Derek Prince - The 3 Requirements Of John's Baptism
As I’ve already said, John’s baptism was into the forgiveness of sins. He was a dispensational link between the law and the prophets and between the Gospel. Jesus brings this out in Matthew 11:13, speaking about John, He says: For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. John was the end of that dispensation; he was a transitional link to a new dispensation of the grace of the Gospel. But that makes him an important man. In a sense he bisected the history of God’s people. He ended one period and initiated another. I’ve often thought myself that I haven’t fully appreciated the significance of John the Baptist. Because, the Bible doesn’t say very much about him. But all that it says is extremely significant.
Now, John’s baptism here required three things of the people who came to be baptized. Number one, it was a baptism of repentance. We dealt already with repentance. It’s not an emotion, it’s a decision. It’s coming to the end of something, turning around, facing the opposite way and going in the opposite direction. John demanded that those who came to him for baptism would meet that condition. It was first a decision, then an action. Secondly, John demanded the public confession of sins. This seems to have dropped out of the thinking of so many people in the church today. But I have learned by observation that it’s extremely powerful when God’s people are sufficiently convinced by the Holy Spirit to confess their sins.
It has been the key that has sparked various revivals in the past. Especially the Welsh Revival in 1904. It was marked by people confessing their sins. And let me say something to you, you don’t necessarily have to confess your sins in public but you do have to confess your sins. Because the only sins that God is committed to forgive, are the sins that we confess. John says in his first epistle, the other John, John the apostle: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But that sentence starts with a little word: if. If we confess our sins. If we don’t confess... we have no guarantee that God will forgive.
I’ve dealt with many, many believers over the years who have a pile of unconfessed sin behind them. Then they come for healing or for blessing and they wonder why they don’t get healed. They have a tremendous burden. David said, My sins are like a heavy burden over me. Dear friends, there are some of you here today who have a heavy burden over you because you’ve piled up sins which you haven’t confessed. Some of you would do well to get alone with God, open your hearts to the Holy Spirit and say, God, show me what I need to confess. But please remember what I’ve said, if you don’t confess you have no guarantee that God will forgive. If we confess He will forgive.
The third thing that John the Baptist demanded was evidence of a changed life. He demanded evidence that people had repented. When people came to him, who apparently had not repented, he refused to baptize them. And particularly, those were the religious people of the day, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees there, He said: The Publicans, the tax collectors and the harlots believed John and you didn’t. He said, They will go into the kingdom of heaven before you. It’s rather characteristic, it’s very hard for strongly religious people to come to grips with a new dealing of God. I’ve said sometimes when a new move comes in the church it adds a new story to the building. And then, generally speaking they put the roof on. And say, This is it, no more. And the next time the wind of God moves, the first thing He has to do is blow their roof off. They tend to be rather resentful and find it hard to move with what God is going to do next.
So, this was like the Pharisees. This is what John said to him. He was a very plain-spoken man. I once made a little study; I don’t want to go into it here, of the characteristics of people of whom it was said they were full of the Holy Spirit. The first one was John the Baptist. He was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb. Then Jesus and then Peter and then Paul and then Stephen. I made a rather frightening discovery. Most of them ended their lives as martyrs. Another thing I discovered was, they were all people of plain speech. they didn’t use nice religious language. The Holy Spirit cannot endorse anything that is woolly or muffled. He wants plain, clear speech. You listen to what John said; a lot of preachers wouldn’t talk like that today. But in Matthew 3:7-9 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism he said to them: Brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore, bear fruits worthy of repentance or answerable to a change of life. Don’t think to say of yourselves, ‘We have Abraham to our father.’ God can raise from these stones children to Abraham. It’s an amazing statement, isn’t it?
So don’t rely on your pedigree, don’t rely on your background. You have to meet God’s conditions personally. So, those are the three requirements of John’s baptism: repentance, public confession of sins and evidence of a changed life. I want to point out something here, because it applies with every place where baptism is used. It says he baptized them into repentance. But, he wouldn’t baptize them unless they had already repented. So, the baptism did not produce the repentance, it was the seal and evidence that they had repented. You’ll find this will be true of every place in which the phrase baptizes is into, is used. It’s not used to indicate that that brought them in but it’s used to indicate that’s the seal upon their being in. We’ll come to this later.