In Jesus’ great commission, he tells his disciples to be “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Mat. 28:20). So, over the last year, we have paid close attention to Jesus’ commands in Matthew so that we can be disciples who make disciples. It’s amazing how Jesus teaches us everything we need to know about being in His Kingdom. But what about the other part of Jesus’ commission? What about baptism? Jesus tells us to baptize in the Triune name of God. But where does Jesus teach on baptism? He doesn’t. Nowhere in Matthew does Jesus sit the disciples down to teach them the meaning of Baptism. So, how can Jesus command us to do something he hasn’t taught us about?
The only place we see Jesus connected with baptism is his own baptism. Since many early Christians only had this one Gospel, we have to assume the meaning of baptism must be in Jesus baptism… somewhere. Jackpot. Not only does Jesus teach us by example what our baptism is, but he sets the foundation for the entire Kingdom of God there in that one watery moment. Let’s take a look at it.
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “ This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17 (ESV)
Who We Become in Baptism
Three things happen to Jesus that he doesn’t really need. 1) Jesus doesn’t need the Spirit. He was conceived by the Spirit. 2) He doesn’t need to know he’s the Son. He’s always been the Son. 3) Since Jesus is perfect, he’s already pleasing the Father too. So why does Jesus do it? Jesus tells us to follow him, right? He’s leading the way for us. We follow Him right into the water where God does three amazing things to us. 1) God gives us his Holy Spirit like a dove. We are set apart from the rest of the world because we are a part of His Peaceful Kingdom. 2) We become the beloved children of God. We can call the Creator “Father” because he has adopted us as his children. 3) The Father is pleased with us because our sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus. That’s the only way sinners like us could receive the Father’s approval! So, who we become in baptism is right there. We receive the Holy Spirit, adoption as God’s children and forgiveness through Jesus. Simple as that… but there’s more.
In the Name of…
Jesus tells us to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. To speak or act in the name of someone else is to act with their authority and according to their purpose and mission. It’s more than just identity. So, could we also see our Christian lives through our baptism? Bigger Jackpot. The three things we receive in baptism are the three persons of the Trinity, a new life where we seek to live the purpose and mission of the Triune God.
In baptism we receive the Holy Spirit like a dove. But how do we live in the name of the Holy Spirit? Jesus teaches us that. It means being poor in spirit, humble, realizing that our sinful spirit needs to be replaced with God’s Holy Spirit. It means having a new heart that treasures the things of God above all else and bearing that kind of fruit. It means loving the perfect peace of God’s original creation and bringing that peace into our world, even if our lives are threatened for the sake of others. God gives us His Spirit so we can live in the name of the Spirit.
In baptism we are adopted as the Father’s beloved children. But how do we live in the name of the Father? Jesus teaches us that. It means we depend on our Father for everything, much like a small child depends on parents for everything. Since everything we have really belongs to Daddy, we learn to be content with His provision and avoid seeking after the false gods of power, prestige and possessions. It means we have a new family, because all who have been baptized and follow Jesus are fellow sons and daughters of our Father in heaven. And since our Daddy is so big and powerful, we don’t pretend to judge people or feel the need to retaliate when people insult us. We can let Daddy take care of that. Our job is love them the way Daddy loves us. Being a child of God means living in the name of the Father.
The only way we can be pleasing to the Father is if our sins have been forgiven by the blood of Jesus, His Son. But how do we live in the name of the Son? Jesus teaches us that. We forgive others as we have been forgiven. Jesus has bridged the chasm between us and God! That’s great for us, but what about the rest of humanity? We have a new Spirit in us and a Father who takes care of us. So we risk reputation and self for the sake of even our worst enemies so that they can see their sin, repent and receive forgiveness from us and forgiveness from God. That’s love. We follow Jesus. We seek the life He lived. When we fail, we humbly repent, receive his forgiveness and keep following. We look forward to a day when Jesus will come back and the chasm of sin and death will be no more. In the meantime, we watch, we wait, and we witness. Being restored in the eyes of God means living in the name of the Son.
In the end it’s so simple. Jesus’ baptism IS our baptism. When we follow Him into the water we are given our identity and our mission, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.