by Eric Reeder
There was a beginning to the declarative era about the good news of Jesus. That beginning started with a "voice" that didn't fit into the mode of that moment. John, who taught a baptism of repentance, made some of the most challenging and radical statements ever made for those that heard him. He was announcing the requirement to change and go a different way. The call was to turn from everything they knew and embrace something totally different. Repentance is not the precursor to forgiveness. It's the result of forgiveness. John was announcing forgiveness was being made available. Because of that, things would be done differently. He was telling those of the Old Covenant that there was coming a cancelation to their debt of sin. Mark 1:4 states John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Looking at Young's Literal Translation, we get a better picture. Look at this; ..."proclaiming a baptism of reformation — to remission of sins." John was calling for a reformation. The gospel was requiring a new form. Reformation is defined as the process of reforming a practice. This good news was their current practice (the way they did things) was changing. Primarily the process/practice of dealing with the debt of sin.
Most translations write verse 4 to say "a baptism of repentance FOR the forgiveness of sins." This can cause a couple challenges:
1) Is baptism required FOR forgiveness?
2) Is repentance a required step to obtain forgiveness?
I stated previously that repentance isn't a precursor for forgiveness but the result of forgiveness. We know forgiveness was achieved at the cross as Jesus stated, "it is finished". Romans 2:4 shows us it's the goodness/kindness of God that LEADS us to repentance. His goodness displayed in His forgiveness CAUSES our hearts to want to change direction (repent).
John was given the assignment to go ahead of Jesus to tell everyone that the way sin was dealt with is changing, and the change that was coming was the REMISSION of sin. The Temple and sacrificial system of the Old Covenant didn't offer the remission of sins. Jesus was coming to handle the debt of sin and CANCEL it. This would cause hearts to respond in leaving those sins (confess/own up to the need for cancellation) and walk free in the debt cancellation. John's message caused hearts to no longer go to the Temple or priest or altar of sacrifice to deal with sin. They were out in the middle of the wilderness responding to the news their debt of sin was being cancelled so they no longer had to participate in the old system of covering sins. This was totally radical and a total reformation.
Today, it's still radical. It's still an amazing wonder to consider we can't do anything to create our forgiveness, but it's our faith that embraces that forgiveness was set in Jesus and our debt is cancelled. We own up to having sin that needs cancelled, and we are overwhelmed in gratitude to already be forgiven. We are full of joy knowing we are so free to go forward leaving our sin behind (confess) and live in a new direction (repent) so His goodness shines through us (prepares the way). This causes others to awaken to their freedom. Everyone wishes their debt would be cancelled. The present reality is your debt IS cancelled. His goodness prevailed (hope) and now your faith (actions according to belief) is settled on that. We have this hope so we are bold (2 Cor 3:12). We are not trying to obtain forgiveness. We are living from forgiveness. John announced the beginning of this good news of debt cancellation and Jesus finished it. Now we live it.
This forgiveness results in relationship. We have no barriers keeping us distant from Father. Restrictions have been done away with. John said he baptized with water, but Jesus would baptize with Holy Spirit. Baptism is a representative seal. John's baptism was a sealing in a new way of having sins washed away/remission (water), and Jesus' baptism is a sealing in relationship (Spirit). The new way sin would be handled would prepare/clear the way for relationship with Father. The forgiveness of sins was a means to the end of being in relationship with Father. He wanted His sons and daughters and nothing would stop Him. This is the present hope we live. This is the good news John proclaimed. This is the everlasting goodness that has an unending glory.
Eric Reeder is joined by other leaders of RISEmovement to reveal the heartbeat of The HOPE-filled Gospel.