Wayne S. Walker

     Question:  “If baptism is essential to salvation, was Jesus baptized
to go to heaven since He didn’t have any sins to be saved from?”

     The baptism of Jesus is recorded in Matthew 3.13-16, where we read,
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by
him.  And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized
by You, and are You coming to me?’  But Jesus answered and said to him,
‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all
righteousness.’  Then he allowed Him.  Then Jesus, when He had been
baptized, came up imeediately from the water; and behold the heavens were
opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and
alighting upon Him.”

     The question involves the reason why Jesus was baptized.  Jesus
Himself tells us that it was to fulfil all righteousness.   Righteousness
means being right with God.  God had commanded through the preaching of
John the baptism of the Jews for the remission of their sins (Mark 1.4,
Luke 3.3).  This was part of John’s mission of preparing the people for
the coming of God’s spiritual kingdom (Matthew 3.1-3).  Therefore, if
Jesus had not been baptized, He would have sinned by disobeying a command
of God and thus not been qualified to be the spotless Lamb of God as a
sacrifice for our sins.

      Certainly, everyone can agre that Jesus was not baptized in order
to be saved from sin because it is surely true that He did not have any
sins from which to be saved.  Hebrews 4.15 tells us of Jesus, “For we do
not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was
in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  Jesus was already in
a right relationship with God because He had never committed any sin to
sever that right relationship, and in fact did not commit a single sin
during His earthly life.  Thus, He did not need to be saved.

     However, it was still necessary for Him to obey all of God’s
commandments in order to keep that right relationship with the Father.
He said, “And He who sent Me is with Me.  The Father has not left Me
alone, for I always do those things that please Him” (John 8.29).  On the
other hand, all of us have sinned, and as sinners we are not in a right
relationship with the Father (Romans 3.23, 6.23).  Thus, it is necessary
for us to obey all of God’s commandments regarding terms of pardon in
order to reestablish a right relationship with the Father through Christ
(Hebrews 5.8-9).

     Hence, even though there is an obvious difference in the reason for
Jesus’ baptism and the reason for our baptism because of their very
natures, the baptism of Jesus does serve as an example for us.  1 Peter
2.21 says, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for
us, leaving us an example that you should follow in His steps.”  Unlike
us, Jesus was not baptized to receive forgiveness of sins, since He
“committed no sin” (1 Peter 2.22).  However, Jesus did have to obey God’s
command to be baptized in order to be right with the Father.
Furthermore, Jesus commanded us to be baptized for the remission of our
sins (Mark 16.15-16, Acts 2.38).

     Hence, we have to obey His commands to be right with God.  So even
the baptism of Jesus shows that baptism is essential for us to be saved.
This is why in so many examples of conversion and salvation in the book
of Acts show that the people involved were baptized (Acts 2.41, 8.12 &
36-38, 9.18, 10.47-48, 16.14-15 & 30-34, 18.8, 19.1-5, 22.16).  And this
is why Paul said, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ
Jesus.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on
Christ” (Galatians 3.26-27).  We are saved from sin and become spiritual
children of God in Christ Jesus through our faith.  But when do we come
into Christ?  When we are baptized into Christ.
(From “Search for Truth,” July, 1996; Vol. 2, No. 7.)


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