THE BAPTISM OF JESUS
Matthew 3:13-17 February 20, 2004
Matthew 3:13-17 says, “Then Jesus came from Gaalilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, `I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me'? But Jesus answered and said to him, `Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitrting for us to fulfill all reighteousness.' Then He allowed him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came for heaven, saying, `This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.'” This interesting account of the baptism of Jesus reveals some important truths about baptism.
The first point of interest about His baptism was His age. We learn from Luke 3:23 that Jesus was about 30 years old when He was baptized. Now this doesn't mean that everyone should be at least 30 before submitting to baptism. Why then did Jesus wait so long to be baptized? It has been said that Jesus was not baptized until 30, so why should I be baptized any younger? The reason Jesus waited until He was 30 to be baptized is very understandable. There was no command from God to be baptized unttil Jesus was 30. The command of baptism was a new ordinance and was first given to Israel by John theBaptist. Jesus was about 30 when John began to command men to be bpaitzed. Hence, He wasteed no time in rendering obedience to God's comand. The fact that Jesuss was 30 at the time of His baptsim carries no significance for us, and there is no example here for us to follow so far as His age was concerned.
Secondly, I direct your attention to he purpose of Jesus' baptism. When Jesus presented Himself to John for baptism, surprisingly the Baptist tried to prevent His baptism. John argued that Jesus should be baptizing him and not the reverse. Why did John try to prevent the baptism? It was a real problem to John because baptism was for the forgivneess of sins. When John baptized a person, all the sins that person had ever committed in his life were pardoned. This is why John did not want to baptize Him. He knew Jesus had no sins; Jesus was more righteous than himself. When John said, “I have need to be baptized of you,” we learn the important truth that baptism is for the unrighteous, not for the righteous. Baptism is not for the saint, but for the sinner. Baptism is not for a saved person but for a lost person. Every ;person should come to baptism to have all his sins removed. Sins are forgiven in baptism, not before baptism. One purpose of John's
baptism was to forgive the sins of the baptized individual. This is verified in Mark 1:4 which says, “John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” The word of God could not be plainer that all past sins were forgiven by John's baptism.
Why then did Jesus need to be baptized? The Lord Himself answered that question in Matthew 3:15, “Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered Him.” We learn from this that John's baptism had an additional purpose other than forgiveness. Baptism also fulfills all righteousness. The purpose of forgiveness did not apply to Jesus, for He had no sins to be forgiven, but the purpose of fulfilling all righteousness did apply to Him. God commanded every Israelite to be baptized and sent John to carry it out. Jesus was a man, as well as God in the flesh. Had He failed to submit to God's command of baptism, He would have been guilty of the sin of omission. All who have not beenn baptized are guilty of thas sin. If He had omitted God's command of baptism, He would have left a terrible example to the human race. That example would have been that man does not have to obey all of God's ccommands. He would have left the impression that baptism is a non-essential command, but Jesus did not do that. Rather, He said that baptism fulfills righteousness. Scriptural obedience to baptism is a mark of righteousness. The word righteousness means to be just and right. When Jesus submitted to baptism, it showed He was right with God. David said an important thing about righteousness in Psalm 119:172, “My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all your commandments are righteousness.” Therefore when we obey any or all of God's commandments, we fulfill righteousness. The seriousness of neglectilng this command is revealed in Luke 7:30, “But the Phairisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.” Baptism is a command of God, and it should not be belittled or called non-essential. Rather it should be respected and obeyed.
In addition to forgiveness and fulfilling righteousness, John's baptsm had another purpose. It is stated in John 1: 31, “I did not know Him, but that He should be revealed to Israel; therefore I came baptizing in water.”John used baptism to introduce Jesus to Israel as their Messiah. By submitting to John's baptism, Isralites commited themselves to be followers of Jesus. So we see that John's baptism had at least three specifed purposes: forgiveness of sin, fulfillment of righteousness and the introduction of Jesus as Israel's Messiah.
We have studied the baptism of Jesus as it respected His age and its threefold purpose, and thirdly, there is another important thing that took place at His baptism. It was at His baptism that God the Father made the very first public confession from heaven that Jesus was His beloved Son. As Jesus was immersed in water and came up out of the water, Matthew records these words, “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This was the first time God publicly confessed Jesus as His Son, and it occurred just as He had fulfilled all righeousnmess in baptism. Jesus said that if we confess Him before men, He will confess us befoe the angels of God(Luke 12:8). We can be certain that He will not confess anyone before the angels who has not submitted to God's command of baptism. This is evident by what Paul said in Galatinas 3:26, “For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptiized into Christ have put on Chrsist.”
We learn from this passage that no one reaches the blood of
Christ or the death of Christ at the time of faith and repentance. . To be baptized into the death of Chrsist is to take in His death; it is to assimialte the benefits of His death to our souls. So there is a sense in which God confesses every person to be His son or daughter at the time of baptism, and with His baptized children He is well pleased. It also might be said that as Jesus did not begin His ministry of service to God until He was baptized, in like manner no one begins Christian service to God until He has submitted to the baptism commanded by Christ.
Finally, I would like to say one more thing about John's baptism. There are some similalrities between John's baptism and the new baptism which Christ commanded, but they were different baptisms. The baptism of John lasted only as long as the Law of Moses lasted. John's baptism was an ammendment to the law of Moses. Christ nailed the law of Moses to His cross, and that means He ended that law, took it out of the way and gave a new law to the entire world. If any one received John's baptism after the beginning of the Christian religion, that person had to be rebaptized. The Christian religion did not recognize John's baptism after the first Pentecost Day after the death of Christ(Acts 2)
However, there were similarites and disimilarities between John's baptsim and the new baptism which Christ gave to both Jews and Gentiles after His death and ressurrection. Permit me to list the purposes of Chrsist's baptism. . First Christ commanded baptism to all accountable beings, and so it fulfills all righteousness to all who obey it. Second, Christ's baptism is
for the forgiveness of sins, as was John's(Acts 2:38). Third, we assilmlate the blood and death of Christ to our souls in baptism.(Romans 6:3). Fourth, baptism makes us a member of the Church of Christ(Romans 16:16). It puts us in the New Testament church(I Corinthians 12:13) Salvation, church membership and forgiveness all take place in baptism when preceded by sincere faith and repentance. Finally, baptism saves us. The apostle Peter said that baptism saves us in I Peter 3:21, and that can only mean that baptism is a saving act just like fath and repentance.
My final comment is that baptism has been dignified by the fact that Jesus submitted to it. Consequently, the ordinance should be respected ilnstead of neglected or belittled. It should not, however, be given a place any more important than Christ gave it. Baptism by itself will save no one. Jesus saves, and baptism is but a test of faith. Now to you who would like to live the Christian life, but do not know how or where to begin, let me suggest that you must begin where Jesus did. He began at baptism. His baptism marked his entry on His personal ministry, and it will mark your entry into Christian lliving and Christian service. In keeping with the example of Jesus, our Christian service begins after we are baptized. From baptism the word of God says we arise to walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4) If you understand all that scriptural baptism implies, “Go thou and do likewise.” By the way, the word baptize comes from a Greek word which means to dip, to immerse, and all Bible scholars are aware that this is the original meaning of the word, and that the apostles of Christ practiced nothing but immersion for baptism.