Jesus And His Baptism -- By: R. Alastair Campbell

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 47:2 (NA 1996)
Article: Jesus And His Baptism
Author: R. Alastair Campbell

Jesus And His Baptism

R. Alastair Campbell


‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire’ on the lips of John the Baptist referred to the coming Kingdom in terms of death and resurrection in which the nation would be cleansed and reborn. The experience of Jesus at the Jordan convinced him that he must not only proclaim the coming Kingdom in the power of the Spirit but bear God’s judgement on behalf of the nation (Lk. 12:49-50). On the cross he underwent the baptism of fire and received the baptism of the Spirit at his resurrection. At Pentecost the church, like Jesus at Jordan, was empowered to proclaim the coming Kingdom and called to share in the sufferings of Christ before Jesus returns to baptise the world in fire and the Holy Spirit.

I. Introduction

It is a fact of history that the first Christians came to understand the Cross as an atoning sacrifice and from a very early point in time. It was not inevitable that they should do so. Granted that they believed Jesus had been raised from the dead, there was no necessity for them to reason from resurrection to atonement, since they might simply have said that the resurrection proves that Jesus is victorious over his enemies, as many Easter hymns still do. The fact that almost from the first they declared that Christ died for our sins requires an historical explanation, and the best place to seek one must be in the words spoken of or by Jesus himself in his life time. As George Beasley-Murray says:

I would ask…what there was in the ministry of Jesus which led to the interpretation of Easter in terms of his exaltation as Lord and Messiah at God’s right hand and his death as redemptive. Appearances of a beloved teacher after his death would by no means necessarily have that significance, and certainly it would

not follow from the reconstructions of Jesus’ ministry offered by some scholars of late.1

As an example of the scholars to whom he refers we may cite E.P. Sanders, whose presentation of the historical Jesus confines itself to explaining why the Jewish and Roman authorities came to execute Jesus, without discussing how that death might figure among Jesus' own self-understanding and aims.2 This is unsatisfactory not just from the standpoint of Christian theology, but also historically. If the apostolic preaching of the Cross was a theological development, as Sanders would say,3 it is likely to have been the development of something that was there in the min...

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