Jesus never sinned, so why was he baptized?
This question is a reference to Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan river by John (Matt 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:29-34).
First, we must remember that water baptism plays no part in our salvation. Salvation is by grace alone through faith (Ephesians 2:8).
Second, remember that water baptism is an outward profession of what has already taken place inwardly when Jesus saves a sinner and regenerates his soul. It is a public proclamation of salvation.
Finally, John’s baptism was one of repentance (Matthew 3:10) based on the confession of sins (Matthew 3:6). Jesus had no sins to confess and nothing of which to repent.
So Why Was Jesus Baptized?
Many people say the baptism of Jesus by John was a “picture” of the cross and the salvation that would come. That does seem to fit!
Symbolically throughout the Bible, water is a picture of the wrath and judgement of God, e.g. the flood (Genesis 7:10, Hebrews 11:7), the Red Sea drowning of the Egyptians (Exodus 14:28, Hebrews 11:29), Jonah going under the waters (Jonah 1, Jonah 2:3), etc. (For more on this read, “What do the 12 stones UNDER the Jordan River mean?”)
On the cross Jesus took ours sins upon Himself and God judged our sins and poured out His wrath upon our Sin-bearer, Jesus. Jesus died, paying the penalty for our sins with His precious and pure blood. He was buried and rose three days later victoriously conquering death. So, yes, full immersion water baptism does “picture” what Jesus did for us on the cross. But does it really “picture” our salvation? I suggest it does not.
For those who belong to Jesus, we will never experience God’s wrath in judgment for our sins. Jesus paid the price for our sins and took the punishment of wrath that we deserved. Hallelujah, what a Saviour!
More Than Just a “Picture” of the Cross?
I believe there was much more taking place when Jesus came to his cousin John at the Jordan River and John proclaimed, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) That was an announcement of who Jesus is!