So I’m going to get a little theological here today, hope you guys don’t mind. But there’s something so fascinating about a typical Bible story that I hadn’t really noticed before, and it’s so awesome!
Baptism is a pretty hot topic in the church nowadays, with the debate between paedobaptists (infant baptism) and credobaptists (believer’s baptism) at an all-time high in recent years. Personally, I fall on the side of credobaptists, but that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m also not writing this to talk about whether or not you need to be baptized to be a Christ. Personally, I say no, but again, that’s not why I’m writing this.
I’ve been reading through the book of Matthew recently just trying to get a greater understanding of who Jesus is, what He said and how He lived. I’m planning on going through all the gospels with this mindset, which pumps me up because I feel like, for the first time in a long time, I’m learning about my Savior with an open heart and a ready spirit. Something only God can produce in me, for sure. But so cool!
As I was reading through the early chapters, particularly chapter 3, I came across the story of Jesus’ baptism. It’s a story I feel like I’ve heard a hundred times, seen many paintings, etc. It’s the starting point of Jesus’ ministry, so it’s an important event, but I hadn’t grasped how important it was until this last time I read through it. Verses 13-17, the whole story:
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, 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 fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
I want to hone in on, obviously, the bolded words. They’re not bolded in the copy of the Bible I read them out of. But any time I read this story, I want to have those words be bolded in my mind.
What does it mean to fulfill all righteousness? It means to do everything possible to be called righteous. It’s “all” righteousness, not just “some” righteousness. In this case, we as humans will never “fulfill all righteousness.” We’re incapable because we’re sinful creatures with a still sinful heart and attitude. Are we growing out of that? Are we becoming more like Christ? Since we’re destined to be conformed to the image of Christ, we are, some quicker or slower than others.
In order to have a relationship with God, one must be seen as completely righteous in His sight. This is the reason why people in the Old Testament made sacrifices; the blood of the goats and bulls were the atonement for sin so that God would not abandon the Israelites. When Christ came, a new standard was set. The only way this new standard could be set is that there would have to be a new scapegoat. The blood of goats and bulls couldn’t do it anymore.
Jesus was the sacrifice. But in order for Him to be the perfect sacrifice, He had to be perfect. He had to do everything the right way. And being baptized was part of His submission and obedience to God. There is no specific Old Testament command to be baptized, but Jesus’ statement to John implies that it was an important act of righteousness. It was also a tradition in Hebrew culture to have some kind of water submersion to indicate repentance or religious cleansing.
But here’s the best part: because Jesus was baptized, we can be forgiven of our sins. His words indicate it: “Thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15). It’s fitting that Christ would be baptized in order that all righteousness would be fulfilled in Him. If Jesus had not fulfilled all righteousness, these things would not be possible:
- “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4)
- “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
- “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:13-14)
Jesus’ baptism is super important because it directly contributes to the Gospel being true, to grace being applied to our hearts, to forgiveness flowing freely.
This is one of the most important theological things I’ve learned recently. It’s so simple but it’s also so incredibly powerful and life-changing.