Thursday, December 1, 2016

The relationship between Jesus' baptism and believer's baptism

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Matthew 3:16 "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."

When we consider Jesus' public baptism in relationship to the baptism He commands his disciples to perform in the great commission of Matthew 28:18-20, what relationship do both have with one another? Today's posts offers some quick thoughts in answer to this question.

1. Jesus' baptism provides the mode for what would be believer's baptism.
John 3:22-23 notes concerning Jesus' disciples baptizing as a continuation of John's baptism - "After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized." What is the mode or manner in which water baptism ought to take place? should people be sprinkled? have water poured upon them? the answer to all of these questions is in the negative. The underlined words of the passage tell us that John (and presumably the disciples of Jesus) baptized where there was much water in order to immerse the candidates. Dr. Adrian Rogers notes on page 113 of his book - "What Every Christian Ought to Know": 

"If we baptize by sprinkling, we could baptize seven thousand people with a jugful. The reason John was baptizing down there is simple: there was much water there, and it takes a lot of water to baptize". 

The meaning of the word "baptize" itself conveys this central thought of "immersion". Hence, Jesus' baptism conveys to us the mode required to perform proper water baptism.

2. Jesus baptism communicates rich meaning into the symbolism taught by believer's baptism
In Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22 and John 1:32 we read what occurred when the Lord Jesus Christ came up out of the cold, chilly waters of the Jordon in His baptism by John. In various respects all four Gospels record the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus to convey the official beginning of His public ministry. As the "Anointed-One", "The Messiah" or "The Christ", the Incarnate Son of God was to be characterized as ministering on this earth in His first coming as one endued by the Holy Spirit. 

Next we read in Matthew and Mark's versions of how the heaven's opened. Our Lord Jesus Christ was to be characterized in His humanity as a man who would ever walk under an open-heaven in communion with His Heavenly Father.

Then thirdly, the first three Gospels record the Father's voice coming out of Heaven as declaring: "This is my beloved Son in whom I'm well pleased." John's version focuses more on John the Baptist's eye-witness account and his verbal confirmation of Jesus' eternal identity as the Son of God. At anyrate, we see in the baptism of Jesus the priority of God's voice being heard clearly and confirming Jesus. 

So when we consider these realities in Jesus' life, the principles that we can see in the symbolism of believer's baptism are these: a). Following the Spirit's leading b). increased fellowship with God c). increased ability to heed God's Word.

The great commentator Matthew Henry notes: "The heavens were opened when Christ was baptized, to teach us, that when we duly attend on God’s ordinances, we may expect communion with him, and communications from him."

So we have seen that Jesus' baptism informs believer's baptism by way of the mode it is performed and the rich meaning it exports, but now lets consider one last way in which Jesus' baptism relates to believer's baptism practice in the remainder of the New Testament and the local church today...

3. Jesus' baptism conveys the commitment factor we find in believer's baptism
When the Lord Jesus came to John to be baptized, he traveled some 60 miles to do so. The Lord Jesus' desired to be baptized so as to identify publicly with the people whom He would come to redeem. His baptism also was His way of initiating His public life. When a Christian gets baptized, they are "going public" with their faith and "publicly professing" their commitment to live for the Jesus whom they already received in prior saving faith. The "New Directory for Baptist Churches by Edward Hiscox" (not so new anymore, since it was printed in 1970), has this to say concerning how baptism enhances the Christian's commitment:

"Moreover, the disciple feels that in baptism he has effectually and openly come out from the world, and committed Himself to Christ and His service. This gives to the spirit a moral triumph, and fills it with boundless peace. Baptism is therefore an act of obedience, and as such brings the candidate into a more intimate and exclusive fellowship with the Lord; but it possesses no power in itself to remit sin, to change the heart, or sanctify the spirit."

Closing thoughts
Today we aimed to understand what relationship, if any, Jesus' baptism has to the New Covenant, believer's baptism He commanded His disciples to perform and ordained for His church to practice throughout the centuries and millennia. We found at least three connecting points:

1. Jesus' baptism provides the mode for believer's baptism

2. Jesus' baptism provides rich meaning that is symbolized by believer's baptism

3. Jesus' baptism conveys the commitment factor we find in believer's baptism

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