Understanding Jesus' Baptism

The Need to Be Knowledgeable

In a world full of false teaching it is incumbent upon the Christian to be as knowledgeable about the Word of God and as wise in its teaching and application as possible. One of the most frustrating areas of conflict with false teachers is over the necessity of baptism for conversion. While the New Testament is plain in its language and intent, many still seek to find exceptions to its teaching.

A Wrong Way to Prove Baptism

In order to prove the necessity of baptism by immersion many arguments can be put forward with Biblical example. However, one such example that is sometimes used in a well meaning fashion is the baptism of Jesus Himself. This has troubles for the following reasons:

This was the baptism of John

As recorded in Matthew 3, Jesus came to John to be baptized in the Jordan River as part of the general call to the nation of Israel for the purpose of repentance (v. 11). John’s role was to “prepare the way” for the coming ministry and kingdom of Jesus Christ. The baptism for the forgiveness of sins which came with the Church (Acts 2; Rom. 6; Gal. 3, et al.) was not in existence yet.

Jesus did so to fulfill God’s command

John was surprised to see Jesus present Himself for baptism as Jesus would have no need for repentance; He had never sinned! However, Jesus answers that it was proper as to “fulfill all righteousness” (Mat. 3:15, NASU). It was commanded by God for His people at that time; to refuse the command would be to refuse God and be sinful in itself!

Those baptized of John were baptized into Christ again later

Because of the two baptisms which served different purposes, using this as an example can create confusion. That the baptism of John was done away with by the baptism into Christ can be shown with the example of Apollos (Acts 19:1ff). Proving the necessity of something that came after something similar that it replaced is difficult.

A General Proof

In a general sense, the baptism of Jesus can provide one key point to share with those who might bring it up as a so-called “exception” to the necessity of baptism (which it is not). In the basic sense, Jesus did what was commanded of God’s people because He wanted to please God. Today, what is commanded is to be baptized into Christ. What right would we have to refuse a command of God when even Jesus would not?

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