by Bill Blue
Jesus consistently preached and commanded the necessity of baptism throughout His ministry.
Three different Gospels tell us Jesus began His ministry by submitting to baptism (Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22). Jesus did not question the purpose or necessity of baptism. When John protested that his own righteousness was inferior to Christ’s, Jesus said, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,” and then He was baptized (Matt. 3:13-15). If one wants to be more like Christ, why wouldn’t he follow Jesus’ example and submit humbly to baptism as Christ did?
Two of the possible reasons why people fail to follow Jesus’ commands and examples are that they either believe they are smarter than God, or the simplistic nature of the gospel itself poses an obstacle to obedience (1 Cor. 1:18-29). Shortly after beginning His ministry, Jesus told Nicodemus, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:2-5). Is it that difficult to understand the necessity of water baptism? Should we question what the water actually accomplishes? Naaman had difficulties accepting the simplicity of God’s plan. When Elisha told Naaman that washing seven times in the Jordan River would cleanse Naaman of his leprosy, Naaman became indignant and initially refused (2 Kings 5:10-12). “Are not … the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean” (2 Kings 5:12)? In his arrogance, Naaman thought he was too smart to believe that washing in a muddy river would cleanse him of his leprosy. By so thinking, however, Naaman was actually saying that he was smarter than God. Fortunately, Naaman had a servant who could see the foolishness in not accepting the simple command. ““My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’” (2 Kings 5:13)? Sometimes people like Naaman think too much when all they have to do is accept what Jesus said, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). “The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. [1 Cor. 1:25] But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 1:25, 27).
After His death and resurrection, Jesus said “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). These are among the very last statements Jesus said to all of the apostles at once prior to His ascension. Jesus could have used this occasion to speak to His apostles about anything and He chose to emphasize baptism. The Holy Spirit could have inspired Matthew and Mark to emphasize something else at the end of their gospel accounts, but He chose to emphasize baptism.
Despite all of man’s arguments about the necessity of baptism for salvation, one fact remains: no one can give a biblical reason not to do it. Do we truly want to consider what Jesus would do, and then do it, or would we rather, like Naaman, question the simplistic and easy nature of God’s command? If we truly wanted to follow Jesus’ example, we would humbly submit to baptism to fulfill His plan for achieving righteousness.