As was mentioned in our last lesson, there are some in
our brotherhood who are no longer seeing baptism as a
necessity for our salvation and as key to identifying who is
a Christian. We discovered that ministers are
believing this way so that they can extend the borders of
fellowship to others who are believers in Christ, no matter
what their religious affiliation. Last week, we saw
how baptism is like a wedding ceremony; it is a very
important, transforming, and defining event. It is not
just a part of a process that can be taken or left off.
In today's lesson, let's consider the purposes of baptism.
We want to look at Jesus' baptism and its purposes and how
there are similarities with other examples of baptism in the
New Testament. Then we'll add some more purposes about
our baptism beyond those linked with Jesus' baptism.
The first purpose of baptism is submission. Jesus'
baptism must be very important because it is mentioned in
all four gospels. Something significant is going on in
this event of Jesus' life. We know that the baptism
practiced by Jesus' cousin, John, was for repentance, but
Jesus did not need to repent. “Jesus did not need
forgiveness, for he was the very Son of God. John's
baptism was for sinners, so in this sense it [would] not be
applicable to Jesus.
Jesus Himself mentions His baptism's purpose was 'to fulfill
all righteousness' (Matthew 3:15)” (Young). Let's see
how this happened. “In the Bible, righteousness
means keeping God's commands. Jesus submitted to
John's baptism as a command of God. Christ was saying,
'Since this is God's ordinance, I wish to honor it and to
obey this command, even though I do not need to.' What
a tremendous attitude” (Ibid.)! We also must submit to
Christ. That is the purpose of our baptism, just as it
was Christ's purpose.
Jesus told His disciples these words in Matthew 28:18-20:
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and
of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that
I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to
the end of the age.”
Because of His obedience to God, Jesus is now commanding His
apostles to make disciples, to make followers, to help
others to be Christians. How are they to do that?
They are to baptize or immerse them in the name of the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and then they are to
teach them to observe, to obey, to practice His commands
that He had taught them. Jesus said in essence: “Tell
others to be baptized and teach others to follow My
teachings.” Now isn't that clear? So Jesus
desires your baptism as an important action to becoming His
disciple. Have you obeyed Him? Just as Jesus
submitted to baptism as a command of God, so will you submit
to baptism as a command of Jesus? Jesus has all
authority, and if He tells you to do something, shouldn't
you obey what He desires of you? So one purpose of
baptism is to show our obedience or our submission to what
Another purpose of baptism is separation. When
Gentiles wanted to become full-fledged Jews, they had to
submit to a ritual washing. This washing showed that
they were separating themselves from their past pagan
practices in order to serve the one true and living God.
When Jesus was baptized, another separation took place.
We see that He leaves His family and His occupation, and He
begins a public ministry of service to others.
Likewise, the baptism in which we partake is the result of
repentance and leads to a separation of our past lives.
“Repentance is the decision to turn, and baptism is the
turning around. Repentance is the inward turning, and
baptism is the outward turning, which is followed by the new
life of walking in the opposite direction” (Ferguson).
Listen to the apostle Paul's description of this turning or
new focus in Romans 6:2-4: “How shall we who died to sin
live any longer in it? Or do you now know that as many
of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into
His death? Therefore, we were buried with Him through
baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the
dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk
in newness of life.”
Through repentance, you begin to separate yourself from your
sinful past, and then at baptism, you make that separation
definitive and start living in a newness of life, which is
the life that Jesus commands and teaches a Christian or a
disciple to live. Have you made such a public
separation? The apostle Paul teaches that baptism is
the turning point from a life devoted to sin to a life
devoted to God. Have you put into practice what the
apostle Paul teaches on the matter? “Therefore, we
were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just
as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the
Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
Baptism shows separation.
Another purpose of baptism is dedication. Someone once
observed that Jesus' baptism was an appropriate act where He
“entered His work [as] prophet, priest, [and] king” (Young).
Let's think for a moment about Jesus' role as a prophet.
