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Theology > Jesus > Baptism and Temptations > Baptism of Jesus


The baptism of Jesus is recorded in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 3:13-17; Mk. 1:9-11; Lu. 3:21-22) and referenced in John (1:31-34). Three aspects of the incident are significant: the Identification of Jesus with Sinners, the Identification of the Ministry of the Son, and the Identification of the Father with the Work of the Son.

Identification of Jesus with Sinners

Through His baptism Jesus identified with sinners and in identifying with sinners He identified Himself as the Messiah, the One who was predicted to deliver the people and then to rule over them in eternity. To sinners Jesus announces that He is one with them; He does not reject them, but is willing to be identified with them in order to save them and to purchase for Himself a people.

In doing so Jesus fulfilled all righteousness; in His person and in His life He brought righteousness to the life of sinners—all the requirements of Deity were met in Him. What fallen man could not accomplish, Jesus did achieve. As the Messiah He is the sin-bearer; because He is sinless and because He is identified with sinners, He can bear the sin of sinners: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (see: Jo. 1:29).

Also, Jesus is setting an example for believers to follow. In the identification of Jesus with sinners is a call for repentance and baptism on the part of those who would be identified with Christ. His is not a call to national repentance but a call to individual repentance, just as the call of John. The relationship of baptism to repentance is such that baptism would be an expression of repentance but not a substitute for repentance nor identical with repentance.

The call to repentance was not novel, for there had been such calls in the Old Testament, though it seems most of the calls were more corporate than individualistic; through the prophets the people were constantly admonished to repent, to forsake their evil ways, and to return to the Lord God:

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord (Isa. 55:7);

Thus says the Lord [Adonai] Yahweh: “Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all you abominations” (Ezek. 14:6);

Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin (Ezek. 18:30);

Turn, turn from your evil ways (Ezek. 33:11);

O Israel, return to Yahweh your God (Hos. 14:1; see 7:10);

So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to Yahweh your God (Joel 2:13).

Identification of the Ministry of the Son

Through the baptism and the anointing the One John did not know, he comes to know Him as the One who is distinguished by His work; therefore, John says of Him: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jo. 1:29).

The baptism of Jesus portents the complete work of Christ. He is identified with God—He is the “Lamb of God”—meaning that He is from God and has been sent by God; He is the One God has provided.

Not only is Christ associated with God, He is associated with the work of God—He “takes away the sin of the world.” Salvation is God doing for man what man cannot do for himself. The initiative is always with God. Jesus is associated with sin and is to take sin away; surely, this reminds the reader of the curse that was placed on man in Eden, and also reminds the reader of every individual’s identification with Adam in his sin (see Paul’s teaching: Rom. 5:12-21; By One Man and The Principle of Identification). Man’s plague and condemnation is sin in all of its manifestation and complication; Jesus came to take this away.

Additionally, the work of Jesus is associated with the world—“the sin of the world.” A universal dimension characterizes the Atonement of Christ, that is, He died not just for the world of the Jews but for the world of Jew and Gentile—“God so loved the world . . .” (Jo. 3:16).

Identification of the Father with the Work of the Son

From heaven the Father identifies and affirms the One baptized: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17: Mk. 1:11; Lu. 3:22). As Jesus comes up out of the water, God announces that this One is His Son, His beloved Son, and the Son in whom the Father is well pleased. In precise and unambiguous terminology the Father is identified with Christ.

“Beloved” provides insight into the Trinitarian relationship, the love, the closeness, the identity, the oneness of Father and Son, but also the distinctiveness of Father and Son. “Well pleased” speaks of the “grace and truth” (Jo. 1:14) that fill the Son, and upon this Person the Father looks with affection.

Who He is anticipates what He is to do. The Son has come, submissive to the Father’s will and in fulfillment of the Father’s prediction, and He has come in order that He might accomplish the eternal plan of redemption. He is Immanuel, God with us; He is like us; He is the God-Man: only this One can save.

Additional, the Father sends the Holy Spirit to anoint the Son for His earthly ministry of sin-bearer and sin-payment. In the anointing there is identification. The baptism and anointing go together in what they assert about Christ; the two reinforce each other. John states: “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’” (Jo. 1:33). Following the descent of the Spirit from heaven like a dove John affirms: “And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God” (Jo. 1:34). Involved in the baptism is the Trinity: the Father speaks; the Son is baptized; and the Spirit descends. The anointing by the Spirit is prediction and fulfillment:

The Spirit of the Lord [Adonai] Yahweh is upon Me, because Yahweh has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of Yahweh (Isa. 61:1-2);

So He came to Nazareth . . . and . . . He went into the Synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read . . . He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me . . .” Then He closed the book . . . and He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lu. 4:16-21).

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