I hope you are enjoying learning from Luke’s Gospel in your Growth Group. A couple of different Groups have contacted the Preaching Team with the question, ‘Was there baptism before John the Baptist?’ Here are some thoughts…
Baptism has a significant history prior to John. Way back in the Old Testament Book of Leviticus, the priests were commanded to perform a symbolic cleansing in water before and after performing their priestly duties:
“He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on.” – Leviticus 16:4
Further, for centuries prior to John, Jews practiced baptism as a traditional act of purification for God-fearing Gentiles (non-Jews) who wanted to convert to Judaism.
In this we can see how significant John’s Baptism was… WHO he baptised: he baptised not just Gentiles but Jews also – reminding them that physical descent from Abraham wasn’t their salvation… WHERE he baptised: not at the temple but in the wilderness/Jordan River – announcing a new Exodus and a new temple builder, the Messiah… WHAT his baptism foreshadowed: the real washing clean of lives, not just symbolically but actually, not just of bodies but of hearts. Pointing to JESUS.
John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” – Luke 3:16
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. – Romans 6:3-4