The Baptism of John and the Baptism of Jesus Luke 3


Luke 3 and Selected Scriptures

Charles e Whisnant, Pastor/Teacher: April 07 2013

1A Baptism: Introduction and Historical Background:

  1. As is the case with many other areas of doctrine in the modern Church, there are several competing views regarding the issue of baptism. Should people be baptized as infants? Will sprinkling with water suffice or must the individual be fully submerged? What is baptism of the Holy Spirit? What is the relationship between water baptism and baptism in the Holy Spirit? And perhaps most essentially of all, is water baptism necessary for salvation? These are but a few of the questions that spring to mind when considering the issue of baptism.

  2. In this study, we hope to answer some of these questions. The question concerning sprinkling or submersion is really a secondary issue as is the question regarding infant baptism. While we do believe these questions can and should be answered, the goal of this study will be to focus on the questions of more preeminent importance to the Christian walk, such as those which concern the relationship between water baptism, baptism in the Holy Spirit, and salvation.

  3. Before we begin to discuss the practice of baptisms in the early church, it is necessary to do a little review of the history behind baptism before the coming of John the Baptist. As with most issues, placing a phenomenon in its historical context and setting is a good first step toward gaining a proper perspective on that topic.

  4. Below are the definitions for the Greek word translated as “baptize” and the closely related Greek word from which it is derived.

907 baptizo {bap-tid’-zo}

AV – baptize (76), wash 2, baptist 1, baptized

1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)

2) to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe. 3) to overwhelm

911 bapto {bap’-to}

a primary word; TDNT – 1:529,92; v

1) to dip, dip in, immerse

2) to dip into dye, to dye, colour

  • Baptizo is the Greek word translated as “baptize” in the New Testament. As we can see from the definition, it simply means to immerse or submerge. It is even used of washing or bathing. Now that we have reviewed some basic Greek vocabulary with regard to baptism, we can move on to examining some of the

  • history behind the religious practice of immersing people in water. And in that regard, Smith’s Bible Dictionary has the following to say on the history of baptism.

  1. “It is well known that ablution or bathing was common in most ancient nations as a preparation for prayers and sacrifice or as expiatory of sin…and hence the frequency of ablution in the religious rites throughout the East.” – Smith’s Bible Dictionary

  2. It seems Christians often have this notion of baptism as a uniquely Christian practice and particularly as a uniquely New Testament one. It’s almost as if by default most Christians think that water baptism was invented by John the Baptist and that the Jews had no familiarity or introduction to this concept prior to the coming of the John the Baptist. What this brief excerpt from Smith’s Bible Dictionary tells us is that water baptism was not a new concept to the Jews alive at the time of Christ Jesus. The practice of immersing in water for religious purposes was common in ancient culture and something the Jews of Jesus’ day would have been familiar with even before the coming of John the Baptist.

  3. The Bible itself also demonstrates the history of immersing in water as a part of Jewish religious practice prior to the time of Christ. Considering the following passages. John 3:23-36

  4. The bottom line is that this dispute between the Jews and John’s disciples further demonstrates that the Jews considered John’s immersion with water to be a form of ritual purification. And that means, the Jews of that day did not consider immersion in water to be something wholly new at all. Rather, they considered it to be part of something old and familiar, namely Jewish water purification rituals.

Where did the Jews of John’s day get the notion of using water for ritual purification?

  1. Exodus 40:12, 31-32, Leviticus 8:1-6 (Dorothy Fields and Charity Whisnant favorite book) 2 Kings 5:10-14, and Isaiah 1:16-18. Hebrews 9:9 . Old Testament practices that pertained to the purification of the conscience.

  2. To correctly understand proper doctrine with regard to water baptism, we must view that topic as the original audience would have. Therefore, we must take into account that immersion in water was considered by the Jews to be a form of Old Testament ritual purification


  1. And this step is essential. When we study doctrine we must build it starting with its earliest historical mention and then build as more information is added through the history of the progressive revelation of scripture. In this way, we build our understanding of a topic in the same order that original audiences would have. This is an inseparable part of the grammatical-historical method of interpretation, which is the interpretive method developed by the Reformation.

  • Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; and John 1:26-33

  1. We must keep in mind that as scripture records God’s revelation, this teaching from John the Baptist about baptism is the very first thing revealed in the New Testament about baptism to the Jewish people. So, what was it that they first heard?

    1. The first thing that God revealed about baptism in the New Testament is that there would be TWO forms of it. As the above passages show, God uniformly preserved in all four Gospels that John taught a distinction between baptism with water and baptism with the Holy Spirit. According to John, the two were not the same, nor did they occur simultaneously.

    2. John the Baptist was teaching that water baptism was his ministry while baptism in the Holy Spirit was to be the work of Jesus Christ. In other words, John the Baptist’s teaching associated water baptism with himself and baptism in the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must understand that from the onset of the New Testament revelation concerning baptism, water baptism was not associated or anticipated regarding the work of Christ Jesus.

      1. First, we find that baptism in water was considered by the Jews of Jesus’ day to be a form of Old Testament ritual purification. And second, while John’s baptism was considered to be a form of Old Testament washing, from the onset of the New Testament revelation about baptism, John the Baptist taught an expectation that the coming of the Christ would bring about a new form of baptism, baptism in the Holy Spirit.


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