If Baptism is Not a Requirement of Salvation, Why Should I be Baptized?
If the waters of baptism do not save a person, why should every believer be baptized? To answer this we must look at Jesus’ baptism. After all, Jesus was sinless and perfect and yet he was still baptized. In fact, in every gospel account the baptism of Jesus is recorded; which makes this extremely significant ( Matthew 3:1-17, Mark 1: 1-13, Luke 3:1-23, John 1: 19-28 ).
Look at Matthew’s account: “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
To Fulfill All Righteousness
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” ( Matthew 3:1-17 ).
John the Baptist was out in the desert baptizing the multitudes of people coming to him. To the Jew, baptism was a rite the gentiles would undergo when they converted to Judaism. It was not something a Jew would ever do. Gentiles did it to declare that they were forsaking their other gods and religion to align themselves with something completely different.
John told the Jewish people who came to him to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (verse 2). Repenting is defined as turning and going in the opposite direction. As people came to John to be baptized they were declaring that they were looking for the kingdom of God. John was sent to baptize so that Jesus would be revealed to Israel ( John 1:31 ).
When Jesus came to John to be baptized the scriptures say that John tried to deter Jesus, noting that he was the one who should be baptized. Look at Jesus’ response, “Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented” ( Matthews 3:15 ). Jesus was sinless, Jesus was already righteous but to fulfill all righteousness he was baptized. Remember water baptism is a declaration of faith, so when Jesus was baptized, through this act he fulfilled or completed the righteousness he already had in his heart.
An Outward Act of the Believer’s Inward Righteousness
This is why believers should follow in the Savior’s example and be baptized. Christian baptism is the outward act of the believer’s inward righteousness. It expresses a heart of faith relying on Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection. This is why we are baptized into the name of Jesus; because we are associating with his death, burial and resurrection. John baptized for the forgiveness of sins, but Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire ( Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16 ).
Even Paul re-baptized those who had only been baptized into John’s baptism. “While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied” ( Acts 19:1-6 ).
These people were waiting and hadn't heard of the Holy Spirit, Paul explained the full gospel of Christ to them and they immediately saw the need to be baptized as believers. Then they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues and operate in other gifts of the Spirit. They had begun their journey when they heard John the Baptist preach, but it wasn't complete until the fullness of Christ came to them. They, like Jesus, fulfilled all righteousness by being baptized.
Join Me For Part Four
Tomorrow we will look whether or not we should baptized babies. Please join me for part 4, Should Babies Be Baptized So They Can Go To Heaven If They Die?