Scriptures show Jesus was the sinless sinless Son of God, and water baptism is an act of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. If this is true, what need did the sinless Son of God have for partaking in baptism? This is the question we will examine in this article, “why was Jesus baptized?”
For an overview of the events at Jesus’ baptism, see: The Baptism of Jesus: Everything You Want to Know
Why did Jesus need to be baptized?
Jesus needed to be baptized for several reasons. John the baptist asked Jesus this question directly when Jesus came to him to be baptized. John, knowing the righteousness and purity of the Christ, said the following: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14).
Poor Answers for Why Jesus Was Baptized
Before we look at Jesus’ response to John the baptist, you should know there are some strange ideas floating around the internet as to why Jesus was baptized. First, let’s spend a moment to examine these before we look at the more reasonable answers to the question of why was Jesus baptized.
The age of a priest’s ordination
Some point to his baptism at the age of 30 as the reason for why Jesus was baptized. As evidence for this, they reference Numbers 4 which seems to list the acceptable age of a priest ranging from 30 to 50 years.
In reality, this section of scripture is not dealing with the priests at all. Rather, those in the various houses of the Levitical tribe who were more likely servants in the temple. In fact, there were temple servants of various age ranges below 30, even as low as 20 years old (1 Chronicles 23:24-32). Furthermore, Jesus was not of the tribe of Levi, nor was he of Aaron (Hebrews 6:20).
Repentance From Sin
Hebrews 1 states that Jesus Christ is the exact imprint of the nature of God. James tells us that there is no darkness found in God, nor deceit, and he cannot be tempted by evil. Therefore, Jesus’ character is the very same that we see in God. That is, perfect moral uprightness with no sin whatsoever. Therefore, there is nothing for Jesus to repent from. Jesus’ life pointed perfectly in the right direction as he fulfilled the law without any flaw.
Although John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, Jesus had no need for it. Repentance was not a reason for Jesus’ baptism.
To Become the Son of God
Though he was anointed and filled with the Spirit at his baptism, that does not mean this was when Jesus “became” the Son of God. Jesus was not created by God, nor was he made deity during or after his life on Earth. He pre-existed all things with perfect unity with God from eternity (John 1, John 8:57-58, Hebrews 1, Hebrews 13:18). Therefore he was not baptized to become the Son of God.
Better Answers for Why Jesus Was Baptized
The following are more reasonable answers for why Jesus was baptized, starting with his answer to John the baptist. How did Jesus respond to John’s objection to his baptism?
To Fulfill All Righteousness
Jesus’ answer to John’s objection to his baptism was this: “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). What does it mean to fulfill all righteousness?
To fulfill all righteousness mean to perfectly keep the law. This was the main task set for the Christ living as a man. By “fulfilling” the law, Jesus became the faithful Israelite and successfully kept the covenant on behalf of Israel. Long story short, it’s this faithfulness to the covenant that allows mankind to obtain justification and righteousness to God. When we place our faith in and immerse ourselves into Jesus, we become united with him and his righteousness applies to us.
By obediently partaking in baptism, Jesus fulfilled the requirement of the new covenant he made with man. By obediently partaking in baptism, we accept Jesus’ new covenant and unite with him (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 10:48, Romans 6:3-5).
To Be an Example
Have you ever heard the phrase, “practice your preaching”? This point is perhaps most commonly referenced when seeking to answer questions about Jesus’ need to be baptized. It’s a simple one, but good one.
What teacher out there should make a demand of their listeners without having put into practice those things they preach? Another phrase goes like this, “do what I say not what I do.” Unfortunately, teaching with that kind of philosophy is wildly ineffective. Jesus was the master teacher because he perfectly led by example. Therefore, if Jesus wanted us to be baptized, then a great way to teach that would undoubtedly be for him to be baptized too.
To Publicly Signify Who He Was
Jesus’ baptism signified a change in his life. It was from that point on that his ministry became public, starting with the miracle of turning water to wine at a wedding.
Immediately after he arises out of the baptism water, the Spirit of God descends like a dove. Then a voice from heaven (God’s voice) is heard saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
To everyone who witnessed the event, it would likely not have been a question that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah. This fact would be signified for at least the next 2 to 3 years during the remainder of Jesus’ life.
To Accept God’s Anointing
“Christ” simply means anointed one. Acts 2:38 uses the word “receive” when referring to the gift of the Holy Spirit. This word most likely means to “accept” in this context (a very common meaning of the greek word).
Baptism is a way in which a person accepts the new covenant in Christ’s blood. However, Jesus is the Son of God, so what did he have to accept? The answer is, he needed to accept his ministry and purpose for the life he lived. This would include the works he accomplished, teaching, death on a cross, and resurrection. It was quite frankly, Jesus accepting the suffering that would come.
By accepting baptism, Jesus also accepted the will of God the father. A notion that Jesus pointed to often in his life and ministry:
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.John 5:19
Conclusion: Why Was Jesus Baptized
Just as John initially objected to the idea that he would baptize Jesus, we too may find ourselves perplexed at the idea. However, after a closer look at the scriptures in the new testament, understanding the “why” of the baptism of Jesus becomes a lot less complex.