The third example the Bible gives us for emulating Christ so as to facilitate our contact with Him, is when Jesus presents Himself to John the Baptist for His own baptism.
When John sees Jesus approach, he is stirred in his spirit, which reveals to him that this Man approaching him is the Messiah. John exclaims:
“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ “ Jn. 1:29, 30 NASB
John is referring to Christ’s prior existence as a pure Spirit being, because in the flesh, John was Jesus’ cousin and six months older than Him.
John protests at Jesus’ request, claiming that He should be baptizing John. Jesus replies:
“Let it be so for now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Mt. 3:15 ESV
Jesus did not need to be baptized for the same reasons we do. He was pure righteousness (sinless). He was showing us by example, the path that was vital for the procurement of our salvation.
For Jesus, His baptism marked the beginning of His earthly ministry through His Holy Spirit empowerment.
Later, (after Jesus confronts the devil, gathers His first five apostles, turns water into wine at Cana and drives the money-changers out of the temple), we become privy to a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus (a Jewish theologian and member of the Sanhedrin), whereby Christ explains the significance of baptism for man:
I assure you, most solemnly tell you, that unless a person is born again (anew, from above), he cannot ever see (know, be acquainted with, and experience) the kingdom of God. Jn. 3:3 AMP
So, you cannot get into the kingdom of God in any other way – not by high standing in government or society, by riches, race, place of birth, good deeds or religious training.
Entrance into the kingdom is only granted to those who allow God to birth them anew by changing what’s in their hearts. One’s continued presence in God’s kingdom is assured when those same people do their best to live by those changes.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Jn. 3:5 NKJV
[Note: Some biblical scholars believe that Jesus is addressing the physical act of water baptism as well as the Spiritual one. Others think that the ‘water’ He is referring to, is that water God promised for cleansing the heart – prophesied by Ezekiel. (Ezek. 36:25 – 27.)]
Seeing as how we are talking about baptism, let’s explore the first interpretation. Water baptism is required by God as a public confession of our faith in His Son and what He accomplished on the cross. In fact, the resurrected Christ’s final words were these:
“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” Mk. 16:15, 16. ESV
Earlier in His ministry, Jesus revealed His Father’s imperative regarding this act:
“Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man will also confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” Lk. 12:8, 9. NKJV
Water baptism is also a way that we can help bring others into the kingdom of God by this external example of our faith. Without faith, the act of baptism would be worthless, the water just water. It is through making the connection of the water to the word of God by faith that fulfills our requirement.
However, water baptism by itself is not the way to salvation. It’s a declaration of one’s faith in salvation through the Spirit – a metaphorical demonstration of your being re-birthed as a newly cleansed child of God through the forgiveness of your sins.
You are making a faith confirmation that you’re old ‘worldly self’ has been buried (symbolized by the water immersion) and that your ‘spiritual self’ has been resurrected cleansed from sin (metaphorically by rising out of the water). We must die to the life we’ve lived and the meanings we brought to it so that we can live a new life whose meaning is revealed by the word of God.
Water baptism begins with your repentance of the actions of your flesh and ends with your declaration of faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
True salvation (becoming righteous in the eyes of God through the blood of Christ) is fulfilled when you ask God for your Spiritual new birth. (Jn. 3:6 – 8.) Once baptized in the Spirit, you become a child of God – eternally related to Him in the most intimate way.
The spirit and the flesh are separate from one another. Our spirit animates the flesh. When we are born again, the Holy Spirit changes us inwardly, taking us from sinfulness to holiness so that we can enter into the presence of God. You are ‘born again’ when the Spirit brings the word of God to life in you. That rebirth is continually preserved through your obedience to that word. (1 Pet. 1:22, 23.)
It is vital that you be born again because prior to that act, you are spiritually dead, morally corrupt and living on borrowed time. There is nothing that you can personally do to change that other than to petition God, in faith, to access His free gift:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Pet. 1:3 – 5. ESV
Thus, declaring Christ as our Savior is part of our water baptism public profession and our confession of faith to God as we ask for our Holy Spirit re-birthing. Jesus is why salvation is possible.
Our part is not to satisfy ourselves with an intellectual baptism. There is no strength or permanency in that. The flesh and its cravings are strong. We must yield our will to the Lord, allowing Him to mold us into His original intentions for us (Jer. 29:11), strengthening us to walk a godly walk even in the face of temptation. (1 Cor. 10:13)
When you truly own your baptism, sins (past, present and future) will become a reason to celebrate the love of God and His mercy as He pulls you out of them, giving you the opportunity to glorify Him.
We pay tribute to God for filling us with His life through the Holy Spirit, and to Christ for living that life through us (Gal. 2:20). We cannot walk our godly walk under our own power. Only through Jesus is that a possibility.
Because God loves you so much He made a way for you to meet the demands that His righteousness and holiness make upon you and to satisfy the punishment that He said would be meted out (death) when you violated that. He gave over His sinless Son to die a vicarious death for you so that His blood could make you free.
When we accept this gift, we are delivered from our obsession over the guilt we associate with our transgressions, which is a sin in and of itself because God never intended for us to mercilessly punish ourselves.
We understand that we are sinners, but it’s not about what we do but what Christ has done and continues to do for us. It’s our faith in God’s grace and mercy that makes them manifest – uniting our spirit with His. Our divine pardon is not based upon our feelings but on our trust in God.
Even so, we don’t want to focus on our transformation for assurance (setting up our transformed self as our savior) but must always return to Jesus in every moment for His mercy – clinging to His promise of forgiveness, a covenant that remains unshaken because God never breaks a promise.
Your baptism is a celebration of life, a tribute to your Jesus contact, and acknowledgment of God doing the work through Christ on the cross. We are initiated into the Church of Christ. We are free from the manipulated intentions of the devil and set upon the beginning of the path of our eternal spiritual fulfillment.
As we saw last time, to be about our Father’s business was to bring His salvation message (the very same message that we acknowledge in our baptism) to as many people as possible. But you cannot do that until you invite Christ to live in you and you look to find Him in everyone else…
Goodnight and God bless.