Why Was Jesus Baptized?

The Importance of Baptism

Baptism is an important and central aspect of the Gospel message. It is the process by which one is joined with the blood of Christ; the process by which one conforms to His death, burial, and resurrection; and the process by which one is joined to the body of Christ. However, when one studies the subject of baptism in detail, one discovers that Jesus Christ Himself was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River (Mat. 3:15, NASU). For what purpose did this baptism take place? In order to understand this question it is important to first look at the differences between Christian baptism and the baptism of John.

What Forgiveness?

Every man and woman (who have reached the age of accountability for their own sin) must be baptized into Christ in order to receive the forgiveness of their own sins. However, Jesus Christ was the only human being who ever lived a life free from the spectre of sin (1 Pet. 2:22; cf. Isa. 53:9). Why would He need to be baptized at all? It is important to remember the time in which Jesus’ baptism takes place. Was the baptism that Jesus Christ received the same as the baptism of the Gospel? No, it was not. Jesus Christ was baptized into the baptism of John.

A Different Purpose

The purpose of John’s baptism differed from the purpose of Christian baptism. This can be proven by Apollos’ conversion (Acts 18:24-28). Apollos had been baptized by John but still needed to be baptized into Christ after the Church Age came about. This suggests that the baptism of John was for a limited period of time (before the Church Age), and for a specific people (the Jews). Prophecy had been silent throughout the land of Judea for about 400 years when John came onto the scene. His role as “forerunner” was to prepare the Jewish nation for the Messiah, and his baptism seems to be a part of that mission.

A Necessary Act

When Jesus instructed John to baptize Him, John was surprised (as we would be as well). Jesus explains that it was necessary to “fulfill all righteousness” (Mat. 3:15). Although this phrase is somewhat cryptic, it is apparent that the Jewish nation was being called to refocus once more upon God in the time of the Messiah. If John’s baptism is what was required of the Jewish nation, for Jesus (a Jew) to refuse it would have been an act of great sin. Why was Jesus baptized? Because God required it of Him. It is really that simple. If Jesus was willing to obey the simple command of God in order to please Him, why do so many refuse to obey a similar, simple command today?

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