Baptism of Repentance for Remission


Baptism of Repentance for Remission

September 2nd, 1990 @ 10:50 AM

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Mark 1:4

9-2-90    10:50 a.m.


You are now part of our precious First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled, The Baptism of Repentance for the Remission of Sins.  It is an exposition of the glorious gospel message as it is presented in the beginning chapter of the Gospel of Mark: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God [Mark 1:1] . . . John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” [Mark 1:4].

The Johannine movement and the Christian movement, in God’s purview and grace, were to be one movement.  It didn’t come about that way.  I wrote my doctor’s thesis many years ago on the relationship between the movement of John the Baptist and the movement of Jesus Christ.

The John the Baptist movement continued through the generations that followed after.  Later on, in the Book of Acts, you will find disciples of John the Baptist in Ephesus, in a generation after this.  But the purpose of God was that it be one great thrust in the revelation and grace and purpose of the Lord for all humanity.  John was the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of the New Testament evangelists. Do you remember in the first chapter of the Book of Acts the qualification for an apostle was that he not only had to be a witness of the resurrection of our Lord, but he also had to be one who was baptized by John the Baptist? [Acts 1:22].

So the Gospel of Mark begins, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” [Mark 1:1].  And he introduces John, “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism,” the baptisma, “of repentance,” metanoeō, metanoia, “for,” eis, moving towards “the remission of sins” [Mark 1:4]. Twice it says here that John kerussōn, verse 4, “John preached.”  And in verse 7, “John preached” [Mark 1:4, 7], kerussōn, announcing, heralding.  You could hear him clear to Jerusalem.  He was the instrument of God to introduce the greatest revival that the nation had ever known.

The only one comparable to it would have been that of Nineveh under the prophet Jonah [Jonah 3:1-10].  A great, mighty moving of the presence of God in the nation of Israel [Mark 1:1-8]—it was a work of the Holy Spirit of God Himself from heaven.  There were no billboards on the highways or the boulevards announcing it.  There were no advertisements in the windows of the taxis in Jerusalem.  There was no one handing out leaflets and announcements on the street corners in Bethany.  There were no headlines in the daily newspapers in Jericho.

It was a great moving of the Holy Spirit of God.  And the people poured into those throngs, listening to that Baptist preacher, from every hamlet and town and place in the entire nation [Mark 1:5].  It was a literal ferment and fire from God up above.  The carpenter laid down his tools, and the fisherman folded up his nets, and the farmer thrust aside his plow, and the housewife laid aside her cooking utensils, and the student rolled up his scroll, and the Roman soldiers stacked their arms, and they went out by the uncounted multitudes to listen to the heralding, to the kerussōn, of that Baptist preacher on the banks of the Jordan River.

There he stood dressed and in the power of Elijah the Tishbite [Malachi 4:5].  Back of him in the background, Nebo, and the hills of Moab; before him and around him the pulpit and the platform of the vast wilderness; above him the blue of the Syrian sky; flying, in keeping with God’s glorious announcement, the birds of the air, his choir, his choral singing; and the vast stillness of the wilderness, the accompaniment; and the River Jordan flowing at his feet for his baptistery; and Jesus Christ, the Son of God for his text.  It was the greatest revival day the world had ever seen.  And John the Baptist preached these three things.  Number one: metanoia, “repentance” [Mark 1:4].  Number two: faith in the coming Messiah [Mark 1:3, 7].  And three, the baptisma, “the baptism” [Mark 1:8], a token of the gospel of the remission of sins.

First, that metanoia; “John did baptize in the wilderness, and kerusson the baptisma of metanoia”—the verbal metanoeō—“for the remission of sins” [Mark 1:4].  What is metanoia, translated here “repentance?”  The Greek word literally means “a change of mind.”  The Greek word for mind is nous.  And when you turn it into this subject here, metanoia, a change of mind, a change of goal, a change of purpose, a change of life, a change of direction.

I can illustrate that exactly.  What is metanoia?  You are going this way, and there are signs on that road you’re traveling that say, “This road leads to hell.  This road leads to damnation.  This road leads to fire and death.  This road leads to perdition.”  Metanoia literally means to turn around, to change your mind.  This road leads to heaven.  This road leads to God.  This road leads to glory.  This road leads to Jesus our Lord.  That’s metanoia.  It’s a change of direction.  It’s a change of mind.  It’s a change of heart and soul in life, of goal and purpose; metanoia, a change.

You have that beautifully illustrated in the first chapter of Pilgrim’s Progress.  John Bunyan wrote:

As I walk through the wilderness of this world, I lighted upon a certain place where was a den.  And I laid me down to sleep.  And while I slept, behold I dreamed a dream, and I saw a man dressed in rags.  His face was away from his house.  His back was to his house.  He had in his hand a book, and on his back a heavy burden.  And I saw, as he read the book.  And as he read, he trembled and cried with a great lamentable cry, “What shall I do?”

