By Grant B Caldwell
There is an old dodge used by the “faith only” people that has just about died. However, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have revived it and some others are still struggling along with it. It is the argument that says in effect that since we are to follow the example of Jesus (1 Peter, 2:21) and since Jesus was “baptized to fulfill all righteousness” and not to have his sins remitted or forgiven, then we are not to be baptized to have our sins forgiven.
The Case of Jesus
Let us take a look at this situation before we do anything else and see what is to be seen from the context. Jesus came to John who was practicing “the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4). The design of his baptism was for the remission of sins. Furthermore, the people came “confessing their sins.” They did not come confessing that they had no sins. They came confessing their sins and were baptized to have those sins remitted. This was all preparatory to the death of Christ and the establishing of the Kingdom with the coming of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11).
Now in this setting Jesus came along and said, “I want to be baptized.” John immediately recognized the fact that something was different and he “forbade him.” Jesus did not come “confessing his sins.” Jesus did not come for “the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” John did not know, nor (dare we say) had he up to this point been authorized to practice the baptism that Jesus was requesting of him. It did not fit into the scope of his teaching, thus, he could not do it. It was not until the divine Son of God authorized it that John could practice it. John could see the difference, why can’t our religious friends?
Looking at Differences
Before we compare anything in our life to the life of Christ, we ought to look at the differences and see if there really is any comparison. Our religious neighbors say, “We need to be baptized as Jesus was.” Let us just test that a little bit.
In John 1:31-34, John the Baptist affirmed that the purpose of the entire confrontation just described was to confirm Jesus as the Son of God-not a son of God- but the Son of God. Our baptism does not confirm us individually as the Son of God. We become children of God when our faith leads us to be baptized (Gal. 3:26-27). Christ was the Son of God long before he was baptized. The difference is readily apparent.
Jesus came to John to be baptized having never committed a sin (1 Peter 2:22). Can we come to be baptized that way? Now if our baptism is just like Jesus’ baptism, then I ask, “Was Jesus forgiven of his sins before, during, or after his baptism?” People say, “We are baptized just like Jesus was.” Is that supposed to mean that they were baptized having never committed any sins., Jesus did not come to be baptized having already been forgiven of His sins. Nor did He come as denominationalists would say confessing that “God for Christ’s sake has pardoned my sins.” Jesus was never lost. Therefore, He was never saved-before, during, or after His baptism. You see, there is no comparison, even in the light of denominational teaching.
Our religious friends tell us that they are baptized to become members of their church. Now, I wonder if Jesus was baptized to get into the church. They say that they are baptized just as Jesus was and I wonder if Jesus was baptized to get into the church.
Looking at the Comparison
It ought to be apparent to anyone that one can push this sort of comparison too far. Surely Christ left us an example that we should follow in His steps (1 Pet. 2:21). But an example of what? Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 5:23). Are we to be the head of the church? Christ is the King of Kings (1 Tim. 6:15). Are we to be the king of kings? Christ is the one with all authority (Matt. 28:18). Are we to have all authority?
But there is one comparison that will hold up in regard to the baptism of Jesus. Jesus was baptized because it was the right thing in the sight of God for Him to do. He did it because the Father-for whatever reason-wanted it done. We should be baptized because the Father wants it done. We should not attempt to nullify it being “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). We should just do it because it is the right thing to do.
Doing the Father’s Will
Jesus said that He came not to do His own will but the will of the Father (John 5:30). Then He said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). The will of the Father is simple: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Jesus could not come to that baptism, but they did in the New Testament and you can too if you just will.
Truth Magazine XXII: 13, p. 217
March 30, 1978