Mark 1:4
John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
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(4) John did baptize.—No other Gospel passes so abruptly, so in medias res, into the actual work of the Forerunner. There is no account of the birth or infancy of our Lord, as in St. Matthew and St. Luke; none of the pre-existence of the Son of Man, as in St. John. St. Mark is here, as elsewhere, emphatically the Evangelist of action. (On the rest of the verse, see Notes on Matthew 3:1.) The special phrase “baptism of repentance”—i.e., the sign of repentance, that which was connected with it, and pre-supposed it—meets us in Luke 3:3 and Acts 19:4. In the former passage we find also “forgiveness of sins” as the result of the baptism; and we cannot doubt, therefore, that then, as evermore, repentance was followed by forgiveness, even though the blood which availed for that forgiveness (Matthew 26:28) had not as yet been shed.

Mark 1:4. John — Who was the very person spoken of by those prophets, being sent of God for that end, did baptize in the wilderness — Which lay east from Jerusalem, along the river Jordan and the lake Asphaltites, also called the Dead sea. By wilderness, in the Scriptures, it is plain that we are not always to understand what is commonly denominated so with us, a region either uninhabitable or uninhabited. No more seems to have been denoted by it than a country fitter for pasture than for agriculture, mountainous, woody, and but thinly inhabited. These ερημοι, wildernesses, did not want their towns and villages. And preach the baptism of repentance — That is, preach repentance, and baptize as a sign and means of it. Thus John endeavoured to prepare men for the coming of that Messiah who was to save his people from their sins. See notes on Matthew 3:2-3. This baptism, says Dr. Lightfoot, may belong to children, though it be the baptism of repentance, and they know not what repentance means; for it requireth not their repentance at the receiving of this sacrament, but it engageth them to it for the time to come, namely, when they shall come to the use of reason, and the knowledge of the engagement. And so was it with the children that were circumcised; for they by that sacrament became debtors to observe the whole law, Galatians 5:3, when they knew not what obedience or the law meant; but that bound them to it when they came to years of knowledge and discretion.1:1-8. Isaiah and Malachi each spake concerning the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in the ministry of John. From these prophets we may observe, that Christ, in his gospel, comes among us, bringing with him a treasure of grace, and a sceptre of government. Such is the corruption of the world, that there is great opposition to his progress. When God sent his Son into the world, he took care, and when he sends him into the heart, he takes care, to prepare his way before him. John thinks himself unworthy of the meanest office about Christ. The most eminent saints have always been the most humble. They feel their need of Christ's atoning blood and sanctifying Spirit, more than others. The great promise Christ makes in his gospel to those who have repented, and have had their sins forgiven them, is, they shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost; shall be purified by his graces, and refreshed by his comforts. We use the ordinances, word, and sacraments without profit and comfort, for the most part, because we have not of that Divine light within us; and we have it not because we ask it not; for we have his word that cannot fail, that our heavenly Father will give this light, his Holy Spirit, to those that ask it.See the notes at Matthew 3:3, Matthew 3:5-6, Matthew 3:11. 3. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight—The second of these quotations is given by Matthew and Luke in the same connection, but they reserve the former quotation till they have occasion to return to the Baptist, after his imprisonment (Mt 11:10; Lu 7:27). (Instead of the words, "as it is written in the Prophets," there is weighty evidence in favor of the following reading: "As it is written in Isaiah the prophet." This reading is adopted by all the latest critical editors. If it be the true one, it is to be explained thus—that of the two quotations, the one from Malachi is but a later development of the great primary one in Isaiah, from which the whole prophetical matter here quoted takes its name. But the received text is quoted by Irenæus, before the end of the second century, and the evidence in its favor is greater in amount, if not in weight. The chief objection to it is, that if this was the true reading, it is difficult to see how the other one could have got in at all; whereas, if it be not the true reading, it is very easy to see how it found its way into the text, as it removes the startling difficulty of a prophecy beginning with the words of Malachi being ascribed to Isaiah.) For the exposition, see on [1395]Mt 3:1-6; [1396]Mt 3:11. Luke saith that John began about the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar. He baptized in the wilderness, that is, a place little inhabited. By his baptism is not to be strictly understood baptism, but his preaching and doctrine, his whole administration; which is called the baptism of repentance, because repentance was the great thing he preached, a seal of which baptism was to be; the consequent of which was to be the remission of sins, or the argument which he used to press repentance was the remission of sins. See Poole on "Matthew 3:5". See Poole on "Matthew 3:6", where we before had these words. John did baptize in the wilderness,.... Of Judea, Matthew 3:1, where he first appeared as a preacher; and is the same wilderness Isaiah has respect to in the above prophecy, Isaiah 40:3. The words are best rendered in the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions; "John was in the wilderness, baptizing and preaching the baptism of repentance, for the remission of sins": according to which, the account of the Baptist begins with his name, John; describes the place where he was where he made his first appearance, and continued in, the wilderness; which was not a wild uninhabited place and without people, but had many cities, towns, and villages in it; and also declares his work and ministry there, which was preaching and baptizing: for though baptizing is here put before preaching, yet certain it is, that he first came preaching in these parts; and there baptized such, to whom his preaching was made useful. Baptism is here called, the

