A Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins (Part 1)


From Luke 3 we see John preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. What did that mean? It would help us to remember that the Gospel, the Bible, the church, the kingdom of God and even baptism are not 21st century ideas. Sometimes we want to hear these teachings communicated the way we’re most familiar with, the way someone taught them as we grew up hearing them. Many of these teachings have good people and good memories associated with them. This is good. It’s not a bad thing that people want to teach the Bible. Yet, teachings often need to be reevaluated and developed in order to see them as integral to the story of Jesus. Baptism is one of those teachings.

Baptism is one of those teachings that some see as optional today. Other aspects of faith are stressed so much that baptism can appear like the exchange student who finds it difficult to relate to the rest of the students in the class. Baptism, when taught from the perspective of Jesus’ story, is one of the fundamental teachings that has the potential to stabilize a culture of faith that could have serious biblical attention deficit disorder. We can start with the man who wore camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist.

Luke 3:2 has the word of God coming to John, son of Zechariah in the desert. The word of God (prophecy from true prophets) hadn’t been around for quite a while in Israel’s history. Many were thinking the eras of prophecy were behind them. Some were still hopeful that God would visit His people again in this way.

Israel had been overrun for centuries. Since the 700’s B.C. Israel witnessed nation after nation oppress and enslave them. There was Babylon, then the Medes and Persians, then the Greeks, and now the Romans, each having controlled Israel and her land. The prophet Daniel spoke about all of this happening to Israel. They were to be in exile because of their national rebellion against God. They forsook the covenant with God and became idolatrous. Deuteronomy 28-30 predicted this nearly 800 years before it became a reality in the days of Daniel. Yet, Daniel promised there would come a time of deliverance and exaltation, just like in the days of Egypt and Moses. God would rescue Israel and set her high above the nations. Now, in the days of John the Baptist, the time was at hand. The time for deliverance was at hand. The time for God to take over was at hand. …This is one side of John’s preaching.

The other side of John’s preaching was warning. Israel was not to rely on the fact that they were descendants of Abraham (Luke 3:8-9). Israel would have to genuinely turn to God with their heart and soul if they wanted deliverance. They would need to repent if they wanted God’s forgiveness. They’d need to return to being salt and light. So many people saw John and his practice of baptism clearly. This was the time when God would visit His people to sort things out, to judge. This is when God would clear His threshing floor and separate the wheat from the chaff (Luke 3:17). This is why myriads went out to be baptized by John.



3 Replies to “A Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins (Part 1)”

  1. Good post, man, you’re so dangerously close 🙂

    Few questions though:
    – Are the harvest and the fire in Luke 3:17 the same as the ones in Matthew 13:30? If not, why not?
    – Is the “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” of Luke 3:6 (quoting Isaiah 40:5) the same as the “every eye shall see him” of Rev. 1:7? If not, why not?

    I think you’re right about referring to Daniel’s prediction.
    The people was in expectation in those days (Luke 3:15 or Luke 2:25-26) for a reason. It wasn’t a by-and-by expectation. While Daniel knew that the seventy years were up for their deliverance from Persians (9:2), he is told that the true deliverance will be in seventy weeks (9:20f). And I think John, and Simeon and others knew that the time for the true deliverance was up.

    Keep it up..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey RB! Off the top of my head I think the harvest and fire of Luke 3:17 and Matthew 13:30 are the same. Israel would incur God’s regretful judgment (Mt 23:37-39). The disciples wanted God’s judgment quickly in Mt 13 but they didn’t realize what they were really asking God to do. Notice the tiny parables after the parable of the weeds. 1. mustard seed, and 2. leaven. God wasn’t pleased by the ruinous warring throughout the first century and many wanted God to act decisively and immediately. What they didn’t realize is that if God’s nature were to be so fiercely decisive then none of them would be saved (cf. Mt 24). God would be more patient than many militant groups of the day (John of Gischala, Simon bar Giora, the Idumean militia, etc.) but He would act against the city and the Temple in 70. The mustard seed and the leaven are likely to teach about kingdom patience. For many, if God were to “root out the weeds” immediately this would be a sign that God’s sovereignty (kingdom) was present and active, and consequently would motivate more militia type activity from the Jews, emboldening them to revolt. This is consistent with Mt 24. However, Jesus is trying to subtly explain that the kingdom of God is indeed coming to birth in their era, not by revolt, but through a process of reconciliation, which will take patience (like the mustard seed growing or the leaven hidden in the loaf but eventually leavening.

      I think the Luke 3:6 passage is referring to Jews and the surrounding nations. I would like to study Isaiah 40-55 more but the context seems to convey that Yahweh will deliver exiled Israel from slavery and exile, and when He does all nations will see Yahweh’s strength to deliver. John the Baptist is using it to refer to the greater strength and greater Deliverer in Jesus, to deliver from evil (Luke 11:1ff). When Jesus completes His mission of His ministry, climaxing in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, then all flesh will have begun to see “the salvation of God.” They will see God’s power to deliver people from slavery to sin through the creation of a newly covenanted people. I think Revelation 1:7 refers to the fulfillment of Daniel 7. Its similar to Luke 3:6 but it seems to be specifically directed at the fourth beast of Daniel, Rome. God will deliver world sovereignty to the followers of the slain Lamb, versus allowing the beast (Rome) to retain its status in the mind of God. A bit more tricky to look at in Revelation.

      Have a great night RB!


  2. Thank you for your answers.

    There are quite important implications for equating Luke 3:17 and Matt. 13:30, because the harvest/fire is placed at the end of the age (per Matt. 13:39-40) – the Jewish age I may add – which you correctly posited in AD 70. That is in concordance with the nearness John the Baptizer was preaching when he said in Luke 3:7 the wrath is about to come (gr. mello) or Luke 3:9 the “ax is laid unto the root of the trees” (again, imminence).
    Even more, I suggest it is the same harvest of Hosea 6:11, the judgement of Judah/Jerusalem.
    The problem is that “the harvest” places now the end of the Old Covenant age at AD 70, and not at the cross – not sure if you can live with that 🙂

    On the second question, I would mention that “the salvation of God” is only brought at the Second Coming, per Heb. 9:28. So it cannot be “seen” until its advent.
    In Rev 1:7 those who pierced Him were the Jews, not the Romans (John 19:11b and also Zach. 12:10-11), and if you also correctly translate “all peoples on earth” as “all tribes of the land” (conf. Zach 12:12-14 and Strong dict.) you have nothing else but the Luke 3:6 passage referring to Jews, like you said.
    Otherwise one has to prove the existence of two similar judgments, mourning, and ultimately two salvations, both applied to the Jews.

    This is good stuff; I hope you’re as excited as I am about this kind of study.


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