The Baptisms of Jesus and John
March 15th, 1987 @ 10:50 AM
THE BAPTISM OF JESUS AND JOHN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-15-87 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Baptism of Jesus and John. In our preaching through the Book of John, last Sunday we began in the fourth chapter, and I preached on a little aside, kind of, in the life our Lord: And He Must Needs Go Through Samaria. No orthodox Jew would put his foot in Samaria. They crossed the Jordan River into Perea, walked up on the other side, then recrossed the Jordan Valley, but they would not go through Samaria. But the sermon last Sunday, Jesus is different; He not only went through Samaria, He preached the gospel to those people and personally won that scarlet woman of Sychar to the Lord [John 4:4-42].
Then I began to turn over in my heart the latter part of the previous chapter that I skipped. And the more I thought about it, the more I felt I ought not to do that. So this Sunday I have returned to the third chapter and am preaching on a little aside, a little addendum that is mentioned in the latter part of that third chapter. And as I prepared the sermon this week, it was so long, I had to divide it in two. So this Sunday will be the first part of it, and next Sunday will be the second part of it. The little aside is found in the twenty-third verse of the third chapter of John [John 3:23].
The twenty-second begins: “After these things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judea; and there He tarried with them, and baptized” [John 3:22]. When you come to the fourth chapter, it says, “Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, though Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples…” [John 4:1-2]. Now the twenty-third verse, and this is that little addendum: “And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized” [John 3:23]. The little aside: “Because there was much water there”; just a little incidental addition [John 3:23].
You know, it’s a strange thing, when a man is telling the truth, he can just talk, and talk, and talk; and every syllable of what he says will fit perfectly together. He’s telling the truth. He doesn’t even have to remember what he says, just let him talk, and talk, and talk. And as he continues to speak, everything that he says—if he’s telling the truth—will fit exactly.
If a man is telling an untruth, if he’s lying, get him to talk, and to talk, and to talk; and, as he talks, there’ll be a little piece here that doesn’t fit; there’ll be a little something there that doesn’t quite enmesh. And all the way through, there’ll be little things that don’t quite affirm what he’s saying—there’s no exception to that.
So it is in the revelation of God: if what you’re doing, and what you’re preaching, is the truth of the Lord, there will be little addenda; there’ll be little asides; there’ll be little details that will affirm the truth of what God is avowing, and this is one of them.
You can’t baptize out of a tea cup; you can’t baptize out of a one-inch baptismal font; you can’t baptize with a little cup of water. “John was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there” [John 3:23]. To be baptized, you must be buried and resurrected [Romans 6:3-5]. And in that “much water” at Aenon, near to Salim, John took his stand, and there they came, and were baptized [John 3:23].
It all began in the startling appearance of this Baptist preacher. For four hundred years, there was no prophet, no voice from God. The heavens were brass and the earth was iron. God seemed to have withdrawn His revelation and His presence from His people. Four hundred years, there was no messenger from heaven sent from the presence of the great God and Creator. As a result, religion was defined in terms of formalities, and rituals, and rites. There’s no exception to that in human experience: the more you get away from God and the vibrant, viable presence of the Lord, the more you’ll find religion taking form, fashion, ritual, rule. Thus it was in Israel, and they called it the “tradition of the elders” [Matthew 15:2]. They lived according to pharisaical precepts, and rules, and rituals. And in the midst of that, there came this startling presence, like a thunderbolt out of the sky, like a voice clarion on the stagnant air. They listened to the message of this prophet from God. He seemed to have come from nowhere, like Elijah, who was hid until the time of his appearing to Israel [ 1 Kings 17:1].
This man of God, Ioannes ho baptistés, suddenly appeared with his startling message from heaven [Matthew 3:1-2]. And the electric response to his coming was indescribable. From one end of the nation to the other, they poured down into the Jordan Valley to hear this man speak the words commanded him of God [Matthew 3:5]. But the most amazing thing, as they listened and as they looked, was the new rite that he brought from God to the people [Matthew 3:6]. To him, to the preacher, it was a washing, it was a cleansing, it was a sanctification. I know that because, in the third chapter here, in their discussing it, they talked about sanctification, purification [John 3:25]. To him it was a cleansing; it was a getting ready for the messianic kingdom [Matthew 3:2] and the welcoming of the great Messiah King [Matthew 3:11-12]. But to God, when finally He revealed its meaning, it was a burial and a resurrection [Romans 6:3-5]. This man John came forward with a new rite and a new ritual that the world had never seen [Matthew 3:6, 11].
