In Matthew chapter three we hear, for the first time, the message of John the Baptist. This is a message that we need to listen to very carefully. This is a simple, to the point message that all men must understand to enter into a relationship with Christ and then into eternal life. If the message were to be heard today from the local church it would say (and we all have most likely heard it many times) “you need to ask Jesus into your heart.” This morning I’m going to kick a hornets nest. In my opinion, this is one of the most ungodly phrases that I have ever heard. This phrase has begun this centuries first step into the gospel of easiness. With this phrase many men have misled people into a false hope of salvation. With this phrase we can break down salvation into a neat little phrase that we can utter. This is a very clean way to confront the issue of salvation, but it is wrong. This phrase is mentioned no where in scripture and it doesn’t have the same meaning of the message of John the Baptist or of Jesus Christ. Salvation is dirty, it is the realization of sin, confessing it and repenting (turning away) from it. In the zeal to reach people many have watered down the Gospel to the point in which it is not even recognizable, in fact it is a different gospel altogether. We read in Galatians 1:8 ” If any man preach any other gospel unto you other than that which we have preached let him be accursed. As I said before so say I now again, even if an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you other that which we have preached let him be accursed.” Much like John, when Jesus began His ministry His first message was also the same. We see in Matthew chapter four that the first words that Jesus spoke to the people when He began His ministry were: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Without repentance there is no salvation. There has to be a change.
The next thing that we will look at this morning is the fact that Jesus was baptized. This may seem odd at first; after all Jesus was sinless wasn’t He? One may wonder why a sinless man would need to be baptized. The reason is that baptism identified Jesus with the church. Not only was Jesus supporting the church but He is the head of the church. In Revelation chapter one we see that Jesus is walking among the seven golden candlesticks. These candle sticks represent the complete church, in which Jesus is actively a part of. The Jews used to baptize proselytes when they accepted the faith of Judaism. This action meant that they were now numbered with the other Jewish believers. In like manner baptism identifies us with the local church.
So the baptism of Jesus shows us two things: first it shows us that all believers should be attached to the local church in order to “fulfill all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15). The second thing that we learn about baptism is that it is not a mechanism in which one gains salvation or the remission of sins. If the point of baptism was to remove sin, it would have been ridiculous for Jesus to be baptized.
The last thing that I would like to focus on this morning is the message that John gives to the religious crowd. In verse eight John says “produce fruit worthy of repentance.” He went on to tell them that just because they were Jews did not mean that they were followers of God. If I may give you another perspective of what John was saying, he basically says that the proof is in the pudding. If you have an encounter with a righteous God and repent; every one will know it. Friends, if we smell like the world, look like the world, have the same goals as the world and enjoy the same entertainment as the world, we have not repented. If we have not repented there is no salvation.