Good questions! In order to answer both of your questions, let’s read some verses from Matthew chapter 3. “Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, ‘REPENT, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’….Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea…they were being BAPTIZED by him in the Joran River, as they CONFESSED THEIR SINS” (Verses 1-2, 5-6). John’s main message to the children of Israel was REPENT! When the people came to John and were baptized of him they were CONFESSING THEIR SINS; in other words, they REPENTED. So, before the death and resurrection of Christ BAPTISM was a symbol of men being SINNERS and that their SINS DESERVE DEATH (which is what going down into the waters of the Jordan River signified).

Now let’s read verses 13-14, “Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be BAPTIZED BY HIM. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me’?” John was shocked that Jesus wanted to be baptized, for as we just saw the ones being baptized were confessing their sins and admitting they deserved to die. So, John rightly says, “I have need to be baptized by You.” John knew Jesus had no sins to confess (for He was SINLESS) and that he himself was the sinner who should be baptized. Yet Jesus goes on to say in verse 15, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to FULFILL ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS.” What did Jesus mean by these words? The answer to this question if so important to see, for it will teach us what the baptism of Jesus symbolized. We read in 1st Timothy 1:15 that “Christ Jesus came into the world to SAVE SINNERS.” The only way Jesus could save sinners was to TAKE THEIR PLACE IN DEATH AND JUDGMENT on the cross. This was the one way that God’s RIGHTEOUS claims against sin could be satisfied and it is the only way God could impute His RIGHTEOUSNESS to those who would believe on Jesus as their Savior. So, in order to FULFILL ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS Jesus had to settle the sin question on the cross and in His baptism He was PLEDGING to take the sinner’s place in DEATH and JUDGMENT. His BAPTISM was a symbol of that PLEDGE. As He went down into the Jordan River He was basically saying, “I’m going to identify with sinners by taking the place that they deserve.”

I’d like to add a few more verses to our meditation. In Psalm 69 the Psalmist speaks prophetically of the Lord Jesus and the place He was willing to take in order to save us. In verse 5 we read, “O God, You know my foolishness; and my sins are not hidden from You” (NKJV). Many shrink from applying these words to the Lord Jesus, but if we look at them in light of what we’ve just seen they become clear. At Jesus’ baptism He was pledging to take the sinner’s place and thus He CONFESSED OUR SINS as if they were His own. At the cross Jesus literally had OUR SINS PLACED UPON HIM, as we in Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one, to his own way, and the LORD has LAID ON HIM THE INIQUITY OF US ALL.” The moment our sins were laid on Him, God the Father had to judge Him for those sins. We read of this in 2nd Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Because of OUR SINS God had to TREAT HIS SON AS IF HE WERE THE SINNER and so God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us.” All of this was symbolized in Jesus’ baptism. And because Jesus was willing to take our place at Calvary, the believer has “become the righteousness of God in Him.” God is now able to TREAT US AS IF WE WERE HIS SON! He no longer sees us as sinners, but as those who are “righteous in Christ.” (293.9) (DO)