Now Israel had many “washings”; the Greek, many “baptisms.” They baptized their pots and pans. They baptized their feet, and their hands, and their heads; and sometimes, they would baptize themselves all over. They had many washings, many dippings, but always, the man did it himself. He washed his feet; he washed his hands; he washed his head; he washed his body. He baptized himself; he cleansed himself. The first time the world ever saw one man take another man and wash him, baptize him, dip him, was when John the Baptist did it in the Jordan River [John 1:28]. That’s why they called him Ioannes ho baptistés. There were many Johns who lived in that day; as there are many Johns who live in this day, many Johns seated in this auditorium. But this is one who baptized: Ioannes ho baptistés, the one who baptizes. They’d never seen the ritual before.
There came, therefore, a committee from the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. They were composed of Sadducees, and Pharisees, and scribes, and Levites, and priests. They represented all Judaism. And they, in a formal committee, came to this John down there in the Jordan River, and they said, “Who are you and where do you come from? Are you the Christ, the Messiah?”
And he said: “No!” [John 1:19-20]
“Are you Elijah?
“No!” [John 1:21]
“Are you that Prophet Moses who said, ‘After me, God will raise up a Prophet’ like unto him, “and Him shall you hear.’ [Deuteronomy 18:15] Are you that Prophet?”
And he said, “No!” [John 1:21]
Then they said, “By what right, and by what prerogative, and by what authority do you introduce this new rite, this baptism? Where did you get it, and where does it come from?” [John 1:24-25]
And John replied, “I got it from heaven. He that sent me to baptize: God in heaven!” [John 1:33].
And in the twenty-first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, our Lord affirmed that avowal; He said the baptism of John came from heaven [Matthew 21:25]. It is a rite, a ritual, a form that God gave to us from His own divine wisdom and commandment [Matthew 28:19]. And that rite and ritual was incorporated from the beginning in the Christian message, in the Christian dispensation, in the messianic kingdom [Matthew 3:5-6; Mark 1:4-5; Luke 3:3, 21-22].
In the third chapter, Jesus is baptizing [John 3:22]. In the fourth chapter, He is baptizing more converts than John, though He Himself did not do it, His disciples did it [John 4:1-2]. In the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Matthew, the closing Great Commission in Matthew, that baptismal commandment is in the heart of it: “Go ye therefore, make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” [Matthew 28:19]. And the apostles faithfully carried that through. There is no instance ever in the New Testament of anyone ever coming into the faith, and knowledge, and commitment of Christ but who was baptized; nor is there any exception through the centuries of the Christian faith.
In the second chapter of the Book of Acts, the great Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit of God: “Then they that gladly received His word were baptized: and there was added that day to the church three thousand souls” [Acts 2:41]. In the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, God has sent Philip, the deacon, the evangelist, on a lonely road in Gaza [Acts 8:26-28]. And as he stands there waiting, “Why the word of the Lord?” there drives by this Ethiopian treasurer, and the Spirit says, “Join yourself to that chariot” [Acts 8:29]. And he preaches unto him Jesus [Acts 8:35]. And as they proceed on their way, they come unto a certain water: and that eunuch says to Philip, the evangelist, “Look, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” [Acts 8:36].
The first moving of the Spirit of God in the heart of a man who has accepted Christ always is, “I want to be baptized.”
See, here is water; what doth hinder me from being baptized?
And Philip answered and said, If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he said, I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, my Savior.
And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way praising God, rejoicing.
In the next chapter: when the risen Lord appears to Saul of Tarsus, on his way to Damascus to hale into court those that called upon that name, there appeared above the brightness of the sun the immortalized, glorified, resurrected, transfigured Son of God Himself, above the brightness of the sun [Acts 9:1-6]. And in the blindness of that glory, he was led by the hand into Damascus. And Ananias, a saintly man of Christ, came to him, prayed for him, opened his eyes and said: “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, be baptized, wash thy sins away, calling upon the name of the Lord” [Acts 9:8-18, 22:12-16].
