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Building up believers and the New Testament church

The Gospel of Baptism

The Baptism of Christ at Calvary

"'I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!" (Luke 12:49-50). In this scripture we have a clear reference by Jesus to Calvary, and He refers to the event as "His baptism." It was not a baptism in water, but a baptism in blood, and it is the baptism that was essential to secure our salvation. It was no longer in prophetic form (as at the Jordan) but in reality. It was real death and real resurrection. Because the work of Christ at Calvary is the foundation upon which everything else in the plan of God rests, I believe this is the central baptism to which all other baptisms should be related.

The word "baptism" essentially means "immersion." At Calvary, Jesus became completely "immersed" in Adam's race, even to the point of being made sin for us. Because of his complete identification with sin, he became "immersed" in death, for "the soul that sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4). Jesus died, not because of His own sin, but because He became identified with the sin of Adam's race. Because He was faithful to go to His baptism, we are able to "be baptized with the baptism that He was baptized with."

"But Jesus answered and said, 'You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?' They said to Him, 'We are able.' So He said to them, 'You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father'" (Matthew 20:22-23).

What was the "baptism that He was baptized with"? I think it is clear that the reference to "drinking the cup" is a reference to His death on the cross. "He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, 'O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will'" (Matthew 26:39). But while the mention of baptism here could also refer to the same thing (as in Luke 12:50), notice that while He referred to the cup as a future event, He referred to the baptism as the "baptism that I am baptized with" (present tense). I would like to suggest that He was referring to the fact that the Holy Spirit had come upon Him at the Jordan and that He was being led, and living by, the direction of the Spirit—as our example.

The statement to the disciples was: "You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with." It was a positive statement by Jesus of what they and we would experience as His disciples. Full identification with Jesus results in death to this world and may even lead to a martyr's death as some of these disciples experienced. We also must be baptized with the Spirit into union with God, so that we may be led of the Spirit to do the will of God. Both the cup and the baptism speak of full identification with Jesus. He was faithful to the will of God in His baptism at Calvary, and because of that, we can be baptized into His baptism in the Spirit.