Matthew 3

Read Matthew 3.

I’m always surprised when I meet a Christian who has never been baptized. Years ago, the other elders in my church and I met a woman who had never been baptized because she had a fear of water. With a lot of patience and God’s grace, she did get baptized.

But her case was an unusual one. It is more common that a believer will struggle with a form of stage-fright that keeps them from getting baptized, especially if the church requires those getting baptized to share their testimony first or make some affirmation of faith. Stage-fright and fear of water are personal issues that are not connected to someone’s desire to follow Christ in obedience.

The kind of resistance to baptism that surprises me is when a Christian has no real reason not to be baptized, they just don’t want to do it. Since baptism is symbolic of salvation rather than required for salvation, some believers may think it is optional.

It isn’t optional. It is commanded by Christ.

Here in John 3, even Jesus got baptized! His baptism was John’s baptism which is not precisely the same as Christian baptism. John’s baptism was symbolic of a changed mind about sin, in other words, it symbolized repentance (vv. 6, 11). Jesus had no need to change his mind about sin because he never sinned; therefore, there was no need for him to be baptized with John’s baptism.

Yet, Jesus did get baptized. When John balked at his request to be baptized Jesus told him, “it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15). In other words, Jesus told him, “It’s the right thing to do.”

If you haven’t been baptized after becoming a believer in Christ, you need to be baptized. Christ commanded it and the church needs to know that you belong with us by faith. Jesus DIDN’T need to be baptized, but he got baptized anyway.

If Jesus was willing to be baptized even though he didn’t need it, what’s stopping you from being baptized?

Matthew 3

Today we’re reading Matthew 3.

John the Baptist is one of the most unusual characters we meet in the New Testament. His birth announcement was unusual (see Luke 1), his methods were unusual (Matt 3:1), his outfit was unusual (v. 4a), and so was his diet (v. 4b). And yet God used him! Although he preached in the desert, out away from the population center, “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.”

He was also unusually… direct. He commanded people to repent (v. 2) and to the religious elites–the Pharisees and Sadducees–he was downright brutal (vv. 7-10). I wonder what would happen if he showed up in most American churches with this approach and this message? Churches in our land talk about the need to be positive and affirming. They talk about grace–an amazing concept–but say nothing about repentance. “Grace” in the messages of many of our churches sounds more like, “Your sin is not that big of a deal. Yes, God’s offended by it, but he’ll get over it. You know, in Jesus name.” But repentance is a crucial part of grace. You haven’t received God’s unearned favor unless you get that you have sinned against him and that your sin is deeply offensive to him. That kind of change of thinking is the first evidence that God’s grace has come into your life.

The most interesting thing about this passage today is that Jesus felt it was necessary to be baptized (vv. 13-17). John’s baptism was to symbolize a person’s repentance (v. 11a); it identified that person with the group of Jewish people who owned up to their sin and unworthiness to God and wanted Messiah to come and include them in his kingdom despite their sins. So when Jesus arrived with the intention of getting baptized, John the Baptist didn’t want to do it! John accurately recognized that he, John, was the sinner who needed God’s grace, not Jesus. But Jesus answered, “it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15b). This basically meant, “It’s the right thing to do.” The reason it was the right thing to do was that God the Father planned to use this event to identify Christ as his Son, his Messiah (vv. 16-17).

Sometimes it is good to do things that are right even though we may be technically exempt. When I came here to Calvary, I was not required to go through the membership process that everyone else who wanted to become a member went through. That’s because our constitution states that anyone who comes on staff at Calvary automatically becomes a member. But I went through the process anyway because it just seemed like the right thing to do to me. I wanted the same experience of becoming a member that every other adult member in our church experienced. Jesus example of doing what was required of everyone else when he could have been exempt shows what a servant’s heart he had. This is a good thing to remember the next time you could be exempt from something everyone else is doing; joining with those who are doing what is right is encouraging to them and servant-hearted of you. May God give us this kind of attitude in the things we do for him.