Saturday, July 7, 2012

Baptism was mandated by Jesus Christ

Matthew 3:16-17 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, 17and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

Why Jesus was baptized
In the course of studying Jesus' life, a key event marked the end of Jesus' private preparation from birth to age 30 and the beginning of his public ministry from age 30-33: namely his baptism.  When Jesus comes to the Jordon river, John the Baptist, his cousin and the last prophet of the Old Testament era, stops him and states in Matthew 3:14 - "I have need to be baptized by you."  Jesus' response to John reveals his purpose for getting baptized: "it is fitting for us to fulfilll all righteousness". (Matthew 3:15) 

What Jesus was saying in the original language was that he wanted to show the people what it looked like to not only be right with God positionally, but to show them by example the very righteousness they would need credited to them to be made right with God - namely Christ Himself.  The promise to which they were believing, and the message to which John had been preaching, was now standing before them. 

Christ's Baptism served as an example to not only the Jews of His day, but set the precedent for his final instructions to His church
Christ mandated baptism by both modeling it and commanding it.  In Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23 and John the Baptist's testimony in John 1:19-34 we see the event of Christ's baptism.  As we already mentioned, Christ's baptism marked the beginning of His public ministry.  Additionally, Christ's Baptism signalled the beginning of the end of John's ministry, since John's preaching of the promised Messiah had been shown to be made complete. 

The main differences between John's baptism and New Testament baptism is of perspective.  The former looked forward to Messiah and the other pictures the believer's prior identification by faith in what Christ had accomplished.  However when we consider the similarities, we can note how Jesus mandated baptism's main elements by modeling and commanding it:

1. Conversion by faith in Jesus Christ must occur before
Luke's version of John's Baptism in Luke 3:7-22 has various people from the crowds coming for baptism. As the crowds come, some of the people begin to question John about the meaning of what he was doing.  Although he was baptizing, he did not baptize people who had not first already expressed faith and repentance in the Messiah.  In Luke 3:18 we read that "with may other exhortations he preached the gospel". 

At the end of Matthew, when Jesus gives His great commission, He commands baptism to be done to those who had been "made disciples". A Disciple was a follower of Jesus Christ who had been "born again' by the Spirit of God to conversion. (John 3:3-6) John 1:12-13 speaks of having to receive and call on the name of Christ by faith. Quite simply, by God's grace, through faith, one turned and followed Jesus Christ in discipleship and thus was termed to had received the gift of eternal life. (John 3:16; 17:3)

2. Jesus Christ, not the baptism, was the author and finisher of faith
This was a baptism of repentance - that is - it was a baptism that came as a result of repentance.  Christ's modeling of baptism before the people was to show with whom they were following.  He being the object of their faith prior to their entry into the water was also to be the subject of their public profession of faith before other witnesses.  It was Christ, not the baptism, that is the center point of both this first mention of baptism and His final command for all true believers to be baptized.  It is Christ, and faith in Christ, which is the cause of one following through with believer's baptism.  Whenever we make baptism to be the cause of salvation, or the event of salvation, we make baptism, not Christ, the author and finisher of faith. 

3. Christ's baptism revealed the importance of baptism for the Christian
The late Adrian Rogers writes these words: "Think of the Ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He had a ministry of three and a half years.  How did He commence His ministry? By being baptized.  How did He conclude His ministry? By commanding baptism - the Great Commission."1    Christ modeled it for us, and then commanded it to us.  Christ would not command what He had first not willingly carried out by His own example.  Every Christian's aim is to be like the Master.  Baptism is that essential first step of Christian obedience. 

4. Baptist churches affirm the significance of baptism being for believers
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 states: "Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus."2  This is why we are using the term "believer's baptism", since the Bible knows of no other type of people who are fit candidates for this practice - namely believers.

Thus biblical believer's baptism matters because it was mandated by Jesus Christ.  It was modeled by Him at the beginning of His earthly ministry and it was commanded by Him at the conclusion of His earthly ministry prior to His ascension.
1. Adrian Rogers. What Every Christian Ought to Know. B & H Publishing Group. Nashville, TN. 2005. Page 112
I would highly recommend this book to new converts and older Christians.  It most clearly and completely explains the whole of Christian faith and experience.  Dr. Rogers was a wonderful Southern Baptist Pastor and leader for decades before his passing in 2005. 

2. Baptist Faith and Message 2000
This doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention is available at  Once you are on the site, go to your left and click on the tab marked: "statement of faith".

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