A Baptism of Repentance for the Remission of Sins

If you remem­ber the last entry on the Book of Mark, you’ll recall that we left off with Mark’s reit­er­a­tion of proph­e­sies from both Isa­iah & Malachi con­cern­ing the fore­run­ner of the Mes­si­ah. We now come to Mark’s intro­duc­tion of this fore­run­ner by name.

John came bap­tiz­ing in the wilder­ness and preach­ing a bap­tism of repen­tance for the remis­sion of sins. Mark 1:4, NKJV

First things first, Mark tells us that this fore­run­ner’s name is John. That’s a great name, and I’m not just say­ing that because it’s a preva­lent fam­i­ly name on my dad’s side. The name is great because of what it means, which accord­ing to Hitch­cock­’s Bible Names is “the grace or mer­cy of the Lord”; Strong’s lex­i­con allows us to fol­low the name’s ety­mol­o­gy back to a Hebrew word, yehôchânân, which means “Yah­weh-favored.” We need only read Jesus’ words in John 5:35, Matthew 11:9, and notably Matthew 11:11 to see that tru­ly John was “Yah­weh-favored,” ful­fill­ing his namesake.

Of the details of John’s birth and ear­ly life, Mark does not con­cern him­self, for we are thrust head­long into the Bap­tist’s activity.

We are told that John “came bap­tiz­ing in the wilder­ness.” That he was in the wilder­ness was in ful­fill­ment of the prophe­cies looked at pre­vi­ous­ly. This wilder­ness, accord­ing to Matthew 3:1, refers to the area sur­round­ing Judea. I sim­ply want to point out that this isn’t a waste­land that he was in — there were assort­ed towns scat­tered through­out the region. What I’d real­ly like to look at here is his message.

A bap­tism of repen­tance for the remis­sion of sins. I am not a Greek lin­guist. I might be total­ly mis­in­ter­pret­ing this pas­sage of Scrip­ture; per­haps I’m not. How­ev­er, this lit­tle verse will be dis­put­ed until Jesus returns, I don’t expect this lit­tle post of mine to set­tle the debate for any­one, but I do trust that what I say will be unto edi­fi­ca­tion and that oth­ers would be will­ing to share their insights as well.

I reject that inter­pre­ta­tion and sub­sti­tute my own.

Now, let me say that quite often, I have seen the verse inter­pret­ed in such a way as to link “for the remis­sion of sins” with “bap­tism.” This is done in order to jus­ti­fy the sup­posed neces­si­ty of bap­tism; I reject that inter­pre­ta­tion and sub­sti­tute my own.

John most assured­ly preached bap­tism, but the mes­sage which accom­pa­nied this bap­tism was “repen­tance for the remis­sion of sins.” In oth­er words, John would bap­tize you, but first you would need to repent and have your sins remit­ted or pardoned.

I dis­be­lieve that any­one can believe in John’s bap­tism and pae­dobap­tism (the bap­tism of infants) at the same time. Bib­li­cal bap­tism is that of “repen­tance for the remis­sion of sins.” Infants can­not repent, and there­fore such a bap­tism may not be admin­is­tered to them. As Dr. John Gill notes, John’s bap­tism is called what it is because “John required repen­tance antecedent to it, and admin­is­tered it upon pro­fes­sion of repen­tance, and as an open tes­ti­fi­ca­tion of it.”

The mes­sage of repen­tance more often than not falls on hard­ened ears nowa­days. Not in John’s. Check out verse 5:

Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all bap­tized by him in the Jor­dan Riv­er, con­fess­ing their sins. NKJV

Peo­ple were not only flock­ing to John, but they were con­fess­ing their sins! Repen­tance was preached, and towns emp­tied as peo­ple came forth, repent­ing and being baptized!

Hate your sin and love Jesus.

In doing this, John was prepar­ing the way for the com­ing Mes­si­ah. He was get­ting the hearts of men focused so that they may more read­i­ly receive the Mes­si­ah when called.

What about you? Are you pre­pared to meet Jesus? Like John’s hear­ers near­ly two mil­len­nia ago, we must repent of our sins. This isn’t a work by which we attain sal­va­tion; indeed, it is a change of mind con­cern­ing sin. It is a mat­ter of belief. Hate your sin and love Jesus. Believe in Him, trust­ing Him as your Sav­ior, who has died & rose again so that you may be for­giv­en for your sins which sep­a­rate you from God. If you have any ques­tions, don’t hes­i­tate to ask.

1 thought on “A Baptism of Repentance for the Remission of Sins”

  1. This is a great blog. I real­ly love the focus on repen­tance as a pre­cur­sor for bap­tism. Thank you for tak­ing the time to share this impor­tant infor­ma­tion. I am only com­ment­ing to let you know that above your image at the bot­tom of this page it says in bold type “Dammit, Me.” Im sure that is an acci­dent. I just want­ed to let you know so you don’t inad­ver­tent­ly scare some ten­der hearts from these valu­able views you express. Thank you dear brother.

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Rick Beckman