Or as he was called in the Old Days: John the Baptizer, which I think is totally awesomer.
Understanding baptism has to begin with John. Baptism isn’t mentioned until he shows up.
Matthew 3 introduces him thusly:
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
The content of his preaching was repentance, this was the big message. Repentance means to turn around and head the other way. The next verse refers to the OT prophecy that one would come to make straight the way of the Lord.
John’s job entailed cleaning Israel up for the coming of their Messiah, and that was done by repenting of their sin.
People have argued over what the “Kingdom of God” is. I think the simplest way to interpret it here is to relate it to the physical coming of Jesus Christ, the King.
Repent, the Messiah, the King of the Kingdom, is coming. Where the King is, there is the Kingdom. Clean up the Land, He’s near!
The response of the people then was:
Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
John baptized people who responded and sought out John. Notice John didn’t pursue anyone; people had to find him.
The response of those coming for baptism was confession of sins. Confession means “to say the same thing as.” They agreed with God’s revelation of what sin was, saw it in themselves, and agreed fully they were guilty and in need of forgiveness.
John told them to repent because the Kingdom was near in the person of the King. They responded by repenting! It always blows my mind when people actually do exactly what God calls them to do! Even in the Bible this is rare!
One could make the point that baptism is entirely about being washed from sin, as baptism pictures repentance and forgiveness.
The problem with summing it up there is that the next event is Jesus coming to be baptized! Obviously Jesus did not repent, nor did He need to be washed of sins. When Jesus is baptized the Spirit descends upon Him, enabling Him to begin His public ministry (Mathew 3:16).
The coming of the Spirit to minister to and equip the King for His mission is linked with baptism. The Spirit and baptism are linked. It’s more than just getting rid of sin.
So in the opening chapter on baptism in the Bible, Matthew 3, we get two ideas thrown at us:
1) Baptism has something to do with repentance and forgiveness of sins.
2) Baptism has something to do with the Holy Spirit.
Since this is the opening of the subject in the New Testament, everything else we see in the New Testament about baptism will probably have something to do with these two aspects.
Who needs baptism?
People who have sin and people who need the Spirit.
What does one need to do to be baptized?
This is the basic idea, if words mean anything, presented here and I think it’s good to keep it at the basic idea just like Matthew did and not start adding or subtracting ideas. This is how the subject is introduced.