John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
I. OF WHAT IT CONSISTED. In each Gospel the descriptions are very general, and look as if they had been foreshortened in order to give due prominence to the gospel narrative that had to follow. Yet a fairly complete impression may be received of his main doctrines and rules of discipline. Generally in his ministry there are four elements discoverable.
1. Exhortation. A direct appeal to the moral sense, the chief note of which was "Repent." It is a sharp word often repeated, refinement upon it being likely only to dull its edge. It meant, primarily, "to think after another," then "to change one's mind or opinion," the faculty addressed being that of moral reflection (nous). Accordingly we read of repentance "unto acknowledgment of the truth" (2 Timothy 2:25), "toward God "(Acts 20:21), "from dead works" (Hebrews 6:1), and "unto life" (Acts 11:18), or "unto salvation" (2 Corinthians 7:10). The two last expressions correspond with that of Mark, "unto remission of sins." The idea involved is intellectual as well as moral, thought being exercised as well as feeling. The mind is to be twisted back upon itself; spiritual resolution is demanded according to new principles. "Take a right view of sin - your sin - and quit it." John thus prepared men for Christ by making them prepare themselves, casting down every imagination and every high thing that stood in the way the coming King was to use for his glorious "progress."
2. Ceremony. There was but one rite - baptism; not created for the occasion, but simply adopted out of the multiform ceremonial of Judaism. Its use is explained by its symbolic suggestiveness of the spiritual change John sought to produce. The physical purifying set forth the spiritual, and was ineffectual without it.
3. Example. He himself was what he desired others to be. His habitat - the wilderness - was a protest against the corruption of the cities, and indeed of the whole social fabric. He dwelt apart, as being thus better able to seek God and serve him. His personality, too, was eloquent of the same truth. With clothing the coarsest and least comfortable, and food the simplest and cheapest, he maintained a strong, flee, independent life, consecrated in Nazarite-like vows to God.
4. Prophecy. Not only a backward but also a forward look was implied in his teaching. It was by virtue of the coming of Another that all these moral acts were to be rendered valid and effectual. The atonement of Christ, as a prospective thing, is therefore the key-stone of all John's preaching. Not the baptism, the ascetic life, not even the "repentance," was in itself a saving principle. These only availed as they brought men to him who baptized not with water but with the Holy Spirit. His whole ministry did not confer, but simply prepared for, "the remission of sins."
II. ITS RELATIVE, SIGNIFICANCE. It was, therefore, not of absolute or independent value, but only auxiliary to the advent of Christ. He stood midway between the Lair and the Gospel. In this light, his recognition of the "Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" is at once the linking on of his ministry to Christ's, and its consummation and disappearance in it.
III. ITS RESULTS. Not substantive or permanent. A deep effect was produced upon Jewish life, but it did not last. Yet, in many instances, notably within the circle of the apostles, it was the preliminary stage, the "strait gate and narrow way," into the Divine life which Jesus brought. John's message exerted a far-reaching influence, thrilled the nation in all its classes and tribes, and then died away in ever fainter echoes, amidst the returning indifference or spiritual opposition to the Truth. It was not, therefore, useless; rather in the highest sense was it effectual only as it succeeded in making itself unnecessary for the further progress of those who received it. "He must increase, but I must decrease." - M.
Parallel VersesKJV: John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
WEB: John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching the baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins.