Baptism of Jesus

edited December 1969 in Faith Issues
Can someone explain the Orthodox view the purpose of Jesus baptism?  Forgive me if this has been posted before.  The search feature to me is hard to find old topics on this forum.


  • I had trouble using the search engine on this website too. I recommend typing the topic you want to search about in google followed by and that usually works for me.
    As of this topic, I will let someone explain it since my knowledge is no where near the knowledge level of other members on here.

    Here are the threads I found regarding this topic or at least some how related: and
  • I read all the posts from that link but therre were different ideas which left me without an unclear answer.  It's obvious that Jesus waswithout sin so I know there was a purpose or that is was symbolic.  one post from that link said that when Jesus was baptised that He, at that time, took on the sin of the world.  I always thought He didn't take on the sin of the world until He was on the cross.  Anyway, I just wanted to know the purpose of His baptism.
  • The Church prayers of the Epiphany feast do give us the answer as to why Jesus baptized.

    He cleansed, renewed, and sanctified our humanity through His Baptism.

    Please read the prayers of the Laquan of the Epiphany.
  • I'm very new to the church and I'm unfamiliar to this or where to find it.  I did Google it and got a few variations that all agreed that when Jesus was baptised that at this moment, Jesus recieved the manifestation of God.  Is this correct?
  • The Baptism of Christ in the eastern tradition is part of the Theophany of God (which includes Christmas and Baptism).
    One of the ways that God revealed himself to us in the "end of times" is through his birth and revelation at the baptism (Father's voice, Son in the Water, and Holy Spirit decending as a dove).  The feast of baptism which is celebrated is called the feast of Epiphany (appearance) or Theophany (Divine appearance).  In the Baptism, He was revealed as the Son. "This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased".

    The reason Christ used baptism was to transfer this sacrament to us as the circumcision of the heart.
    John the Baptist prophesied about the baptism through The Holy Spirit and Fire.  Both of these are spiritual things given through physical substances, meaning the water and Holy Myron (Oil).  With the water we are cleansed just as the Fire is used as a cleanser.  With the Holy Myron, we are consecrated as the temple of God and grafted into the Tree of Life (who is Christ).

    If Christ was instituting baptism as a sacrament, then He had to go through it first, because, He who doesn't have cannot give (فاقد الشئ لا يعطيه).  This is both a practical and spiritual thing.  Practically, How can He have authority to tell his disciples to baptize if he wasn't baptized?  How can He tell them to eat of his body and drink his blood if He didn't do it first?  This is a whole other topic by itself, but it's one of the reasons He was baptized. 
  • I think this is what Imikhail is talking about
  • This is the information I was looking for...thank you
  • Why was Jesus Christ baptised?

    Dear Jerry

    Please forgive the delay in responding to your interesting question. I thought that the period after Pascha would be quieter for me, but it has turned out to be even busier.

    You asked what the Orthodox say about the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ was baptised. As you have probably already gathered, we begin to answer any such question by turning to the most trusted and authoritative Fathers and discover what they have said. This does not exhaust our reflections, but it provides a solid foundation for them, and sets boundaries to what may be said.

    It is always my practice to begin with St Cyril of Alexandria. We are fortunate that we have his detailed commentaries of the Gospels of St Luke and St John. They were written initially as sermons, and a study of them indicates the strong meat which he fed his flock. It would truly be impossible to consider the wealth of Scriptural commentary developed within the Orthodox Church and then accuse it of lacking an interest and rootedness in Biblical studies.

    In his commentary on Luke 3:21 he says..

    Behold Him, therefore, as a man, enduring with us the things that belong to man's estate, and fulfilling all righteousness, for the plan of salvation's sake. And this thou learnest from what the Evangelist says: "And it came to pass that when all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized, and prayed." Was He too then in need of holy baptism? But what benefit could accrue to Him from it? The Only-begotten Word of God is Holy of the Holy: so the Seraphim name Him in their praises: so every where the law names Him: and the company of the holy prophets accords with the writings of Moses. What is it that we gain by holy baptism? Plainly the remission of our sins. But in Jesus there was nought of this; "for He did no sin: neither was guile found "in His mouth," as the Scripture saith. "He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sins, and made higher than the heavens," according to the words of the divine Paul.

    If we consider St Cyril’s argument. We are baptised and receive the remission of sins, but Jesus was entirely free of sin, therefore we cannot say that he was baptised for the remission of sins. Nevertheless we are to understand that as a man he ‘endures the things that belong to man’s estate’ and ‘fulfills all righteousness’ according to the ‘plan of salvation’. We can also understand St Cyril as suggesting that in fact there is no personal need at all for Christ to be baptised. There was no need in him, and no personal benefit accrued to him.

    St Cyril continues..

