Being Jesus: Baptism
"Dang, that's cold!"
Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?" 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. And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." (Mat 3:13-17 NAS)
Jesus wanted one thing in his life—to do God’s will. Jesus knew of John’s ministry. He knew that John was preaching against people’s sins and that he was baptizing those of the people of God who needed to give up their old lives and to renew their dedication to God. He knew that he did not need to repent of his sins, but he came anyway, in accordance with God’s will. John saw that it was unnecessary for Jesus to be baptized, but Jesus said that God’s will came first. And because of this, God gave Jesus three things:
a. God gave Jesus the Spirit. From this point on, God would be speaking to Jesus through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit would be giving Jesus the Father’s words directly and the Spirit would be granting Jesus power to do whatever he needed.
b. God gave Jesus a job description. The Father said of Jesus that he was “my beloved Son.” In the Scripture, the “son of God” is the Davidic king who would rule over Israel (II Samuel 7:12-14; Psalm 2:6-8; John 1:49). At this point, Jesus was a carpenter, not a king. So God gave him a new direction for his life and a focus for the rest of his days.
c. God gave Jesus his stamp of approval. The Father said of Jesus, “I am pleased with him.” Jesus was pleasing to God because of his faith, because of his devotion to God. In this way, he would be the greatest king that ever lived.
Because of this experience, Jesus was required to change his whole way of living. Before he was a carpenter, a faithful son and brother, a student of the Scriptures and an upstanding citizen of Nazareth. Now he would be a wild card, an unknown, a person led by the Spirit. Jesus would now be someone seeking to fulfill God’s desire that he be king of the Jews. Jesus would be someone whose approval by God would be marked by a radical new lifestyle that no one had lived before. And all this happened because of one baptism.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom 6:3-11 NAS)
Baptism has a long history in the Scriptures. Fundamentally, baptism is passing through death, as represented by waters, in order to gain a new life in God.
The earth was baptized before God created the world (Genesis 1:2-13).
Noah was baptized in the ark through the flood and then he and his family lived a new life (I Peter 3:20-21).
Moses and the children of Israel were baptized in the Red Sea (I Corinthians 10:1-2).
Joshua and the twelve tribes were baptized in the Jordan River (Joshua 3:14-17).
In every case, God led his chosen ones through the power of water and they died at that point—their old lives were destroyed for them and there was no going back. The waters they passed through were powers of judgment and powers of death (Psalm 74:12-15). But God caused them to pass through the powers of death in order to gain a new life.
Even so, when we are baptized, we pass through waters in order to show that our old lives are dead—we can never go back to them. Instead, we are living new lives in Jesus—we are living the lives of Jesus in reality (Galatians 2:20). The old things we depended on, the people we used to live like, the things we used to appreciate—all of these are gone, dead. We now live new lives like the new life Jesus lived after his baptism.
• Nathan was baptized in the Jordan River and so was cleansed from leprosy and then dedicated himself to Yahweh (II Kings 5:1-19).
• John the Baptist baptized sinners and prostitutes in the Jordan River and they repented of their sins and lived before God (Luke 7:29).
• Peter baptized three thousand people coming into Jesus (Acts 2:41)
• The Samaritans were baptized in water and then they were baptized in the Spirit (Acts 8:12-17).
• The Ethiopian eunuch believed in the message of Jesus and was baptized. (Acts 8:27-38)
• Paul was baptized and was no longer a persecutor of Jesus but a proclaimer of Jesus (Acts 9:18-20)
• Cornelius and other gentiles were baptized after the Spirit came on them through hearing the words about Jesus (Acts 10:44-48).
• Some who were disciples of John were baptized into Jesus and then they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7).
• Early Christians were taught the way of Jesus for a year and then they were baptized. After the baptism, they were given the Lord’s Supper and prayed the Lord’s Prayer with God’s people.
• Conrad Grebel and others were baptized as adults in 1525, which started the Anabaptist (Mennonite) movement, which caused all of them and many of those in the new movement to be killed by Zwinglians, Lutherans, Catholics and (later) Calvinists. But their new baptism gave them new lives which emboldened them in the Holy Spirit.
• A woman raised a Muslim decided to become a Christian. She went to underground Christian meetings and prayed and spoke to others about her faith. Her strict Muslim father was accepting of her, until she became baptized. Then he beat her and locked her in a closet and threatened to kill her. She ran away from home to live with the Christians. He let he know through others that she is no longer his daughter and that if he saw her again, he would kill her.
Living It Out
Seeking out the life that God wants us to live
Just as Jesus sought to do God’s will, even if it didn’t make sense, we need to seek out God’s desire for us, no matter what is costs us, no matter what God tells us. (Romans 12:1; Luke 14:28-32; James 1:5-6)
A believer being baptized in water
In accordance with our belief in Jesus, we need to be baptized in water. We are baptized to show our past lives as something that is dead and we are baptized to show that we are living a new life. (Mark 16:15; Acts 2:38)
Baptism in the Spirit
We need to ask for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). We need to wait expectantly for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). And when the Holy Spirit comes we need to listen to him and follow the new life of love we have in him. (Romans 8:5; Galatians 5:19-23)
Listening to God’s plan for your life
The Spirit will tell us what God wants of us and what he expects of us. Our lives are, after baptism, at God’s disposal, to do with as He pleases. We are his servants, ready to do as he commands. And so we need to listen to him as he tells us what to do and how to live and what kind of work he wants us to accomplish—no matter how degrading, no matter how insignificant it seems. (Mark 1:16-17; Acts 9:1-20; Luke 17:7-10)
Giving up your old life.
Once we know what God wants us to do, what he wants us to accomplish, we need to realize that we can never go back to our old lives, our old ways of living, our old jobs. (Mark 1:16-20; I Peter 4:2-5; Romans 12:2)