When Jesus Christ was baptized, He submitted Himself to the very same physical ordinance as we must. But let’s take a closer look at what really happened here. Christ allowed John to immerse Him under water only “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:13-15) He didn’t need a baptism “with water unto repentance” because He didn’t have anything to repent of, but He did allow John to perform a physical water baptism for Him as an example to lead the way for us.
In Hebrews 12:2, Jesus is called the Author of our faith. The Greek word is archegos (G747), the beginner, originator, and leader of faith. He went before us to set the example, to show us how to begin, and what to do to attain life. This word is also used in Acts 3:15 to describe Him as “the Prince of life,” and in Hebrews 2:10 when He is called, “the Captain of their salvation.”
Hebrews 12:2 also says He is the “Finisher,” from the Greek teleiotes (G5051), which means, a completer, perfecter, one who brings something through to the goal so as to win and receive the prize. He is the one who begins our faith – and He is with us all the way to its completion. He is God’s “one sent,” the shepherd and guardian of our souls. Not a human being that is just baptizing another convert for a human church corporation. When this shepherd, and baptist says, “I am with you always…” He means it. All the way to the end.
Another fundamental concept that we always need to keep in mind is that everything Christ did was an example for us to follow (1 Pet. 2:21), and that both Christ and the Father were doing some role-playing throughout the human life of Christ. He was the Lamb of God, and looked to His Father as the Shepherd and Guardian of His soul – just as we are Christ’s sheep, and should look to Him as our Shepherd and Guardian.
Christ’s Water Baptism
Going back to Matthew 3, notice that immersing Jesus in water is the end of John’s involvement in this process. John, the (physical) baptizer becomes a mere spectator at this point. The Father took it from there and completed the baptismal ceremony.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I 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.
When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately 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. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:13-17)
We have long taught, and rightly so I believe, that Christ had the Holy Spirit from birth (John 3:34-35). If that is the case, why did the Father baptize Christ with the Holy Spirit in a very visible, audible way in Matthew 3? One reason was to show John via an undeniable miracle Who was going to “baptize with the holy spirit” in the New Testament church.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”
And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34)
Let’s return to Matthew 3:16, where “the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.” When we enter into this covenant relationship with Christ, wondrous things open up to us spiritually as well. We are given access to God and Jesus Christ, and have the opportunity to become “one flesh” mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, by a betrothal in baptism (Heb. 12:22-29).
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
In Ephesians 1:6, it says that we are accepted in the Beloved, becoming part of Christ’s body when we experience the baptism of the spirit. For us, this is performed by the One who John said would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Several times while on the earth, Jesus Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would be given to His followers (Luke 24:49, John 7:39, John 14:26).
In Peter’s sermon recorded in Acts 2, he says that Jesus, who is now “exalted to the right hand of God,” “received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit” so that He could pour it out on His people, baptizing them with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33). It is by this baptism of the spirit that we become a part of His body (Eph 1:22-23).
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:12-13)
Right after the Holy Spirit appeared as a dove, the Father announced Christ as “My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased ” (Matt. 3:17). This prefigures the time when God will reveal more sons and daughters (Rom. 8:19-21).
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Rom. 8:14-17).
Christ’s Life-long Baptism
Once the Father gave Christ the Holy Spirit from heaven and presented Him to the world as “My beloved Son, ” was that the end of Christ’s baptism? If we were right in assuming that baptism is a one-time process, the answer would be yes. However, that is not what the scriptures say.
In Luke 12:49-50, Christ says, “ “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!” He speaks here of His baptism as something yet to be fully accomplished. It was still in process, and unfinished at this time, even though Luke records His baptism in water back in chapter 3. The word “distressed” is from the Greek word sunecho (G4912). It means, according to Zodhiates, “to be in constraint, distressed, perplexed … to be seized, affected, afflicted.” He was tormented mentally and emotionally by the thought of going through what remained of His baptism.
Based on this statement, it seems to me that Christ’s baptism of fire began just after His baptism with the Spirit in Matthew 4:1, when “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.) This also appears to be a part of His spiritual baptism, and not only with fire, but with the help of the Holy Spirit in the midst of fire. It lasted throughout His life, included His death on the cross (Luke 22:42-44), and was completed at the moment he uttered his final words in John 19:30, “It is finished!” At that point, His baptism was fully accomplished (John 19:28).
Let’s not forget one aspect of this that is really, really important. If Christ was in this process of being baptized throughout His life until it was fully accomplished, then His baptist was right there the entire time doing His job as well. John 16:32 is just one of many scriptures where Christ said “I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” God was fully involved in Christ’s life as an example to show us how Christ will be involved in our lives and ongoing baptisms.
In Matthew 20:23, Jesus tells James and John, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.” Since we are all to follow in His footsteps, it makes sense that we will all be baptized in a similar way.
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:3-4)
There will be more posts about this life-long process of baptism, but I hope in this three-part series we’ve laid a foundation for this concept. Baptism is a life-long experience – one that is based on the daily, interactive, hands-on presence of the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire. And there is a very delicate balance that this skilled baptist achieves through the use of the baptism of fire to bring about a greater baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Baptism For Life series: