He came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
—Luke 3:3

It was in a time of unprecedented moral corruption that the Word of God bypassed the rulers of Rome, circumvented the temple officials in Jerusalem, and instead came to a locust-eating, camel-hair-dressed prophet named John who preached in the wilderness. Now, John was an eccentric character. But he got people’s attention. And the Word of God came to him.

What was John’s message? “He came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). Now, is Luke saying that we are saved by baptism? Of course not. Notice that the emphasis is not on baptism; it is on repentance. John’s purpose was to call people to be baptized to show their repentance in order to have their sins forgiven. John’s message was not to get baptized. It was to repent. Matthew 3:2 says John’s message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Remember, John was preaching before Jesus appeared on the scene. John’s message was like the Old Testament prophets. His message was anticipatory. It was looking forward to the coming of Christ. John was saying, “Get ready. Get your hearts right. Repent. Jesus is about to appear.”

The way people showed that they accepted John’s message of repentance was by water baptism. Baptism wasn’t invented by Southern Baptists. It wasn’t even invented by Christians. The roots of baptism go way back in the Old Testament. You see, baptism was simply a way of saying, “I identify with this group of people. I believe the message that they are teaching.”

Today our message isn’t looking forward to the coming of Christ; it’s looking back at the Christ who has already come. Today we teach, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). We trust in what Jesus did 2,000 years ago for the forgiveness of our sins. How do we show that we have embraced that message? The same way: through baptism. Christian baptism is looking back at what Christ did. Just as Jesus Christ died and was buried and rose again on the third day, so we who trust in Jesus Christ will die, we will be buried, and we will be raised up as well to live with Him forever.

John the Baptist’s message was, “Roll out the red carpet. The King is coming. Get ready for Him.” You and I have a different message; we point people back to Christ. Nevertheless, we can learn from John’s message and discover components of John’s teaching that ought to be present anytime we share with people the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Prophet Who Lost His Head over Jesus” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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