What usually happened when God called a prophet in the Old
Testament to preach to His people? Yes, that man would
usually have some kind of vision about God: Isaiah saw God
surrounded by angelic beings; Ezekiel saw four heavenly
creatures, wheels, and a throne; Daniel saw a throne and a
heavenly court. Immediately after Jesus' baptism,
Matthew reports: “and behold, the heavens were open to Him”
(3:16). Only one other time in the New Testament are
the heavens opened, and when they were, Stephen saw the
glory of God and the Risen Jesus. So Jesus must have
seen the glory of God too, and so He was affirmed as The
Prophet who Moses had predicted would come and to whom the
Jews should listen and obey (Acts 3:22-26). In the
same way that Jesus was dedicated to His role as a prophet,
so we, at our baptism, dedicate ourselves to living under
God's new covenant. In fact, 1 Peter 3:21 states it
this way: “There is an antitype [and Peter has just talked
about Noah's salvation] which now saves us—baptism (not the
removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer [or some
versions say “the pledge”] of a good conscience towards
God).” You see, like a prophet who pledges himself to
do God's will, so “baptism is [our] pledge of [devotion],
[our] oath of loyalty to Christ. ... Our baptism represents
the pact, the covenant into which [we] enter with God”
(Ferguson). At baptism, we show our commitment and our
dedication to doing Jesus' will. “After [our] baptism
into Christ, [we] wear the name of Christ. [We] now
live a Christian life because we became a Christian at
baptism” (Ferguson). As Jesus began to live as a
prophet, so we begin to live as one dedicated to Christ and
to following Him, wherever that might lead. Has
baptism saved you because of your pledge of dedication to
Christ, which shows a good conscience towards God?
Another purpose of baptism is consecration. Now let's think
about Jesus as priest. He is actually called our High
Priest in Hebrews 3:1. Under the law of Moses, the
Levites entered into their service as priests at the age of
30, and Luke 3:23 informs us that Jesus began His ministry
at the age of 30. In fulfilling all righteousness,
Jesus may have had this idea about the priesthood in mind as
well. According to Exodus 29:4-7 and Leviticus 8:6ff,
the consecration of the priests involved two acts—a washing
and an anointing.
Isn't that exactly what happened to Jesus? His baptism
was the washing, and the Holy Spirit descending upon like a
dove was His anointing! Notice carefully that this
idea is sustained by the apostle Peter in Acts 10:36ff: “The
word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching
peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—that word you
know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began
from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God
anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with
power, who went about doing good and healing all who were
oppressed of the devil, for God was with Him.” Thus,
we see that Jesus was divinely consecrated at His baptism.
The same thing happens to us. “God wants you to be a
part of His priesthood, the church. You must be
consecrated, and your attitudes must be given over to Him”
(Young). To be prepared to become a priest who serves
as a mediator between God and others (and all Christians
have this glorious responsibility according to 1 Peter 2:9),
we too experience a washing and an anointing by God's
Spirit. Remember in our reading what Paul writes to
Titus in 3:4ff: “But when the kindness and the love of God
our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of
righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy
He saved us, [Well, how did He save us?] through the washing
of regeneration [or rebirth] and renewing of the Holy
Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus
Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace
we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal
life.” Our washing of rebirth is baptism, and our
anointing is the gift of the Holy Spirit given abundantly at
our baptism. So another purpose of baptism is our
consecration into the priesthood of all believers.
Another purpose of baptism is adoption. Let's return to
Jesus' baptism and hear what happens in Matthew 3:17: “And
suddenly a voice came from heaven saying, “This is My
beloved Son ...” Jesus was God's unique and only begotten
Son, and at His baptism, Jesus hears God's voice which
confirms His Sonship in a public way. Our adoption as
God's sons and daughters also takes place at our baptism.
Did you catch the closing words of the passage we just read
in Titus? Listen again: “through the washing of
rebirth and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out
on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that
having been justified by His grace we should become heirs
according to the hope of eternal life.” Heirs are a part of
a family, aren't they? Notice how rebirth, renewal,
justification, and becoming heirs are all taking place at
the same time. That definitive event is baptism!
