What purpose did the baptism by John and the other disciples serve before Jesus' death and resurrection? -- Jamie Janus

In John 3:22 and John 4:2, the Bible says that the disciples of Jesus were baptizing. What kind of baptism was this? In Romans 6:1-7, the Scriptures say Jesus had to die, be buried and then be resurrected in order for baptism to take effect. If it was John’s baptism, then why were Jesus’ disciples administering John’s rite when Jesus was now with them?

John’s baptism prepared the people for the coming of the Lord, as Malachi 3 and 4 prophesied, and as in fact John’s ministry did through insisting that people be reconciled to one another before they went under the water. In addition, the association between water and forgiveness, already present in the Old Testament (Leviticus 14, Numbers 19, etc.) was greatly strengthened. The short answer to your question: John’s baptism brought people near to God; their sins were forgiven (Mark 1:4).

A few facts about John’s baptism:

  • It brought forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4).
  • It did not confer the Spirit (John 7:39).
  • It did not connect those baptized with Christ (Romans 6), since the key events of the gospel had not yet taken place (death, burial, resurrection—see 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
  • The baptism administered by Jesus’ disciples was not baptism in Jesus’ name (Acts 2:38), but something different which we call “John’s baptism.”

Finally, it is true that the nucleus of Jesus’ original movement came from the ranks of John. John’s movement and Jesus’ movement, at least before Jesus’ death, were not mutually exclusive. (See Acts 19:1-6 for an illustration of how this would change once the church of Christ had been established.)

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