Why was Jesus baptized? Why was Jesus' baptism important?”

When Jesus came to John to be baptized, John asked the same question. Why should he, a sinful man, baptize the Messiah? He tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized saying “I need to be baptized by You and You are coming to me?” (Matthew 3:14). The baptisms that John performed symbolized repentance, and he saw this as inappropriate for the One he knew to be the spotless Lamb of God. Jesus replied that it should be done because “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Christ was here identifying Himself with sinners. He will ultimately bear their sins; His perfect righteousness will be imputed to them (2 Corinthians 5:21). Therefore, this act of baptism was a necessary part of the righteousness He secured for sinners. His was a perfect righteousness in that He fulfilled all the requirements of the Law which we, for whose sin He would exchange His righteousness, are not capable of fulfilling. He is our perfect substitute.

This baptism was a very public one and was recorded for all generations to know about and understand, and it is important for several reasons. First, it pictures His death and resurrection. Second, it symbolizes the believer’s identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Third, it marks His first public identification with those whose sins He would bear. Fourth, the event was a public affirmation of His Messiahship by the testimony that came directly from heaven (Matthew 3:17).

Water baptism is used as a way to identify. In Jesus’ day, when a Gentile would convert to Judaism, he would have to be publicly baptized to identify him as a convert. Obviously, Jesus was not converting to anything. Jesus’ baptism was an identification of Jesus with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus was baptized to publicly announce Himself as God’s Son, and to pronounce the beginning of His ministry with the Holy Spirit’s power. Jesus did not “need” the Holy Spirit. However, to set an example for us, Jesus emptied Himself (Philippians 2:7) and relied upon the Holy Spirit’s power. Jesus' baptism and reliance upon the Holy Spirit is an example that we are to follow in our own lives.

Is water baptism necessary for salvation?

While we should preach that all people are commanded to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38), adding any other requirement to salvation by grace becomes "works" in disguise.

Even though numerous Scriptures speak of the importance of water baptism, adding anything to the work of the cross demeans the sacrifice of the Savior. It implies that His finished work wasn't enough. But the Bible makes clear that we are saved by grace, and grace alone,

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”    —Ephesians 2:8-9

Baptism is simply a step of obedience to the Lord following our repentance and confession of sin. Our obedience--water baptism, prayer, good works, fellowship, witnessing, etc.--issues from our faith in Christ. Salvation is not what we do, but Who we have.

    He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life.    —1 John 5:12

But what about Mark 16:16?

Mark 16:16 quotes Jesus as saying: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (NKJV). Does this mean that salvation is by baptism?

    "In no way does this verse establish baptism as a condition for salvation; it is merely the declaration that those who believe and are baptized are saved. Any act of obedience to the Lord could be added after the expression 'whoever believes' and it would remain a true statement, because salvation is the result of faith in Christ.

    It should be noted that when the Lord added, 'but whoever does not believe will be condemned,' there is no mention of baptism. In identifying what would bring about condemnation, Jesus did not say that 'whoever believes but is not baptized shall not be saved.' If baptism were necessary for salvation, there are many significant verses which should be amended to read 'you are saved through faith and baptism.' It is clear that faith in Jesus Christ is what saves a person (Acts 16:30-31; Eph. 2:8-9).

    Baptism is a distinct act of obedience, apart from salvation. This is clarified by the order in which the words 'believe' and 'baptize' occur in the text (cf. Acts 2:38; 10:44-48). Baptism with the Spirit places believers into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13), while water baptism merely signifies to others that a person has professed Christ.