So baptism is where we also become heirs or sons and
daughters in God's family. This is also confirmed in 1
Corinthians 6:11. Paul lists many sins in the previous
verses and then states that such sinners will not inherit
God's kingdom, or eternal life in heaven. Then notice
what he writes: “And such were some of you. But you
were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified
in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
Notice how washing, sanctification, and justification are
all linked together again. Washing surely refers to baptism.
Today you fall into one of two positions: You are a child of
God's wrath who lives in the kingdom of darkness or you are
a child of God's hope who lives in the kingdom of His
beloved Son (Ephesians 2:3; Colossians 1:13), and there is
no middle ground! With the washing of baptism, you can
become God's adopted son or daughter, and you will be made
an heir who will inherit heaven and eternal life if you will
live faithfully according to Jesus' teachings! So
another purpose of baptism is adoption.
Another purpose of baptism is mission. At Jesus' baptism,
He also heard these words from God in Matthew 3:17: “And
suddenly a voice came from heaven saying, “This is My
beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This
statement from God underscores Jesus' mission or His role as
the Messiah or king. Another preacher explains it in
this way: “The statement of God here is actually two
quotes from the Old Testament. 'This is My beloved
Son' is from Psalm 2:7. Every Jew accepted this as a
description of the Messiah. 'In whom I am well
pleased' is from Isaiah 42:1; [and this is part of a
description] which ends with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah
53. In the baptism of Jesus came two certainties that
would shape His ministry and confirm His Sonship with God:
the certainty that He was the chosen one of God [the Messiah
or King] and the certainty that the way in front of Him was
the way of the cross. ... In this moment [at His baptism]
was set before Christ His task [or His mission] and an
awareness of the challenge of fulfilling it. He knew
who He was, [and] where He was going. Something
similar [should] occur in our baptism. We should know
clearly who we are, where we are going, and to what we have
committed ourselves” (Young). Notice that something
similar happened to the apostle Paul at his conversion.
Jesus told Ananias, a Christian, these words: “Go, for he
[Paul] is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before
Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I
will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's
sake” (Acts 9:15-16). We see here that witnessing for
Jesus and suffering for Him were going to be Paul's mission.
Also let's note that Paul is still waiting to hear about
this mission in Acts 9:17. His experience on the
Damascus road was not the point of his conversion! He
has been fasting and waiting patiently to see what Jesus
would have him to do (v. 9), and this is exactly why Jesus
sent Ananias to him. When Ananias finds Paul, he tells
him that Jesus has sent him, that Jesus wants Paul to be
healed, and that Jesus wants Paul to be filled with the Holy
Spirit. Now notice what Acts 9:18 says: “Immediately,
there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he
received his sight at once, and he arose and was baptized.”
Following his baptism, Paul began to preach that Jesus was
the promised Messiah. He was so forceful in his
debates with the Jews in Damascus that some other Jews
plotted to kill him (9:23). The brethren then helped
Paul to escape from Damascus. You see, after his
baptism, Paul began experiencing his mission—he witnessed
about Jesus, and he began suffering for Him as well.
Who knows what mission Jesus may have in mind for you as
Let baptism be the point where your life takes a turn for
the better. Yes, there may be hardships as you bear
your cross and stand up for Christ's name, but your life
will be a joyful blessing to so many others as you strive
each day to follow in Jesus' steps! Another purpose of
baptism is mission or a new purpose for living.
Another purpose of baptism is transformation. We have
seen similarities to Jesus' baptism and to our baptism.
At this point, let's add some more purposes about baptism
beyond those linked with Jesus' baptism. Hebrews 4:15
tells us that Jesus never sinned, so we know that Jesus was
not baptized to have His sins forgiven, but this is not the
case with us. We are sinners, we are guilty of
violating God's will, we are children of wrath! We
need a Savior who can rescue us, and forgive us, and restore
a lost friendship with God. How does such a
transformation take place? Are there any examples in
the New Testament where sinners have asked what they needed
to do to be saved?
Yes, in the book of Acts, we find two. Let's look at
them quickly. Look at Acts 2:36ff where we find the
apostle Peter preaching: “'Therefore, let all the house of
Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you
crucified both Lord and Christ [or the promised Messiah].'
