WHY WAS JESUS CHRIST BAPTIZED?
We read in Acts 2:38, “Then Peter said unto them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…….”. In other words, the reason for baptism was for the remission of sins. But Christ was not baptized for the remission of sins because He was sinless as it is written, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth” (I Peter 2:22). So why was Jesus baptized? We will look at the following topics in our search for the answer to that question.
THE REASON GIVEN IN SCRIPTURE FOR THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST
THE FULFILLMENT OF ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS
THE CONSIDERATION OF OTHER REASONS GIVEN FOR CHRIST’S BAPTISM
THE REASON GIVEN IN SCRIPTURE FOR THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST
Scripture gives us one reason for the baptism of Jesus. That reason is found in Matt. 3:14-15, “But John forbade Him saying, ‘I 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 fulfill all righteousness‘”. So the reason for the baptism of Jesus Christ was to “fulfill all righteousness”.
THE FULFILLMENT OF ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS
What does it mean to “fulfill all righteousness”? I believe it means to do everything in accordance with what is right. By determining what was accomplished by the events immediately after the baptism, we may know what righteousness was fulfilled. Those events that occurred after the baptism were: 1) the dove, as the symbol of the Holy Spirit, rested on Christ, and 2) the voice from heaven declared that Christ was the beloved Son in Whom the Father was well pleased.
We read in Matt. 3:16, “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“. It was this lighting on Christ that told John the Baptist that Christ was the One about Whom John had been preaching. Jn. 1:33, “I knew Him not; but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, ‘Upon Whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, the same is He Which baptizeth with the holy ghost”. So one of the things accomplished by the dove lighting on Christ was to show John the Baptist that Christ was the One Who would baptize with the holy ghost.
As we read in verses 36-37, John, after being convinced that Christ was the One about Whom he had been preaching, spread that good news to his disciples, “And looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, ‘Behold the Lamb of God’. and the two disciples (John’s disciples) heard him speak, and they followed Jesus”. And in verses 40-41 we read that one of those two disciples in turn spread the news, “One of the two which heard John speak, and followed Him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him ‘We have found the Messias, …..and he brought him to Jesus”.
I believe that another thing that was accomplished at the baptism of Christ was that He was anointed. In order to fully appreciate the full meaning of that, let us consider what the anointing of Christ meant.
To begin this study let us define the Hebrew verb translated “anointed”. That Hebrew word is “mahsag”. Strong’s Dictionary defines the word as, “to rub with oil, to concentrate”. Words are, of course, defined by their usage so I suggest we consider a few scriptures that speak of being anointed in order to confirm or disprove the definition given above.
Let us first consider Strong’s suggestion that the Hebrew word means “to rub with oil”. The very first time the Hebrew word is found is in Gen. 31:13 which reads, “I am the GOD of Beth-el, where thou anointedest the pillar…”. This verse is in reference to Gen. 28 which describes Jacob’s dream of a ladder after which he “took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it”. In every occurrence of this verb it is clear that something indeed had been rubbed in it’s anointing.
Now let us consider the second part of the Strong’s definition , i.e. “to concentrate”. We read in Ex. 28:41, “…and shalt anoint them, (Aaron’s sons who are the priests of Israel) and consecrate them, and sanctify them that they may minister unto Me in the priest’s office”. In point of fact all three verbs (“anoint”, “consecrate” and “sanctify”) in this verse mean “to separate”.
Now let us consider the Hebrew noun translated “anointed”. The Hebrew noun is “mahsheeagh”. It is used of the priests of Israel as in Lev. 4:3, 5 and 16. It is used of Christ as king in I Sam. 2:10. It is used o King Saul in I Sam. 24:6. It is used of David in II Sam. 23:1. It is clear that all these anointed ones had been set apart unto God. And this is perfectly consistent with the verb translated “anoint”.
Now let us consider Christ’s baptism in order to determine if that was the point at which He was anointed.
We read in Matt. 3:16, “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“.
We read in Numbers 8:5-7, “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, ‘Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them, and thus shalt thou do unto them to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean’”. But what was the purpose of being washed, what did the washing signify? Surely it was not only to be outwardly clean.
We read in verses 10-11 of that chapter, “and thou shalt bring the Levites before the Lord: and the children of Israel shall put their hands upon the Levites: and Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the Lord“. What was the significance of the children of Israel putting their hands on the Levites at this ceremony? Let us consider another passage in the Old Testament in which we read of the laying on of hands.
We read in Numbers 27:18-23, “And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hands upon him; and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient……….and he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses”.
By the laying on of hands Moses identified Joshua as the servant of God. Just as the laying on of hands identified Joshua for service unto God, so too, in my opinion, did the laying hands on the Levites signify the Levites being identified as God’s servants. This conclusion is supported by Numbers 8:11, “and Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the Lord“.
Because the laying on of hands was part of the same ceremony as was the washing, I believe we may conclude that both had the same purpose, i.e. to be identified as God’s servants.
What I find most remarkable is that, as stated above, anointing required the laying on of hands. But no one laid hands on Christ at His anointing. But the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove remained on Him. In other words, God laid hands on Him.