And that was Pilgrim’s progress, turning his back on the City of Destruction and making his pilgrimage to the City of God.  That is metanoia.

You have it again vividly illustrated in the prodigal son, seated on a fence watching the hogs eat.  He comes to himself and says, “How many hired servants in my father’s house have more to eat and to spare, and I perish here with hunger.  I will arise and go back to my father at home” [Luke 15:17-18].  That is metanoia.  That is repentance.  It’s a change of heart and purpose in life.

It is much illustrated in the Word of God.  There was a great difference in metanoia and karpos, “fruits.”  “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance” [Luke 3:8].  Fruits—you see it in how a man is, how he talks, how he lives, how he walks, how he is.  But metanoia refers to the inwardness of the man, how he is in his mind and in his heart and in his soul.  The difference between karpos and metanoia—you have it again illustrated in the difference between metanoeō and metamelomai.  It’s a strange thing how sometimes you read in the Bible—Paul in 2 Corinthians, chapter 7, plays upon those two words metanoeō and metamelomai.  Metanoeō means “a change of mind.”  Metamelomai refers to “the sorrow” or “the regret” that one falls into when he gets into trouble, when he gets into sin.  He’s in the penitentiary or he’s in all kinds of difficulty, and he’s sorry, and he regrets, and he’s full of all kinds of self accusation—metamelomai.

Now here’s what Paul writes: “For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not metamelomai, though I did metamelomai, for I perceive that the epistle hath made ye sorry.  Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to metanoia, for ye were made sorry after a godly manner.  For godly sorrow worketh metanoeō, metanoia, to salvation not to be metamelomai, not to be regretted” [2 Corinthians 7:8-10].

I believe I can illustrate those two words in the case of Judas Iscariot.  In the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Matthew, the author writes that when Judas Iscariot saw what was happening to the Lord Jesus, to be tried and to be crucified, the Bible says, “Judas repented and took his thirty pieces of silver, and cast them down, saying, ‘I betrayed innocent blood’” [Matthew 27:3-5].  Now, what does that mean “repented” there? [Matthew 27:3]. That’s metamelomai.  When he saw the dastardliness of his deed, he was full of sorrow and regret.

Now, the difference between metamelomai and metanoeō; why didn’t he go to the Lord Jesus and say, “Lord Jesus, I have sinned, and I metanoeō.  I repent.  I ask Your forgiveness.”  Had he done that, Judas Iscariot would have been saved.  That’s what happened to Simon Peter.  When Simon Peter cursed and swore that he didn’t even know the Lord Jesus [Matthew 26:69-74], he repented, metanoeō, and the Lord forgave him, and made him the great preacher of the Son of God, the gospel of grace [John 21:15-19].  Judas Iscariot metamelomai—just regret, not metanoeō, not repented in coming to God [Matthew 27:3].

May I point out one other?  There’s a great difference between “repentance” and “reformation.”  The Lord said, “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places . . . then he said, ‘I will return unto my house from whence I came out’;  and when he is come, he findeth it scholazō, empty, swept, and garnished” [Matthew 12:43-44].  The man has reformed.  “I’m not going to cuss anymore.  I’m not going to drink anymore.  I’m not going to take drugs anymore.  I’m not going to carouse anymore.  I’m going to live a clean, beautiful, excellent life.”

Then that spirit that went out of him—of drink or wickedness—“he goeth, and taketh unto himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first” [Matthew 12:45].  That’s the difference in scholazo, “reformation,” and metanoeō, “repentance.”

How many times have you seen it as I have?  Here’s a man who reforms, “I’m not going to drink anymore.”  And good night alive, it isn’t long until he’s drinking ten times as much as he ever drank in his life.  And here’s a guy that’s given up dope, and after a little while he’s back there taking crack and cocaine and the rest of that stuff more than ever in his life.  And here a fellow who is reformed and he is leading an exemplary life, and after a while there he is back again worse than he ever was.  There’s a vast difference between reformation and repentance, between scholazō and metanoeō.

Well, what is that difference?  The difference lies in the blessedness of the Lord Jesus.  True repentance leads a man to Christ.  Now may I read:

It came to pass, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper coasts and came to Ephesus, and found there certain disciples—

in Acts 19—

And Paul said unto them, Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?  And they said unto him, We do not even know whether there is such a thing as the Holy Spirit.

And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized?  And they said, Unto John’s baptism.

Then said Paul, John baptized with the baptism of repentance—metanoeō; now, what does that mean?—saying that they should believe on Him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.