    But yes! perchance some one will say, who has been ill instructed in the faith, 'Was it then God the Word that was baptized? Was He in need of being made partaker of the Holy Ghost? Not at all. Therefore it is that we affirm, that the man who was of the seed of David, and united unto Him by conjunction, was baptized and received the Spirit.' The Indivisible therefore is divided by you into two and because He was baptized when, thirty years old, He was made holy, as you say, by being baptized. Was He therefore not holy until He arrived at His thirtieth year? Who will assent to you, when thus you corrupt the right and blameless faith? For "there is one Lord Jesus Christ," as it is written. But this we affirm: that He was not separate  from Him, and by Himself when baptized and made partaker of the Holy Ghost: for we know, both that He is God, and without stain, and Holy of the Holy: for we confess that "of His fulness have all we received." For the Holy Spirit indeed proceedeth from God the Father, but belongeth also to the Son. It is even often called the Spirit of Christ, though proceeding from God the Father. And to this Paul will testify, saying, at one time, "They that are in the flesh cannot please God: but ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But if any one have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." And again, "But because ye are sons, God hath sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Father, our Father." The Holy Spirit therefore proceedeth indeed as I said from God the Father, but His Only-begotten Word, as being both by nature and verily Son, and resplendent with the Father's dignities, ministereth It to the creation, and bestoweth It on those that are worthy. Yea verily He said, "All things that the Father hath are mine."

    In this passage St Cyril begins by rejecting the idea we should think of a man Jesus, united with God the Word, who receives the Holy Spirit at around his thirtieth year, when he was baptised. On the contrary, Jesus Christ is the Word of God, and as God he is not without the Holy Spirit, since it is the Spirit proceeding from the Father and is also the Spirit of Christ. If Christ is God the Word incarnate then he does not lack the Holy Spirit at any time, and the descent of the Spirit at his baptism cannot represent his own receiving of the Spirit.

    St Cyril continues..

    But let us retort upon those who pervert the right belief this question; 'How can He Who received the Spirit, if He be, according to your phrase, a man, and the Son separately and by Himself, baptize with the Holy Ghost, and Himself give the Holy Spirit to them who are baptized?' For to be able to impart the Spirit to men suiteth not any one whatsoever of things created, but, together with God's other attributes, is the distinct property of Almighty God alone. But He Who gave It was man: for the wise John said, "After me cometh a Man, Who was before me . . . He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." As therefore it is unbefitting God the Word, regarded as God the Word, to draw near unto holy baptism, and be made partaker of the Spirit, so in like manner it is altogether incredible, or rather impossible to believe that the ability to baptize men with the Holy Ghost, is the act of a mere man with nothing in Him superior to ourselves.

    Here we see that he is resisting this false position which has been proposed. He says that if Jesus Christ is just a man then he cannot baptise others in the Holy Spirit, or give them the Holy Spirit, since this is an attribute of God alone. Yet the Scriptures say about Jesus Christ that he will baptise with the Holy Spirit. Therefore we must understand that he cannot be a mere man, since a mere man cannot give the Spirit to others, but neither can he be the Word of God according to his own simple divine nature, since God cannot be baptised or receive the Holy Spirit.

    We continue in St Cyril’s commentary and read..

    How then will the mystery be true? In that for our aid He assumed a kind of adaptation. The divine Word became man, even "He Who was in the form of God the Father, and thought it not robbery to be equal unto God," as most wise Paul says, "but took the form of a slave, being made in the likeness of men, and humbling Himself to poverty." Enquire therefore Who He was that was first in the likeness of God the Father, and could be regarded as on an equality with Him, but took the form of a slave, and became then a man, and besides this made Himself poor. Was it He of the seed of David, as they argue, Whom they specially regard separately and by Himself as the other Son, distinct from the Word of God the Father? If so, let them shew that He ever was on an equality with the Father. Let them shew how He assumed the form of a slave. Or what shall we say was that form of a slave? And how did He empty Himself? For what is poorer than human nature? He therefore Who is the exact image of God the Father, the likeness, and visible expression of His person, Who shines resplendent in equality unto Him, Who by right of nature is free, and the yoke of Whoso kingdom is put upon all creation,----He it is Who took the form of a slave, that is, became a man, and made Himself poor by consenting to endure these human things, sin only excepted.

    Here we see that St Cyril’s answer to the question his opponents have proposed is that Jesus Christ must be understood as God the Word Himself made man. God taking the form of a slave. And in this way he can both submit to baptism while also being the one who baptises. Again we see that we are to understand that Christ ‘endures these human things’, and this makes us realise that it is not by a personal necessity that he is baptised and submits to other aspects of his human life, but because being free he chose to become man.

    And then we come to the central point of your own question about baptism and St Cyril turns to explaining why Christ, who was without sin and filled with the Holy Spirit, entered the waters of the Jordan. He says..

