Let’s look to the source of Jesus’ command, found in Matthew 28:18-21
This has been broken down many times before, so I am not going to labor in completely deconstructing this popular passage. It does involve this: Jesus’ power and presence; going (really “as one goes along in life”); making disciples; baptizing, teaching.
I believe that when asking this question of baptism and why we are to do it, it comes directly from this passage and also from Jesus’ baptism found in the gospels.
After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him,
and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased. Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
What I want to direct our attention to is those who say, “We get baptized because Jesus did it?” The question comes in “Why was Jesus baptized and how does it relate to our baptism?”
This is the thrust of this paper.
1. We are baptized to show our new identity, as Jesus was
“I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;
My chosen one in whom My soul delights.
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the nations.
The same is said of us. We are now new creatures with a new identity. Instead of being a son of Adam, we become a son of God. Instead of being a servant of this world, we become a servant of the risen King. Instead of being filled with the power of our flesh being sent to fulfill the kingdom of the world, we are filled with the Spirit and become a sent one of the Kingdom of God.
And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district.And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.
And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him.
And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
You could say that he let the cat out of the bag. Luke starts this passage with, “in the power of the Spirit…” For whatever reason, after Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit descended and his ministry of making disciples started.
- We are commanded
- Jesus did it
- It is a proclamation of our new identity
So, yes, we are to be baptized because Jesus was, but if we miss why Jesus was baptized, we miss out on the fullness of us following in the ways and purposes of Jesus.