A first-century inscription reads, “The beginning of the gospel of Caesar Augustus.” The word “gospel” was used in the first century to refer to an objective fact of crucial importance to the world at large. That Caesar Augustus had ascended to the throne was fact about which all of the empire had to hear because of its tremendous effects. However, during Augustus’ reign (27 BC to 14 AD), there was a king born whose ascension to the throne would be far more significant than any king throughout history. The Gospel of His Kingship is still being heralded today.
Mark 1:1 reads, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Early on the Gospel accounts introduce John, who heralded the nearby coming of a kingdom and baptized in the Jordan those supplicants who responded for remission of sins (Mt. 3:1-12; Mk. 1:2-8; Lk. 3:2-17; Jn. 1:15-28). Those of the Jewish nation who responded were a cleansed remnant, as promised by the prophets, who looked for the hope and restoration of Israel (Isa. 1:9, 16; 66:20; Ezek. 36:33; Zech. 3:1-10). John’s baptism was different than anything the Jewish people had seen in purification ceremonies in that he, as a spokesman for God, immersed people for remission of sins, rather than people administering washing for themselves; thus, he was given the name “Baptizer” or “Immerser” and his authority was questioned by the religious leaders of the day, who refused to give a definitive answer (Jn. 1:25-26; cf. Mt. 21:25; Mk. 11:30; Lk. 20:4).
Jesus was the coming greater one, to whom John had pointed his followers. Water baptism “in the name of Jesus” is submission to the authority of this greater one who has come, died, and is risen. Just before ascending to the Father to sit on the throne, Jesus acknowledged His universal authority and commanded His disciples to make more disciples by teaching all nations and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:18-20). The participle “baptizing” shows that it, (along with going and teaching), is the means by which disciples are made. Disciples of Jesus are to administer this baptism in making more disciples (Mt. 28:19).
Mark’s account of Jesus’ commission is, “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:15-16). Not only Jews, but people of all nations, were to be baptized in the name of Jesus. The book of Acts records significant events in the history of the early church carrying out this command. The Samaritans, both men and women, heard about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ and were baptized (Acts 8:12). The Ethiopian eunuch heard Philip preach Jesus and stopped his chariot to be baptized in water (Acts 8:26-39). Acts shows that even Gentiles like Cornelius’ household and friends (10:47-48), the keeper of the prison at Philippi (16:33), the Corinthians (18:8,) and Ephesians (19:5) were baptized in water when they believed the Gospel. Baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus is a command to be obeyed, distinct from the Holy Spirit’s power coming upon an individual (Acts 8:16; 10:48).
All of human history can be understood from the perspective of Jesus coming to earth to save those who would submit to His Lordship. Submitting to His Lordship includes dying to self, being united with Christ’s death, and being raised to be a servant of righteousness; these are done in baptism (Rom. 6:3-7; 17-18). If I do not submit to Christ’s Lordship, history will leave me in its wake. Peter announced the ascension of Christ to the throne at the right hand of God (Acts 2:32-36). He then instructed men to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) to save themselves (Acts 2:40) for baptism saves (1 Pet. 3:21). Have you responded to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Do not just call Him Lord (Mt. 7:21), but put Him on as Lord by obeying Him in baptism (Gal. 3:26-27).