It has often been said that one of the reasons for the baptism of Christ was to manifest Himself to Israel. This is based on Jn. 1:31 which reads, “And I knew Him not: but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water”. The phrase “I come baptizing” tells us that this was not the one time event of the baptism of Christ, it was the on-going baptisms of repenting Israelites. In other words, it was not to Israel that Christ was made manifest at His baptism, it was to John the Baptist. But it was through John the Baptist that Christ would be manifest to Israel. In fact we are told that one of the reasons Jesus was baptized was to make Himself known to John the Baptist. “And I (John the Baptist) knew Him not; but He That sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, ‘Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost” (Jn. 1:33). So the dove remaining on Christ manifested Christ as the One Who would baptize with the holy ghost to John the baptist, and by extension to Israel.
We read of another very important event in the baptism of Christ in Matt. 3:17. “And lo a voice from heaven saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased'”. This pronouncement did two things: 1) it declared Jesus Christ to be the beloved Son of God, and 2) it declared Him the King for Whom Israel had waited for centuries. The first thing the pronouncement did is obvious and needs no further explanation. But let us look at the second, i.e. it declared Christ to be King of Israel.
We read of a shortened version of the phrase “My beloved Son” in Ps. 2:7, “I will declare the decree; The Lord hath said unto Me, ‘Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee”. Verses 8-9 go on to tell of the Son as King in the millennial reign, “Ask of Me and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance. And the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession”. So the second thing that fulfilled all righteousness was accomplished by the voice from heaven was to make it known that Christ was the Son of God. And the third was that Christ was the promised King of Israel.
We may conclude therefore, that there were four things that were accomplished by the events of the baptism of Christ which we may, in my opinion, consider the fulfilling of all righteousness. 1) The lighting of the Spirit of God on Christ made Him known to John the Baptist and by extension, to Israel. 2) Christ’s anointing set Him apart for service to God. 3) the voice from heaven showed that Christ was the beloved Son of God, and 4) it also showed that this One Who had been baptized was the promised King of Israel.
A CONSIDERATION OF OTHER REASONS GIVEN FOR CHRIST’S BAPTISM
It has been suggested that one of the reasons for Christ’s baptism was to be an example to Israel. I must disagree. Why? Because it was the sinful who needed to be baptized. Baptism was a symbol of, among other things, the washing away of sins. But Jesus Christ was sinless and therefore was in absolutely no need to have sins washed away. In regard to baptism, the sinless Christ can not be an example to sinful man.
Another reason given by some for the baptism of Christ is to fulfill the ritual of becoming a priest. We read in Ex. 29:4, “And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water“. And we read in Ex. 40:13, And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him; that he may minister unto Me in the priest’s office”. The reason I do not believe that Christ’s baptism was to fulfill the requirements of priesthood was because Christ was not a Priest after the order of Aaron, He was a Priest after the order of Melchisedec. (“Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec“, Heb. 7:1). That is to say, that because Christ was not a Priest after the order of Aaron, there was no need to fulfill the rituals of that order.
Let us consider one more reason that Christ would not have needed to fulfill the ritual of the Levitical priesthood. Heb. 7:26-28 explains that Christ did not need to offer sacrifices daily as did the priests of the tribe of Levi. “For such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for His own sins, and then for the people’s: for this He did once when He offered up Himself. for the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath which was since the law, maketh the Son who is consecrated for evermore”. In other words, the priests of the Levitical priesthood needed to offer sacrifices for their own sins before they could offer sacrifices for the sins of the Israelites. But Christ, being sinless, did not need to offer daily sacrifices.
And we read in Heb. 7:12, “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law”. I believe we must add the ellipsis “concerning the priesthood” as the law was changed only in regard to the priesthood. So that verse with the ellipsis would read, “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law concerning the priesthood”.
My point is this: the law concerning the daily sacrifices was changed because Christ did not need to offer daily sacrifices as did the sinful men of the Levitical priesthood. The ceremonial washing required of the Levitical priest was also necessary because of their sinful nature. But Christ did not have a sinful nature, neither did He sin. Therefore Christ would not have needed to be washed of sin, ceremonially or otherwise. Therefore, I believe that Christ’s baptism. was not a fulfillment of the requirement of the Levitical priesthood.
Another reason given for the baptism of Christ was that His baptism identified Him with Israel. The reason I don’t agree with that is because we are told in Heb. 2:14 that He was identified with all men by taking on the form of man, not by His baptism. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death…”.
Scripture gives us a very specific reason for the baptism of Jesus Christ. i.e. “to fulfill all righteousness”. What was accomplished by the events of the baptism tell us what righteousness Christ fulfilled at His baptism. 1) He was made known to John the Baptist and by extension to Israel. 2) He was anointed, this He was set apart unto service to God.3) the pronouncement of Him being God’s beloved Son proved that He was just that, and 4) it pronounced Christ as King of Israel.
It might be helpful to list what was accomplished by the events after the baptism which fulfilled all righteousness.
1) To manifest Himself to John the Baptist, and by extension to Israel.
2) He was set apart for service unto God.
3) He was Pronounced as the Son of God, and
4) Pronounced as the King of Israel in the millennial reign.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond to this paper please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org