And when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

[Acts 19:1-5]

True metanoeō, true repentance, will lead a man to Christ, to give his heart to the Lord Jesus, to accept Him in all of the fullness of His love and grace and forgiveness [Ephesians 1:7].  That is true repentance.

Well, when John the Baptist was preaching and baptizing, the scribes and the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the doctors of the law all came out to his preaching and to his baptism and they scorned the preaching of John.  And they looked with disdain upon the ordinance of baptism.  And they did so because they said, “We don’t need to repent; we are the children of Abraham.  We don’t need to be baptized; we are already in the covenant” [Matthew 3:7-9].

How many times do you see that in human life and experience?  “I don’t need to repent.  I don’t need to believe.  I don’t need to accept the Lord as my Savior.  I’m just as good as anybody that you know.”  And they refuse for themselves the gospel of grace and the ordinance of baptism.  That’s what the scribes and the Sadducees and the Pharisees did.  “We are the children of Abraham.  And we don’t need any metanoia, and we don’t need any baptism.”  And what John replied was, “God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham [Matthew 3:9], and you Sadducees and you Pharisees and you doctors of the law, you need to repent.  You need to confess your sins.  And you need to be baptized.”

All of us alike, all of us, red and yellow, black and white, all of us need to get right with God.  All of us need to change.  All of us need to confess our sins.  And all of us need to be baptized according to the Word of the Lord [Matthew 28:19].  That is a remarkable thing that God has given to us.  The first time that the world ever saw a man take another man and wash him was when John the Baptist did it in the River Jordan [Matthew 3:5-6].

The Jews had all kinds of washings and all kinds of submersions and all kinds of ablutions.  The ritual was full of it.  But every man did it himself.  He washed his hands.  He bathed himself.  But John the Baptist came, and he took these others, and he washed them.  He baptized them.  He immersed them [Matthew 3:5-6; Mark 1:4-5].  They had never seen that in the earth.

And here in the Bible, in the first chapter of John, those Pharisees and Sadducees come to the Baptist preacher and say, “Are you the Christ?  Are you the Messiah?”   [John 1:19-20].

And he says, “No.  I am sent to proclaim Him, to introduce Him” [John 1:23-30].

Then they say to him, “Then where did you get this new ordinance? [John 1:25].  Who gave you the authority to wash somebody else?”  First time they’d ever seen that.

And John says, “I got it from God.  The Lord God sent me to baptize.  He gave me this new ordinance that the world had never seen before” [John 1:31-33].

Isn’t it a tragedy that in these Bibles they don’t translate baptizō?  Not, there’d hardly be one out of the thousands.  The Greek word is b-a-p-t-i-z-o, and they Anglicize it: b-a-p-t-i-z-e, baptize.  Isn’t it a shame?  The word baptize comes from the Greek word baptō, baptō.  And baptō is a simple word for “dip.”  You have it in this Greek New Testament.

For example, in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Luke that man, Dives, in hell says, “O Abraham, send Lazarus that he may baptō, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am burning up in this flame”—baptō, “dip” [Luke 16:24].  Or take again Jesus says at the Lord’s Supper, “It is he who is going to betray Me to whom I give this morsel of bread dipped.”  And He dipped it in the fluid, and He gave it to Judas Iscariot [John 13:26].  In the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, John sees the blessed Lord Jesus coming in power, and He was dressed in a garment dipped—baptō—dipped in blood [Revelation 19:11-13].

Baptizō is a simple Greek word meaning “to immerse,” meaning “to submerse, dip”; baptizō.  All of Greek literature—and I have a book with the use of baptizō in every instance for one thousand five hundred years, a thousand years before Christ and five hundred years after Christ.  And every time that word is used in Greek literature, it always means the same thing.  It means “to dip, to submerge, to immerse, to baptize.”

For example, Polybius says, in his history—he lived about a hundred years before Christ, died, 125 BC.  Polybius says that a spear, if it is lost in a battle at sea, a spear is easily recovered because, he says, the iron spear, the point of it is baptizō in water; but the handle is made out of wood, and it will float and is easily recovered.  The spear is baptizō.  It is baptized.  It is submerged in water because it’s heavy.  The iron is heavy, but the wood buoys it up; just an ordinary Greek word meaning to immerse, baptize.

For example, Strabo, who was a contemporary of John—Strabo, in his geography and in his history, says that Alexander the Great was marching his army at the head of the Mediterranean Sea.  And they were marching between Mount Climax and the Mediterranean, the Pamphylian Sea.  And he says that the weather was bad, and it pushed the water up against the mountain, and he says all day long the army of Alexander the Great marched, baptizo up to their waist.  They were submerged.  They were immersed up to their waist; just an ordinary Greek word, everyday word, meaning “to submerge,” “to immerse.”

