John's Baptism

What is it?

John suddenly bursts on the scene, a prophet sent by God after a period of silence. His message was one of repentance. Matthew records that he said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 3:2) John is in Judea and he is preaching to the Jews - God's people. The populace were hungry for God's word, expectant, and they rushed out to meet him.

John Piper commenting on John's ministry says this: "He called for the Jews to admit that they were sinners and needed to get right with God, and to admit that being a Jew was no guarantee of being saved. In other words, baptism was a sign that they were renouncing their old dependency on ethnic Jewishness and were relying wholly on the mercy of God to forgive those who confess their sins and repent". This is evidenced in Matthews account of John, where he confronts the Pharisees. (Matthew 3:7-10) Baptism is John's new sign of belonging of the true people of God, based on repentance and faith.

I want to start by saying a few things about baptism in general, this is by no means a full discourse on the subject. The first thing to say is that baptism isn't something invented by the church. It started with John, and was continued by Jesus and his disciples (John 4:1-2) After the resurrection, Jesus gave specific instructions to the disciples to "go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19) So baptism isn't invented by man or the church as an add on. It is an ongoing command of the Lord Jesus Christ. The book of the Acts of the Apostles records their ongoing ministry, and wherever you read of those believing and coming to Christ, you also read of baptism, the two go hand in hand.

Notice that John's baptism went hand in hand with repentance over sins. Repentance can be simply defined as a turning away from sin and self, and instead, looking to God for forgiveness and salvation. Repentance is the conviction of guilt before God and the awareness that we are stained and in need of cleansing. Baptism symbolised this cleansing on the outside. It was a visible statement of their heart's condition. In this John prepared the people for the coming of the promised Messiah, he says "After me comes he who is mightier than I.... I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit." (Mark 1:7-8) John's baptism could not cleanse a person of their sin. It pointed forward to Christ. Jesus' baptism is greater, in that it washes on the inside, and cleanses us from all guilt and the consequences of sin. Believers are also gifted the person of the Holy Spirit who takes up residence in the heart.

The River Jordan

The next thing we can see is that John's baptism took place in the river Jordan. It wasn't at the synagogue, nor the temple. Being made "clean" by washing was not a new concept. However, John called for the whole body to be washed, or immersed in water. There was ample water available at the synagogues and the temple, but that was mainly for the washing of hands. John was showing them that the whole person needed to be washed. He didn't just stand on the shore and sprinkle a few drops of water on them! It was necessary to be fully immersed. Jesus too was baptised by John, and we read "when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descend upon him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased." (Mark 1:10) This clearly demonstrates that Jesus went under the water and that he came up out of the water! It also shows the importance of baptism, as it was approved by the Spirit and the Father. In being baptised, Jesus was identifying with us, showing us its importance, and the need of every confessing Christain to be baptised. It has to be said too, that John baptised only those old enough to realise their sin, and dependence upon God for being saved. Only confessing adults were baptised by John.

John's baptism fits in with all of the rest of the New Testament. Baptism is the outward sign of belonging to the new people of God who are constituted not by birth or ethnic identity, but by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus shows us that the way of salvation rests solely upon repentance and faith in him, and not ethnic identity, or birth to Christian parents. God calls you today, as individuals, no matter who your parents are, and no matter what ritual you received as an infant. God calls everyone today to repent and believe on Christ alone for salvation and to receive the new sign of the new covenant of the people of God: the sign of repentance and faith - baptism.

After all, baptism is a command of Jesus. Don't you wish to follow him? I remember being baptised aged 21 with an old man who could hardly walk! He had been a Christian for many years but had never realised the importance of believers baptism. He couldn't wait to follow and obey his master, he was so eager he went into the pool with his slipper on before we could do anything about it!

I hope this is an encouragement and a challenge. I call on every one of you who has not followed Christ in this way to "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." (Acts 2:38) This is the call and will of God for every believer. 


A Gracious and Compassionate God Daniel Timmer

In this stimulating biblical–theological study, Daniel Timmer examines the book’s historical backgrounds (in both Israel and Assyria), discusses the biblical text in detail, and pays special attention to redemptive history and its Christocentric orientation. 

Something must be Known & Felt Stuart Olyott

In true Christianity God’s revealed truth is believed, it is lived out, and it is felt. It impacts the soul. If we forget this we will eventually lose biblical religion altogether.

Respectable Sins Jerry Bridges

Have Christians become so preoccupied with “major” sins that we have lost sight of our need to deal with more subtle sins?  

Navpress author Jerry Bridges addresses the “acceptable” sins that we tend to tolerate in ourselves, including pride and anger. He goes to the heart of the matter, exploring our feelings of shame and grief and opening a new door to God’s forgiveness and grace.

The Bruised Reed Richard Sibbes

‘I shall never cease to be grateful to..Richard Sibbes who was balm to my soul at a period in my life when I was overworked and badly overtired, and therefore subject in an unusual manner to the onslaughts of the devil..I found at that time that Richard Sibbes, who was known in London in the early seventeenth century as “The Heavenly Doctor Sibbes” was an unfailing remedy.. The Bruised Reed.. quietened, soothed, comforted, encouraged and healed me.’

And they crucified Him Alun Ebenezer

Does something deep inside your heart long to break free from the status quo? Are you hungry for an authentic faith that addresses the problems of our world with tangible, even radical, solutions? 

ESV Study Bible Highly Recommended

The ESV Study Bible, Personal Size compresses all the features of the award-winning ESV Study Bible into a smaller size for easier carrying.


Pastor Gerard Hemmings Amyand Park Chapel

Gerard Hemmings was born in London and was raised a Roman Catholic. He was saved at the age of 17. He graduated from university with a degree in Biology.

Grace to you By John MacArthur

This powerful broadcast will boost your spiritual growth by helping you understand and apply God's Word to your life and the life of your family and church.

Truth For Life Alistair Begg

Truth For Life is the Bible-teaching ministry of Alistair Begg. The ministry's mission is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance so that unbelievers will be converted, believers will be established and local churches will be strengthened.

Dr. Steven J. Lawson Sermon Audio

The latest podcast feed searching 'Dr. Steven J. Lawson' on

Feed your soul daily on...


Born Again

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3)

Seeking after God

"You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13

What is salvation?

What is true salvation? What does it look like to be in a right relationship with God, our Creator so that I can call him God my Redeemer?

I am the way, the truth, and the life

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

Jesus says, I am the Resurrection and the Life

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25)

Contact us or ask a question

Amyand Park Chapel, Amyand Park Road, Twickenham, Middlesex, TW1 3HY

Sunday Services at 11am and 6:30pm