God’s Word for You
Acts 13:23-25 The Eisodos
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, May 22, 2020
23 “It was from this man’s seed, according to the promise, that God raised up for Israel a Savior, Jesus. 24 Before Jesus’ entrance, John had first preached the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘Who do you suppose that I am? I am not he. But you will see, there is one coming after me, and I am not worthy to untie the sandals on his feet.’”
Paul carefully and elegantly uses the opposite of the word ‘exodus’ to describe Jesus’ arrival in the world. An ‘exodus’ is a road out, and Paul says that John preached before Jesus ‘eisodus,’ or his road in. Paul also uses the word dromos “course, race” to describe John’s time of preaching. John was now finishing his course (a phrase Paul would use of his own life’s ‘race,’ Acts 20:24; 2 Timothy 4:7), and it was at that time, in the final days of John’s preaching, that he answered questions about the coming Jesus.
Paul had so much to say about Jesus and about everything Jesus said and did: the miracles, the miraculous clarity of the parables, the way he answered every challenge, the way he softened the hearts of people who wondered about him and even those who doubted him. There was the suffering, the crucifixion, his death, and his resurrection—and his ascension! But to begin talking about the Savior, Paul begins with John.
John preached a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. Repentance is a change of the heart. It begins with being sorry over sins, and being frightened, even terrified, of God’s coming judgment and what our sinfulness deserves. We don’t need to sensationalize this by describing nostrils that scent burning sulfur or mouths that suddenly go dry, but the fear of the terrified conscience is the “broken spirit, the broken heart” (Psalm 51:17). Baptism is the means God uses to wash away the guilt and stain of our sins, and indeed to wash the sins themselves away from us (Acts 22:16).
Can we answer, briefly, why we baptize infants if baptism is a baptism of repentance? The Holy Spirit does not explain entire doctrines in single passages and slogans or ‘sound bites.’ We must look to all of Scripture to answer questions about an entire doctrine. When we see adults baptized in Scripture, they were already converted by the working of the word of God in their hearts (Acts 2:41, 8:26-40, 10:47-48). Adults were instructed first in those days, and we do the same today. But this was also to be the case with circumcision (Genesis 17:9-14), and Scripture compares baptism and circumcision (Colossians 2:11-13). Jesus commanded that we should make disciples of all nations, and he gave us two tools for making disciples: baptizing and teaching. Just as infants became members of Israel under the covenant of circumcision in the Old Testament, so also infants may become members of the Christian church by baptism now in the New. Most of the stories about circumcision in the Old Testament are about adults, just as the stories about baptism in the New Testament are about adults. But the Jewish authorities talk about baptism (ceremonial washing) happening to babies: “So in all ages, when a Gentile is willing to enter into the covenant… he must be circumcised, and baptized, and bring a sacrifice, or if it be a woman, she must be baptized and bring a sacrifice” (Maimonides Isuri Bia XIII-XIV). And again: “They always baptize such a proselyte in infancy upon the profession of the House of Judgment” (Babylonian Talmud). The earliest church recognized infant baptism, practicing it throughout the church, as far away from Jerusalem as Rome (Justin Martyr) and even France and Germany (Irenaeus of Lyons). If someone argues that children do not believe, they are arguing against the words of Jesus himself (Matthew 18:6) and at the same time underscoring the point of baptism: it creates faith (Titus 3:5). This, I trust, is enough about baptism for now.
The questions John had to answer about himself shows what the attitude of the Israelites was toward him. They recognized that John was a prophet, and there hadn’t been a prophet in Israel for four hundred years. They suspected that he might be the Messiah. They heard his preaching and some of them were ready to accept that he, John, was the Son of God. The Messiah they were waiting for had nearly arrived, and John was called by God to point to him, to Jesus, the descendant of David.
John humbles himself utterly before Jesus. John, the prophet of God, the one they thought might be the Christ, was not worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals. But Jesus was coming. His ‘eisodos’ (his road in) led right to John at the Jordan River, and from there to the cross.
For you and me.
Pastor Timothy Smith