3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
1901 ASV Translation:
3 And he came into all the region round about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance unto remission of sins;
I. John's Message of "Forgiveness".
A. His "methodology" was "repentance".
1. This raises the question of the true meaning of "repentance".
a. The word itself seems to have been coined to signal a kind of mental transformation.
b. John's insistence that there be "works" that were suitable to "repentance" has to mean that whatever repentance is, it affects the choices and actions of men.
1) This issue of actually affecting man's behavior has to mean that repentance has not occurred when the behavior does not change.
2) The relatively easy "I'm sorry" approach that many take is not repentance if it is not a "godly sorrow" that leads to an actual change of behavior.
3) The unfortunate choice of many to focus upon the behavior rather than the underlying producer of it is also indicative of the absence of repentance.
a) This is the automatic response of men who do not wish to deal with the issues of alienation from God.
b) The real issue here is the attempt by sinful men to prove they are not as sinful as they are. There is no escape from the divine methodology of the imposition of Law until there is no doubt about the reality of Sin's total dominion. Then there is the opening of the narrow gate of Grace. Bunyan's story of "Christian" struggling with the heavy burden of the terrible fear of Topeth seems to be an indictment of this generation where there is no fear of God or Hell and "salvation" is preached as though it is a minor adjustment problem that basically "fixes" the final destination issue.
c. Paul wrote of a "godly sorrow" that leads to repentance; and of the "goodness" of God that leads one to repentance.
d. John's identity as the fulfillment of Isaiah's "voice in the wilderness" indicates that repentance has to do with the deeper issues of the attitude one takes toward God.
1) According to Hebrews 6:1, "repentance" is toward "works" while "faith" is toward God;
2) According to 2 Timothy 2:25 "repentance" leads to a genuine understanding of the truth;
3) According to Acts 20:21, "repentance" is toward "God" and "faith" is toward Jesus;
4) According to Acts 19:4, "repentance" had to do with being "prepared" to believe in Jesus;
5) According to Acts 11:18, the "Church" recognized that the preaching of the faith to the Gentiles signaled God's grant of "repentance" that is "unto life";
6) And Luke 24:47 says that the message for the nations is one of "repentance and the remission of sins").
e. [Note: the admonition to "forgive" a brother multiple times in one day (Luke 17:4) does not mean "for the same offense", otherwise repentance is not repentance. It means that we are so messed up in so many of the areas of our lives that it might be that we will do seven different kinds of offensive things in one day to the same person and need to "repent" of each of them. Also, there is a difference between the 'manifestation' of a deeper character flaw and the 'reality' of that flaw -- if one only repents of the 'manifestation', the driving issue remains untouched and, thus, remains as a 'driver' for other 'manifestations'.]
2. This also raises the question of whether man can meet this requirement.
a. The message of the Scriptures is that man does not have the capacity to change himself at the level of the heart. The "grant" of repentance referred to in both Acts 11:18 and 2 Timothy 2:25 is an indication of the recognition of man's fundamental incapacity. But, that same "grant" also means that something "real" has occurred. To reduce the divine "grant" to something less than a transformation of the mind is to deny the grace of God.
b. Man's biggest problem with "repentance" is actually coming to the point where he determines that his behavior is sinful and that God will grant him grace to cease it. If I refuse to acknowledge it as "sin", my attitude has not changed; if I do not depend upon God in regard to it, my behavior can not change.
B. His "promise" concerned the impact of "sins".
1. This raises the question of the true meaning of "forgiveness".