Who is Our Identity? (Mark 1:4-8)
We continue this morning looking at the first chapter of John Mark’s gospel. Last week we covered Mark 1:1-4 and this week we will look into verses 4-8. It is important for us to be reminded of not only the people Mark was writing to, but as well as the circumstances they were facing:
1.) Believers in Rome.
2.) They were undergoing severe persecution under Emperor Nero.
Mark’s purpose is to encourage them in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant and Son of God!
This lesson today should certainly bring encouragement to us, as well as challenge us in our walk with Christ.
Let us briefly read our text from last week:
Mark points us to the forerunner of the Christ, John the Baptist. John heralds in the Christ, showing us that Jesus is more than a carpenter; He is a King and He is God!
Since the Eternal God is coming, what must mankind do? Repent! Repentance is a radical alteration of the mind by the reality of the Holy God and our depravity before him and inability to deserve His love and grace. Those who truly repent will bear fruit in their lives showing they are indeed born of God.
As we look at this text, what do we see the repentant doing? Going out to be baptized by John.
This morning I want at least three questions to be answered in regards to baptism:
1.) What is baptism?
2.) What does it accomplish?
3.) Is it necessary?
We will find that true repentance and baptism are inseparable to some extent. This is significant to each and every believer here this morning. Not only are you commissioned to make disciples, but you are commissioned to baptize every disciple you make.
There is so much confusion on baptism today. I firmly believe much of it stems from seriously misunderstanding the book of Acts and failing to see the transitional period of time it covers. This misunderstanding is unfortunately why some people believe baptism is necessary for.
2.) The receiving of the Holy Spirit.
Neither is true, so what is baptism?
The English word for baptism is a transliteration of the Greek word Baptizo and Baptisma, which speak of immersion. In fact they are derived from the root word Bapto, which means to cover wholly with liquid. I would argue this clearly refutes any notion of sprinkling or pouring, and completely supports immersion. Look at the wording in following texts:
1.) Referring to Christ’s baptism, “Immediately coming up out of the water (Insinuates Immersion)…”
2.) Speaking about John, “John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there (Much water is needed when immersing someone)…”
3.) The Ethiopian eunuch, “they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water…”
It is also important to know it was a term commonly used of fabric dyers. Take a moment to consider the picture this paints. Individuals taking garments and completely immersing them in colored dye.
Will that garment be the same? No, it will outwardly be identified with the dye in which it was immersed.
Here we get to the core of baptism and what it accomplishes in the believer.
It is the means through which one outwardly identifies with the message that calls for internal renewal within a person.
The question is what message do we join ourselves to?
John’s message called for people to acknowledge “their unfitness for the Messiah’s kingdom.” Look at the text here as to how many identified:
Let’s get a little context here for it is difficult for us to appreciate this text as American believers. This portion truly reveals the humility of these people coming out to John. Know baptism was not new to the Jewish people when John the Baptist came on to the scene. Jews practiced baptism according to oral tradition later recorded in the Talmud after Christ earthly ministry. They performed proselyte baptism.
This means it was not Jews who were baptized, but Gentiles who desired to identify with Judaism. The Jews hated the gentiles and considered them detestable and unclean. Sadly, after a gentile proselytized an article said:
“Although he was thus judicially considered a new man, and one whose praises were sung in the Talmudical literature, he was yet on the whole looked down on as inferior to a born Jew.”
One Rabbi refers to proselytes as Israel’s scabs. I want us to see the initial affront the notion of John’s baptism would be to the Jewish mind.
Do we see what is happening here in Mark? The Jews who were being baptized by John were outwardly declaring they were just as unfit for God’s kingdom as the Gentiles were.
Not every Jew outwardly declared that though.
Why wouldn’t they? Pride!
They would not humble themselves, which seems to be a common issue today among professing believers.
Keep in mind what Mark is showing his audience: Multitudes of people flocking to identify with the beginning of the gospel message of Christ.
To his Roman listeners under Nero what did outward identification guarantee when found?
1.) Being dressed up in animal fur and torn apart by dogs.
2.) Brutal crucifixion.
3.) Being set on fire and utilized as lamps in the courtyard of the Emperor.
The fact that all three forms of torture occurred in the Roman Empire tells us what?Marks audience was not afraid to identify! They counted the cost of identifying with Christ reckoning to live is Christ, and to die is gain. That was thirty years after Christ ascended.
Take a moment to consider ten days after Christ’s ascension, on the day of Pentecost. When the cost was being counted by 3,000.
3,000 believed and 3,000 were baptized!
3,000 marked themselves to be alienated from everything they had ever known. That was the cost initially, but it would later turn to imprisonment and death for many.
Apart from the thief on the cross there is no such thing as an unbaptized believer in the Scripture. All who believed in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ identified with it in baptism.
Baptism is not just declaring the finished work of Christ happened, but showing ones union to it. When believers are baptized they are saying:
1.) I have died with Christ.
2.) I have been buried with Christ.
3.) I have been raised with Christ.
A convert refusing to be baptized would cast serious doubt as to whether there was a heart of genuine repentance. They are refusing to confess Christ.
Baptism is the dividing line in many other cultures. Sure speaking about Christ has serious dangers, but identifying in baptism brings it to an entirely new level. We do not know that here in America, because comparatively there is absolutely no cost in our identifying with Christ. We have such freedom in this land to proclaim the finished work of Christ. This freedom, however, has made us complacent. The lack of persecution has made us weak and shallow believers in Christ.
I read a quote this week by John Piper:
“There is a great gulf between the Christianity that wrestles with whether to worship at the cost of imprisonment and death, and the Christianity that wrestles with whether the kids should play soccer on Sunday morning.”
What will we do when the cost for identifying with Christ demands everything?
With all of our freedom, why do many American converts remain unbaptized?
John Macarthur suggests five reasons:
Follow through with me on this. Baptism is necessary for the believer.
Is baptism necessary for salvation? Absolutely not! It is, however, necessary for a believer to be obedient to God. Meaning any professing believer who refuses to be baptized is living in disobedience to God. They are in open sin.
Unbaptized believers are incapable of doing this.
Have we identified with Christ in baptism?
Do we continue to unashamedly do so in every matter of our lives?
I believe this was to encourage Mark’s listeners. These verses will either produce hope which encourages us, or fear. Remember Mark has just shown all of these people identifying with the gospel message. Identifying with Christ was a serious matter for the believers in Rome.
John’s attire should capture our attention.
He is wearing prophet garb similar to Elijah. Validating his position as God’s voice to the people, this should draw our attention to his message.
Keep in mind the Roman believers are already aware of the end of Mark’s gospel. They would not be believers if they weren’t.
First off they know the Mightier One came to die for sin and be buried and was raised on the third day. This would produce hope within them. It is almost as if Mark is writing between the lines:
“Your present sufferings for identifying with Christ are not in vain!”
The Father is fulfilling His redemptive purpose in the Son, Jesus Christ!
This means they also understood after Jesus ascended He baptized them with the Holy Spirit. What John said would happen did. This would encourage them, and should encourage every believer through all generations.
Why? Christ indwelling us with The Spirit is how He unashamedly and unconditionally identifies with us as His own.
Should we not publicly identify with Him? Don’t be ashamed to identify with Him!
 Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:16
 Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance: NT Number 907 and 908
 Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance: NT Number 911
 Mark 1:10
 John 3:23
 Acts 8:38-39
 Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words; W.E. Vine; Page 97
 Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words; W.E. Vine; Page 97
 Philippians 1:21