John The Baptist, And The Fulfilling Of All Righteousness
Elder O. B. Mink
Now In Glory
“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John to be baptized of him. But John forbade Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me. And Jesus answering, said unto him, suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered Him.” (Matthew 3:13-15)
1. FIRST, WE WILL CONSIDER THE PRONOUN “US” AS USED IN THE TEXT.
Christ says to John, “It becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” John in all humility of heart, said unto Christ: “I need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?” (verse 14). John’s momentary confusion was utterly erased by the Lord’s reply unto him stated in our text. Then without any further delay or word, John baptized Jesus.
The pronoun, “us”, as found in our text may be somewhat confusing to “grace plus nothing people,” but it need not be, for John in the immediate context, in reference to Christ, says: “... He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: ... Whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:11-12). All the metaphors and all the action referred to by John in this Scripture leaves no room for a plurality of persons in the regeneration of God’s elect people, and without any further retort, John owns Jesus to be the solitary Saviour of His people.
John’s use of the metaphors “fan, wheat,garner, and chaff” would be readily understood by John’s hearers, for wheat farming in Israel dates back to Jacob, their founder (Genesis 30:14). A winnowing “fan” or fork was used in those days to separate the chaff from the wheat, and is an unmistakable reference to the gospel of Christ. The term “wheat” is a figurative reference denoting God’s elect people. A “garner” is a grain bin, the analogy of which is a reference to the Kingdom of God. The word “chaff” as used by John is a figure of speech, and refers to all who die in their sins, whose awful and eternal destiny is “unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12).
John the Baptist was “a voice crying in the wilderness” who was sent to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Matthew 3:3). While John was “a voice crying in the wilderness,” Jesus is the personification and living Word of God, and of Whom John said: “He it is, Who coming after me is preferred before me, Whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose” (John 1:27). John knew that in the redemption of God’s people there was room for only one person, and this is why he pointed away from himself, and unto Christ, saying: He is “Mightier than I” (Matthew 3:11). John was a great man, but Jesus is THE great man, and THE all sufficient and exclusive Saviour of His people (Matthew 1:21).
John’s part, wherein Christ said: “It becometh us to fulfill all righteousness” was not without vital significance. But we must remember John’s part in fulfilling all righteousness was TYPICAL, and John knew his ministry was a pictorial foretelling of the actual, or literal, which Christ would singularly accomplish by His death, burial, and resurrection, wherein and whereby the term “us” is absolutely alien, and the supposed creature assistance held by many going by the name “Baptist” is an abomination to God.
John, in baptizing Jesus, typically fulfilled all righteousness, but in actuality Jesus is the Author and Finisher of His people’s eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9). Jesus, by His crucifixion on the cross, and His resurrection from the grave perfected the salvation of His covenant people, and for their pilgrimage or
course of life on earth, they are to look “unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
John was a herald crying in the wilderness (Matthew 3:3), and the object or person of his message was the living Christ, and when John saw his Messiah, his emotions were aroused, wherein he cried out saying: “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). John knew he was looking upon the promised and personified Word of God, and he knew that his own ministry would soon reach its terminus, for he said, in reference to Jesus: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Peter said, speaking of Christ: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Sovereign grace, in the atonement of God’s people leaves no room for plus or “US”. God said, long ere John the Baptist came on the scene, “... There is no Saviour beside me” (Hosea 13:4). So, the term “us”, as used in our original text (Matthew 3:15) does not mean US-ABILITY, in the sense of redemption, but in the sense of a pictorial declaration of the gospel.
2. THE GREATNESS OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
“Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women (that is, by natural or ordinary generation) there is none greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). With this ascription by the Lord, John is accorded a particular greatness; a greatness that included the high honor of baptizing the Christ of God. No greater honor has ever been accorded man, yet John said unto Jesus: “I have need to be baptized of thee” (Matthew 3:14).
This high tribute paid John by the Lord is limited and subordinated by Christ in the words: “He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11). John was at the time imperfect, and being yet in his old nature, depraved. The seeds of doubt often arise in the heart of the most dedicated saint, and so it was with the first Baptist, John. Because of John’s faithfulness in preaching against adultery, he was arrested and locked up in Herod’s prison. John knew that his martyrdom was imminent, and so as to have full assurance of the Messiahship of Jesus, and to erase all doubt from his heart and mind, he sent two of his disciples to Jesus, asking: “Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3).
This petition of John unto Jesus may appear as a momentary lapse of faith on his part, but John’s Messiah did not rebuke him, but said to John’s inquisitors: “Go and show John again those things which you do hear and see. All manner of sickness is healed, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached unto them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me” (Matthew 11:4-6).
