I am a bit distraught. I have been utilizing an invaluable resource I received as a Christmas present from several family members in order to further conduct my research in the area of the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3. I started with the Westminster Theological Journal and was delighted to find that 7 articles addressed my passage with a keen eye towards the entire biblical narrative (Old and New). Trinity’s contained approximately 3-4 articles (one was even co-authored by Dr. Michael Travers, English professor at the College of Southeastern). Another feature of these articles that stood out was the distinction made by each author between the baptism of John, Jesus and New Covenant or Christian baptism.
Yet, the moment I began searching the Southern Baptism Journal and the Reformed Baptist Journal all I found were articles arguing for immersion as the mode of baptism and believer’s baptism as the only legitimate form of Christian baptism. This, though, was not surprising. As a matter of fact I expected this, after all this is a primary doctrinal distinctive of the Baptist denomination (a camp with which I associate). I did not expect to see John’s baptism and the baptism of Jesus linked to these arguments. After all, later New Testament passages require those baptized by John to receive Christian baptism. Also, John makes a distinction between Jesus’ baptism and that of his own (he will baptize with spirit and fire). Furthermore, how is it that Jesus’ baptism can be characterized as a symbol of repentance and for the forgiveness of sins? After all, he was sinless…wasn’t he?
It seems as if citing the baptism of Jesus, at least Matthew’s account thereof, as support for the mode, means, method, meaning, etc. of Christian baptism ignores the surrounding context. John makes it clear that Jesus’ request for baptism is dissonant with his form of baptism (I have need to be baptized by you).