This is a Bible study on Mark 1:1-8.

6 pages.

Mark 1:1-8 - Prepare Yourself for the LORD’s Presence

Read Mark 1:1-8 and Matthew 3:1-12.


What usually happens around your house when you are expecting a guest for dinner or for an overnight stay? If your house is like our house, what happens is a lot of preparation: carpets are vacuumed, the kitchen floor is mopped, shelves are dusted, piles of clutter are put away, fresh linens are put on the guest room bed, the children are instructed to put away their toys.

Once I made the mistake of forgetting to inform my wife that we would be entertaining a guest; providing supper and overnight accommodations for him. That was a mistake! Upon receiving the news, my wife immediately went into high gear in an effort to prepare our house and our family to receive the guest.

The Gospel of Mark begins with the ministry of John the Baptist, and his divine calling to prepare the people for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as the people of Israel were instructed to prepare themselves for Christ’s first coming, so we are instructed to prepare ourselves, not only for His second coming, but also that we may entertain His presence among us now.

Prepare Yourself for the LORD’s Presence, by Practicing Repentance🔗

The central feature of John’s ministry was the call to repentance: “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is about to come.” (Matt. 3:1-2)

True biblical repentance involves the following features.

First, we must honestly recognize sin for what it is: it is transgression against God. It is personal transgression; the Psalmist admits to “my sin,”

Have mercy upon me, O God, in accordance with your lovingkindness; in accordance with the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my transgressions. 2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3I am aware of my transgressions; and my sin is always before me. Psl. 51:1-3

We must acknowledge that our sin is intentional; it is a transgression, it is not “a mistake,” it is a violation of God’s moral law. Again, note the admission made by David in Psalm 51:1, “Have mercy upon me, O God...blot out my transgressions.” Furthermore, we must acknowledge that our sin is hateful to God and causes a separation between us and God. The LORD Himself informs Old Testament Israel through the prophet Isaiah: “your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isa. 59:2).

Second, we must renounce our sin. The prophet Isaiah exhorts the sinner, whoever he may be, “Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon” (Isa. 55:7). The Apostle Paul gives this admonition: “Let everyone who confesses the name of the Lord turn away from unrighteousness” (2 Tim. 2:19b).

Third, it is necessary to rely upon the Holy Spirit if our repentance is to be successfully accomplished. As Paul writes to the church at Rome, “if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the flesh [i.e. the misdeeds of the sinful nature], you will live” (Rom. 8:13).

The next question is, For whom is repentance necessary? It is necessary for every practicing sinner who is separated from God. It is also necessary for every Christian each time we engage in sin and so remove ourselves from God. Repentance is an ongoing process, one in which the Christian must continually rely upon the Holy Spirit, surrendering our will unto Him.

In John’s ministry the call for repentance was linked to baptism with water for the forgiveness of sins. The people “came out to him,” (symbolizing their repentance), and “were baptized by him” (vs. 5). In the Old Testament period, the application of water physically symbolized the cleansing of the soul and the forgiveness of sins; note, for example, the promise the LORD makes in Ezekiel 36:25, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.”

True cleansing from sin and forgiveness can only be accomplished by the shedding of blood: “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). The shed blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the blood that provides true cleansing for the soul and forgiveness of sins. Bringing together these two essential elements, repentance and cleansing in the blood of Jesus, the Apostle Peter writes,

14As obedient children, no [longer] conform to the passions you formerly [had when you lived] in ignorance. 15But just as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16because it is written, 'Be holy, because I am holy'... 18knowing that you were redeemed from your futile way of life handed down from your forefathers; [redeemed], not by perishable things, [such as] silver or gold, 19but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish or defect, [the blood] of Christ. 1 Pet. 1:14-15,18-19

According to Matthew’s gospel (Matt. 3:8), John’s call to repentance was accompanied by the call to “produce fruit worthy of repentance.” There must be not only the negative renouncing of sin, but also the positive practice of righteousness:

25...each of you must put away falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor... 28He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with those in need... 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Eph. 4:25,28,31-32

The counterpart to the works of the old sinful nature (Gal. 5:19-21) is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23a),

Now the works of the sinful nature are well known, [such as]: sexual immorality, moral impurity, debauchery, 20idolatry, witchcraft, hatreds, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, orgies, and other such things. I warn you [again], just as I [previously] warned you, that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal. 5:19-21

