now Christians are guided, empowered, filled, and gifted.  Because they are indwelt, immersed and sealed by the Spirit of God—are you?

Humble John, the immersing one, invests his life in preparing people for the coming of Christ

He prepares them by increasing their awareness of their own sin

He prepares them by calling them to confess their sins publicly

He prepares them by pointing to the superior ministry of Christ

He prepares them by telling them only Christ can transform them

He prepares them by showing them their need to be forgiven, cleansed, washed, internally transformed, made new and indwelt with God Himself

He prepares them by clearly telling them they can’t fix themselves–they can’t live good enough, they can’t be forgiven, they can’t live the Christian life.  They must turn from their sin, depend wholly on Christ, and even as His children, rely on Him moment-by-moment through His Spirit.  It is my prayer that John’s ministry has impacted you as well.  Let’s pray.

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.