If before the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, water baptism was so prevalent and important, why did Jesus not appear to have first of all water-baptized His twelve apostles but then sent them out to water-baptize others? Indeed, Jesus Himself set the example of being water-baptized by John. He subsequently arranged with His apostles/disciples to water-baptize others (John 4:2). Before Ascension, Jesus also commissioned the apostles to water-baptize others (Matt 28:19). If the apostles had not themselves been water-baptized, it appears strange that they went about water-baptizing others. The question comes about because in our bible study last night, we discussed the significance of water baptism in that apart from it being an outward declaration of our belief in God, Jesus’ own example signified His Trinity status and the beginning of Jesus’ three-year work. Baptism also signifies the unity of all in Christ Jesus (Gal 3 :27-28 : for Jews, Greeks, bonded, free, male , female alike).
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It is difficult to venture a guess at why things happen, but it can be even harder to speculate why something doesn’t happen. Since Scripture does not tell us directly why there is no mention Jesus baptizing the twelve, the best we can do is to understand possible answers, and choose the one that makes the most sense to us. But in such cases we do well to hold our view tentatively, and not dogmatically. The practice of baptism in water was common in many eastern religions at that time. Its most common significance was to initiate the one baptized into the religion. The Jews used the rite both for converts to Judaism, as well as in some ritual cleansings. The Essenes in the Qumran community also practiced ritual baptisms, and some of their baptismal tanks are still visible, carved into the rock. John the Baptist practiced a “baptism of repentance” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24), and it instructed “the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus” (Acts 19:4). John the Baptist had disciples who learned from and worked with him, and we know that at least one of them, Andrew, later became a disciple of Jesus (John 1:35-42). Though Scripture is silent on this, it is possible that some of the other disciples of Jesus had also been familiar with, and perhaps baptized by, John. We know little about the nature of the baptism performed by Jesus’ disciples on his authority. Christian baptism did not begin until after the death and resurrection of Christ (which is portrayed in the act of immersion [Romans 6:3-5]). Since both John’s and Jesus’ preaching emphasized the Kingdom of God, it is reasonable to assume Jesus’ baptism also paralleled John’s in being a baptism of repentance. If this is the case, then any of his followers who were already baptized by John would not need to be baptized again by Jesus. Later, after Jesus had ascended back to the Father, he baptized those who believed in him “with the Holy Spirit” (John 1:33). This spiritual baptism now takes place for every believer at the time of their conversion, and is depicted when they are baptized in water. So, returning to the question of why the Bible is silent on baptizing the twelve, there are several points we might humbly suggest: 1. It is possible they were already baptized by John, and re-baptism was not necessary. 2. Perhaps he wanted to differentiate between himself and John. John was a servant, and did most of his own baptizing. Jesus, the Master, delegated this task to his twelve men. 3. Allowing his disciples to baptize would be a way of honoring them, and training them for part of their task in fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). 4. Allowing his followers to baptize might free Jesus to focus more on teaching and preaching, which they were not yet ready to do. Paul followed a similar practice in his ministry (1 Corinthians 1:14-17). 5. If Jesus had done some of the baptizing himself, there could easily arise jealousy (“I wish Jesus had baptized me”) or arrogance (“You were only baptized by an Apostle, but I was baptized by Jesus”). 6. It is possible that Jesus did baptize the twelve, and Scripture simply does not mention it, nor tell us why it doesn’t. I hope these thoughts are of some help, Philip.
There may be a hint of the apostles being baptized by Christ in the episode of John 13:4-16 where he washed the 12 apostles' feet. If it were done simply for physical cleanliness Christ would not have said unto Peter "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." Christ's example was highly instructive in what the last thing the apostles needed and what they were to do likewise.
If you read Luke 3:16, John has said that “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I cometh, the straps of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose. He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." So it means Jesus himself used to baptize, but not with water. We know Jesus promised one of the thieves on the cross to meet him in heaven. Now the thief was not baptized by water, but Jesus' promise baptized him before entering heaven.
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