A.D. 28 – John the Baptist

Saint John the Baptist (a.k.a. Saint John the Forerunner; born 4 B.C.) and The Baptism of Christ

The Gospel of Luke tells that John was born to Zechariah (a priest serving God in the Temple in Jerusalem) and his wife Elizabeth(Luke 1:5-25). John began preaching in the wilderness in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius CaesarNow in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness(Luke 3:1-2),” which was late in AD 28 or early in AD 29. All four of the Gospels tell that John was born to be a herald and a forerunner to Christ, proclaiming the need for all men to repent of their sins and “make straight the way of the Lord”. He lived an ascetic life in the desert adjacent to the Jordan River, just north of where the Jordan river flows into the Dead Sea (roughly 30 miles north and east of Jerusalem). He called the people of Judea to repentance, and he baptized them in the Jordan River. Christ stated that John the Baptist was the reappearance of Elijah (who had ascended into heaven while he was still alive(2 Kings 2:11)), “and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come(Matthew 11:14).”

At the Baptism of Christ the entire Holy Trinity was revealed: As the divine Word (the Logos), the Son of God incarnate in Jesus Christ was baptized by John, God’s Holy Spirit descended on Christ “in the form of a dove”, and God the Father announced “this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The Sacramental Act of Baptism: The apostolic, and patristic, understanding of the Sacrament of Baptism was thus affirmed, very specifically as the act of a person’s death (purification) and resurrection in and with Jesus Christ. Christian baptism is also a believer’s personal co-participation in the sacred events of Christ’s passion for God’s people at the first Easter.

Baptism (from the Greek noun βάπτισμα) was also understood from the beginning to be the Christian sacramental and covenantal act of salvation and admission (adoption), into the Christian Church. Scripture repeatedly says “believe and be baptized,” e.g., “He who believes and is baptized will be saved(Mark 16:16),” and “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit(Matthew 28:19),” and “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God(John 3:5).”

The apostolic church strongly (and unmistakably) taught that salvation was (is) a “new birth by water and the Holy Spirit” into the Kingdom of God. During baptism God’s Holy Spirit indwells the new Christian (i.e., the new believer is Chrismated by the Holy Spirit) and he/she thereby enters into the Kingdom of God and becomes a member of God’s church!! Chrismation is understood to be the new believer’s participation in the events of the Pentecost. Chrismation means that we receive “the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit(Rom 8, 1 Cor 6, and 2 Cor 1:21-22), as the apostles did on the day of Pentecost (i.e., we are filled with and become indwelt by God’s the Holy Spirit).

Cyprian of Carthage (A.D. 248) attributed all the saving energy to the grace of God, he considered the “laver of saving water the instrument of God that makes a person ‘born again’, receiving a new life and putting off what he had previously been. The ‘water of new birth’ animated him to new life by the Spirit of holiness working through it.”

1500 years later, during the western Christian Reformation, this became known derisively as the Doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration. Despite having been the undisputed and universal view of the church, east and west up to that time, in certain circles, the doctrine fell from popularity.

The final “death blow” to the full and Holy sacrament of baptism was delivered by the followers of John Wesley who popularized the “innovative and modern” evangelical view of salvation only being “a personal decision” (in response to a “still quiet voice”); one should understand that Wesley was converting Christians who had been baptized into the church shortly after their birth, who Wesley understood had later become apostate to the faith of their birth (and therefor did not need to be re-baptized after their new re-commitment to the faith they were born into).