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What was the purpose of John the Baptist’s baptism?

John’s baptism was for repentance of sins in order to bring those Jews who recognized their own sinfulness into a proper heart attitude to receive their Messiah. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Matthew 3:11) John did not baptize in the name of anyone. He could not baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, since Jesus had not yet paid the ransom price through his death on the cross nor had he been resurrected to immortality to sit at the right hand of his Father in heaven. Furthermore, the church would need to wait until Pentecost to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. 

Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, he gave his disciples the great commission to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) This baptism is more than just repentance for sins. It is an outward manifestation of a life lived for Christ. The baptism symbolizes the death of the old human will and begettal of a new spiritual life, in which one desires to do the will of God. The Christian’s outward act of baptism shows the obedience that has taken place in his heart and the desire to be part of the heavenly body of Christ. This baptism into Jesus Christ is totally different from John’s baptism, which was to draw repentant Jews to their Messiah.

For more on John the Baptist listen to, “What Made John the Baptist So Special?”