A common reason given by Christians who practice the Jewish rite of water baptism is that we must follow Jesus in baptism.
The grace believer agrees that there is a baptism of the Lord that we must be baptized with. I would go so far as to declare with boldness that this baptism is necessary for my salvation!
However, I am not talking about water baptism of any sort, but rather the Lord’s second baptism which is made available to me by the preaching of the gospel of Christ.
It surprises many people to learn there are many different baptisms in the Bible, but more so, to learn that the Bible explicitly says the Lord was baptized twice!
Most everyone is aware of the Lord’s first baptism by John into water described in Matthew 3:13-17. This is where Jesus was baptized without sin, and where God spoke, and the Spirit descended like a dove, and rested upon him. (Now that is a performance I have never seen anyone follow in a baptismal service!)
So, where do we find the Lord’s second baptism? Jesus himself mentions it in Luke 12:49-50.
“I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” – Luke 12:49-50
Jesus was baptized by John at the beginning of his ministry. Luke 12 is referring to another baptism afterward. Before he comes to send fire on the earth, he must be baptized again.
The baptism that the Lord is referring to is the baptism unto death. He is straitened to go to the cross. He must be identified with sin and death in order to be the great Messiah that Isaiah 53 prophesied about.
It is this baptism of the Lord unto death that is the subject of the mystery, and which mentioned in Paul’s epistle to the Romans.
“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” – Romans 6:3
Nobody must drown in water to be in Christ, and neither was there water anywhere at the cross., nor in Romans 6. Paul is not talking about Jesus’ baptism into water here, he is talking about Jesus’ baptism unto death.
When believers were baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13), we are baptized into the death of Christ.
His death, becomes our death (Rom 6:6). His resurrection, becomes ours (Rom 6:8). Without this baptism into the Lord’s death, we are yet in our sins. This baptism is necessary for us to be saved.
We do not follow the Lord in his water baptism which does not accomplish anything for us regarding righteousness or salvation. If we are to follow the Lord, we must follow the Lord in his second baptism, as the Spirit baptizes us into Christ’s death to be saved by God’s grace.
Paul preaches that the church should be united around “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:5). Perhaps baptism has turned into such a divisive doctrine, because we have forgotten that the Lord was baptized twice, and the second is where we should pay attention.
The baptism of Christ unto death is what matters for us in this dispensation of God’s grace, not his baptism into water.