The first time we read of baptism is in Matthew 3:4-6, “And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.”  Of course, John here is John the Baptist.

It’s important to see that John’s baptism, and the baptism we have today is not the same.  It does seem like both of these baptisms were done by immersion in the water, but the purpose of these baptisms is different.  Let’s read Romans 6:3-4, “Are you ignorant that we, as many as have been baptised unto Christ Jesus, have been baptised unto his death? We have been buried therefore with him by baptism unto death, in order that, even as Christ has been raised up from among [the] dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life.” (DARBY)  It is evident that this baptism is a way of identifying with the Lord Jesus Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection.  Having been baptized, we are exhorted to live in ‘newness of life’, which is that new life we receive when we put our faith in the Lord Jesus.

John the Baptist’s baptism occurred before the Lord Jesus died, so it could not be a way of identifying with Him in His death, burial and resurrection.  Let’s read Mark 1:4, “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”  Notice that this baptism does not speak of the death of the Lord.  Rather it is a ‘baptism of repentance.’  John’s baptism was a baptism that allowed the repentant one to publicly acknowledge his repentance.  It’s important that we all realize that neither of these baptisms could save anyone.  They were never intended to be a means of salvation.

At one point the Lord Jesus went to John to be baptized.  Matthew 3:13-14, “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?”  If John’s baptism was for a sign of repentance, why did Jesus desire to be baptized?  He had never sinned.  He had nothing to repent of.  Obviously, it was important for the Lord to be baptized.  He walked from Galilee to Jordan, about 50 miles, just to be baptized.  John, realizing the Lord’s sinlessness, at first refused to baptize Him.  In fact he said he needed to be baptized of the Lord.  There are at least two good reasons why the Lord desired to be baptized.  Firstly, he graciously was baptized to identify Himself with all the Godly people who had repented and were baptized.  Secondly, His baptism justified John’s baptism, showing that his work was commended by God.

Oddly enough, there is no direct reference to the Lord’s disciples being baptized.  We know they baptized others.  John 4:1-2 tells us, “When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,).”  It would be proper to assume that the disciples were baptized before they could baptize others.  We know from reading John 1:35-40 that two of the Lord’s disciples were disciples of John the Baptist before meeting the Lord.  Verse 40 tells us that one of these was Andrew.  In all likelihood, the other was John, who in humility never mentions his own name in this book.  Following John the Baptist, we can rightly assume that John had baptized them.  Some have wondered whether the disciples had to be re-baptized after the Lord’s death and resurrection, since they were not really baptized ‘unto Christ Jesus.’  I see no need for them to be re-baptized and the Word doesn’t mention that they were.  (188.6)