When John the Baptist appeared as Christ’s forerunner, God’s chosen people had lived under the law of Moses for fifteen hundred years but had not kept it. Hence John’s call to repentance and baptism for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4).
John was in earnest, too, for when the thoughtless multitude came to him to be baptized, he sent them back, saying: “Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:7,8).
Their lives were to be changed and they were to show it. When the people asked: “What shall we do, then?” he told them to live for others rather than for self (Luke 3:10,11). When the tax collectors asked: “What shall we do?” he demanded that they stop cheating the tax payers and live honestly (Vers. 12,13). When the soldiers asked: “What shall we do?” he told them to forbear violence, false accusation and bribery (Ver. 14).
Clearly, righteousness was demanded under John’s message. His hearers were to repent, be baptized, and bring forth the fruits of true repentance. When our Lord appeared, He proclaimed the same message as John (Matt. 3:1,2; 4:17). A lawyer asked: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” and He replied: “What is written in the law?” When the lawyer recited the basic commands of the Law, our Lord answered: “This do and thou shalt live” (Luke 10:25-28). God was still demanding righteousness. They were all under the Law (Gal. 4:4,5; Matt. 23:1,2; etc.).
Some suppose this was all changed after Calvary by the so-called “great commission.” This is not so. When, at Pentecost, Peter’s hearers were convicted of their sins and asked “What shall we do?” Peter commanded them to “repent and be baptized… for the remission of sins” just as John had done (Mark 1:4; cf. Acts 2:38). He did not tell them that Christ had died for their sins.
Paul was the first to say: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested… [We] declare His righteousness for the remission of sins” (Rom. 3:21-26). When the Gentile jailor fell on his knees and asked: “What must I do to be saved?” Paul replied: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:30,31). This is God’s message for sinners today, for “we have redemption through [Christ’s] blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.