The Baptism of Repentance
February 23rd, 1964 @ 7:30 PM
THE BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE
DR. W. A. CRISWELL
2-23-64 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The Baptism of Repentance for the Remission of Sins. In your Bible, turn to the Gospel of Mark chapter 1. We shall read the first eleven verses. The Second Gospel, the Gospel of Mark, chapter 1, the first eleven verses; and if your neighbor does not have his Bible, share yours with him or give it to him, and let us read it out loud together. And on the radio, get your Bible and read it out loud with us. The Gospel of Mark, the first chapter, the first eleven verses, all of us reading it out loud together:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the Prophets, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.
John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
And preached, saying, There cometh One mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.
I indeed have baptized you with water: but He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.
And straightway coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him:
And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
And the text is the fourth verse: “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” [Mark 1:4].
The Johannine movement, which continued contrary to the will of God, the Johannine movement and the Christian movement were actually in God’s will and purpose, just one great thrust from the Almighty, one great intervention of God in history, one great procedure of the purpose of God for our salvation. “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written” [Mark 1:1], and we are introduced first of all to John the Baptist. He was the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of the New Testament evangelists announcing the coming and the presence of Jesus the Christ.
The qualifications for an apostle, as we read in the first chapter of the Book of Acts, was twofold. One: he had to be a witness, a personal witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He had to be one who had seen our resurrected Lord with his own eyes. The second qualification for an apostle was that he had to be baptized by John the Baptist [Acts 1:22]. The two great movements were one, John the Baptist, the precursor, and messenger, and herald, and announcer of the presence of the Son of God.
Twice it says, here in the brief passage that we have read together, twice it says that John preached. In the fourth verse, “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” [Mark 1:4]. In the seventh verse, after John is described with his girdle of leather and with his cloth made out of camel’s hair, and how he ate locust and wild honey [Mark 1;6], then it says, “And he preached, saying” [Mark 1:7].
You know, it is an unusual thing: outside of the Book of Ecclesiastes, only five times in the entire Old Testament Scripture is that word used, “preach.” It is a distinctly New Testament characterization. God’s apostles and evangelists and missionaries and preachers preach; and John did baptize in the wilderness, and preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins [Mark 1:4]. And John introduced to the nation of Israel the greatest revival in its history. The only one comparable in the world was the revival of Jonah in the capital city of Assyria in Nineveh [Jonah 3:1-10]. It was a tremendous turning toward God, and an unusual thing in the movement of the Spirit of the Lord. There were no billboards on the highways from Jerusalem to Nazareth. There were no advertisements in “The Jericho Times” or “The Bethlehem Morning News.” There were no advertisements on the back of the taxis in Jerusalem. There were no handbills distributed on the street corners of Bethlehem. There were no announcements made in the “First Baptist Synagogue” in Samaria or in Hebron.
It was a movement like fire from God, and it seemed as though the whole world was in a ferment as the multitudes streamed out of the hamlets and out of the villages and out of the streets and gates of Jerusalem, all their faces turned toward that one place on the banks of the Jordan River where the Baptist preacher was proclaiming the kingdom of God as being at hand [Matthew 3:1-2]. What a day, what a revival! The carpenter laid aside his tools, and the fisherman folded up his nets, and the housewife laid aside her utensils, and the farmer laid down his agricultural implements, and the scholar rolled up his scrolls, and the Roman soldiers stacked their arms, and the whole multitude turned their faces toward the wilderness of Judea in the presence of that Baptist preacher..
What a man, what an image, what an impression he made! He looked like Elijah the Tishbite, standing there on the banks of the Jordan, Mount Nebo and the hills of Moab for a background, the Syrian sky for a canopy, the wide wilderness before him for his platform, the birds his chorus choir, the stillness of all out-of-doors their accompaniment, the Jordan River flowing at his feet for a baptistery, and the coming of Jesus Christ for his text [Matthew 3:11-12; Mark 1:7-8]. What an incomparable day, what a glorious hour, John the Baptist baptizing in the Jordan River and preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins [Mark 1:4].
That is an unusual phrase here: “and he preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” [Mark 1:4]. And again I have divided my sermon into two parts, couldn’t get it all in one place in this time. The baptism, and that will be tomorrow night, the rite, the ritual, the baptism in water, and it had reference to repentance, repentance for the remission of sins.
