Zion’s King Shall Reign Victorious! - 19
Christians are thankful for the submission of Jesus to his death on the cross, because it has made salvation possible -
As Paul declared, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ DIED FOR US” - Romans 5:8 . And Peter added, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God...” - 1 Peter 3:18.
But are Paul and Peter saying that Christ died instead of us, as a SUBSTITUTE? At one time in Britain it was possible for a conscript, for a remuneration, to arrange for a substitute to be accepted for military service. If the substitute was killed in action, the result would be a dead substitute and a living conscript, for whom the substitute died.
But Jesus, who “died for us” is alive, and those whom he has saved still die one way or another, so Jesus did not die as a substitute. In addition, substituting the innocent for the guilty in the punishment for crime is against God’s own rules -
• “The soul who sins shall die. The (innocent) son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the (innocent) father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” - Ezekiel 18:20.
To understand in what way “Christ died for us”, we note that before the ascension, Jesus charged the apostles, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved...” - Mark 16:15.
A reading through the book of the Acts of the Apostles shows that the apostles, like John the baptist, baptized all those who believed and repented (changed their way of life) by full immersion in water, as was Jesus by John the baptist. When John, knowing the sinless character of Jesus, hesitated, Jesus insisted,
• “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for US to fulfill all righteousness” - Matthew 3:15. The “us” is both Jesus and those who would be saved through believing in him and also being baptized. It was the will of God for Jesus to be baptized.
Paul explained that baptism is a symbolic burial and resurrection - “as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
First, the symbolism is in the believer’s submitting to the burial of baptism, in which he is declaring his intent to put to death his former sinful way of life (which was ignoring the word of God in favour of “doing what comes naturally”).
Secondly, the believer, in coming up from that burial in the water, is then committed to “walk in newness of life”, making every effort to live in conformity with the revealed will of God, and has the assurance of everlasting life to come - 5 “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” - Romans 6:3-5.
In the case of Jesus, not only was he symbolically buried and raised - he died on the cross and was afterwards raised back to life. But why did the sinless Jesus need to be baptized?