Recently I was reflecting on a phrase from the scriptures, ‘a baptism of repentance.’ Prior to looking at the scripture references, I want to share the impact of the phrase. Whatever one’s theological leanings, whether we are comfortable with sprinkling or immersion, the plain meaning of the word ‘baptize’ is to immerse something. If I put a washcloth in a bathtub full of water the water permeates the cloth. So, if we embrace a ‘baptism of repentance’ it will permeate every aspect of our being. The phrase ‘a baptism of repentance’ describes John’s ministry. The scriptures below highlight the importance of this call on and from John and the reason for it.
2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.’ ” Matthew 3:2-3 (NKJV)
8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, Matthew 3:8 (NKJV)
3 “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.’ ” 4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Mark 1:3-4 (NKJV)
3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight. Luke 3:3-4 (NKJV)
23 He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the LORD,” ’as the prophet Isaiah said.” John 1:23 (NKJV)
24 after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. Acts 13:24 (NKJV)
4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” Acts 19:4 (NKJV)
Now, if it seems like all of these passages are saying the same thing it is because they are. The four gospel writers thought it was important to include and Luke twice quotes Paul referring to it in Acts. John was a ‘voice’ speaking from the wilderness calling a nation back to their destiny and purpose and in the process paving the way for Jesus ministry. In this hour in the western church what voices are we paying attention to? Are we hearing the call to ‘make straight the way of the LORD?’ Is that the cry of our hearts? If not perhaps we need to come to the place of repentance.
Look at what the writer of Hebrews had to say.
12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV)
16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)
On the surface these two verses may not seem to relate to the subject I presented. However, I think the writer of Hebrews deliberately set these two verses in a bit of a juxtaposition. I was recently listening to some teaching by Francis Frangipane. He shared a story from many years ago. He was one of the speakers at a conference and Leonard Ravenhill was speaking. Leonard was a voice to a generation. Francis said that something Leonard said pricked his heart and he jumped up at the back and shouted, “Amen brother.” Leonard did not know Francis, he simply responded and said, “If we really believed that we would be on our faces before God!” The living and powerful word moved upon the people, pierced to the division of soul and spirit, and Francis said the Holy Spirit fell and the whole auditorium were suddenly on their faces in repentance.
I have been in meetings where His presence was tangible and powerful and the discerning were afraid to miss a step. I believe that in this hour if we come and submit our desires and agendas to Jesus His word will then pierce our hearts and call us to the place of repentance. In this place we are encouraged that if we boldly come to the throne of grace we can obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Our western Christianity is deeply in need of an outpouring of His Spirit upon the church and an overflow to the surrounding culture. In fact what we need is an army of believers embracing His end time purpose. The most quoted Psalm in the NT is 110. A main verse is this.
3 Your people shall be volunteers In the day of Your power; In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth. Psalm 110:3 (NKJV)
Do we feel His word calling us to ‘volunteer’ and seek the beauty of holiness as we come before His throne of grace to see our nation embrace His end time purposes? Is it our heart to see a generation that bows the knee to Jesus rather than the surrounding culture?