Jesus was baptized by john by being fully immersed under water. Do we need to do that and be baptized as He was?
As we address this, remember that the question asks, do we NEED to be baptized like Jesus was baptized. First, let’s consider the possible reasons why Jesus was water baptized by John the Baptist.
There are some denominations that will say this baptism was a picture of what we must do for salvation. There are other denominations that will say baptism by immersion is our identification with Jesus’ baptism. However, neither of these fit well with the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace ALONE. We don’t do anything. We can’t do anything. Jesus did it all.
What We Know
We are sinners and water baptism is meant to be a public profession of our having been cleansed of sin by Jesus. It is a public testimony of our being washed by the blood of Christ.
Revelation 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.
As stated in last week’s article on baptism, water baptism is not necessary for salvation. We can’t do anything or add anything to Jesus’ work in saving us. It is only by His life, death, burial, and resurrection that we can be made right with God (forgiven of sins) and receive eternal life. It’s not Jesus + my good works or Jesus + my good words. It’s not Jesus + my Bible reading or Jesus + my church attendance. And it’s not Jesus + my baptism. It is always Jesus’ work + nothing that offers salvation.
Baptism is a beautiful testimony to the grace and mercy of God in saving us. It is by grace alone, through faith (Ephesians 2:8).
John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.
Baptism is not something we must do. So, do we need to be immersed because Jesus was baptized that way? The answer is, no, we do not. But should we be immersed because Jesus was baptized that way? Yes, we should make a public profession of what Christ has done for us — whether it’s by water baptism as some churches do, or by confirmation as in other churches. There are denominations that say, by being baptized by full immersion we identify with Jesus in His baptism….but do we really?
What about Jesus’ baptism by John?
If water baptism is a public proclamation that God has forgiven our sins, how does that Identify with Jesus’ baptism? Jesus’ baptism did not in any way proclaim the forgiveness of sins. Jesus had no sins. Remember, John proclaimed Him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He was, is, and always will be the perfect, sinless Lamb of God.
John preached a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4). He was baptizing “with water unto repentance” (Matthew 3:5). Jesus had no sins to repent of and therefore no need to be baptized “unto repentance.”
We are baptized as a public profession of an inward, spiritual rebirth. Jesus was not.
So why was Jesus baptized?
I believe that Jesus was being consecrated for His public service for God and His ministry to the people. This was the practice for all priests who served in the Temple as God’s ministers offering sacrifices. They were consecrated in a purification ceremony of being washed with water (Leviticus 8:6).
When Jesus came to John, and John hailed Him as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” Jesus was presenting Himself for His public ministry. There is no dispute that this was the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. And just as with other priests, Jesus was consecrated by immersion in water, fulfilling a righteous requirement of God for His service. This requirement was met and God confirmed Jesus with, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22) and so also the Holy Spirit when He descended upon Jesus like a dove.
We see the unity of the Trinity in Jesus’ baptism. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit together. Remember, Jesus was 100% God and 100% man in His incarnation. Remember also that He and the Father and the Spirit are One God. They have never been, nor ever will be, separated. The Trinity is co-eternal, and yet while here on earth, Jesus set aside His divinity, making Himself of no reputation (Philippians 2:7). He lived His life surrendered to the will of the Father and equipped for ministry by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ baptism was a whisper of His work on the cross.
Jesus’ baptism is a beautiful picture of God’s love for us. His baptism was not a public profession of forgiven sin (because He had none) but it does whisper of His coming death on the cross and His resurrection in victory over death and the sins of the world.
In the Bible, water consistently represents the judgment and wrath of God (the Flood -Genesis 6:17, Hebrews 11:7; the Red Sea drowning of the Egyptians – Exodus 14:28, Hebrews 11:29; Jonah going under the waters – Jonah 1, 2:3).
In His baptism, Jesus presented Himself and submitted Himself to go under the water as the Lamb of God. John proclaimed the work He would do…take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). In 3 1/2 years He would do that work — He would be baptized again, immersed under the judgment of God for the sins of the word.
When Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the world and was nailed to the cross, God’s wrath was poured out upon Him. His blood was shed to pay for our sins and then He gave up His life. He was buried and three days late rose from the grave victorious.
A Whisper of Redemption
Jesus’ baptism can be seen as a whisper, of the redemptive work that He would do at the end of His ministry, when He would offer Himself for the sins of mankind. Just as the Levitical system of sacrifice pointed to a coming Messiah, so also Jesus’ baptism by John prepared Him for His ministry and pointed to His work in fulfilling His mission.
So when believers are baptized by immersion, I believe it identifies with Jesus’ work on the cross at Calvary. That is what the public profession of our salvation is all about… “Jesus saved me.” He went under the wrath of God, so I would not have to. He paid the penalty for my sins so I would never need to face God’s wrath. He was judged in my place and He has made me free.
It’s all about Jesus!
We are not washed by water, we are washed by His blood.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that we should stop doing baptisms by immersion. Just remember to make it all about the One Who did the work, the One Who redeemed you. Let it be a public testimony to what Jesus has done for you. It’s not about the believer getting baptized. It’s about our Saviour and His mercy and grace in sacrificing Himself and restoring us to Himself. And it’s always all about Jesus!!!
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
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