In the next chapter, chapter 10, while Simon Peter, under the direction of God Himself, preaches the message of salvation to the Gentiles [Acts 10:34-43]—not Jews now, Gentiles—the Holy Spirit came upon those who listened to his word [Acts 10:44]. And Simon Peter says: “Can any forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Spirit as have we?” [Acts 10:47]. And they were baptized into the faith and into the family of God [Acts 10:48].
Thus, through the years, and the passing of the years, and finally to my family; my family was baptized, and finally to me; I was baptized upon that confession of faith in the Lord Jesus. It is an open, and unashamed, and public avowal and commitment of our lives, and our souls, and our hopes to the Lord Jesus. It is that! And we are saved in that commitment.
In the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans, Paul discusses: “We are baptized into His death, and raised in the likeness of His resurrection” [Romans 6:3-5]. In the tenth chapter of that same wonderful treatise of Romans:
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart one believeth unto a God-kind of righteousness; and with the mouth open confession is made unto salvation.
[Romans 10:9, 10]
In that open commitment and confession and affirmation, baptism is the great token that we have accepted the Lord; that we have died to the world in Him; and that we have been raised to a new life in Christ [Romans 6:3-5]. That is God’s way, and command, and example for our entrance into the messianic kingdom of heaven.
When I was a youth, just beginning, pastoring a little rural church in a little place that had one store; and the man who owned that store naturally, inadvertently, the leading citizen of the community, he had the store; he owned the store. And when anybody went to the store, they went to his store; but he was not a Christian. And it was a great handicap: this citizen in that rural community, owning the store, not a follower of our dear Savior.
Upon a day, preaching as I am here today—upon a day, preaching in the church, giving the invitation at the end of the message, down the aisle he came and gave me his hand. And he said, “Today I accept the Lord Jesus as my Savior, and I am giving you my hand in token of giving my heart to the Lord Jesus.”
I rejoiced with joy unspeakable.
Then he said, “And now, I am going back to my seat.”
In astonishment I said, “You can’t do that and be saved.”
He said to me, “I, all of my life, said I will never sit on that front seat. Never! And I will never be in that baptistery! Never!” And he said, “I’m not going to sit on that front seat, and I’m not going to be in that baptistery! I’m going back to my seat.”
And I said to him—whether it’s good theology or not—I said to him, “Sir, you go back to that seat, and you’ll go back a lost man, and face the judgment and damnation of hell! You can’t be saved and not sit here on this front seat, and not be in that baptistery, and not confess your faith before the Lord Jesus unashamedly.”
The civil war in his heart was registered in his face as he held my hand. And thank God! Thank God, praise the Lord! The Spirit of the Lord won the appeal in his heart. And he sat down on the front seat, and he made his confession of faith unashamedly before the people, and I baptized him.
It is the same thing exactly as we read in 2 Kings chapter 5 about Naaman, who was a mighty man of valor, who never lost a battle, who was the captain of the hosts of Ben-Hadad, the king of Syria, whose capital is Damascus. Wherever he went, it was a triumph. He was proud. He was victorious. He was mighty, but he was a leper—a leper! [2 Kings 5:1]. And in one of the incursions of Naaman, they had captured a little maid in Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife. Being of tender heart, the little girl said to her mistress: “Would God, would God, the mighty man was in Samaria! there is a prophet there who would heal him of his leprosy” [2 Kings 5:2-3].
And they went to him, and finally to the king: “Thus and so saith the little maid from Israel.” And Ben-Hadad laded his great general down with gold and silver and changes of raiment, and sent him to the king of Israel, Jehoram, saying: “I have therewith sent to you my great, victorious captain, that you heal him of his leprosy” [2 Kings 5:4-6].
