Challenge Response: Jesus’ Baptism Proves He Wasn’t a Sinless Messiah

Here's my response to this week's challenge



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Does Jesus’ baptism prove a challenge to his claim of messiahship? In this challenge, there were three specific lines of argument. Number one, baptism is a ritual that claims to remove the stain of original sin, but if Jesus was sinless, why would he have to be baptized? 

This first line of argument misunderstands Christian theology. The view of baptism is not that it removes the stain of original sin. Ephesians 2 may be one of the clearest passages in the New Testament on the doctrine of salvation. It makes it very clear that salvation is by grace through faith, and it’s not any work that we can do. Not the work of baptism, not our own good deeds, there is nothing but putting our faith in Christ that removes the stain of original sin.

There are different views of baptism. Some might hold that baptism is symbolic. Others might hold that baptism is a means to grace. But Christian orthodoxy does not hold that baptism somehow plays a role in our salvation and the removal of sins. That first part is just a misunderstanding of Christian theology.

The second line of argumentation is that to present oneself for baptism is a subservient action, and so you are somehow inferior to the one who is baptizing you. Again, I think this is just a misunderstanding of Christian theology. Number one, there's nothing in the New Testament that indicates the one who is doing the baptizing is somehow superior to the one who is being baptized. 

Number two: a passage like Philippians 2 makes it clear that Jesus came to serve. So in that sense, Jesus came to serve and not to take his position of power and lord it over us. He was a servant leader, but that doesn't mean he is inferior in nature. It doesn't mean that he stops being God. It doesn't change his nature at all. Jesus came to serve, but there's nothing in presenting yourself to be baptized that says that you're inferior to the one who is baptizing you. So that is again another misunderstanding of Christian theology.

Argument number three: John the Baptist never comes to follow Jesus as one of his disciples, and so therefore, this this again undermines Jesus' messiahship. Just because john didn't follow Jesus, it doesn't follow that therefore Jesus wasn’t the Messiah. It could have been that John was mistaken, and that’s the reason why he didn't follow. 

What we see in the New Testament is that John had a specific role, the Old Testament predicts this, and Jesus affirms this in Matthew 11. He talks about how there is one who is going to be sent as a messenger. In Matthew 3 we see John as the one who prepares the way. So, john has a specific role, it seems, in preparing the way for Jesus. I don't see how, if John never follows Jesus as one of the twelve disciples, that this somehow undermines the messianic claims of Jesus. 

Some take the interpretation that John struggled with some doubts. In Matthew 11, you have him sending his followers to Jesus to ask if he’s really the Messiah. Even if you take that route in your interpretation, that John had doubts about Jesus's claims to Messiahship, it doesn't follow that Jesus wasn't the Messiah. 

There are those who watched Jesus do miracles in front of their eyes in the first century who still didn't follow Jesus, but nothing significant follows about Jesus’ identity from those actions. Again, I don't think that claim undermines Jesus’ messiahship. Jesus and his baptism by John the Baptist does not undermine the claim that Jesus was the divine Messiah.

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Brett Kunkle