We know that water baptism was nothing new since they did not ask John what he was doing (John 1:25). The many Old Testament ceremonial washings of the Jews were baptisms. And we’ve already seen “why” he baptized: to identify Israel as God’s priests to the world (Ex.19:6; 29:4).
The fact that John could describe Christ as One “whom ye know not” (John 1:26) proves he worked no miracles in his youth, despite speculation about this (cf. 2:11).
John was the greatest man ever born (Mt.11:11), and so if he wasn’t fit to untie the Lord’s shoe (John 1:27), neither are you. If you are not saved, you need to trust Christ!
“Bethabara” (John 1:28) means “house of passage,” because Israel had to pass over Jordan to enter the Promised Land. Passing over Jordan symbolized death, passing into the next life. It is significant then that John baptized in Bethabara, for baptism was required for salvation (Mark 1:4; 16:16; Acts 2:38), i.e., you couldn’t pass over into eternal life without it!
If Satan heard John say the Lamb of God would take away the world’s sin (John 1:29), why did he cause Judas to betray Him (Luke 22:3,4). Didn’t he know Isaiah 53 predicted this? Didn’t he hear the Lord’s words in Matthew 20:28? Doesn’t I Corinthians 15:3 say Christ died for our sins “according to the Scriptures”? Yes, but what verse predicted He’d rise again (v.4)? Psalm 16:10. But this verse was spoken by David, so Satan couldn’t have known it was speaking of Christ. And only the types (like Jonah) predicted He’d rise “the third day.” The point? Just as these predictions weren’t clearly understood when they were made, neither was Isaiah 53 (Acts 8:26—34).
Hindsight is 20/20, and so looking back now we know Isaiah 53 spoke of Christ’s death for sinners. But at the time he wrote it, not even Isaiah understood it! I Peter 1:10-12 says that the prophets didn’t always understand what they were writing. What about John in John 1:29? Surely he knew what he was saying! No, for he was a prophet! (Luke 7:28). Surely someone who heard him knew what he was talking about? No, see Luke 18:31-34.
But isn’t Satan smarter than us? Maybe so, but Ezekiel 28:17 says his wisdom was “corrupted” by reason of his “brightness,” or his glory, his pride. The fact that he would never die for anyone’s sins made it so it never even entered his head that Christ might.
John 1:30,31 gives us another reason John baptized people: to make Christ “manifest to Israel.” You see, God had told John that the One on whom the Spirit descended while he was baptizing would be Christ (v.33). Remember we said that baptism in the Bible is not always water, but it is always identification, and John’s baptized identified Christ as Israel’s Messiah. We often hear the Lord was baptized so we should be, but He was baptized to make Him a priest and identify Him as Messiah. Neither of those are good reasons for members of the Body of Christ to be baptized!
When John predicted that the Lord would baptize people “with the Holy Ghost” (John 1:33), this is not the same as when the Spirit baptizes us into the Body of Christ (ICor.12:13). The former was fulfilled at Pentecost, the latter is the “one baptism” of today (Eph. 4:5). The former empowered those Hebrew kingdom saints to speak in tongues and heal the sick, the latter places us into Christ.
Did you notice John the Baptist was “sent” to baptize (John 1:33) while our apostle Paul was not (ICor.1:17). This is because there is no need for water baptism today. We get saved without it, and we don’t need to be initiated into the priesthood, or identified as Israel’s Messiah!
If you are not saved, don’t think that just because the Lord died to take away “the sin of the world” (John 1:29) that your sins are taken away. He is also said to be “the propitiation” for “the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:2), but He is only “a propitiation through faith in His blood” (Rom.3:25). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).