Teachings of John the Baptist -- Salvation Principles Clarified
Jews in the time of Christ's emergence had several salvation doctrines. Among them were two that Jesus and John the Baptist refuted:
1. If Abraham was your Father (you were a son of the tribes of Israel), you were safe / saved.
2. If the last thing you did before you died was just, you were saved.
Jesus and John the Baptist variously gave different principles to undermine this.
John the Baptist before Jesus preached taught that it did not matter who your lineal father was --Abraham, etc. God can raise up sons of Abraham from stones, if that is what pleased him.
In Clayton Raymond Bowen's work The Gospel of Jesus Critically Reconstructed from the Earliest Sources (1916) at pages 134-34, we read his introduction to John the Baptist's salvation message:
He chooses the country along the Jordan, that he may baptize in the river. Baptism was used by the Jews when receiving a Gentile into the Jewish fellowship; it was thought to cleanse him from all that was unclean in his old life. When John demanded repentance of supposedly orthodox and pious Jews, and their baptism for moral cleansing and the beginning of a better life, it was an innovation very unwelcome to the leaders; but the common people accepted it with the more eagerness. They were looked down upon as godless and hopeless by the Pharisaic leaders; John gave them a chance to clear themselves and start anew. The method of baptism was complete immersion of the body in the river. John is preaching and baptizing in view of the Kingdom of God, whose establishment he believes to be imminent. People who accept his message, who repent, confess their sins and are baptized, are set apart as a fellowship of those who have prepared themselves, and are ready to enter in as citizens of the Kingdom so soon as it dawns. John is epoch-making, because he denies absolutely that membership in the chosen race will of itself secure admission there, and establishes repentance and moral renewal as the fixed requirement for every one. His sharp rebuke, "brood of vipers," is in place to the Pharisees and Sadducees, as Matthew has it, not to the "multitudes," as Luke has it. The striking figure of the tree and its fruit is used later by Jesus (sections 41 and 120).
This means that John used baptism as a single rite for both Jew and Gentile to enter the Kingdom of God that was coming. Previously, Jewish religious leaders only thought it was necessary for a Gentile to become ceremonially and spiritually clean. It is John who prophetically created on Yahweh's behalf that the new ritual of kingdom entry was baptism, and this applied to Jews as much as to the Gentiles. The Jewish leaders told Jews that their lineage assured them of salvation, and they encouraged the people to call Abraham their "father," not call God their Father.
Then John told the people they needed to repent of sin, and change morally.
This was not what the current religious leaders were teaching. The religious elite taught Jews were safe and secure by being sons of Abraham. They told Gentiles they were safe and secure by a ceremonial washing ALONE. (Only Pharisees taught Gentiles needed circumcision in addition.) The religious elite's lessons were a cost-free salvation for Jews, and a ritual cleansing for Gentiles. The Pharisees added a "pinch" more ... Pardon the subtle humor.
In this costless-salvation arena first appeared John and he said NO MORE! Words are not enough. There must be works worthy of repentance. Without such fruit, you go into the fire.
Jesus repeated multiple times this principle. It was nothing new to anyone who read the Law. But the fact it was the same for Jew and Gentile was new. John's statement that lineage did not matter had the implication that a Gentile's lineage was not determinative either, right?