13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
15 And Jesus answering said unto him, suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon him:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
The first knee-jerk reply we always seem to get is to simply quote Jesus, without understanding: ‘Well, He did it to fulfill all righteousness – that’s what he said in Matthew 3:15.’
Yes… but what does that mean? Well, we could say that He had to receive the baptism of repentance simply in obedience to the Father. Yet I will, annoyingly ask again: ‘Why would God require Jesus to receive the Baptism OF REPENTANCE, if Jesus was without sin?’ Would it not be frivolous?
The fact is that everything that is not done in faith, is sin (Rom 14:23) – that includes water baptism, in fact it ESPECIALLY includes ‘sacraments.’ Even as it is also with ‘communion,’ ‘the table of the Lord,’ the ‘Eucharist’ (however you prefer to label it), those who partake unworthily (not in faith) bring damnation upon themselves (1 Cor 11:29).
We know that in Jesus, there is no ‘guile’ (Psalm 32:2; 1 Peter 2:22), or ‘deception,’ therefore if Jesus received the Baptism of repentance – which He did – He had to do it with absolute integrity of faith.
If Jesus received the Baptism of repentance, it means He HAD TO ACTUALLY BE REPENTING OF SOMETHING in order to ‘fulfill all righteousness.’ If He did not submit to the baptism of repentance upon its own terms, but simply performed the ‘act’ or ‘work’ of it in obedience to God, then it follows that righteousness of God is by works, and not of faith. Without True heart committal to the meaning of the baptism, receiving the same would be a frivolous act – vanity, in fact: sin.
As for obedience to God: would the outward ACT of repentance be in obedience to God if the heart was not fully committed to the work? No, for the Jews were also judged for such things as honoring God outwardly, but being disobedient in their hearts (Is. 29:13; Matt 15:8, etc.). So neither could Jesus be in obedience to God on this wise unless He did, indeed, fully submit Himself to John’s ministry, AND REPENT.
John, himself knew that, which is the very reason he attempted to dissuade Jesus from receiving the baptism of repentance! (Matt 3:14)
Yet how could Jesus repent if He had no SIN to repent of?!
Is this a ‘catch-22’? A contradiction in the Word of God? No, Jesus – our example – had to repent, just as you and I do. God does not require anything of you that He is not willing to do Himself.
Yet I ask again, how could Jesus – who had no sin – repent?!
To ‘repent’ is to ‘turn away.’ Even though Jesus had no sin, still, in order to fulfill all righteousness, He had to repent; though there were no SINS for Him to repent of, still God required His repentance in order to fulfill all righteousness.
Of what did He repent, then, having no sin?
Even of the desires of His flesh.
Jesus repented not from sin – for He had none – but even from the desires of the flesh. Because He was made flesh, He now had a body which had desires of its own, for ‘The flesh lusteth againts the Spirit,‘ (Gal 5:17). Not that these desires were ‘sins,’ but any desire of our flesh is only for the appeasement of the flesh; flesh is selfish, and does not put God’s will and desires first because it only knows its own desires. So Christ had a need to repent of His very flesh. Think me crazy? Grasping at theological straws?
I will show you an example of this from Jesus’ life – it will illustrate to us in a vivid and real way what True COMPLETE repentance looks like – not merely repentance from sins, but repentance that puts ALL THINGS unto subjection to the perfect will of God ONLY.
Matthew 26:36 – 42
The above mentioned passage takes place just prior to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Jesus is in a complete turmoil of soul. He knows that He will shortly be captured, tortured to death, and descend into hell – the hour is upon Him.
He is vexed over what is about to happen to Him – indeed the worst death which has ever, or will ever occur in human history.
Bear in mind it is not merely the torture which happened to His body (which was dreadful enough) – the spiritual suffering was far worse. In that time Jesus literally took the sins of all mankind upon Himself (any ONE of which would be enough to send Him to hell for eternity.) In fact, Jesus did not merely take upon Himself the sin of all mankind, but was literally MADE INTO SIN (2 Cor 5:21) (the horror of which, I guarantee, no man could even imagine). And subsequently He received within Himself not only sin, but the FULL WRATH OF GOD AGAINST SIN – it is no wonder that He cried out: ‘Eli, Eli lama sabacthani!‘ (‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?!’)
Now Jesus knew what was about to happen to Him – no man has ever endured even the anxiety and apprehension that the Son of Man experienced that day. The Gospel of Luke records that even after receiving SUPERNATURAL STRENGTHENING FROM AN ANGEL that He began to sweat great drops of blood (Luke 22:43 & 44).
The eternal reward of all of humanity was placed upon the shoulders of one man. The eternal destiny of the entire human race from Adam to the last child to be born in this world rested squarely upon Him and none other. Have you ever been held responsible for something that you felt was too big for you? As a man – not as God, but as a man – Jesus was pressed upon with the single greatest burden of all eternity. In Him was the only hope for the whole of fallen humanity – and the moment was upon Him: inescapable!
Now in the midst of the realization of the full magnitude of the situation, having the worst agony of heart and soul that one could imagine, Jesus, in humble weeping prayed this prayer:
O Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: …nevertheless, not as I will, BUT AS THOU WILT.
This is, in fact, a prayer of repentance: ‘not as I will, but as thou wilt.‘
Was it a sin for Jesus not want to be tortured to death? Was it a sin for Jesus not to want to BECOME SIN ITSELF – God’s worst enemy? Was it a sin for Jesus not to want the full weight of humanities’ eternal damnation placed upon Him? Was it a sin for Jesus not to want the full wrath of God poured out upon His innocent soul? Was it a sin not to want to go to hell?
No, none of these were sins – they were simply desires of His flesh which were contrary to the will of God; and He turned away from them! None of His hope not to endure such unspeakable horrors was sin. It was what we call the ‘self-preservation’ instinct – and Jesus repented of it, He turned away from it that He might, rather, accomplish the will of God.
Echoing in the ears of eternity is the voice of His humble submission: ‘not as I will, but as thou wilt.‘
He learned obedience through the things that He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). Really, He knew how to obey all along – He had to teach His flesh submission to the will of God, through suffering.
And so it is that although Jesus never sinned, yet still, He NEEDED to repent in order to fulfill all righteousness. His flesh was not automatically submitted to the will of God – He had to make it so. Yes, indeed, the flesh lusteth against the Spirit. Our flesh will only, always do its own desire, unless we TEACH it obedience through suffering the will of God – not necessarily horrors – but ‘suffering the will of God,’ which our flesh resists.
When Jesus submitted Himself to John the Baptist’s ministry, and was baptized with the baptism of repentance, he was committing to the death of the desires of His flesh, that He would ever always live only for the will of God. This is the meaning of water baptism. Have you been water baptized, Christian? Do you still obey the desires of the flesh, rather than God?
Would you receive salvation? Would you accept the sacrifice that Jesus made for you personally? I pray you will, friend! Jesus committed Himself unto death, that He might save YOUR soul from eternal torment in the lake of fire, He gave His life so that you could live. Receive His sacrifice today. Enter into His baptism of love for YOU. Repent of your sins, and be saved! -Visit my contact page; email with questions, or prayer requests.