Jesus' Baptism: Comparison to John's Baptism,
and Other Issues
A. The comparison of John's baptism and Jesus' baptism
A question asked of John
- John 1:25 - "Why do you baptize?"
- Note: John does not give a direct answer to this question until a
day later (see John 1:31). Instead, he redirects their attention away
from himself and toward the one who was to come. The
humble attitude he would later express (in John 3:30) was present
throughout his ministry.
A description of John's baptism
- Matthew 3:11a; Mark 1:8a; Luke 3:16a; John 1:26; Acts 1:5a;
11:16a - I baptize in/with water.
A description Jesus' baptism
- Matthew 3:11b; Mark 1:8b; Luke 3:16b; Acts 1:5; 11:16b - He will
baptize in/with the Holy Spirit.
- Note: Matthew and Luke also add the phrase: "and with
fire." The meaning of the word "fire" is defined in
the context. (See Matthew 3:10, 12b and Luke 3:9, 17b.) It is the opposite
of baptism "by the Spirit," and is something that will
happen to those who do not turn to God and obey him. It
is not a reference to Acts 2:3.
B. Some preliminary comments about Jesus' baptism and the water-baptism
practiced by his followers (as described in the Bible)
Many of the passages in the section about Jesus' baptism (below)
describe not the spiritual reality (the Spirit-baptism,
which Jesus does), but the physical symbol Jesus associated with it
(water-baptism, which his followers did). Some passages, however,
look at both aspects together, as a single, two-part event.
This is because both events (the spiritual and the physical) were
intended to occur at essentially the same time.
- Logically, the spiritual reality has to occur first: a
change has to occur before a person can symbolically - and truthfully
- proclaim to the world that the change has taken place! An utterly
dead person must be given life, before he will be able to breathe.
What God does in a heart comes before the response the
person makes. But Scripture looks at it as two interrelated
events. If God does make a change in a person's heart
(changing him from a dead person to a living person - Ephesians 2),
the now-alive person will want to express that life (which
is Christ's life - Galatians 2:20). And he will want to express it by living,
not by acting dead!
- Chronologically, as far as what we humans can see, much
of what God does is secret. Often, we see the consequences
or effects of his workings, rather than the works themselves.
We can see the changes that occur in a person's lifestyle, when God
begins to change his heart, but it may be difficult to pinpoint the
exact moment that those heart-changes began to take place.
It should also be noted that, just as Scripture doesn't separate
these two aspects, tearing apart the spiritual reality from the
physical symbol, so also it does not confuse the distinction between
the two. The physical symbol does not cause the salvation. A
person who has not experienced a spiritual change is still
capable of getting wet, in water-baptism, even though it does him no
good, spiritually. And though it would have been normal (and the
expected practice) for a Spirit-baptized person to want to
be water-baptized as soon as the spiritual change occurred, there
could be unusual circumstances, in which it was not possible
- even though the Spirit-change itself did occur. (One such
example could be a conversion just prior to death - such as happened
to the thief on the cross, Luke 23:42-43.)
Back to the "Baptism"
Dennis Hinks © 1999