Take again Diodorus.  He was describing—he’s a historian about the same time this Bible was being written.  Diodorus says that every year there’s inundation of Egypt by the overflowing of the Nile.  And he says sometimes the overflowing of the Nile is very sudden.  It is quick.  And he says land animals are baptized and drowned, and a few of them escape to high land.  Baptized, they were drowned in the overflowing of the river.  They were immersed in the river; just an ordinary Greek word.

I remember, in my studying about Josephus, he was writing meticulously the life of Herod the Great, in Josephus’ Antiquities.  Now, Herod the Great—you have him in the Bible.  He’s the one that killed the infants in Bethlehem [Matthew 2:16].  Herod the Great was a bloodthirsty and vicious man.  He married Mariamne, the last of the Maccabees.  And the Jews adored and worshiped the Maccabees.  He married Mariamne, the princess of the Maccabees, the last in line of the Maccabees.  Well, she had a brother named Aristobulus.  He was seventeen years old, and Mariamne persuaded Herod the Great to appoint Aristobulus high priest.  And the Jews were ecstatic, a Maccabee, high priest of the nation!

And upon a day, Aristobulus, seventeen years old, was leading a procession down the streets of Jerusalem, and the people were ecstatic.  And Herod the Great stuck his head out the window to see what the commotion and what the noise and what the shouting—and he saw Aristobulus dressed in his high priest robes leading that procession.

And Herod the Great said, “I must do away with that young man.  He’s a threat to my throne.”  And here’s the way he did it.  Josephus writes, he took the family to the baths in Jericho.  And while they were there, he asked Mariamne to leave with him.  And Herod the Great and Mariamne left, and he had given instruction to his servants, “And after I leave, you take the young Aristobulus out into the middle of the pool and drown him.  Play with him and drown him.”  And they took Aristobulus, that seventeen-year-old glorious last of the Maccabees—and the language of Josephus is, “The servants took him and baptizō, baptizō, baptizō.”  They submerged him.  They immersed him, playing with him, and so drowned him there in Jericho.

May I take just one other out of a thousand instances?  When you hold that Bible in your hand, the apostles of the New Testament had the Septuagint, the Greek Bible; they were preaching to the Greek world.  They had a Greek Bible called the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew into the Greek—the Septuagint.  And in the fifth chapter of the Second Book of Kings, it describes that marvelous miracle to Naaman, the captain of the host of the king of Syria, Ben-Hadad.  And the prophet had said to him, “You go wash yourself, dip yourself in the Jordan River seven times, and your flesh will come again.  You will be clean” [2 Kings 5:10].

And he went down to the Jordan River, and the Bible says, “And he”—the King James Version translates it: “he dipped himself” [2 Kings 5:14].  The Greek is, he baptizō himself.  He baptized himself, one time, and two, and six.  And when he baptized himself the seventh time, his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean [2 Kings 5:14]; just a plain Greek word, baptizō, “to immerse,” “to immerse,” “to submerge.”  As the Bible says, we are buried with our Lord in the likeness of His death.  And we are raised with our Lord in the likeness of His resurrection [Romans 6:3-5].

John did preach the baptisma, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, for the saving of our souls to heaven [Mark 1:4].  And when a man is really converted and really saved, the first thing he’ll want to do, “Preacher, I want to be baptized, just as it is in the Word of God [Matthew 28:19].  I want to be baptized.”

See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?’

And Philip answered to the eunuch and said, If you believe with all your heart, you may.  And he answered saying, I believe that Jesus Christ is 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 away rejoicing.

[Acts 8:36-39]

Hallelujah!  Praise God!  That is the Book, and that is the will of God for us.  And that is my invitation to you.  Today, would you open your heart to receive the precious Lord Jesus? [Romans 10:9-13].  And as God would open a door for you, would you follow Him in that sacred, holy, beautiful ordinance of baptism? [Matthew 3:13-17]. On your screen you will find a telephone number.  Answering that number will be a godly man or a woman.  If you do not know how to accept Christ as your Savior, call that number and it will be the joy of our souls to show you how to enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Do it, and someday I will be your companion and your friend in that upper and beautiful city of God [Revelation 21:1-2], in the land of glory where Jesus awaits those who have found trust and happiness and forgiveness of sins in Him [John 14:1-3].

And to the great throng and press of people in this sanctuary, on the first note of the first stanza, come.  “Today, pastor, I am accepting Jesus as my Savior” [Ephesians 2:8].  Or, “I am bringing my family into the kingdom and into the fellowship of the church of God.”  Or, “I am coming to be baptized” [Matthew 28:19].  As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life [Romans 10:9-13].  Make it now.  Do it now while we stand and while we sing.