Now when they heard this [when these Jews understood that
they had killed God's Messiah], they were cut to the heart,
and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles: 'Men and
brethren, what shall we do?' [There's our question isn't
it? 'We are guilty of murder, fellow Jews, so now what
shall we do to have this awful sin forgiven, to be rescued
from this terrible situation?] Then Peter said to
them: 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the
name of the Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you
shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the
promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who are
afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” For
what purpose were repentance and baptism into Jesus' name
practiced? The text says, “'For' or 'in order to
obtain' “the remission (or the forgiveness) of their sins.”
And in addition to this, they would also be given God's
Spirit as a gift at their baptism. And then notice
that the promise of forgiveness and God's Spirit is not only
for those people, but “for all afar off”—and that's us!
In other words, the transformation that took place for those
Jews through their baptism into Jesus' name is the same
transformation that can take place for us when we are
baptized into Jesus' name as well! Your past sins can
be forgiven, and you can be indwelt with God's Spirit as
well! By the way, “the teaching of forgiveness of sins
in baptism is expressed in other passages by the imagery of
washing or cleansing” as we've already seen. We
mentioned the conversion of Saul previously, but you might
be interested to know that Saul was also told these words
found in Acts 22:16: “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away
your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Now let's look
at the second example in Acts 16:29ff: “And he [a jailer in
Philippi] called for a light, ran in, and fell down
trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them
out and said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'
[There's our question again.] So they said, 'Believe
on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and
your household.' [But what does this “belief” involve?
Let's read on.] Then they spoke the word of the Lord
to him and to all who were in his house [notice, they had
not believed yet because they first had to hear the Gospel
in order to understand who Jesus was. What does that
message do? It causes them to be sorrowful for their
sinful lives, just like it did to the Jews who heard Peter.
So they want to repent and notice now what they do].
And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their
stripes [Now that's showing a penitent heart isn't it?] And
immediately, he and all his family were baptized.
[Just as Peter followed Christ's order to make disciples by
having the Jews to be baptized in Jesus' name, so Paul does
exactly the same thing!
The same way of salvation that was valid for the Jews is
also valid for these Gentiles!] Now when he had
brought them into his house, he set food before them, and he
rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.”
Why did he rejoice? Because he had believed in Jesus!
And what did that belief entail? It involved hearing
the Gospel, showing repentance, and being baptized.
All of these actions were involved in his belief, exactly as
all of these actions had been involved in the Jews'
salvation. You are hearing the Gospel in this lesson,
so now why won't you also repent and be baptized, just as
those early Christians did? Baptized into the name of
the Father, who provides justification, of the Son, who
provides restoration of friendship, and the Holy Spirit, who
provides purification! Another purpose of baptism is
A final purpose of baptism that differs from that of Jesus
1 Corinthians 12:13 states: “For by one Spirit we were all
baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether
slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one
Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but
many.” The body spoken of here is the church.
The Gospel is for all, so all kinds of people from all
nations and all stations in life are now united in the
church. But how is entrance made into that one body?
“For by the Spirit, we were all baptized into one body.”
Baptism puts you into the group of those who are saved.
Jesus puts it this way in John 3:5-6: “Most assuredly, I say
to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he
cannot enter the kingdom of God.” When one is born in
the waters of baptism and drinks of the one Spirit by being
given that gift at baptism, then he can enter into God's
worldwide kingdom. Another purpose of baptism is
Let your baptism show your submission, your separation, your
dedication, your consecration, adoption, mission,
transformation, and unification! Let your baptism
visibly show forth to all this resolve: “I take God to be my
Lord and highest aim, I take Christ to be my Prince of peace
and Savior, I take the Holy Spirit to be my Guide and
Comforter. I take the teachings of the New Covenant to
be the rule for all my actions, and I take the church to be
my people under all conditions. I do hereby dedicate
and devote to Jesus all that I am, all that I have, and all
I can do. And this I do deliberately, freely, and
forever [because I believe that Jesus is God's Son]”
(modified Henry in Swindoll)! Follow in Jesus'
footsteps and begin that new mission in life to which He is
calling you! Wash away your past sins and become an
heir to eternal life!