Beginning with John the Baptist, Christ has, all through the church age used human instrumentality in the declaration of the gospel. In this restricted aspect of the gospel, man is utterly impotent, and though he be exceedingly religious, his every overture is altogether vanity and profiteth him nothing (John 6:63). Paul says, speaking of Christ: “In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). The Psalmist knew God had a sovereign and eternal monopoly on the redemption of souls, thus it is he says: “Salvationbelongeth unto the Lord” (Psalms 3:8). So, there is never, ever a need for creature input. Nay, not even of so great a man as John the Baptist.
Salvation is not by blood, and a sacramental wafer. It is not by blood and man’s supposed free-will. Neither is it by blood and baptism, even though the baptism be administered by John the Baptist, or John the Apostle, or by a New Testament church. Scriptural baptism is vitally important, for while it is NOT essential to salvation, it is the door into the blood bought and glorious church of Jesus Christ, and it is from His virgin church Christ receives the greatest glory (Ephesians 3:21). Baptist martyrs untold have given their lives in defense of scriptural baptism, but nowhere in the ecclesiastical history of Baptists can one find where the doctrine of baptismal regeneration was ever taught, practiced, or approved of.
May God enable us to be sticklers for scriptural baptism, but let us ever keep it firmly planted in our mind that baptism is the symbolic testimony of a fact, and is not, nor can ever be the fact. Baptism is an action whereby the gospel of Christ is proclaimed, and the salvation of the penitent subject is declared. However, let us NEVER BEDIM THE GLORY OF GOD by making a sacrament out of baptism. GOD FORBID!
The working of faith is from within to that which is external. It is from the spiritual life within to the expression of it without. To reverse this order is to take the work of regeneration from the Holy Spirit, and give to a church or a preacher, whereby vain man becomes the author of his salvation. Such a teaching and practice is despicable in the eyes of God, and is soul damaging to all deceived thereby.
3. THE COMMISSION TO “FULFILL ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS” WAS GIVEN TO THE CHURCH, BY HER HEAD, JESUS CHRIST
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway,even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20).
In these words the Lord gives His church the age long commission of fulfilling all righteousness, and this great and glorious commission is accomplished by preaching the gospel and baptizing believers. It is the baptism of those whom God has been pleased to give faith, and it is never administered in order to make believers. In the Book of Acts, chapter eight, Philip preached Jesus unto the Eunuch, and the Eunuch implored Philip, saying: “… What doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And they both went down into the water, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:37-38).
Regeneration is realized by the planting of eternal life within by the Holy Spirit, and is manifested without by scriptural baptism. In the exercise of faith it is always from the spiritual to the material. The emblems of the Lord’s Supper (bread and wine) are a material manifestation of a spiritual and glorious truth. That is, an emblematic showing of the Lord’s death till He comes (I Corinthians 11:26).
Romanism and Protestantism have reversed this order by starting with the outward or external, and by it, claim to create the internal; that is, salvation or regeneration. In their supposed reversal of the Divine order, they make man to be the author and finisher of his salvation, and the fulfiller of the righteousness demanded by the Lord. Simply, they rob God of His glory in this awesome, eternal, and indispensable matter. Our hearts should ever be filled with gratitude toward God for the glorious ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but let us ever remember, as glorious as these ordinances are, they are EMBLEMATIC, NOT CLIMACTIC!
The commission to evangelize the world was given to the local church(es), and not to an official Convention, Association, or Mission Board. Baptismal authority was irrevocably given to each and every New Testament Baptist church, and any usurpation of that authority negates the officiality of the guilty church, and robs that particular church of its autonomy, and ability to fulfill all righteousness.
Baptist need to ever remember that John’s commission to baptize was no more from heaven than the commission which Christ gave to all of His churches (Matthew 28:18-20). Therefore, it is incumbent upon the local church to make disciples in every nation, kindred, and tongue, thereby declaring the fulfilling of all righteousness by Christ the Lord. The purpose of the ordinance of baptism is to pictorially manifest the atonement which Christ made in behalf of His people, wherein He fulfilled all righteousness, and whereby Divine satisfaction was fully and forever realized.
Jesus, speaking of John the Baptist, said unto the multitudes, “What went ye out to see? A reed shaken in the wind? But what went ye out to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear softclothing are in kings houses. But what went ye out to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet” (Matthew 11:7-9). Of all the great men we read of in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, none but John was more than a Prophet.
John the Baptist was more than a Prophet in the sense he was a living fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy referring directly to him (Isaiah 40:3; Mark 1:1-5). He was more than a Prophet in the sense he was used of the Lord to introduce the Christian dispensation (John 1:29-33). He was more than a Prophet owing to the fact he was appointed of God to baptize Jesus (Matthew 3:14-15). He is more than a Prophet in that his baptism of Jesus was irrevocably passed on to the church, for Jesus is the Head of the church, of which every member had the baptism of John. The church that Jesus started recognized the authority of John’s baptism, and owned it’s essentialness for the apostolic office (Act 1:21-22). John was more than a Prophet in that he was the first to preach the gospel of Christ, and make faith and repentance qualifying predicates for baptism (Mark 1:1-4).
