Matthew Poole Commentary - Matthew 3:6 - 3:6

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Matthew Poole Commentary - Matthew 3:6 - 3:6

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A great part of those who went out to hear John were baptized, that is dipped, in Jordan; but from hence it will not follow that dipping is essential to baptism, the washing of the soul with the blood of Christ (the thing signified by baptism) being expressed by sprinkling or pouring water, as well as by dipping or being buried in water, Isa_44:3 Eze_36:25 Col_2:12. Whether they confessed their sins, man by man, by word of mouth, or by submitting to the doctrine of the gospel declared their renunciation of the righteousness of the law, and their engagement to a holy life, is not expressed; but it is most certain, that a profession of faith and repentance was ordinarily required before the baptism of adult persons. It may be wondered that this new practice of John (if it were wholly new) made no more stir amongst the Jews. Either (as some think) baptism was in use before that time, as an appendix to circumcision, (though circumcision only be mentioned), or they had some notion that Christ, Elias, and that prophet, when they came, should baptize; for, Joh_1:25, they asked John, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet. That which seemeth to me most probable is, that before that time there was a baptism in ordinary use amongst them after circumcising the child, beside the baptizing of proselytes. And as in the other sacrament Christ left out the typical part, and blessed the bread, used at last in that administration, and made use of that for the institution of the sacrament of the supper; so as to the ordinance of circumcision, he in the institution of that gospel ordinance left out circumcision, (which was typical also), and retained only the washing of the person with water, and so instituted the other sacrament of the New Testament. But yet there was so much new in the Baptist’s practice, (for he did not baptize proselytes only, but Jews, nor did he use it as an appendix to circumcision preceding, but baptized adult Jews), that if the state of the Jewish church had not been declining, and their power of discipline very little, (if any), they would more than have sent to John to know by whose authority he baptized: but they were under the Roman power, and their ecclesiastical officers were more pragmatical than mischievous, God in the wisdom of his providence having so ordered it, that the change of worship should be at such a time brought in when it should be least potently opposed.