Luke 20:1-8 “The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? …they answered, that they could not tell whence it was. And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”
If baptism began as a man-made ordinance or ritual then it really would not matter how, when, or why you baptized. Men can change and redefine their creeds and practices to suite their own needs and wants. Laws, constitutions, by-laws change all day long in different organizations. Baptism, however, is not man-made ordinance but a divinely authorized practice so men do not have the right to change the practice. We can submit to but cannot change what God established. Jesus asked a lot of questions, not because he did not know the answer, but because He wanted the people He asked the questions to give an answer. Jesus asked in Luke 20:4 a question that should be considered and answered today. “The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?” If John’s baptism was from men, we have liberty to change it from its original mode and purpose, submit to it or leave it aside. We are not bound to observe and follow the traditions of men. But, as Jesus illustrates by asking the question and as the Pharisees illustrate by not answering the question, John’s baptism did not originate with men.
What did Jesus mean when He asked, “from Heaven or men?” Jesus asked about the authority and originator of the baptism. Jesus confirms the ministry of John the Baptist as being sent and authorized by God. The chief priests questioned the Lord’s authority to preach the gospel and teach the Word of God. Unable to find any other fault with the preaching of Jesus Christ, it was a desperate attempt by wicked men, to try and discredit the Lord by discrediting His ministry. Since they could not find fault with the doctrine, they would attack His authority to teach. (By the way, people still do that today to the men of God. If you don’t like his preaching, find some other reason to discredit the message. He preaches too long or too short, too loud or too quiet. He isn’t refined enough, or he isn’t country enough. The reason is not the man but the message.) Jesus turned the tables by questioning them about John the Baptist and by whose authority He came preaching and baptizing. They could not answer because both the Lord’s and John’s authority came from the same place – God. Baptism was not a man-made practice or a preacher invented ritual; but it came from God. John 1:6, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” God sent John to preach, prepare and baptize. The Baptism of John and the ministry of Christ are forever linked, even today. Do you have the baptism of John? Have you been baptized for the same purpose, in the same way, with the same God given authority?