That word, “repentance,” metanoia, has a very distinct, a very sharp, a very precise meaning; metanoia, repentance. It means turning around, another goal, another purpose, a changed heart and a changed life, a new and a separate dedication; metanoia. “And he preached the baptism of metanoia, repentance, turning, changing, for the remission of sins” [Mark 1:4]. Repentance, like a man going down a road, and the signs all pointing in that way, “this road leads to hell, this road leads to hell, this road leads to hell, this road leads to hell,” but at the same time, there are other signs pointing the opposite direction, saying, “But this road leads to heaven, this road leads to heaven, this road leads to heaven.” And the man going down that road, “This road leads to hell, this road leads to hell, this road leads to hell,” and he turns around, “This road leads to heaven.” That is repentance, turning around, a new purpose, a new goal, a new commitment, a new dedication!
John Bunyan opens his incomparable Pilgrim’s Progress, the allegory of the Christian pilgrim—he opens it with a man dressed in tatters with a Bible in his hand. And reading the pages thereon, he weeps, and cries, and laments, and says, “What shall I do that I might be saved?” And the Pilgrim stands with his back to the City of destruction and his home therein, and his face toward the city of God. That is repentance! The parable of the prodigal son, as he went down, and down, and down, and down, and finally in the hog pen, said, “I will arise and go back to my father and home” [Luke 15:18]. That is repentance! It is turning; it is changing our goals, our faces, our purposes, our commitments in life.
It is a separate thing in the Bible from the fruits thereof [Matthew 3:8]. The Bible presents metanoia, repentance, as an inward act. It is something that happens in a man’s soul and in a man’s heart. For example, in the third chapter of the Book of Matthew, as well as in the third chapter of the Book of Luke, and the identical verse in both, the eighth verse—in Matthew 3:8, in Luke 3:8—John is quoted as saying to the Sadducees and the Pharisees, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for, worthy for repentance.” So repentance is something that happens in a man’s heart when a man turns in his soul [Proverbs 1:23], and then the fruits of repentance are the acts that follow after the commitment of the man’s soul in a new goal, in a new way, in turning [Luke 3:10-14].
Another thing about repentance: it is always and inextricably associated with faith [Mark 1:15]. There is no such thing as a godly repentance in a vacuum, by itself, isolated and unique. It is always in accompaniment with faith, like a coin: you could not have a coin with just one side. If it has one side, it also and inevitably has another side. So it is with repentance. True repentance is always associated with godly faith and godly commitment. You will never find an exception of that in the Word of the Lord.
For example, in the nineteenth chapter, when Paul is preaching at Ephesus, he is quoting this work of John the Baptist, and he said, “John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him that should come after, that is, on Jesus Christ” [Acts 19:4]. When I turn the page and I see Paul talking to the elders from Ephesus at Miletus, he says he testified “both to the Jews, and to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” [Acts 20:21]. So when a man turns, when a man turns, he doesn’t turn to a vacuum, to nothingness, but a man turns in repentance toward God, and the two are always together: repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ [Acts 20:21].
That’s why you have a very hard thing for some people to distinguish here in the Word of God. There is no distinction made in the King James Version between metanoia, repentance, and metamelomai, which is remorse or regret.
Let me read out of the King James Version in the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Matthew, “Then Judas, who had betrayed Him, when he saw that Christ was condemned to crucifixion, repented himself, and brought the thirty pieces of silver” and so on [Matthew 27:3]. That is not the word for “repent.” Judas, who had betrayed Him [Matthew 26:14-16, 47-50], when he saw the Lord was condemned, metamelomai, filled with remorse and regret, which is an altogether different thing from repentance; to be sorry for sin, to be regretful, to be filled with remorse is nothing near repentance, for repentance carries with it the belief that if I take my case to God, God will forgive and have mercy upon me.
If this man Judas had metanoeō, if he had repented, if he had turned to Jesus, and instead of casting the silver on the pavement in the court [Matthew 27:3-5], if Judas had cast himself at the feet of the Lord Jesus and asked God for forgiveness, Judas would have been saved like any other man is saved who repents, who trusts in God [Mark 1:15], who turns heavenward with his case and asks forgiveness from the gracious, merciful hand of the Almighty [Luke 24:47].
Another thing, repentance is not reformation. It’s an altogether different world. Let me describe to you what reformation is. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Matthew, our Lord says:
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.
Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come in, he findeth it empty, and swept, and garnished.
Then goeth he, and taketh unto himself seven other spirits more wicked and vile than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
That is reformation, and it always comes out in the same way as the Lord has described it. Here is a man that has an unclean spirit. Let’s say he’s a drunkard, and every time he passes one of these package stores, there he goes in, and he spends his time in his office with the door shut, drinking, and he spends his time at home drinking, and his life is destroyed. And he says, “I’m going to cast this spirit out of me. I’m going to quit this drinking. I’m going to quit it. I’m going to reform.” Or just anything else that a man does that’s vile and evil; he beats his wife up every Saturday night, and he says, “I’m going to quit beating my wife up every Saturday night. I’m going to do better. I’m going to reform. I’m going to quit beating my wife up every Saturday night.” Or he plays the bookies, whatever the bookies are. Or he plays the numbers game, whatever the numbers game is. He’s got an unclean spirit, and that is the kind of fellow he is, so he says, “I’m going to reform. I’m going to reform.”
So he quits drinking, and he gets scared to death about the report from the Surgeon General of the United States, and he quits smoking coffin nails. And he says, “I’m going to reform. I’m going to quit beating my wife. And I’m going to quit playing the numbers game, and the races, and the bookies, and I’m going to reform. I’m going to be a new man,” and so there he goes. Ah, aren’t you proud of him? Man, he is just as fine, and tall, and straight, and pure, and clean, and washed as our business administrator here. He is just as fine as he can be, just as fine as he can be.
Why, I tell you, it’s not long until the guy is taking a nip, and a snort, whatever a snort is. I don’t know where on earth I got this language. I tell you, it’s my worldly folks I live with! Yeah. And pretty soon he’s odd man out, whatever that is. And pretty soon he’s beating his wife again on Friday nights. And pretty soon, he’s worse than he ever was. He’s worse than he ever was, seven times worse! He’s beating his wife Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday night, all. He’s beating her seven nights a week, and he’s drinking like a gopher hole!
You know what’s the matter with the man? Just like Jesus said of him, he reformed, and he put the evil spirit out of him, but there wasn’t any Holy Spirit of God that came in to take its place. So when that evil spirit of reformation, cast out of that man, when that evil spirit came back and looked in that man’s heart, it was empty! So he went out and got these other evil spirits more vile, and vicious, and wicked, and iniquitous, and dirty, and low-down than himself, and he said, “Come in and look at this man’s life. Look at this man’s heart; it’s empty, and clean, and swept, and garnished. What a model man he is!” And so they come back into that man’s life, and the last state of that man, says the Lord Jesus, is worse than the first [Matthew 12:43-45].
That is reformation! But repentance is always toward God. Repentance is always safe in the Lord Jesus Christ. “Lord, this heart of mine, filled with all of the uncleanness of this world—Lord, wash me and cast out these evil demons, and in their place, Lord, may the Holy Spirit make a throne in my soul, and may the Spirit and presence of God dwell in every rich grace, and virtue, and happiness, and gladness, and peace in my heart and in my life.” Then when you see that man, when you see that man twenty years later, he is a finer Christian than he was the first year. And if he lives to be a Christian forty years beyond, he’s a finer, sweeter, more humble and dedicated Christian after forty years than he was when he first found the Lord; sweeter, better, finer as the years go by. That is repentance!
Now, I have come to my sermon, repentance, and we will summarize it in about three minutes. Repentance is a gift of God. Acts 11:18: “And when the saints at Jerusalem heard about the visitation of the Holy Spirit at Caesarea in the household of Cornelius [Acts 10:44-45, 11:17], they glorified God, saying, Then God also hath granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life” [Acts 11:18].
It is a gift of God: for a man to be able to repent is a gift of God. When a man comes down the aisle and he takes the preacher by the hand and says, “Preacher, I’m going to be the best Christian you ever saw in your life. I tell you, I’m going to dedicate my life to the Lord. I tell you, I’m just going to shine for Jesus.” When a man does that, “I’m going to do all this,” no, he is not. It is a gift of God. “Lord, grant me repentance unto life.” It is the asking of heaven, “Lord, give me strength and ableness, for in myself there is no power and strength at all.” It is a gift of God.
