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.