John's Baptism: "We need to change our ways."
A. His Identity
A brief overview of his life can be found in various
Bible study books. A copy of the information found in Easton's
1897 Bible Dictionary (now public domain) is available in a
In Matthew/Mark/Luke: Called "John the
Baptizer" or "John, the one who baptizes"
- Matthew 3:1; 11:11-12; 14:2, 8; 16:14; 17:13; Mark 6:14; 6:24-25;
8:28; Luke 7:20; 7:28 (KJV), 33; 9:19
- This surname points to one of the primary features for which he
is remembered. (It also distinguishes him from John the apostle.)
Though, in many translations, he is called "John the
Baptist," the use of the term "Baptist" was not
intended to imply a connection to any modern denomination!
In the gospel of John: some unique features
- The apostle John tells us that this John baptized people, but he
does not use the surname "Baptizer" (etc.), when
identifying him. (He also mentions that Jesus' disciples baptized
people - a detail not mentioned in the other accounts.)
- Every time the name "John" occurs (other than referring
to the father of Simon Peter - John 1:40, 42; 21:15-17), it refers to
this John who baptized. Every time the apostle John refers to himself,
he uses the term, "the apostle whom Jesus loved." (The only
time he mentions himself by name is in the book of Revelation.)
B. Various locations where John baptized
John 1:28 & John 10:40 (probably the same location) - an area
called Bethany, on the east side of the Jordan River (exact location
- John 3:23 - Aenon, near Salim - on the west side of the Jordan
river (south of the Sea of Galilee, approximately 1/3 of the way down
to the Dead Sea)
- Why here? Because there was plenty of water.
- Mark 1:4 - the desert region west of the Dead Sea
- Matthew 3:6 - along the Jordan River
C. The people who came to see John
Those who came to be baptized
- Matthew 3:5; Mark 1:5; John 3:23 - Many people from the
- Luke 3:12, 14; 7:29 - Included people who were often despised by
the others, for example: Roman soldiers and tax collectors.
- [Matthew 3:13; Mark 1:9; Luke 3:21 - Jesus also came to be
baptized. (Examined in greater detail, later in the outline.)]
Those who refused to be baptized
- Matthew 3:7 - Many of the religious leaders. See also Luke 7:30.
[Note: John may have given the same message to the other people,
as well - see Luke 3:7. But unlike the religious leaders, the others
repented and were baptized.]
The significance of one's response to John's baptism
- Luke 7:29 - The significance of accepting John's
baptism: they were acknowledging that God's way was right.
- Luke 7:30 - The significance of rejecting John's
baptism: they were rejecting God's ways / the message he had for them.
D. What John preached: the need for repentance (change)
He preached a "baptism of repentance"
- Acts 19:4 (See also Matthew 3:11a.)
- What does "repentance" mean?
- Repentance is more than feeling sorry about bad things
in one's life (sin). It means a willingness to change - both to
change the way one thinks about those bad things, as well as to
change one's bad actions.
- By changing the way one thinks, a person begins to admit the
badness (sinfulness) of his actions and to hate that badness. He
begins to see those things the way God sees them: he admits that they
are bad / sinful.
- By changing the way one acts, a person begins to avoid (stop
doing) the bad things he used to do. He wants to replace those
bad actions with good actions.
- Baptism symbolized the change - showing that the person was now
"dead" to his former way of living and "alive" to
a new way of life.
Repentance is necessary for the forgiveness of sins
- Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3 - The message John preached as he baptized:
repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
- Acts 13:24 - In John's day, this message was preached to the
people of Israel. [Now that Jesus has come, repentance &
forgiveness are now available to people everywhere. See the rest of
Confession of sin is a part of repentance. This means
openly admitting (in the presence of others) that one's thoughts and
actions are sinful; openly admitting one's own sins.
- Matthew 3:6 The people confessed (openly admitted) their sins at
the time of their baptism. Everyone present would then know that they
were publicly rejecting their former way of life and turning to a new way.
A change must take place in one's life: The things he
does (the "fruit" of his life) must be compatible with
repentance. [Whatever is in a person's heart will affect what he
does. Compare with Mark 7:20-23.]
- Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7 (The verses that follow Luke 3:7 give some
examples of the types of changes that must occur.)
E. Who John pointed to: Jesus, the one who makes this change possible
John knew that his main purpose was to point to the One who
would bring salvation.
- John 1:31 - John understood this to be his mission, even before
he knew it would be fulfilled in Jesus.
- Acts 13:25 - (See also John 3:26-30.) - Once John had done this,
his mission was completed.
John's baptism of Jesus: this was the climax of his ministry.
- Mark 1:9; Luke 3:21a - John baptized Jesus.
- Matthew 3:13-14 - When Jesus came, John understood that Jesus had
no need for a baptism of repentance - after all Jesus had never
sinned! Since John (like everyone else) had sinned, he considered
himself unworthy of such a task as baptizing Jesus.
- Note that John seemed to know that Jesus was the one he was to
point to, even though that fact had not yet been confirmed by the
coming of the Holy Spirit (an event which happened after Jesus'
- John 1:29 - Though Jesus did not have any sin in himself, he came
representing all of us, who do have sin. He came in our
place, as our "sacrificial lamb." [Word "baptize"
is not in this verse, but in the surrounding context.]
- Matthew 3:15-17; Mark 1:10-11; Luke 3:21b-22; John 1:32-24 - At
this event, Jesus was set apart as approved by God, for the mission
he (Jesus) was about to accomplish. The Holy Spirit confirmed this
when he came to Jesus.
We must "look to" Jesus when we repent. (We
must trust and rely on him, for the power to make this change take place.)
- Acts 19:4 - (The word "believe" means "to trust or
F. Other things about John's Baptism
Comparison / contrast to Jesus' baptism - see
John's baptism / ministry was important.
- Matthew 21:25; Mark 11:30; Luke 20:4 - It had its origin in
heaven (implied by the context of these passages).
- It prepared the people for Jesus' ministry
- Mark 1:2-4 - He was the messenger who would prepare the way for Jesus.
- Acts 13:24 - John preached before the coming of Jesus...
- Acts 10:37 - What Jesus did occurred after the baptism
that John preached.
- Acts 1:22 - It was even associated with the requirements for
becoming an apostle.
But by itself, it was not enough.
- Acts 18:25-26 - Apollos knew only John's baptism, and needed a
better understanding of God's way (v. 26).
- Acts 19:1-7 - The disciples at Ephesus understood John's baptism,
but needed the Holy Spirit - that is, they needed Jesus' baptism (see below).
Back to the "Baptism" title page
Dennis Hinks © 1999