Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105

Bible Study Notes

Matthew 3:13-17

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
The Baptism Of Jesus

The Baptism Of Jesus

General Idea: By the river Jordan a strange and apoplectic figure named John the Baptist proclaiming repentance prepares for the coming Messiah. This event served as the climax to John's ministry, and the beginning of Jesus' ministry. The setting is the area frequented by major Biblical events. This was the area were Abraham built alters to God, and where Jacob saw the ladder to Heaven. Just to the south is where the once fertile valley and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were judged and destroyed, were nothing grows even today. Just to the east is the mountain Nebo where God shows Moses the land and the future of Israel, where also he dies and is berried. This was the spot where the waters dived for Joshua on Israel's entrance into the Promised Land and just to the west was Jericho, which walls fell down. This is where birds fed Elijah and where the chariots of God carried him away to Heaven. And this is the spot where Jesus was facing His 40 day temptation and then goes to a bewildered John to be baptized! 
a.   A perplexed John tries to prevent Jesus from being baptized with a sense of shock and puzzlement, "I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to Me?"
1.   John did not want Jesus to be baptized because John knew that He did not need it, nor needed to repent. Yet, Jesus comes to him anyway.
2.   Jesus gives His reason saying, "It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness."
3.   John the disciple records that perhaps John the Baptist did not fully comprehend who Jesus was until the next day (John 1:29-33)
4.   Why John was baptizing in this historic spot of the Jordan River? Because of all the history? Probably not, because this is where the most water was. (Matt. 3:5-6; John 3:23)
b.  The heavens open and the full acknowledgment of the Trinity testifies to the world and confirms that Jesus is fully God and is the promised Messiah (Gen. 22:2; Ex. 4:22; Isa. 42:1f; 64:1; 65:17; Psalm 2:7).
1.   Jesus received witness and prophecy via the usual means of transmission through the prophetic inspired human voice, John and then directly by God Himself!
2.   The Spirit testifies and descends like a dove (Mt 12:28; Luke 3:22). Which refers to the gentleness of the Spirit, not that it was a bird with feathers! The dove makes a good symbol for the Holy Spirit, but is not the Spirit.
                                                  i.   It is interesting to note, that many teachers of the law and the man on the street believed that the Spirit was no longer available! What a shock that must have been!
                                                ii.   Others believed that the Spirit was only for the prophets and was available, but not very powerful in their time.
                                              iii.   The dove also symbolizes new hope and the promise of a new world (Gen. 8:10-12).
3.   God the Father testifies, "This is My beloved Son, In whom I am well pleased." (Matt. 17:5)
4.   Jesus testifies by His servant hood, obedience and identification.
c.      Why was Jesus baptized?       
1.   John's baptism was for confessing, repentance for the remission of sins to prepare people for Christ. (Mark 1:4-5). Thus, Jesus Baptism was not the same as Christian Baptism (see our theological note below).
                                                  i.    Remember Jesus was without sin, even though John's baptism was to repent, Jesus was not repenting, but fulfilling Righteousness (Mark 1:5; Luke 7:29-35; Heb. 4:15).
                                                ii.   Since John was prophesying that the Messiah was coming, preparing the way, thus this baptism was also an introduction, inauguration or ordination for His ministry. He was initiated and presented to Israel (Matt. 3:11; John 1:29-34).
                                              iii.   Jesus was setting an example by doing the Father's will and to be identified as one of us, to be identified with Israel and humanity so He can take our place of God's wrath. (Psalm 40:7-8; Matt. 5:17; Luke 12:50; John 4:34; 8:29; II Cor. 5:21).
2.   Some Christians get confused what Baptism means and take Jesus' example out off its context and meaning as pertaining to us and missing the fact Christian Baptism was not instituted yet (Matt. 28:18-20).
                                                  i.      Baptism is significant and is not to be ignored, fought over or taken lightly.
                                                ii.      Baptism in of itself does not cleanse us of sins, only by what Christ did that on the cross on our behalf! It is the ceremony of our commitment to what Christ has done. To say that baptism has the power to remove sin is to reduce who and what Christ did, and create a works based means of regeneration and salvation!
3.   Righteousness means God's sovereignty that He rules and is pure and holy. Then it translates to How God is compared to and relates to us, because we are corrupted by sin, while He is pure (Matt. 5:20; 21:32; 23:23). This also testifies that Jesus is righteous and has the ability to take our sin and cover it by His atonement (Matt. 8:10; 20:28).
        For us today, we can receive forgiveness of our sins because Jesus represented us as a man and was also fully God to take our sins and receive God's wrath in our place. We can see Christ's attitude and willingness to conform to God's will even with the looming consequences that was to come. Thus, we receive His righteousness by what He has done and can live with the motivation and guidance He has to offer us as Lord. When we try to live to and by ourselves without Christ or even try to serve Him without relying on Him we are showing an incredible amount of disrespect! We need to have the right focus and perspective so we can know what God wants me to do! We can do this by leaning about our Lord, His obedience and be willing to go through times of waiting, discouragement and even suffering and see them as opportunities of personal growth, faith building and strengthening.  
1.   How were you baptized, as an adult, infant or? How do you see baptism now, has your view or reverence changed?


