WHETHER Jesus himself personally baptized with water is not made entirely clear in the New Testament. John 3:22 says:

"After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea, and there he tarried with them, and baptized."


Again it is related in John 3:25-26:

"Then there arose a question between {some} of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all {men) come to him. "


But John 4:1-3 says:

"When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. "


Some authorities take these passages to mean that Jesus personally administered the rite of baptism during the early days of his ministry. The Synoptics - Matthew, Mark and Luke - are silent on the subject. Matthew 3:13-17 tells us:

"Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, 1 have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him Suffer, {it to be so} now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.. and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. "


Apparently the Pharisees expected the Messiah to baptize, perhaps from certain hints in the prophets, for John 1:25 says:

"And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?"


John answered that he baptized with water, but that there stood among them one who "baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." Matthew 3:11 quotes John as saying:

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than 1, whose shoes 1 am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and {with} fire."


Luke 12:49-50 quotes Jesus:

"I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will 1, if it be already kindled? But 1 have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am 1 straitened till it be accomplished!"


According to Mark 10:38-39:

"But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that 1 drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that 1 am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that 1 drink of; and with the baptism that 1 am baptized withal shall ye be baptized."


It appears from these passages that, while Jesus administered the rite of baptism with water in the early days of his ministry, it was merely a temporary practice and not a vital part of his mission.


In the balance of this article I would like to set forth three reasons for the baptism of Jesus by John.

  1. It was to identify the Lord as the Son of God at the beginning of his ministry.
  2. It was a commencement token of the total dedication of Christ in carrying out Heaven’s plan.
  3. It was a visual precursor to the Savior’s ultimate death, burial, and resurrection. Each of these points needs some development.


This is the Son of God.”

John the Baptizer was a remarkable character. Isaiah prophetically described him as a “voice ... crying in the wilderness,” preparing the way of the Lord (40:1-3). The Old Testament closes with the promise of the coming “Elijah” (Malachi 4:5-6), an allusion to John, whose mission, in the spirit and power of Elijah, was to make ready for the Lord a people prepared (Luke. 1:17).


John announced Jesus as “the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world” (John. 1:29). The expression “Lamb of God” reveals that Jesus was the antitype (fulfillment) of the Old Testament sacrificial system. It argues for the atoning nature of the Lord’s death and, potentially, the universal accessibility of that blessing.


John declared that it was his mission to prepare the way for Christ, who was to come “after” him, i.e., John’s work would precede the Lord’s (1:30). But John declared: “he is before me,” i.e., Christ, due to his divine nature, was to take precedence over “the Baptist,” because, as John says, “he was before me.” The imperfect tense verb, en (was), asserts the abiding existence of Jesus before John was born (cf. John. 1:1).


But the Baptizer continued: “I knew him not; but that he should be manifest to Israel, for this cause came I baptizing in water” (v. 31).


The verb “knew” is very significant. It derives from "oida", which suggests a clear, more-or-less complete knowledge. The pluperfect tense form casts the situation into the past.


John is confessing that, prior to the phenomenal events at the Jordan, he did not know, “in an absolute way” that Jesus was the Messiah. John knew that the Nazarene was an exceptional person, for he resisted immersing the Lord, insisting: “I have need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14). He did not have, however, a clear understanding of the Savior’s true identity until he saw the Spirit descend in the form of a dove, and he heard the divine voice break the silence of fifteen centuries in the acknowledgement: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).


After this occurred, the Baptizer could testify: “This is the Son of God” (John. 1:34). Accordingly, one of the reasons for Jesus’ baptism was to confirm the Lord’s identity to the prophet, so that John could make “manifest to Israel” (John. 1:31) the good news that the Messiah had arrived.


