How could Jesus' baptism save before his death?

Question:

I am a member of the Church of Christ. My son-in-law has decided to follow the Baptist teachings. I have done much study on baptism since his decision. I have studied many questions on your site. I am perplexed by your responses on one set of verses: John 4:1-2.

You seem to say in various articles that this baptism by Jesus (by His disciples), conferred salvation status. How can salvation be had with this baptism, if Jesus had not died on the cross and His church not yet established? Doesn't baptism add us to his church? I have heard my whole life that we cannot be saved without the blood of Jesus, and that baptism brings us into contact with that blood and death, and we rise to walk a new life. If we teach that Jesus' baptism (at the time John was baptizing) is a saving baptism, then what was the point of His death? Would it not be correct to teach that any baptism before Christ's death (done by His apostles) was for the same reason as John the Baptist's baptism?

It muddies the water for me, and gives validity to a Baptist views on baptism, when we teach Jesus' disciples' baptism was a saving baptism. How could these people have been saved if they were not a part of the transfigured body "the church?" The great commission was given after the death of Christ and His resurrection. No baptism before His death could make us a part of the church. Also, Jesus statement to Nicodemus "Be born of water and spirit," wouldn't that have had to refer to a new baptism after the cross?


Answer:

Salvation is found in Christ. "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). One puts on Christ through baptism. "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27).

Yes, it is because of Jesus' death that we are saved, but this does not mean that some could not put on Christ prior to his death. It still required Jesus' death for these people to be saved. Jesus' death also saved those who lived under the Mosaical Law and those who lived in the Patriarchal Age. "And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance" (Hebrews 9:15). The church does not confer salvation on people. The church is composed of those saved by the blood of Christ. Still, this does not necessarily infer that the church started with zero members at its inception.

It was not Jesus' disciples' baptism. They did not authorize the baptism. This was Jesus' baptism. The disciples only administered what Jesus authorized. "Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples)" (John 4:1-2).

Jesus' baptism was not the same as John's. See: How was John's baptism different from Jesus' baptism?

None of this means that under the terms of the New Covenant that baptism is unnecessary. It is required as the way to enter into Christ, to die to your sins and to start a new life. "Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you -- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience -- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 3:21). You seem to be getting upset about the transition period instead of focusing on what currently exists for us today.