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23meekness, self-control.Gal. 5:22-23a

The baptism with water, administered by John the Baptist, not only symbolized the cleansing and forgiveness of sin, but also the death to sin and the resurrection unto new life, being united by faith to Christ in His death and resurrection. As the Apostle Paul teaches in Romans 6:3-4,

Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were, therefore, buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

In his epistle to Titus, the Apostle Paul testifies concerning each one who has come to Christ: “according to his mercy, [God] saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). When our body is dirty, we step into the bath tub, wash in the hot soapy water, and emerge with a fresh and clean body. When a sinner comes to Christ, the Holy Spirit places him into the “bath tub” of Christ’s shed blood; when the sinner emerges from this bath, he is not only cleansed in soul, he emerges with a regenerated soul, a life that is a new creation, united to the Lord Jesus Christ in His resurrection life, a life that is lived unto God (Rom. 6:10). From then on, for the remainder of his earthly life, the Holy Spirit carries out in him the work of sanctification, (i.e. the process of bringing his thoughts, words, and deeds in ever-greater conformity with his new, God-centered identity as one who has become united to Christ the Lord).

Consider not only John’s message, but also the audience to whom he presented his message.

Within the audience there were devout Jews who trusted in the LORD and lived lives devoted to Him. These people would acknowledge the truth and necessity of John’s message, and would know repentance and reliance upon the LORD’s provision for forgiveness as a spiritual reality in their own lives. An example of such a man is Simeon: “[Simeon] was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, [i.e. the coming of the Messiah] and the Holy Spirit was upon him” (Lk. 2:25).

Also within the audience were nominal Jews whose lives were no different than the pagans. By the Spirit of God, they were awakened to the truth and necessity of John’s message and responded to it in faith and obedience. An example from this category of people are the tax collectors: “Tax collectors also came to be baptized. ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘what should we do?’” (Lk. 3:12) They are asking, In what should our repentance consist? What specific practice(s) does God require that we forsake and replace with that which is pleasing to Him? John’s reply was, “Collect no more [tax] than what is appointed for you [to collect]” (Lk. 3:13).

Finally, there were within that audience self-righteous Jews who put confidence in their religious observance instead of in the LORD. They viewed John’s ministry as something that did not pertain to them. Notice that Matthew describes them as “coming to where [John] was baptizing” (Matt. 3:7), but not presenting themselves for baptism.

John identifies them as “a brood, (or “offspring”), of vipers.” In so doing he is identifying them as children of the devil, not children of God; remember that in the Garden of Eden the devil appeared in the form of a serpent (Gen. 3:1-5). John inquires of them, “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” The gist of his question is: “Who gave you directions as to how to flee from the coming wrath?” What John implies in this question is: “Whoever it was, he has misled you by allowing you to think you can be saved by your own ‘good works’ and religious affiliation.” By his ministry, John goes on to testify, “The true and only way to be saved is by repenting of our sins and putting our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Let us prepare ourselves for the Lord’s presence, by practicing repentance, along with the necessary corollary of trusting in the shed blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, for the forgiveness of our sins.

He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Prov. 28:13

Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!... 12to all who received him, to those who are believing on his name, he gave the right to become children of God. Jn. 1:29,12

Prepare Yourself for the LORD’s Presence, because He Administers Either Divine Blessing or Judgment🔗

In response to their questions as to who he is and why he is baptizing, John testifies, “He who is coming after me is mightier than I...he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt. 3:11).

The baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire was visibly fulfilled at Pentecost, (which was a foretaste of the fullness yet to come, which will be realized with Christ’s return in glory): “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire... 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:3-4). The result of Pentecost was heavenly fellowship with God and with one another in Christ:

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2: 46-47

John’s reference to Christ baptizing with “the Holy Spirit and fire” is a reference to the Holy Spirit and the fire of His sanctifying (i.e. purifying) work, by which the redeemed are brought into fellowship with God. By means of this purifying, Spirit-administered baptism the redeemed are enabled to stand in the presence of our holy God and be admitted into His fellowship.

But the very next verse (Matt. 3:12) contains a reference to the LORD’s act of judgment upon those who remain in their unrepentant state of sin. Matthew 3:12 emphasizes that Christ will make a final separation between those who believe in Him and those who remain in their sins: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12).

