Fireside: Baptizing John the Baptist

“John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”

Mark 1:4

Heralding the arrival of the Son of God, his earthly cousin, John began a prophetic ministry. He fulfilled Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 (“the prophets” of Mark 1:2) as well as many other parts of the Old Testament, including Malachi 4, Zechariah 4, and the pattern of 2 Kings 2. His ministry of preparing Christ’s way through immersion in water gave him the title of John, the Baptist.

Many were baptized by his own hand in the Jordan River. Jews were baptized, Romans were baptized, publicans were baptized. Why, even the Lord Jesus was baptized. (Luke 3:10-22)

But who baptized John the Baptist?

No man’s hand laid on his shoulder to dip him into the water. No man’s preaching brought him to a place of repentance. He followed no pattern, he set his own. He was ordered by no method, he instituted one. He was a mold broken before birth, unlike any other who would be born of man in this world. He was mocked and modeled, revered and ridiculed, with a unique calling and an unusual legacy:

He was an unbaptized Baptist!

A 21st century Baptist bears slim resemblance to the camel-wearing, locust-eating, John. Though we have taken his title- as payment for being anabaptists (rebaptizers)- we often forget the privilege behind the name.

The Baptist Preemptive

The Baptists have a preemptive ministry. Whereas John preached the first coming of the Messiah, we preach the second. His opening word, “Prepare” (Mark 1:3), mirrors our mission: “We preach, warning every man” (Colossians 1:28a). We are running against time to get people ready for the Lord to show up.

  • We beckon: “Answer the call to the foreign field!” when we have never been missionaries ourselves.
  • We reprove sin, calling people to cast of their weights of vice, though we struggle with sins ourselves.
  • We encourage the cultivation of the virtues of longsuffering, meekness, temperance, and such like, despite not having the same fruit in our own life.
  • We preach purity of body and mind, though some of us lost that battle years ago, and cannot speak from ‘holy ground.’

Are we hypocrites? Indeed no, there is no two-facedness with us. We WANT holiness, and we want more of it.

We are simply calling for evidences of faith that we ourselves do not have yet. We, unbaptized, preach the baptism of repentance, renewal, and responsibility. Having never experienced these blessings, we labor so that others may.

The world wants the Baptist to shut up. The lost are full of ’empathetical/you-don’t-know-what-it’s-like’ excuses.

Baptists ought to hold their heritage more serious and honorable in defiance. Nobody baptized John the Baptist, and I believe no one had to (see 2 Kings 5).

Those John baptized in his short, 31-year life went on to do greater and mightier things than he ever would. Many followers of Christ owed their entire apostolic ministries to that unusual man. Because one man called them down to a muddy riverbank and compelled them to do what a Baptist had never done before.

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