Today let’s look at John 1:29-34. In these verses we see day two of John’s narrative about the first week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. On day two John the Baptist was doing what he did, baptizing people with water, when he saw Jesus walking by. Now remember, just the day before, the Levites had come to John the Baptist (J.B.) to ask him if he was Elijah. J.B. had been a little cagey with them saying he in essence that he wasn’t physically Elijah when in fact he was fulfilling the role of Elijah. J.B. still pointed out that he was the one whom prophecy foretold would come before the Messiah as the voice crying in the wilderness. He told them that there was one coming after him that was far greater than anyone else.
So here J.B. sees Jesus and he says “Here is the Lamb of God”. Now remember also that the Jews were waiting eagerly for the Lion of God to come and smite the Romans and elevate them above the rest of the world. They didn’t want a lamb; they wanted a lion. J.B.’s titling Jesus “Lamb of God” was meant to remind them of God providing the sacrifice so Abraham would not kill Isaac, and of the Passover lamb. Both episodes were scriptural instances where God caused death to Passover the condemned through a substitute sacrifice.
Now J.B. baptized with water, and the Jews of the day understood that purification by water was a symbolic act of cleansing one’s self of sin. Again, this was a symbolic act of physical purification suggesting a repentance of sin that lead to spiritual purification. In today’s verses the point J.B. is making is that while his baptism is symbolic, the baptism Jesus offers is the real deal. Baptism by water is only symbolic, it does not take away sin. Jesus takes away the sin of the world and brings the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is real purification.
I am a Christian, a follower of the way, who worships with a local body of believers under the Southern Baptist practice of faith. While I understand how and why we got to this point of so many denominations, it does break my heart that there is so much division within the body of Christ. That said, I do appreciate the Southern Baptist approach to baptism which is to make perfectly clear that baptism does not save you. Jesus Christ saves; not some powerless wet stuff. We are called to be baptized, and Southern Baptists practice full immersion, but the act of baptism is an act of obedience and a public profession of faith. Jesus said that those who come to Him should be baptized; case closed, we are to be baptized. Baptism, however, is a still a symbolic act. Under water we are pictured as dead in our sins. Raised from the water we are a picture of new life in Christ.
Baptism by water is important but it is secondary to salvation in Jesus Christ; it is secondary to baptism with the Holy Spirit. I don’t care how many times you are dunked, or the quality of the words said over you when you are dunked, If you have not truly repented of your sins, confessed those sins to God, asked for forgiveness for those sins, and then submitted your life to the authority of Jesus Christ, you are just all wet – nothing more. John the Baptist knew this and said as much. If you have never been baptized by the Holy Spirit it is time to submit your life to Christ. Don’t wait. This life is so short and eternity so long.