baptism of repentance: because John required repentance antecedent to it, and administered it upon profession of repentance, and as an open testification of it; and this

for, or

unto the remission of sins: not for the obtaining the remission of sins, as if either repentance, or baptism, were the causes of pardon of sin; but the sense is, that John preached that men should repent of their sins, and believe in Christ, who was to come; and upon their repentance and faith, be baptized; in which ordinance, they might be led to a fresh view of the free and full forgiveness of their sins, through Christ; whose blood was to be shed for many, to obtain it: see Acts 2:38.

{2} John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the {d} baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

(2) The sum of John's doctrine, or rather Christ's, is remission of sins and amendment of life.

(d) The Jews used many kinds of washings: but here a peculiar kind of washing is spoken of, which contains within it true baptism, amendment of life, and forgiveness of sins.

Mark 1:4. ἐγένετο Ἰ.: in accordance with, and in fulfilment of, these prophetic anticipations, appeared John.—ὁ βαπτίζων = the Baptist (substantive participle), that the function by which he was best known.—εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν: this clause (in Luke, not in Matthew) may plausibly be represented as a Christianised version of John’s baptism (Weiss), but of course John’s preaching and baptism implied that if men really repented they would be forgiven (Holtz., H. C.).4. the wilderness] i. e. the dry and unpeopled region extending from the gates of Hebron to the shores of the Dead Sea. “It is a dreary waste of rocky valleys; in some parts stern and terrible, the rocks cleft and shattered by earthquakes and convulsions into rifts and gorges, sometimes a thousand feet in depth, though only thirty or forty in width … The whole district is, in fact, the slope of the midland chalk and limestone hills, from their highest point of nearly 3000 feet near Hebron, to 1000 or 1500 feet at the valley of the Dead Sea. The Hebrews fitly call it Jeshimon (1 Samuel 23:19; 1 Samuel 23:24), ‘the appalling desolation,’ or ‘horror.’ ”

for the remission] or unto the remission. See margin and comp. Matthew 26:28; Luke 1:77. This remission was to be received of the Messiah. John required of all who came to him a change of mind and life with a view to pardon from Christ. Thus his baptism was preparatory to that of Christ.Mark 1:4. Ἐγένετο, came forth [not the same as ἦν]) The event is pointed out as answering to the prophecy.—κηρύσσων βαπτισμα, preaching the baptism) An abbreviated expression for, preaching the preaching of repentance, and baptizing the baptism of repentance; Luke 3:3.—εἰς, unto [for]) Construe with the baptism of repentance; Acts 2:38.—ἄφεσιν, remission) without [the need of] Levitical sacrifices.Verse 4. - John came, and preached the baptism of repentance. John came, that is, that he might rouse the people to repentance, and prepare them, by the outward cleansing of their bodies, to receive the cleansing of their souls through Christ's baptism, which was to follow his. So that the baptism of John was the profession of their penitence. Hence they who were baptized with his baptism confessed their sins, and thus made the first step towards the forgiving mercy which was to be found in Christ; and the seal of his forgiveness they were to look for in his baptism, which is a baptism for the remission of sins to all true penitents and faithful believers. Christ's baptism was, therefore, the perfection and consummation of the baptism of John. John did baptize (ἐγένετο Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτίζων)

Lit., John came to pass or arose who baptized. Rev., John came who baptized.

Baptism of repentance (βάπτισμα μετανοίας)

A baptism the characteristic of which was repentance; which involved an obligation to repent. We should rather expect Mark to put this in the more dramatic form used by Matthew: Saying, Repent ye!

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