NKJV - 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.
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One important point to keep in mind as we consider this question is the fact that even though we encounter John the Baptist in the Gospel books of the New Testament, he was actually an Old Testament prophet. That is to say, John was under the law, not grace, and his mission (to prepare the way for Christ) came prior to the inauguration of the Kingdom of God (Mt 11:7-15). His audiences and baptismal candidates were also Jewish people under the law (Mt 3:5-6). The more pious of the Jews deeply resented John's call to repentance and cleansing. Up to that point only gentile proselytes to the Jewish faith were required to be baptized. When John appeared, he told devout Jews that being Jewish was not enough (Mt 3:9). Like the gentiles, they needed to be cleansed and to make themselves ready (repent - Mat 3:11). The King is coming; make His paths straight (Isa 40:3, Malachi 3:1, Mt 3:3). John's baptism was a physical act that signified inward purity through repentance. It is significant that Jesus as well as the Jewish people recognized John the Baptist as a true prophet of God under the law (Mt 11:9-11). He came from the Judean wilderness as did other prophets, he wore the garments of a prophet, he ate the food of the prophets, and he spoke the oracles of God as a prophet (Mt 3:1-4). As such, he literally spoke for God and his words were God's law, just as binding as the written law. God commanded the Jewish people (through John the Baptist) to repent and be baptized in preparation for the coming kingdom of heaven (Mt 3:2). That is why Jesus insisted on being baptized by John. In order to be an acceptable sacrifice for our sins, Jesus had to be perfectly righteous, fulfilling all of God's law on our behalf including these latest oracles delivered through John the Baptist (Mt 3:13-15). While Jesus had nothing of which to repent he could certainly comply with the command to be baptized in a public display of obedience to God's commands and perfect fulfilment of His laws. The Father chose that event to publically acknowledge and confirm His beloved Son, to openly anoint Jesus with His Holy Spirit, and to inaugurate his public ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit (Mt 3:16-17). However, the baptism ordained by Jesus prior to His ascension is fundamentally different from John's baptism in its significance, i.e., what it signifies. The baptism ordained by Jesus (Mat 28:19-20) transcends John’s baptism of repentance (Ephesians 4:4-6). While John's baptism was a cleansing rite, the sacrament of baptism we practice now is a sign and seal of the new covenant in Christ Jesus in the same sense that circumcision was a sign and seal of the old covenant (1 Peter 3:21-22). Baptism in the new covenant is the counterpart of and replacement for the rite of circumcision in the old covenant. Circumcision was a physical act producing a physical mark that signified a person was a member of the Jewish nation and household of faith either by birth or through conversion. Baptism today is a physical act producing a spiritual mark that signifies a person is a member of the household of faith in Jesus Christ by new birth and conversion (Galatians 3:26-27, John 3:5). It is a better sign and seal for a better covenant (Hebrews 8:6-13). Baptism does not mutilate the body (the temple of the Holy Spirit), is available to everyone equally (not gender specific), and is wonderfully symbolic of our identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection (Romans 6:1-7). Today we enjoy the privilege of participating in the sacrament of baptism, not for repentance as was John's baptism, but as a wonderful means of grace, rich in the beauty of symbolism. As we publicly identify with our Lord by physically acting out the drama of His suffering, death, burial and resurrection through the Christ ordained ritual of baptism we are spiritually marked as children of His glorious kingdom by His grace and mercy.
4. Christ who knew no sin was baptized. Christ submitted to baptism for two reasons: (1) To fufill righteousness (Mt. 3:15) Matthew 3:15 (KJV) And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. (2) To be manifest to Israel (Jn. 1:31) he should be made manifest to Israel 29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. 30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. 31 And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
Christ became our High Priest of the order of Melchizedek for all Christians only after his death and resurrection. The Aaronic Priesthood spiritually ended when the veil of the temple was ripped in two. John the Baptist was a prophet of the Most High and also of the Aaronic Priesthood. HIs baptism conferred upon the ordinary people a priestly function of intercession for themselves and others so that they were not so dependent on the official priesthood and able to concentrate on anticipating the Messiah. Christ, of the tribe of Judah, had no official intercessory function, but availed himself of John's baptism so there would be no reasonable doubt about the source of his miracles. Some actually believed that he did his miracles through demonic powers rather than God. The Christian baptism is of the Melchizedek Priesthood - of course, the apostles were baptized by Christ when he washed their feet.
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