    But how then, they object, was He baptized, and received also the Spirit? To which we reply, that He had no need of holy baptism, being wholly pure and spotless, and holy of the holy. Nor had He need of the Holy Ghost: for the Spirit That proceedeth from God the Father is of Him, and equal to Him in substance. We must now therefore at length hear what is the explanation of the economy. God in his love to man provided for us a way of salvation and of life. For believing in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and making this confession before many witnesses, we wash away all the filth of sin, and are enriched by the communication of the Holy Spirit, and made partakers of the divine nature, and gain the grace of adoption. It was necessary therefore that the Word of the Father, when He humbled Himself unto emptiness, and deigned to assume our likeness, should become for our sakes the pattern and way of every good work. For it follows, that He Who in every thing is first, must in this also set the example. In order therefore that we may learn both the power itself of holy baptism, and how much we gain by approaching so great a grace, He commences the work Himself; and, having been baptized, prays that you, my beloved, may learn that never-ceasing prayer is a thing most fitting for those who have once been counted worthy of holy baptism.

    We are reminded again that Christ had no need of being baptised. He is pure and spotless, and the Spirit is of him and consubstantial with him. But God has provided a means for our salvation which requires that we confess the Holy Trinity, are washed in the waters of baptism removing the stain of sin, and receive the Holy Spirit, partaking of the life of the divine nature and being adopted as God’s children.

    Why then was Jesus, God incarnate, baptised by John the Baptist? St Cyril explains. It is because Christ becomes for us the pattern and the way. He sets an example, and is the first to experience for us every aspect of our salvation. He humbled himself in providing a way of salvation for us to follow, when he had no need of salvation. But it was not simply an empty show. Christ received the Holy Spirit, even though he was already full of the Holy Spirit so that we might learn that we also may receive the Holy Spirit in baptism. He hears the words, this is my beloved Son, when he had no need of such a witness, so that we might also learn that in baptism we also will hear the words, ‘my beloved son’, as we receive the adoption as children of God.

    St Cyril says..

    And the Evangelist says that the heavens were opened, as having long been closed. For Christ said, "Forthwith shall ye see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." For both the flock above and that below being now made one, and one chief Shepherd appointed for all, the heavens were opened, and man upon earth brought near to the holy angels. And the Spirit also again came down as at a second commencement of our race: and upon Christ first, Who received it not so much for His own sake as for ours: for by Him and in Him are we enriched with all things. Most suitably therefore to the economy of grace does He endure with us the things of man's estate: for where otherwise shall we see Him emptied, Whose in His divine nature is the fulness? How became He poor as we are, if He were not conformed to our poverty? How did He empty Himself, if He refused to endure the measure of human littleness?

    And we see that Christ really does indeed receive the Holy Spirit but he received it for us, because it is in union with him that we receive all those things he received for us. He stood among those sinners who came to receive the baptism of John as if he were one of them, with us, thus far did God humble himself. He appeared as a man and received all those things himself which he never lacked, but which we were in need of. As St Cyril says, the Spirit descends on Christ, and creates a new and second creation of humanity of which Christ is the fount and source, just as the Spirit filled Adam with life and began our humanity in the first creation.

    And St Cyril concludes this exposition by saying..

    Having taken therefore Christ as our pattern, let us draw near to the grace of holy baptism, that so we may gain boldness to pray constantly, and lift up holy hands to God the Father, that He may open the heavens also unto us, and send down upon us too the Holy Ghost, to receive us as sons. For He spake unto Christ at the time of holy baptism, as though having by Him and in Him accepted man upon earth to the sonship, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." For He Who is the Son by nature and in truth, and the Only-begotten, when He became like unto us, is specially declared to be the Son of God, not as receiving this for Himself:----for He was and is, as I said, very Son:----but that He might ratify the glory unto us. For He has been made our firstfruits, and firstborn, and second Adam: for which reason it is said, that "in Him all things have become new:" for having put off the oldness that was in Adam, we have gained the newness that is in Christ: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be glory and dominion with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen.

    What does this conclusion summarise for us? We see that Christ is baptised as a pattern, as an example we should follow. When we take the same path we may believe that we will receive the same blessings. More than this, we are to understand that when Christ is baptised it is for all of humanity, and as if all humanity were baptised in him. And finally, although Christ has received the Holy Spirit and the witness of adoption, it is not for himself, as if he lacked these, but so that receiving them for us, we may also receive them ourselves when we have ‘gained the newness of Christ’ and been united to him as the firstfruits of a new humanity of which he is the second Adam.

    There are of course many other commentaries on this and other passages concerned with this event. But this exposition by St Cyril is at least a beginning to understanding the Orthodox view of why Christ was baptised.
  • wow.
    i had some vague idea about this, but this is very clear.
    thanks especially for breaking it up into paragraphs and explaining it.
  • We see that Christ is baptised as a pattern, as an example we should follow. When we take the same path we may believe that we will receive the same blessings. More than this, we are to understand that when Christ is baptised it is for all of humanity, and as if all humanity were baptised in him. And finally, although Christ has received the Holy Spirit and the witness of adoption, it is not for himself, as if he lacked these, but so that receiving them for us, we may also receive them ourselves when we have ‘gained the newness of Christ’ and been united to him as the firstfruits of a new humanity of which he is the second Adam.

    Father Peter, no appologies needed.  i understand that the life of a priest is a busy one.  Thank you for such a detailed answer.  Its very though prevoking to see yet another example of how Jesus humbles Himself for us.
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