Inauguration, identification, and commitment in Jesus’ baptism

INTRODUCTION. An examination of Matthew 3:13-17 with the goal of discovering why Jesus was baptized, then applying those ideas to the life of a believer/disciple.

When He was about thirty years old (Luke 3:23), Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Here is the account from the gospel of Matthew 3:13-17:

13 Then Jesus *arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he *permitted Him. 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

The Scriptures are clear that Jesus was baptized. All four gospels unambiguously attest to this fact. But the question that must be answered is, “Why was Jesus baptized?”

WHY WAS JESUS BAPTIZED?

Let’s explore this question. We can start by saying what is not the reason Jesus was baptized. John the Baptist was “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). In Matthew 3:6 we read that John was baptizing people “in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins” (Matt. 3:6). But since Jesus was sinless (John 8:46; 2 Cor. 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; etc.), He had no sins to confess, so He was not being baptized for repentance.

So, we are back at square one. “Why was Jesus baptized?”

MATTHEW 3:15

Jesus’ words in Matthew 3:15 seem to provide some helpful information. First, Jesus commands John to permit His baptism. In the Greek, this is an imperative, meaning Jesus is giving John a command. “Allow My baptism!” With this command, Jesus is telling John, “I know you do not understand why I am doing this, but I know why, and so I am commanding you to baptize Me and to trust Me about this.”

Notice also that John is to permit this baptism “at this time.” This phrase could also be translated from the Greek as “at the current time” or simply “now.” There is something about this particular time that is significant and that makes it “fitting” (or “proper”) for Jesus to be baptized at this specific time. This new information has changed our question to, “Why was Jesus baptized at this specific time?” As we consider the timing of this scene, we see that this is the time Jesus began His earthly ministry. And it is “fitting” (or “proper”) to mark the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry “in this way,” that is, with baptism.  

WHY JESUS WAS BAPTIZED AT THIS TIME

Putting these pieces together, then, we would say that it was appropriate and fitting to fulfill all righteousness for Jesus to mark the launch of His earthly ministry with baptism. To say this more simply, it was right (or righteous) for Jesus to mark the start of His earthly ministry with baptism. So, the answer to the question, “Why was Jesus baptized?” is that He was baptized to mark the start of His earthly ministry. But that is not the complete reason.

At His baptism, Jesus emerged from complete obscurity and was publicly identified as the Son of God when God the Father declared from heaven, “This is My beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17). Prior to this event, Jesus had been an unknown carpenter in the backwater town of Nazareth, quietly living His days with His mother and brothers. Now, by His baptism, His days of quiet obscurity are forever ended and His anonymity is gone. Through His baptism, He is now identified as the Son of God. Thus, a second reason for His baptism was His identification as the Son of God.

But there was another reason for Jesus to be baptized, for at His baptism, Jesus committed Himself to the cross. After He emerged from the waters of baptism, there was no turning back, there would be no distractions, there was no other possible ending to the story. His baptism was the visual sign that Jesus was committed to His mission all the way to His death. As Jesus went down into the waters of baptism, He was picturing His own physical death on the cross and subsequent burial, and when He was raised up out of the water, He was picturing His own glorious resurrection. His baptism, then, was also about His commitment to be obedient till death (Philippians 2:8).

APPLICATION TO THE BELIEVER

We have seen that in His baptism, Jesus inaugurated His mission, He identified as the Son of God, and He committed to the cross. But Jesus’ baptism has even more significance than that.

When I was baptized, after my pastor requested from me a verbal testimony of my faith in Jesus Christ, he said these words before he plunged me under the water: “Based on your profession of faith, IN IMITATION OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST and in obedience to His divine command (Matthew 28:19), I baptize you, my brother in Christ, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Buried unto death in Christ (plunge into water), rise again to walk in newness of life (bring up out of the water).”

As believers, we worship a crucified Savior, but we also worship a baptized Savior. Jesus Christ was baptized, and He thus left His disciples an example of what we are to do when we make disciples, according to Matthew 28:19. And as Jesus was baptized as a sign of inauguration, identification, and commitment, so the baptism of a disciple is also a sign of inauguration, identification, and commitment.

In his public baptism, the disciple publicly inaugurates his discipleship and starts his lifelong walk with Jesus. Baptism is the fitting sign to mark the start of a disciple’s earthly journey with Jesus.

Also, in baptism the disciple publicly declares his faith in Jesus and vows to follow Jesus forever. His baptism publicly identifies him as a follower of Jesus Christ. From that moment on, the baptized disciple is always identified with the crucified and risen Savior.

Finally, in the disciple’s baptism he visually makes a commitment to follow Jesus until death, no matter the cost and no matter the consequences. To live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21), and so as long as he draws breath, the disciple is a committed witness for Jesus Christ.

Thus, the disciple is baptized IN IMITATION OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.

SDG                 rmb                 6/10/2022                   #542

A study in baptism based on Romans 6:4

INTRODUCTION: One of the clearest verses on the doctrine of baptism is Romans 6:4. Paul’s unambiguous teaching here declares the purpose and the meaning of baptism. This article studies this verse.

Baptism is a New Testament ordinance given to us by the Lord Jesus Himself. At the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:15) in the Jordan River, and at the end of His first advent, He commanded His church to baptize His disciples in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). But while Jesus modeled baptism and commanded baptism, we are going to turn to Paul’s teaching in Romans 6:4 to learn about the purpose and the meaning of baptism.

Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. – Romans 6:4

The purpose of the ordinance of baptism is to mark the beginning of the believer’s new walk of holiness as he now walks with Jesus. The old life of sin has been buried with Jesus in the waters of baptism, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

In baptism, the believer publicly declares their commitment to forsake their old life of sin and godlessness by repentance from sin, and vows by faith to live for Jesus Christ as they strive for holiness. Baptism is the outward illustration of an inward transformation. Water baptism pictures the realities of Romans 10:9, and of 1 John 1:9, and of Matthew 22:37.

Romans 10:9 – In biblical baptism, the believer publicly confesses with their mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord of their life, and they declare their faith in Christ and in His resurrection. Thus, baptism is for those who can confess their submission to Christ and their faith in Him.

1 John 1:9 – Water baptism is the occasion of the believer’s public confession of their sin and of their willfully turning away from their sin.

Matthew 22:37 – Water baptism marks the believer’s intention to love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love his neighbor as himself. His love for the Lord will henceforth be manifested in obedience to all the Lord commanded us.

Both for Christ and for the believer, there is a death and burial, and there is a resurrection from the dead. Paul’s analogy is beautifully pictured in the waters of baptism. The analogy is understood by the paradigm, “As Christ physically, so the believer figuratively and spiritually.” As Christ physically died and was buried to mark His vanquishing of sin, so the believer figuratively and spiritually dies and is buried in the baptismal waters to mark their relinquishing of sin. The posture of the believer being pushed back into the water is significant because it pictures the believer’s weakness and helplessness, and their surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Then, as Christ was physically raised from the dead in glorious resurrection, never to die again, so the believer is spiritually raised to walk in newness of life, never to be condemned again. As Christ was physically raised by the power of the Father (Ephesians 1:19-20), so the believer is raised from the water by with the help (“power”) of the pastor.

As Christ confessed His intentions (Mark 10:45; John 10:11, 15, 17, 18; Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19) and consequently submitted to His physical death, so in baptism the believer confesses their intentions (Romans 10:9; 1 John 1:9; etc.) and then submits to burial into the water.

Thus, it is clear that believer’s baptism is what Christ commanded for His church.

SDG                 rmb                 12/27/2021                 #476