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Baptism

"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John [see John The Baptist], to be baptized by him. John would have prevented Him, saying, "I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on Him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:13-17 RSV)

Jordan River The English word baptize is derived from the original Greek word of the New Testament which literally meant to immerse in water. As the Scriptures above make clear, Jesus Christ considered baptism to be an important act, so much so that He insisted on it when John hesitated to baptize Him. Jesus' baptism was then done in The Jordan River, perhaps not far from the place shown in the photograph at right.

Jesus' baptism was of course done solely to set an example for the repentant, since He had absolutely nothing to repent of, and absolutely no sins to be forgiven. But why is baptism in water important? Why wouldn't Jesus take "no" for answer, even with Himself?

An Act Of Sincere Repentance

Those who repented were always baptized in water:

"Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins." (Mark 1:2-5 RSV)

"Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience." (1 Peter 3:21 RSV)

Water Baptism and The Holy Spirit

With repentance and baptism comes The Holy Spirit:

"And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing." (Acts 8:36-39 KJV)

"And Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied." (Acts 19:4-6 RSV)

"For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, "Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." (Acts 10:47-48 RSV)

A Symbol Death, Burial and Resurrection

Baptism symbolizes the death (of the old self, by repentance), burial (by immersion in the water) and resurrection (the coming up out from under the water) to those who repent:

"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of The Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His." (Romans 6:3-5 RSV)

"and you were buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." (Colossians 2:12 RSV)

An Important Step Toward Salvation

Jesus insisted upon water baptism for Himself. Christians should do no less for themselves:

"for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." (Galatians 3:26-29 RSV)

"He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:16 RSV)

Fact Finder: What was one of the very first acts of repentance done by hostile Saul, who later became the apostle Paul?
Acts 9:18
See also On The Road To Damascus


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