The baptism of Jesus and His death on the Cross are equally essential to our salvation. We cannot say that either one is more important than the other. However, the problem is that most Christians nowadays only know the blood of Jesus on the Cross. They believe that they have been forgiven because He died on the Cross, but it is not only the Cross with which Jesus took away the sins of the world. Since He was baptized by John the Baptist and bore all the sins of the world on His back, His death on the Cross could practically be the judgment for all our sins.
Believing only in the Cross without the baptism of Jesus is just like offering a sacrifice to the Lord without laying one’s hands on it. Those who offered such offerings couldn’t be redeemed for their sins because that kind of sacrifice was a lawless offering, which the Lord God couldn’t accept. The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying “If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord. Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him” (Leviticus 1:3-4).
The Lord is just and lawful. He has established the fair and just sacrificial system in order to wash away our sins. When we offer a lawful sacrifice, the sacrifice is accepted by the Lord to make atonement for us. Without the laying on of hands, no sacrifice can be acceptable to God. Likewise, if we omit the baptism of Jesus from our faith in Him, we cannot receive the remission of sins with that kind of faith.
One of the most common fallacies that today’s Christians believe in is that they can be saved only by confessing Jesus to be their Savior, for the Lord is love. The Bible, of course, says, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13), whereas it also tells us that “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
In order to confess that Jesus is the Savior, we should know the law of salvation that God has established. If we can be saved simply by believing in the name of Jesus, there would be no reason whatsoever for the Scriptures to be written about the sacrificial system of the Old Testament and about those who practice lawlessness in Matthew 7:21.
However, the amazing and perfect way of the Lord’s salvation is clearly recorded in the Bible. Indeed, we can clearly see from Leviticus chapters 3 and 4 that a sinner had to lay his hand on the head of the sacrifice to pass his sins onto its head and then killed and sprinkled its blood when he offered sin and peace offerings. Offering a sacrifice without the laying on of hands or offering a sacrifice with blemish is too lawless to make atonement.
Both the words of the Old and New Testaments have their corresponding equivalents to each other (Isaiah 34:16). The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan is equal to the sinner’s laying hand on the head of the sin offering in the Old Testament. When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan, He said, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).
Here, “all righteousness” means “justice and fairness.” This means that it is fitting for Jesus to become the sin offering for mankind through that method. It was also fitting for Him to be baptized by John the Baptist in the form of the laying on of hands to take away all the sins of the world in the fairest way, according to the sacrificial system, that was composed of the laying on of hands and blood, which God established in the Old Testament.
Believing only in the Cross means consequently that His death had nothing to do with our sins because our sins could have never been passed onto Him without the baptism of Jesus. It results in regarding His blood as unclean and incapable of washing them away (Hebrews 10:29).
Therefore, His blood would actually be effective in washing away the sins in the hearts of believers only if they believe that all their sins were laid on Him when John the Baptist baptized Him through the laying of his hands. Thus, the Apostle John testified that one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, who came by water and blood, overcomes the world. Jesus came by water and blood, not only by water or by blood (1 John 5:4-6).
Jesus Christ explained to His disciples the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He showed that the sin offering in the Old Testament was Himself. David said in Psalms instead of Him, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me—To do Your will, O my God” (Psalms 40:7, 8, Hebrews 10:7).
As a result, His baptism does not nullify the Cross, but is actually the essential part of the Lord’s gospel that completes and fulfills the meaning of the Cross. It also teaches us that we cannot have redemption unless there is the baptism and precious blood of Jesus Christ. What you mean by being saved is that you obtain the remission of sins by believing in the baptism of Jesus and His blood on the Cross and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:8, Acts 2:38).