Second—and, oh, I wish I had time, I wish I had time to expatiate on this! Second, it is addressed to all men everywhere. And I had these passages in the Bible that when you read them, you don’t realize what you’re reading. In these passages in the Bible, it says that the Sadducees and the Pharisees and the scribes and the elders refused the baptism of John, but the harlots and the publicans accepted the baptism of God, and they entered into the kingdom of heaven. Why did the Sadducees and the elders and the leaders and the scribes refuse the baptism of John? For the simple reason that the baptism of John put everybody outside of the covenant of God; everybody had to repent, everybody. And when John stood there on the banks of the Jordan River, and he preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins [Mark 1:4], those falsified, sophisticated Pharisees and Sadducees said, “We, repent? But we were born in the Kingdom of God. We are the children of Abraham.” And John the Baptist looked at them and said, “Listen, the Lord God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham’” [Matthew 3:9]. Repent! You, everybody, everybody.
The harlot knew she needed to repent, and she turned [Matthew 21:31]. And the publican who cheated and lied knew he needed to repent, and he turned [Luke 18:13]. But the Sadducee and the Pharisee said, “We need no repentance” [Matthew 3:7-9] and they rejected for themselves the baptism of John, and eternal life, and salvation in the kingdom of heaven. The call to repentance is addressed to all men everywhere, all of us. We are to turn and to believe and to trust [Mark 1:15], all of us; “There is none righteous, no, not one” [Romans 3:10]. All of us are called to turn, to believe, to repent [Acts 17:30].
And then the last one, the third one: and there is an answer that we must return to God tonight. Like Gad, the prophet Gad, when he came to David, and said to David, “Tell me an answer that I may return it unto the Lord God who sent me” [2 Samuel 24:13]. There is an answer that God requires of every man in divine presence. What shall we say to the Lord God who calls us to repentance and to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? [Acts 20:21].
What an unusual man it is, what an unusual soul it is who will force and elbow his way through the Old Testament prophets, and the New Testament Scriptures, and the apostles, and the evangelists, and the preacher, and the service, and the prayer, and the appeal of the Holy Spirit, and finally, when he comes to take the last plunge over the abyss into perdition and damnation, he says, “God didn’t do me right. I was waiting for some great experience. I was waiting for a light from heaven. I was waiting to be transported into the kingdom of God, and the great monstrous experience never came.” And he dies waiting, and he sinks into perdition, waiting, when all the time the commandment of God is ”Repent, repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” [Matthew 4:17]. Repent, and look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ [Mark 1:15; Acts 16:30-31].
And that is our assignment, all who are born into this life and into this house of flesh, and clay, and sin, and evil, and mortality. We’re to bow; we’re to look into the face of Jesus; we’re to ask God for the gift of repentance and faith [Acts 20:21], that our sins might be washed away [Revelation 1:5], and in token thereof, standing before the congregation of the Lord asking to be received as a candidate for baptism, the outward sign of the inward washing of the Holy Spirit of God in our souls [Acts 22:16].
Will you do it? Will you do it? Will you do it? As we sing this hymn of appeal, in the balcony round, that somebody who needs Jesus, you; the press of people on this lower floor, a family you: “Preacher, here we come, and here we stand, God helping us. We look in faith, in turning, in trust; we look in faith to Jesus our Savior [Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8]. Here we come.” A couple of you, a family of you, one somebody you, a youth, a child, as the Spirit of God shall make appeal to your heart, “Here I come, preacher, and here I am. I make it now; I decide tonight,” while we stand and while we sing.
THE BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-23-64I. John preached (Mark 1:4, 7)
A. The instrument of God to introduce greatest revival
B. Throngs came to hear him
C. Rugged Baptist preacher an image of Elijah the Tishbite
D. Three things he preached
1. Metanoia – repentance
2. Faith in the coming Messiah
3. Baptisma – the baptism, a token of the gospel of the remission of sinsII. The call to repentance
A. Metanoia – “a change of mind, direction” (Luke 15:18)
B. It is an inward act, commitment (Matthew 3:8, Luke 3:8, Mark 1:4)
1. Difference between metanoeo and metamelomai, “sorrow or regret” (Matthew 27:3-5)
D. Difference between repentance and reformation (Matthew 12:43-45)III. Repentance
A. It is a gift of God (Acts 11:18)
B. The call addressed to every man (Luke 9:29-30, Matthew 3:9, 21:25-32, Romans 3:10)
C. An answer is required (2 Samuel 24:13, Mark 1:15)