Did Jesus ever baptize anyone? My impression was that He didn’t, but I came across John 3:22.
John 3:22 reads, “After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized.” The impression you have that Jesus didn’t baptize could be due to a verse in the very next chapter (4:2): “(though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples).”
Do these verses contradict each other? No. John 3:22 means that Jesus was superintending, or behind, the disciples and the baptizing, but He was not doing the actual physical baptizing as we know from John 4:2.
The focus of water baptism during Jesus’ time (i.e., before the New Testament church) differed from ours today. It was like the baptism of John the Baptist; that is, it was an acknowledgement of the coming kingdom and of receiving Christ. Yet there were aspects that pointed to New Testament church baptism.
Jesus likely did not baptize for at least a couple reasons. First, by not doing so He presented baptism as being apart from Him—enough so that when the New Testament church was born, and throughout the Church Age, it would be carried out without His being there bodily. Interestingly, Christ served only once what would come to be known as the Lord’s Supper and that was to initiate it at the Jewish Passover so that the New Testament church would observe it in remembrance of the death of the perfect Lamb of God (1 Corinthians 11:23–34; 5:7).
Second, by the Savior’s not baptizing, people were less likely to put salvation into the meaning of water baptism, as many people have done down through time, including today, and have been misled as to their eternal status. To be saved, one must exercise faith alone in Christ alone, not rely upon some outward act. In John 4:1 is very plain by studying the two verbs that one action took place before the other. The verb “made” indicates that disciples were made first; then baptism (“baptized”) followed, not the other way around. Only one who already is a believer in Christ can be a candidate for water baptism. Water baptism has never saved anyone. Those who believe that teaching are seriously misled and will go to Hell unless they personally believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Water baptism is a testimony that the baptism of the Holy Spirit took place in a life; in other words, it shows what has already happened in the life of a believer (the new birth).
Third, by not baptizing, Christ demonstrated that baptism is not the chief end of the Christian experience. This passage and the policy of Christ not only refute the idea of “baptismal regeneration,” but they also refute those who do not grow spiritually after salvation regardless of the fact they have been water baptized. They refute those whose Christian testimony has nothing to offer beyond their being “in the baptistery” at some point. Water baptism is very important as an act of obedience and testimony, but that event needs to be just a beginning of the spiritual life God intends for every believer.
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