Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
Baptism is a challenging issue. Especially in the last five hundred years or so it's caused dissent within Christianity, as some have rejected the application of baptism to those who are not already making a credible testimony of Christ as savior. We don't have a clear Old Testament practice of baptism per se, though there are ceremonial washings, and those seem to point to reconciliation with God. Many are even done in conjunction with a blood offering, which points to Jesus' sacrifice for us.
While we might have some debates about the efficacy of baptism, to whom baptism is appropriately applied, and even the mode of baptism, our passage from Matthew chapter three sidesteps all of those debtes.
Here Jesus presents himself to John, who has been calling people to repentance and then baptizing them based on their repentance. John is initially reluctant. Through the Holy Spirit he recognizes Jesus as the one who should baptize him, not the other way around. He understands Jesus to be the holy one who is in no need of repentance.
Jesus tells him to allow it so as to "fulfill all righteousness." Again, we have a cryptic statement. How should we understand it?
Whatever Jesus was saying, John understood it to be all right, and the action was ratified by God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the beloved Son, God the Son, the one who is able to fulfill all righteousness.
Many theologians over the generations have said that by Jesus' act of being baptized, then his subsequent command to baptize, he made a washing with water into an effective means of delivering God's grace to sinners. This would imply that when he fulfills "all righteousness" he is making it work so as to deliver righteousness to others.
Just a word about baptismal regeneration. If baptism washes us from sin, then we proceed to enter into sin as unrepentant people, baptism doesn't help us at all. If baptism washes us from sin, and we then live our lives as people who have been cleansed and set apart for God's purposes, remembering that we have been washed by God, it is exceptionally helpful. If, as some people say, it has no effect but to remind us that Jesus washes us from sin, if we take that reminder to heart, it still brings a benefit. There's no reason not to be baptized. There's no reason to live as one who has not been washed by God. There's every reason in the world, no matter your view of baptism, to live a life of purity before God.
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