Nana Yaw Aidoo
Recently, this writer came across a meme that appealed to the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ in order to deny the Bible’s teaching that baptism is required before a person can receive salvation. The meme carried this quote: “If baptism was required for salvation, then why was Jesus baptized since He is God, was sinless, and didn’t need saving?”
You would notice that inherent in this quote is the implication that we are baptized for the same reason(s) as our Lord Jesus Christ. This position is erroneous and thus it justifies a response.
Why was Jesus Christ Baptized?
When John the Baptizer appeared on the scene, it is written that “…he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” (Luke 3:3). As a result of his preaching, “…there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.” (Mark 1:5). Clearly, John’s baptism had to do with the sins of the people.
However, friends, the Bible is clear in its teaching that Jesus Christ had no sin. The apostle Peter wrote: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (1 Pet. 2:21-22).
Our Lord was the epitome of sinless perfection. He “was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15). Therefore, since John’s baptism had to do with the sins of the people, and since Jesus Christ had no sin, then it follows that John’s baptism of Jesus Christ was for all intents and purposes, a very unique incident.
Why was Jesus Christ baptized? Two reasons readily stand out from the gospel accounts. Jesus Christ was baptized to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:15) and to enable John identify Him as the Son of God so as to “manifest to Israel” that the Christ of whom the prophets spoke had come (John 1:29-34).
Are We Baptized for the Same Reasons as Jesus Christ?
The quote so implies. We deny that it is so.
Notice if you would that Matthew records that John was hesitant to baptize Christ when our Lord went to him to be baptized (Matt. 3:14). Even though John hadn’t come to a full understanding of who Christ was at this time, he knew enough to conclude that he was not in position to baptize Him. Since John’s baptism was for sinners, then John’s hesitancy was as if to say; “What! Shall the Master come for baptism to the servant—the sinless Saviour to a sinner?” (Jameson-Fausset-Brown). Jesus Christ in response to John’s hesitancy told the Baptizer to “…suffer it to be so now…” (Matt. 3:15).
The word “suffer” in the text means “allow.” What this means is that John was to make an allowance or an exception. And he was to make the allowance “now.” The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentary has this explanation; “Let it pass for the present.” For that very moment, John was to make an exception. Jesus Christ did not tell John to suffer it to be so “from this time forth.” Rather, He told John to suffer it to be so “now.” The exception was for that very moment in time and that very moment in time alone. Why? Because “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23) with the exception of Christ.
Honesty and a love for the truth demand we admit that since our Lord was sinless and we are not, then the reasons our Lord was baptized are not and cannot be the same reasons why we are baptized today.
Why Are We Baptized?
Unlike Jesus Christ, we have sinned. And because we have sinned, the Bible tells us that we are to be baptized “unto the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38 ASV), to wash away our sins (Acts 22:16) and to receive salvation from our sins (Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).
All who deny that baptism has such a design are still faced with the Bible’s assertion that baptism puts us “into Christ” (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27). This, my friends, is why we earnestly contend that no one can be saved who has not been baptized because no one can be saved outside of Christ (Eph. 1:3, 7; 2 Tim. 2:10). If baptism puts us into Christ, which is the sphere of salvation, then we don’t hesitate to say with the apostle, “…baptism doth also now save us…”
We do not deny that Christ is God, was sinless, and didn’t need saving. We however deny that we are baptized for the same reason(s) He was. Because He was sinless and didn’t need saving, His baptism was an exception from the norm. On the other hand, it is the case that we are not sinless and so we need saving. And the Bible teaches plainly that baptism is the point at which we receive that salvation as our Lord Himself said; “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).