2.   How important is baptism?


3.   Has what is in the teaching outline and theological notes surprise you or challenge you or?


4.   Why do you think John chose the location for his preaching and baptizing?


5.   If you were John how would you have handed Jesus request, considering you were baptizing for repentance and He was free of sin?


6.   Why did Jesus submit to John's Baptism?


7.   What was the significance for the testimony of the Trinity?


8.      What role do you believe the Spirit has in you?


9.   What does Jesus servant hood, obedience and identification mean to you and your faith?


10. What role did John's ministry and baptism serve? 


11. What is the difference for Christian baptism (this area is in debate amongst many different Christians and denominations, so let us stay away from the arguments of the mode and method and concentrate on the role and meaning)?


12. What would happen if Jesus were not without sin?


13. How do you feel knowing we do not have a God who is uncaring or unconcerned? That we can never say God you do not understand me, because He had become and is identified as one of us.


14. What does Righteousness mean?


15. How does God's sovereignty that He rules and is pure and holy, reflect the way you worship and serve Him?


16. For us today, we can receive forgiveness of our sins because Jesus represented us as a man and was also fully God to take our sins and receive God's wrath in our place. Why is this important and how can you explain it to a friend who does not think it is important?


17. How can you see Christ's attitude and willingness to conform to God's will even with the looming consequences that was to come as motivation and encouragement to you?


18. What has happened in your experience when you tried to live to and by yourself without Christ or even try to serve Him that way?


19. What do you need to do or get out of the way so you can have the right focus and perspective so you can know what God wants you to do?


20.  How can you be willing to learn and grow by Christ's example of obedience and be willing to go through times of waiting, confusion, discouragement and even suffering and see them as opportunities of personal growth, faith building and strengthening?


            Let us oh Lord be willing to learn about you, to grow by you example of your obedience and be willing to go through times of waiting, confusion, discouragement and even suffering and see them as opportunities of personal growth, faith building and strengthening. 

Theology Thoughts

Baptism what is it and what does it mean?  

            Baptism has caused quite a stir amongst believers since the founding of the church. The main reason why we have so arguments surrounding this as there are as many different modes and practices of baptism is because the Bible does not give us a clear pronouncement on the mode or way of doing it. The Bible and God's truth is more concerned with the idea and motives behind it and not the exercise of it. So we cloud the meaning with our limited understanding placing the emphases on the mode and not the reason. The importance is why we are being baptized and what it represents not how or even who for the most part we baptize.  

Baptism means a ceremonial cleansing and purification: a sign that tells God that we have repented and seek His forgiveness and desire to accept a new life. The word literally means to be immersed and when you put in the context of the passages it means to be immersed in the identification and obedience of Christ, not just the water, which is a symbol (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor. 6:11; 12:13; Eph. 1:13-14; l5: 25-27; Col. 2:11-12; Titus 3:5).

  • It is a symbol of our union and covenant with our Lord (1 John 5:11-12).
  • It is a sign of our commitment to be His disciple (Matt. 28:19).
  • It is a work of our Lord that we participate by contributing our faith and obedience (Rom 6: 3-11; Col 2:9-13)!
  • If baptism was essential for salvation, why do you suppose that Jesus did not baptize anyone?

Christian adult/ believer's baptism is the public profession that a changed occurred in you by the way of repentance! We cannot have salvation without repentance. Grace is free, but grace cannot come in a heart where it is not welcomed, and being unrepentant means we will not welcome His grace! Baptism is not a magic "get into Heaven card" or to receive His blessings and riches, nor is it even mandatory; hence why some Christian groups do not practice it (Salvation Army).  

Baptism does not have a specific mode, such as to say baptism in the name of Jesus, or in the Trinity, or to immerse, dunk, sprinkle, hose off in the parking lot, or my favorite hold them down until they really repent  (kidding). Baptism means to be cleansed, and Christians have no basis to fight over which mode (yet we do any way), since no specific mode is required or even taught in Scripture. We are just commanded to do it!  The "modes" come from various passages is Acts and in church history, when they were not near water they sprinkled, when they were near water they immersed (simple), and that transitioned into tradition for various groups.  

A lot of people think baptism is necessary for salvation and quote John 3:4-7; however they miss the point of the passage about Nicademas and baptism in general. Thinking it is essential for our salvation. It is essential in that we are commanded to do it, but it is not essential for salvation, because we are saved by what Christ has done period. Justification by faith alone through His grace alone, and not by any work of ourselves (Eph. 2:8-9). The water in the Nicademas passage is not referring to baptism, but to natural birth, notice the word flesh in verse 6 that makes this clear. When a person is born the mother's water breaks and it is time to give birth, "being born of water".  

