Q. I had a conversation with a member of a group that claims that Jesus was a sinner like anybody before he was baptized by John the Baptist. His claim is that if Jesus was not a sinner then why was he baptized for repentance by John the Baptist? I tried to explain that The Lord was being baptized ONLY for the fulfillment of the scriptures not necessary for repentance. Is there perhaps any other valid reason why The Lord was baptized by John the Baptist other than the one I mentioned? Can you also comment on the notion that Jesus was a sinner like any other person before John’s baptism.
A. The notion that Jesus was a sinner before He was baptized is contrary to the Scriptures. In the first place, a baptism does not cleanse anyone from their sins. A baptism symbolizes the Lord’s death and resurrection, which is the only thing that can cleanse people from their sins.
Second, 2 Cor. 5:21 and Hebrews 4:15 clearly tell us Jesus was without sin. Had Jesus not been sin free he would not have been qualified to die for our sins. In 1 Peter 1:18-20 Peter called Jesus a lamb without blemish or defect and in 1 Peter 3:18, he said, “Christ died for our sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”
John’s baptism was one of repentance, which means “to change one’s mind”. He was warning the Jewish people to change their mind about relying upon keeping the Law and admit they needed a savior. He used a baptism as a spiritual cleansing to symbolize this change of mind. Jesus didn’t need to change His mind. After all he was the Savior.
Your friend might be confusing repentance with remission. In Acts 2:38 Peter told the people to be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of sin. But Jesus didn’t need to be baptized in His own name, and besides baptism in the name of Jesus for the remission of sin was not taught before the resurrection.
So why did Jesus want to be baptized? As I said, for the Jewish people, a baptism was a spiritual cleansing designed to set them apart for an important undertaking, especially if it involved serving the Lord. It was called a Mikva. Jesus asked John to do this to fulfill all righteousness, not to fulfill the Scriptures. He didn’t take a mikva because He needed a spiritual cleansing, He did it so there would be no question in the minds of those who were under the Law that He was beginning His time of service in accordance with the Law. From their perspective He was fulfilling all righteousness.