At the start of His ministry, Jesus, desiring to be baptized, goes to none other than his cousin, John the Baptizer. His cousin John is a humble man, knowing that he has been sent by God to prepare the way for the Messiah, and he seems to understand his relative place in the kingdom of God, telling his disciples that there is One coming after him, "whose sandals I am not fit to carry." So imagine John's surprise (and perhaps bewilderment) when Jesus shows up, desiring to be baptized by him. In fact, John tries to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" The Shepherd's response to John is the words in red at the top of this post: it is proper to fulfill all righteousness. So John did as Jesus requested, baptizing Him, and at that moment, the Spirit of God descended on Christ, with a voice from heaven stating, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
Now if you're anything like me, one of the first questions you would ask about this scenario would be, "To fulfill all righteousness? What does that even mean?? How can the Righteous One be lacking in anything to do with righteousness???" Well, I'm not gonna pretend that I know the answer to that question. But it did spur me to dig a little deeper and see what, specifically, scripture teaches that is gained from baptism. What blessings does baptism bring? Here's what I've found:
- Through baptism we receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)
- Through baptism, we are united with Christ in both His death and His resurrection. Because of this, we are freed from sin, and made alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 6:3-11)
- Through baptism, we become part of one body. (I Cor. 12:13)
- Through baptism, we are clothed with Christ. (Gal. 3:27)
- Through baptism, we are saved. Not by water, mind you. But by the pledge of a good conscience toward God. (I Pet. 3:21)
However, I do feel that growing up I was taught--and many churches in our tribe still teach--bapstism as one of 5 (or possibly 6) simple steps to be completed in order to be saved, and we sometimes miss the fact that it's so much more than that. It's not just one item to be checked off of a to-do list in order to be saved. Baptism is an avenue by which we receive some of God's richest blessings for our lives.
"He who has ears to hear, let him hear."