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John the Baptist

If we read our Bible in order, Matthew 3 is the first place that we meet John the Baptist, and here we see him preaching a warning at the Pharisees and Sadducees. In Luke1:5-25, however we learn about the unique circumstances of John the Baptist’s conception.

A priest named Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth (who was also of the priestly line because she was an descendant of Aaron’s line) were old and had no children. One day while Zacharias was fulfilling his duties as a priest by burning incense when he went into the temple, an angel of the Lord (Gabriel) appeared to him.

The angel told Zacharias that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son and name him John. John would not drink alcohol and would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he was born. Because of John, many of the children of Israel would turn to the Lord their God. Because Zacharias did not believe what Gabriel had told him, he could not speak.  Elizabeth conceived.

Mary (with child with the son of God) went to visit Elizabeth when Mary was newly pregnant and Elizabeth was five months pregnant and when Mary announced her arrival, both Elizabeth and the unborn John were both filled with the Holy Spirit. Mary, then, prophesied concerning John (Luke 1:39-56) . John is born and the family wants to name him after his father, but Elizabeth said that his name was John.

When the family asked Zacharias, (because he had the final say), because he was still mute wrote on a tablet that his name was John. Immediately, Zacharias could again speak and the first words out of his mouth was to prophecy. (Luke1:57-79. John grew up strong physically and spiritually and lived in the desert until he began his ministry.

John’s ministry was as a priest and a prophet. He was the one to make way for the coming of the Lord.  John’s ministry was all about repentance. His represented the best of what man could offer before the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The best that man could bring himself to under the law was to learn that he full of sin and that sin was detestable. John’s ministry pointed at the only one who could save us.  That’s where Jesus steps in. He takes us beyond ourselves and into something truly amazing, but first we have to be willing to accept John’s baptism of repentance. We must recognize that we are not able to save ourselves. There is something far more complete–the immersion into the name (authority) of Jesus Christ.


John_the_baptist : Stained glass in Catholic church in Dublin showing a John the Baptist The stained-glass windows are by the famous artist, William Early, who died during the commission

In the previous post we learned that John the Baptist’s baptism was a baptism (immersion) unto repentance. How is John the Baptist’s baptism different than from being baptized unto the name of Jesus Christ? Why is it important to know the difference? Perhaps the reason becomes evident as we look at Acts 19:1-7. Paul asked the people of Ephesus if they had received the Holy Spirit and they said that they had only been baptized into John’s baptism into repentance. They were then baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

So how do we know whether we are baptized into just John’s baptism of if we are baptized into the name of Jesus Christ? First, it is important to understand what it means to repent. In the Bible eight different words are translated into the English word “repent”. It is important to understand that each of them have different shades of meaning.

Four of the words are Hebrew words in the Old Testament. The first word is nacham which means to breathe hard because you are sorry. This word was used in Genesis 6:6, Exodus 13:17, Job 42:6, and Jonah 3:10. The next Hebrew word is shuwb which means to turn back . It is found in I Kings 8:47, Ezekiel 14:6. Another Hebrew word used in the Old Testament which is translated “repent is nocham which means regret. This word is used in Hosea 13:14. The final Hebrew word for repent is  nichum this word means compassion. This word is found in Hosea 11:8.

All of the four Greek words in the New Testament that mean repent come from the root word meta meaning change as in the word metamorphesis. metamellomai means to regret consequences of sin, not the cause Matthew 27:3, 2 Corinthians 7:8. metanoeo to change the the mind for the better morally, to change the attitude toward sin (See note Luke 13:3)  Metanoia a real change of mind and attitude toward sin and its cause, not merely the consequences of it Matthew 3:8, 11; 9:13, Luke 24:47.  Final word ametameletos irrevocable Romans 11:29; 2 Corinthians 7:10.

What we can get from this study of repentance as we look at John the Baptist’s baptism, we see that John’s baptism in Matthew 3:8 was Metanoia which meant that his baptism was toward a real change of mind and attitude toward sin and its cause, not merely the consequences. Baptism in the name of Christ is something else, something greater than merely recognizing that a person is repulsed by sin and the desire to turn from it. Baptism in the name of Christ requires something greater.

I look forward to continuing this study of Matthew and all of the gospels. I have enjoyed the comments that we have shared so far. I know I have already learned a lot during this study. What is your take on what we have studied so far?

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