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JOHN’S BAPTISM VERSUS GOSPEL BAPTISM

(Matthew 3:5-17; Acts 18:25; Acts 19:1-7)

What was there about the baptism of John the Baptist wherewith he baptized those who came unto him truly repenting, that made it incomplete so that Paul had to baptize anew those who came unto the latter having previously been baptized by the former? John’s baptism was not recognized by the apostle as having been gospel baptism. Why not?

Those baptized by Paul as cited in Acts 19:6, and upon whom he afterward laid his hands, received gifts of tongues and of prophecy. No such gifts came upon John’s disciples following his baptism of them. When Jesus was baptized by John, the Holy Ghost came manifestly upon Him. The Holy Ghost did not come upon any others whom John baptized. The Holy Ghost did not come upon those whom John baptized as it afterward did upon the apostles at Pentecost and upon those whom the apostles baptized at that later time. The same measure of understanding and of ability for gospel service was not given to John’s disciples as was given to those who were baptized after the resurrection and the ascension of Christ. That the disciples of John had the Holy Spirit is evident. They could not have repented otherwise. It is equally evident, however, that they did not have the “gift of the Holy Ghost”. Having the Holy Ghost and having the “gift” which the Holy Ghost only can give, is a distinction though not a difference. The gift which the Holy Ghost gives to those baptized by Him in this age of grace is the ability to minister in the sanctuary of God, the ability to discern Spiritual things, which ability carries with it the enabling power to rightly divide the word of truth. Those baptized by John prior to the exit of the Old Testament order of things did not have this ability.

John’s baptism was anticipatory: looking toward redemption and the kingdom of heaven. Gospel baptism is retrospective: the result of redemption having been accomplished and of everlasting righteousness brought in. Thus, John’s disciples were looking for the Messiah to come to inaugurate the kingdom. Their knowledge was incomplete, owing to the fact that they did not know that the Messiah for whom they were looking was the Jesus who had been crucified. Apollos was an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, which means that he knew and could set forth the Scriptures of the Old Testament. The New Testament had not then been committed to writing. He was fervent in the spirit and taught diligently the things of the Lord, all from the Old Testament standpoint; but he was short on knowledge. His deficiency in this direction was made up to him by Aquila and Priscilla who were graciously enabled to open his eyes to the things he had not before seen. This that he had not before understood was that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ of whom he had been preaching, the Messiah for whom all Israel had been looking but in whom all Israel did not believe. When he understood this, such understanding rounded out Apollos’ ministry and made his service to the church more efficient than it had before been. And when others of John’s disciples were given similar insight into this great truth: that the expected Messiah was none other than the Christ whom they had crucified, then they, too, received baptism in the name of this crucified and risen One and afterwards received gifts by the laying on of the apostles’ hands.

John baptized with water only. Christ baptizes His own with the Holy Ghost, and will eventually baptize the wicked with the fire of everlasting destruction from the presence of God.

John himself alone baptized, his disciples did not baptize.

Christ baptized nobody with water, but His disciples did.

John baptized unto repentance in that those who came to him did thereby separate themselves from the pollutions of that day and time. Gospel baptism is because of the remission of sins by the sacrifice of Christ and is the outward sign of the inward grace of regeneration(that is, the process and accomplishment of the Spiritual birth---hs 8/11/2014).

John’s baptism was a confession of sin and an acknowledgment of its just penalty, death. Gospel baptism is a confession of salvation from sin and from death, through the resurrection.

John’s baptism was legal in its aspect, being under the law dispensation. Gospel baptism is gracious in its character and belongs to the age of grace.

John baptized in Jordan only, nowhere else. Gospel baptism can be administered by a proper administrator to a proper subject in any stream or pool of water anywhere.

Jordan mean “descending” and appropriately pictured forth the truth that under God’s holy law which in itself knew no mercy and which could not of itself clear the guilty, we are all by nature going down to death and the grave in obedience to the edict that went forth in the beginning upon our first parents because of their disobedience.

John came by water only. Christ came not only by water, but by blood also.

Those who came to John to be baptized, evidencing their true repentance, went down into Jordan not confessing Christ, but confessing their sins and the just penalty which their sins entailed. Thus the waters of the Jordan, not literally but confessionally, ran filthy with the unloaded sins of the people. Jesus came to Jordan not confessing any sin, he had none, but he came to fulfill righteousness. John at first forbade him baptism. John did this because he knew the baptism with which he was baptizing was a confession of sin, and he knew this Lamb of God to be spotless and without sin. Hence it seemed to John utterly inappropriate that Jesus should receive baptism at his hands. John knew further that he had need to be baptized himself and thus confess his own sins. But when Jesus told him it was appropriate that they two should fulfill righteousness, then John demurred no more. This fulfilling righteousness meant that Jesus must go down into the stream and be baptized in the burden of guilt with which the people had confessedly loaded the water. He came up out of the water having manifestly assumed His people’s sins, which sins He bore in His body all through His ministry inaugurated at His baptism, and which sins He purged away in His death on the cross by shedding of His precious blood. Thus when He began to be about thirty years of age, the age at which the Levites began their ministry, Jesus began His public ministry. His first act of that earthly service was to go down in Jordan, assume manifestly the confessed sins of His children, come up out of the water bearing those sins, and make an end of those sins in His cross and end His earthly service by dying; thereafter arising from the dead to begin His heavenly ministry upon which He fully entered at His ascension, and which ministry He is now accomplishing for His people at the right hand of God as their eternal High Priest after the order of Melchisedec, the pattern of Aaron’s priesthood having been finished.

Elder H. H. Lefferts

THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES,
MIDDLETOWN, NY
MARCH 1934, Vol. 102, No. 3