The Old Testament Prophets of the Lord were great, and many suffered martyrdom for the cause of God (I Kings 18:4; Nehemiah 9:26), but none had the particular honor of meeting their Messiah in His corporeality, nor did any of them have the privilege of baptizing their all glorious Lord. The honor of initially preaching the gospel of Christ, and introducing Him as The Lamb of God was reserved for John. It was the sum of all these honors that made John more than a Prophet, and his responsibility and privilege was in some degree more than his esteemed and prophetic predecessors.
The angel of the Lord, speaking of Jesus, said: “He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21), and it has pleased the Lord to use His church(es) to accomplish this all glorious end by preaching the gospel of Christ by word, and faithful observance of the ordinances, both of which are vivid declarations of the gospel.
Church decorum and worship is to be based on the doctrine, practice, and principles of the original and primitive churches, and that without deviation, for there are not approximations with God. Thus it is He says: “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (I Corinthians 5:6;Galatians 5:9). Simply, God is not pleased with anything that is not in accord with His inspired word. “... If they speak not according to this word,it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Clearly, God is not pleased with teaching or practice that is not perfect in righteousness.
The sum of their ecclesiastical exercise consisted in preaching, teaching, praying, and singing. The ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper were and are integral parts of the teaching ministry of the local church, for both ordinances are candid photographs of the fulfilling of all righteousness by Jesus Christ, their governmental Head, Redeemer, and Perpetuator (Ephesians 1:7, 22; Matthew 28:20). The ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper were restricted to the administration of the local church, and thus it is with contemporary New Testament Baptist churches. Each and every baptism performed with the intent of bestowing salvation to the person upon whom it is administered is a fearful and damnable denial of the fulfilling of all righteousness by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
There is no greater or more damning heresy than the doctrine of baptismal salvation, for it blacks out the redeeming glory of God by substituting water for the blood of Christ, and provides false comfort to all that are deceived thereby. Salvation is by grace PLUS NOTHING, and every effort at creature input is a nefarious negation of the unmerited favor of God in salvation. This dangerous and God defying doctrine has for its author none other than the believer’s arch adversary, the devil. BEWARE!
The autonomy of the local church is underwritten by the supreme and irrefutable court of heaven, and is never to be compromised, regardless of the circumstances. Baptist ecclesiology acknowledges and practices the four (4) prerequisites which are essential to scriptural baptism, and they are exceedingly diligent in ascertaining that the aforementioned prerequisites are in place before the ordinance is administered. So as not to be derelict in duty, I will at this appropriate juncture mention the four prerequisites which constitute valid baptism.
1. FIRST, there MUST be aproper candidate. That is, a born again person, and not in order to be saved, but to declare his / her faith in the finished work of Christ, whereby He fulfilled all righteousness.
2. SECONDLY, there MUST be the exercise of proper authority; that is, a New Testament Baptist church. The pastor or preacher does not in their own authority baptize, for they know the baptismal ordinance belongs to the local church, and not to ANY MAN since John the Baptist.
3. THIRDLY, there MUST be a proper mode; that is complete immersion of the candidate’s body in water. THERE IS NOT the least degree or parallel between immersion and sprinkling; they are antithetical terms wherein one excludes the other, and sprinkling can NEVER satisfy the need for baptism.
4. FOURTHLY, there MUST be proper motive. The motive being to declare the faith of the baptizee in the finished work of Christ, whereby He redeemed His people. It should be the quench less motive of every saved person to declare the glorious gospel of Christ, and the initial realization of this God honoring desire is scriptural baptism, whereby the gospel is gloriously declared by a picture reproduction of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
Immersion which omits either of the four prerequisites delineated above in NOT scriptural baptism, and sprinkling which is in every case utterly void of at least three of the four essentials which constitute scriptural baptism cannot be but a glaring and pathetic fallacy.
John the Baptist was a man sent from God to baptize all who came to him in true faith, and from the demise of John until the climax of the age it has been A BAPTIST CHURCH SENT FROM GOD to declare the fulfilling of all righteousness by Jesus Christ, and to baptize all who come to them with faith in the Lordship and Saviourhood of Jesus Christ.
4. JOHN’S BAPTISM WAS A BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching ..., and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:1-2). John made much of baptism, but he never made it essential to salvation, but incessantly connected it to discipleship (John 1:36-37). Baptism is the door into the Lord’s church, and to be a faithful disciple of Christ, oneMUST be in the glorious church purchased by the sacrificial blood of Christ (Acts 20:28).