In the prophecy of the Old Testament prophet Malachi, these two themes of fellowship with God for the redeemed and condemnation for the unrighteous are brought together as the great act that the LORD will accomplish in full measure on the day of His final appearing in glory:

Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire, says the LORD Almighty. Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Mal. 4:1-2

Let us prepare ourselves for the Lord’s presence, because He administers either divine blessing or divine judgment. Christ will bring you into fellowship with God, if you receive Him as your Savior and, by His grace, practice the life of repentance. But He will bring the judgment of God upon those who continue to remain in their unrepentant state of sin and unbelief.


When you know a guest is coming, you are diligent to prepare yourself and your house for his presence. The message of John the Baptist, by which the Holy Spirit speaks to us today, urges us to prepare ourselves for the presence of Christ.

John emphasizes that there is an urgency to deal with these great matters; it is necessary to make them first priority; and to live our lives in the light of these great spiritual realities.

Discussion Questions🔗

  1. How is John the Baptist identified in Matthew 3:3? Since the prophet Isaiah ministered from about 740 to 686 B.C., John the Baptist was the fulfillment of a divine prophecy given to the people of God approximately 700 years prior to John’s appearance; what does this tell us about the LORD’s “divine timetable” with regard to the fulfillment of His promises? Note 2 Pet. 3:9-10a What does this tell us about our need for perseverance in faith? Note Hab. 2:2-3 What assurance is given that our perseverance shall result in blessing? See Isa. 25:9,

This is the one who was spoken of through Isaiah the prophet, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the LORD, make straight paths for him. Matt. 3:3

The Lord is not negligent with regard to the promise, as some consider negligence; on the contrary, he is exhibiting great patience toward you. He does not desire anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance. 10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that day, the heavens will disappear with a loud noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat, and the earth together with the works that are in it will be burned up. 2 Pet. 3:9-10

Then the LORD answered me and said... 3...the vision is yet for the appointed time, and it hastens toward the end, and shall not lie. Though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not delay. Hab. 2:2-3

On that day it shall be said, Surely this is our God; we have trusted in him, and he has saved us. This is the LORD; we have trusted in him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. Isa. 25:9

  1. What was the message John preached? See Matt. 3:1-2 What does it mean to repent? Note Isa. 55:7; 2 Tim. 2:19b Upon whom must we rely if we are to heed the command to repent? See Zech. 4:6; Rom. 8:13,

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matt. 3:1-2

Let the wicked man forsake his way, and let the unrighteous man [forsake] his thoughts. Let him return to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him. [Let him return] to our God, for he will abundantly pardon...Isa. 55:7

Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 2 Tim. 2:19b

This is the word of the LORD... 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit', says the LORD of hosts. Zech. 4:6

...if you live according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the [Holy] Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you shall live. Rom. 8:13

“The flesh” is a reference to the old sinful nature, the remnants of which still assault the Christian.

  1. In what sense is repentance a one-time radical act? See 1 Thess. 1:9b-10 In what sense is repentance an ongoing activity in the Christian’s life? See 2 Cor. 3:18, turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven... 1 Thess. 1:9-10

...we all...beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Cor. 3:18

  1. Along with the call to repentance, in what else did John’s ministry consist? See Mk. 1:4 According to Mk. 1:4, what was the spiritual significance of the baptism performed by John; what did it represent? What alone can wash away our sins? See 1 Jn. 1:7b; Rev. 1:5-6,

So John came, baptizing in the wilderness and preaching the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Mk. 1:4

...the blood of Jesus Christ [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 Jn. 1:7b

To him [i.e. Christ Jesus] who loved us and washed us from our sins with his own blood... him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Rev. 1:5-6

  1. In comparison to the baptism he administered, how does John describe the baptism Christ Jesus administers? See Mk. 1:8; Matt. 3:11 What does this mean? In the O.T., how were things that were dedicated to the LORD purified? Note Num. 31:23a,

I baptized you with water; but he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Mark 1:8

I indeed baptize you with water for repentance; but he who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matt. 3:11

...everything that can endure fire, you shall put through the fire, and it shall be clean... Num. 31:23a

John’s reference to Christ baptizing with “the Holy Spirit and fire” is a reference to the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying (i.e. purifying) work, by which the redeemed are brought into fellowship with God and enabled to stand in the presence of our holy God and be admitted into His fellowship.

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