Salvation is from Christ through our faith, by His grace. Baptism is the sign and acknowledgement we do to show it. It is our identification and public proclamation, but Scripture does not teach we need baptism to be saved. It is a ceremony. The Scriptures that people use to make this point are taken out of their context and clear meaning (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom 6: 3-8; 2 Thes. 1:19; 1 Peter 3:21). Marriage is also a ceremony that shows the marriage commitment to the public, but the ceremony does not marry you, it is the license from the court that does! Christ is our license, the baptism is the ceremony. We of course are commanded to obey and be baptized, but again baptism does in no way contribute to our salvation. 

If you have not been baptized we encourage you to do so. You should find a good church to be apart of (if not so already), where the Word is taught and you can be involved. Then seek the pastor to be baptized. If you think your baptism contributed to your salvation, then please carefully examine the Scriptures and get your thinking aligned with His truth. If you have already been baptized as an infant it is not necessary to be re-baptized, as long as you proclaim the faith.  

Baptism is not necessary for your salvation, but we are called to do it as a sign of our regeneration, our acceptance of His grace.  

Infant baptism

            The Bible neither explicitly commands the practice of baptizing infant children of believing parents or prohibits it. Most mainline churches practice infant baptism, only the Baptists and recently in the 20th century the Fundamental, Pentecostal and Evangelical churches have refused to do so. The Catholic Church teaches that infant baptism washes away original sin and is regenerative, however nowhere does the Bible teach this! In Protestant and Reformed churches, infant baptism is not regenerative but covenantal and validated through the believing parent(s), and sealed only if they accept Christ as an adult. The baptism looks forward to the consummation of the person as an adult or of age making a public profession of their faith. This seals and completes the baptism as a believer. When the adult does not make a profession of their faith the baptism becomes null and void, as it has not been consummated. God lives outside of space and time, so to Him the timing is not important, the obedience is.

There are no clear accounts of infant baptism in the Bible. However, it cannot be completely disqualified as a possibility given that entire households were baptized including children and infants. (Rom. 7:12-14 see carefully verse 14!) Although most baptisms in the NT and the early church were Adults only (Acts 16:15, 33; 18:8)! The early church practiced infant baptism without controversy until the second century.

There are good Biblical arguments against this practice by godly people, who see baptism as a seal of accepting Christ. Thus an infant is unable to accept, as they are not cognitively aware of what is happening. So a baptism should not be given until after faith is presented. Again they are right! But they often do not take into account the public profession of faith, which is the purpose of the baptism, to publicly proclaim Christ as Lord. Which infant baptism looks too. And it acts as a covenant to bring the child up in the faith to be taught and nurtured.

            Most Evangelical churches practice infant dedication as a substitute. Under careful study (this is my opinion and not shared by most Reformed or Evangelical theologians) I believe it is semantics that separate the Reformed perspective from the Evangelical one (as I have served in churches that practice either or both), as both teach it is the proclamation of faith as an adult that accepts Christ's work. Both see it as a process of faith and duty of the parents to rear their child in a godly way teaching them the facts about the faith. Both see it as a form of circumcision looking to the OT command, and both do not believe baptism saves us. Only the Catholic Church would be in disagreement and some Fundamental groups.

            Do I personally baptize infants? Yes and no. I never have, but if a parent would like me too, I would, just after 20 years, no one has asked me too, only dedications. (Gen. 17:1-14; Acts 2:38-39; 16:25-34) I personally prefer to baptize people in a large natural body of water, but again the method is not important!  

Jesus and John's Baptism (Isa. 40:3; Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:1-5; II Cor. 5:21)  

The baptism that John gave may seem similar to a Christian baptism, but remember that they were preformed before the sacrament was called for by Christ (Matt. 28:18-20). Johns' baptism was identified by the OT covenant as a requirement to be prepared as John preached that the kingdom of God was at hand as the herald for the Messiah. In the OT, gentiles were required to repent and under go a purification rite before becoming Jews. So John's baptism was a means of purification and preparation. John was getting people ready for the Christ. The Jewish leaders objected to John's baptism because he was treating fellow Jews, as they were gentiles, which the leaders believed Jews did not need purification, which of course they did.

Jesus baptism was not for the cleansing of sin or purification. John objected to baptize Jesus because he knew Jesus was sinless. But John did not realize that even though Jesus did not need it, for Him to be the Messiah He had to submit to every aspect of the Law in our place. Thus, He submitted Himself to the law on our behalf and identified Himself as a fully sinful human (even though He was not sinful) and fully God. He was anointed (ordained - called and set apart) by the Spirit for the ministry of redeeming us. His name means the anointed one so it climaxed with His baptism (Isa. 61:1).  

© 2002 R.J. Krejcir, Into Thy Word Ministries         

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