“And John came ... preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Luke 3:3). This Scripture has been misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misapplied. Some have reversed the meaning, and have thereby made the remission of sins the product of baptism. This is a dangerous distortion of the truth, and is a damnable heresy that should be steadfastly opposed and refuted. Let us not make an idol of baptism, and worship the ordinance instead of the Person Whom it pictures.
Baptism is of great significance. It is the outward and graphic sign of an inward action wrought by the Holy Spirit upon the soul, whereby repentance and faith are freely given. It is the indispensable gifts of repentance and faith that qualifies the recipient for baptism and this order canNEVER be successfully reversed. As glorious and wonderful as baptism is, it can never in truth be substituted for, or be put on a par with the sacrificial and atoning blood of Christ, for “Without shedding of blood in NO remission” (Hebrews 9:22). The thief on the cross at the right hand of Christ was never baptized, but he shall ever be a resident of heaven, for he was granted repentance and faith (Luke 23:43).
The sacrifice of Christ upon the cross of Calvary effectually atoned for the sins of God’s elect people, and their election is made manifest by the gifts of repentance and faith which their Benefactor purchased for them as their Substitute under the curse and wages of sin. Repentance and faith are essential to salvation, and this truth is clearly set forth in the word of God. Christ said: “I tell ye nay, but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). As with repentance, so it is with faith; for the Scripture declares: “Without faithit is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). The irrevocable conclusion being, without repentance and faith there is NO salvation from the curse and condemnation God has placed upon sin.
However, we must ever remember that repentance and faith are the unmerited, unconditional, and irrevocable gifts of God. Paul admonished his young prodigy, Timothy, by saying: “Be gentle unto all men … instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance” (II Timothy 2:24-25). Paul, being steadfast in his preaching and teaching, unequivocally tells the Ephesian saints, that “faith is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). It is the gifts of repentance and faith that qualifies the recipient for baptism. The gifts or repentance and faith are inseparably linked together, and are without chronology in the experience of the recipient, for they are simultaneously realized, and are eternally intact.
Repentance does not precede faith, nor faith repentance; for otherwise there would be a time lapse wherein the subject would be as yet unsaved. The contention for such a hiatus, infinitesimal though it be, is the very rankest non-sense. God is not bound by time and sequence as His creatures are. The first and the last are one with Him, for He is the beginning and the end. He is the eternal NOW.
Repentance and faith are not the fruits of regeneration, but are the implanted fruits of the Sovereign Holy Spirit, whereby regeneration is gloriously effected in the hearts of God’s ill deserving people. It is owing to this unmerited favor of God, Paul cries out, saying: “Thanksbe to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:57). Repentance and faith are the gifts of God, and He implants them in His people according to His own good will and pleasure (Philippians 2:13). God is the beginning and the end; there are no pre or post events with God. Let us never think that God is such a one as ourselves. (Psalms 50:21).
5. JOHN THE BAPTIST WAS AN EXCEEDING GREAT MAN
Let us not forget that John the Baptist was one of the greatest of men, and for a brief time had no equal. Yet, we need to remember, while John was undeniably great, Jesus Christ is greater than all the greatness of all great men. The Old Testament is permeated with the names of great and excellent men, which were no doubt in a class with John. But John and all the great men of the Old Testament were not while as yet on earth as great as the “least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 11:11). The disciple of Christ is not to be overly concerned with the greatness of men, but is to give his undivided attention to his all Sovereign Lord and merciful Saviour, Jesus Christ, whose greatness has no degree of comparison.
When the greatness of John the Baptist or any other of the great men of the Bible is considered in the light of the incomparable greatness and supernal glory of Christ, their glory and greatness fades into oblivion, and they would have it NO OTHER WAY. John, without a moment’s hesitation, owned this great truth, and expressed it by saying in reference to Christ: His “shoes I am not worthy to bear” (Matthew 3:11).
God’s love for His elect people is immutably perfect, and shall never diminish, nor fade in its glory. However, this is not true with their love and devotion to Christ. The believer’s faith often wanes, and doubts find lodgment in his heart. John exhibited this sad truth when he sent two of his disciples to inquire of Jesus: “Art thou he that should come: Or look we for another?” (Luke 7:19). This IS NOT a criticism of John, for I am not worthy to claim him as a brother in Christ, but it is used to show that the faith of the greatness of men is yet fallible, and all too often, unstable.
Jesus is THE GREAT “I AM”, and when His greatness is seen in its least measure, the beholder fades into nothingness, and cries out, saying: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). The same man who asked this awesome question said on two separate occasions: “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (I Corinthians 1:31; II Corinthians 10:17), and this man was the Apostle Paul, a man whose greatness is not unparalleled, but he was a man used mightily of the Lord (Colossians 1:29).
It is recorded of Christ, “... having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1), and thereby fulfilled all righteousness, bringing a glory to Himself that He will not share with the greatest of His faithful among men, nor with the archangels.
(The Baptist Herald - December, 1995)
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