Jehoram the king rent his clothes, saying: “Look, and see how he seeks occasion for war!” [2 Kings 5:7]. And Elisha the man of God heard that the king had rent his clothes in despair and said to him, “Send him to me. Send him to me” [2 Kings 5:8]. So Naaman came to the house of Elisha with his horses, and with his chariots, and with his retinue, and with his gold, and with his silver, and with his changes of raiment [2 Kings 5:9]. Elisha didn’t even go out to see him, didn’t even come to the door to greet him. He sent Gehazi his servant out to Naaman with the word: “You go down into the Jordan and dip yourself”—the Greek is “baptize yourself”—“seven times, and your flesh will come again, and you will be clean” [2 Kings 5:10].
And when Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, came and told Naaman that, it infuriated him. “Here I am the greatest man in Syria, and the captain of the host, and the most victorious of all the generals of Damascus; and I thought surely he would come out and call in dramatic name the God, and strike his hand over the leper, and I would be healed [2 Kings 5:11]. And here I come, and he does not even speak to me—does not even come out to greet me! And he bids me down in that dirty, muddy Jordan! Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean?” [2 Kings 5:12]. And he turned and went away in a rage [2 Kings 5:12], never so insulted in his life; the greatest man, and conqueror, and military hero in his day. And while he was furiously driving his chariot back to Damascus a leper, one of his servants in the chariot put his hand on his arm and said, “My father, my father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great and mighty thing, like conquering Ethiopia, or subduing the Sudanese, or capturing the cities of Phoenicia, or bringing to him ten thousand talents of gold, would you not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, wash, wash and be clean?” [2 Kings 5:13].
Believe, and be saved! [Acts 16:30-31]. Turn and be redeemed! [Ezekiel 33:11].
And Naaman pulled the reins of his steeds, “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” And he turned around and went down into the muddy Jordan and baptized himself: one time and two, three times and four, five times and six, and, when he came up out of the water the seventh time, “behold, his flesh returned like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean”—and he was clean! [2 Kings 5:14]
How many of uncounted thousands and multitudes of people say: “I will not be baptized. Not I. Not I. Not I: I’ll not be down there in the baptistery. I’ll not be down there below that water. I will not be baptized. I will not!” Pride and tradition; how much rather when God says, “Wash, and be clean!” [2 Kings 5:10-14; Revelation 7:14]; “Believe, and be saved!” [Acts 16:30-31]. Bow in humility, and feel the presence of the Lord God in your soul, and in your heart, and in your life.
That’s the Lord! And to bow in submission and to follow in humble obedience—to be buried with our Lord as He was buried, and to be raised with our Lord as He was raised [Romans 6:3-5]—a member of the family of God, washed, cleansed, saved, glorified. O God, why would any one hesitate when God hath made the way thus so easy, and so simple, and so plain? May we pray?
Our Lord in heaven, these things that are written in Thy Book, how beautiful and precious they are when they are incarnated in our lives; to bow, to be humble, to be obedient, to follow Thee. O God, how sweet is the way, and how dear is the promise, and how blessed is the presence; just bowing, just bending, just humbling ourselves. Wash and be clean! [2 Kings 5:10; Revelation 7:14]. Believe, and be saved [Acts 16:30-31]. Follow after and find heaven. O Lord, may that be the testimony of all in divine presence to whom the Spirit bids here with us. God bless this appeal.
And in a moment, when we stand to sing our song, to give your heart, unashamed, to the Lord Jesus; to confess Him as your Lord [Romans 10:8-13]; to come into the fellowship of His family [Hebrews 10:24-25]; to be baptized [Matthew 28:19]; welcome. The Holy Spirit bid you, come, to bring your family and be a part of the fellowship of God’s sainted people; or to answer the call of the Spirit in your hearts; in a moment when we stand to sing, make that decision now, and on the first note of the first stanza, come. It’ll be the greatest step you’ve ever made in your life. In the balcony round, down a stairway, in the throng of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I stand.”
Our Lord, grant it, without loss of one, may all in divine presence answer the call of the Spirit, accepting the Lord [Romans 10:8-13], coming in the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-25], following our wonderful Savior in baptism [Matthew 3:13-17], listening to the voice of the Spirit of God in life and heart. Thank You, Lord, for those You give us; in Thy saving, keeping, wonderful name, amen. While we stand and while we sing, make it now.