“Why baptizest thou?” John 1:25


            John the Baptist was the first Baptist preacher in the world, the first immerser of men in the name of Christ. That is what his title, “Baptist,” means — Immerser. Just as Isaiah had prophesied, John appeared in the wilderness, preaching Christ, calling sinners to repentance, because the Messiah, the Christ had come, and the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Multitudes heard him and were moved to repentance by the Spirit of God, and being converted by the grace of God, John immersed them in the Jordan River. All of this caused no small stir among the people and no small disturbance among the religious elite in Jerusalem. So the priests and Levites asked John, “Why baptizest thou?” That is a question every preacher ought to be required to answer. I will give you my answer to it directly from the Word of God.


      The question I am answering is not, “How do you baptize?” It is, “Why?” There can be no question about how baptism is performed. Baptism is immersion. Anything else (sprinkling, pouring, etc.) is not baptism. — “Why baptizest thou?” John answered…“I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not.”


      The word “with” in our King James version is a very, very poor translation. The Greek word “en” is a preposition indicating position. John did not say, “I baptize with water.” He said, “I baptize in water.” There is a huge difference. Before I show you the answers given in the New Testament to this question, “Why baptizest thou?” I call your attention to the fact that John immediately focuses our attention, not on the ordinance, but upon the Savior (vv. 26-28), because the ordinance is meaningless apart from the Savior. “Christ is all,” not baptism, not the church, not you, and not me. In all things, he must have the preeminence!


            “Why baptizest thou?” Countless heretics answer, “We baptize because baptism is a means of regeneration.” Many who deplore such an heretical statement as that answer, “We baptize because it is a sacrament, by which grace is conferred upon the one baptized.” Others answer, “Baptism seals the one baptized in the covenant of grace.” But such answers are all without the slightest foundation in Holy Scripture.


            Does the Word of God give us specific answers to this question, — “Why baptizest thou?” Yes, it does. In fact it gives us four specific answers.


Christ’s Command


(1.) We baptize believers upon their profession of faith in Christ, because our Lord commands it (Matthew 28:19). We do not immerse infants, let alone slosh a little water on their faces and call it baptism, because our Lord specifically forbids it, requiring that before any are baptized they must personally believe (Acts 8:37).


Righteousness Fulfilled


(2.) By baptism we show how all righteousness was fulfilled for us by the obedi-



ence of Christ, our Substitute, unto death (Matthew3:15). Baptism itself does not fulfill righteousness, but it does portray it. Being buried in and rising from the watery grave, we attest that righteousness was fulfilled by our Redeemer’s death, burial and resurrection.


Sins Washed Away


(3.) In believer’s baptism the child of God shows, by vivid symbolism, how his sins were washed away by the sin-atoning death of Christ, that we might receive the Spirit of life (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Galatians 3:13-14). Any fool, who is not deluded with false religion, knows that water cannot wash away sin. The believer, by his baptism, testifies to the world that his sins were washed away by the sin-atoning sacrifice of Christ, his Substitute.


Avowed Commitment


(4.) By baptism, the believer publicly identifies himself with Christ, his people and his gospel, and publicly avows his commitment to his Lord. As we have been raised together with Christ representatively (Ephesians 2:5-6) and raised from spiritual death to spiritual life in Christ by the power of his grace (John 5:25), we rise up out of the waters of baptism declaring to all the world that we will henceforth walk with our Lord in the newness of life (Romans 6:1-7).





Don Fortner



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