An Example of Obedience

In his argument to persuade John to administer baptism, Christ said: “thus it becomes [i.e., is proper] us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew. 3:15). Perhaps we cannot plumb the full depth of this abbreviated clause; one thing is certain though: it is an affirmation of the submissive disposition of the Lord Jesus to the Father’s will. “Righteousness” is associated with the commands of God (Psalms 119:172). To fulfill righteousness, therefore, is to be obedient to Jehovah.


The life of Jesus is a commentary on what obedience is about. In the 40th Psalm, which is clearly messianic in its import (cf. Hebrews 10:5-7), the submissive demeanor of Christ is prophetically set forth. Jesus, through David, a thousand years before his own birth, affirms: “I delight to do thy will, O my God; Yea, thy law is in my heart” (Psalms 40:8).


It is one thing to begrudgingly go through a form of service; it is quite another to “delight” in doing the Father’s will. Again, while some may have the elements of divine “law” in their heads, the issue is: Do we have, as did Jesus, the law in our hearts?


Christ demonstrated by his baptism, therefore, on the very first day of his public ministry, that he was committed to doing his Father’s will. In this regard, as in all others, he is our perfect model.


A Preview of Gospel Facts

In his first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul set forth the fundamental components of the gospel:


Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel ... that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

The death of Jesus, as the key ingredient in the plan of redemption, was in the mind of God before the foundation of the world (cf. 1 Peter 1:19). Christ himself, though, developed as a normal human being, including the expansion of mental consciousness (Luke. 2:52).


One cannot but wonder at what point, in his mental and physical maturation, the blessed Savior became aware of his ultimate destiny at Calvary. We know that by the age of twelve Jesus was cognizant of his unique status as the Son of God (Luke 2:49). From the time of his infancy, Mary was privy to the dark shadows that loomed in her Son’s future (Luke. 2:35).


One thing seems clear; by the time he submitted to immersion at the hands of John, he knew of his appointment with the cross – and likely long before that.


At this point it is imperative that we give some attention to the form of baptism. Those who argue that “baptism” may be administered either by the sprinkling or pouring of water, fly directly into the face of: linguistic evidence, New Testament usage, and the testimony of early Christian history.


The verb baptizo means to “dip, immerse”. Even the translators so understood its meaning in non-theological contexts where their bias did not over-power them. See the following verses:

(cf Luke 16:24; John 13:26).


Baptism is clearly identified with aburial” (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12).


Sprinkling was first introduced in the 3rd century A.D., and the innovation did not become the official practice of the apostate Roman Church until A.D. 1311, when the Council of Ravenna first allowed a choice between immersion and sprinkling.


Clearly then, the baptism of Jesus in the waters of Jordan involved a burial beneath the water, and a resurrection there from. Mark specifically states that Jesus was baptized of Johnin (eis, ‘into’ ASVfn) the Jordan,” and afterward, the Lord came up “out of the water (Mk. 1:9-10). Even professor Blunt, noted scholar of the Church of England, conceded that it is beyond doubt that Jesus was immersed.


Why is it that so many have such a difficult time in understanding the form of baptism? It is so vital to the entire format of the divine plan of salvation. Christ’s burial in the water of Jordan, and his resurrection there from, was a visual preview of the burial (which implies a death, of course) and resurrection of the Lord, which would occur three and one-half years later. We agree with Carson who suggested that the Lord’s role as Jehovah’s suffering servant “here . . .makes its first veiled appearance in Jesus’ actions”.


It is commonly suggested by commentators that Christ was baptized in order to “solidify” himself with sinners, since he, by his death, would bear away the penalty for sin. That may be the case, but the Bible does not specifically argue that point.



We may not understand all the reasons why Christ submitted to baptism. We have a limited view of that wonderful event. We should, however, note this: If the sinless Son of God did not refuse this divine ordinance, how much less should men today neglect the command, which is declared to befor the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38)


God Is Love
How Courage Triumphs
Humble - Gentle
Lesson On Matthew
One Day As A Thousand
Order of Authority
The Seven Judgments
The Ten Commandments of God
The Vineyard
Why Study The Whole Bible


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