Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries

By Everett Ferguson | Go to book overview

8. Other References to Baptism
in the Gospels

Although the Gospels were written after the letters of Paul, it is better to keep the discussion of the other texts relevant to baptism in the Gospels together with the discussion of the baptism of Jesus. Since historical order is not important for this purpose, I follow the canonical order of the Gospels. This is appropriate, furthermore, because the other foundation for Christian baptism, in addition to the baptism of Jesus, is his commission to his disciples in Matthew 28:16-20.


Matthew

Apart from references to John the Baptist and his baptism, the only mention of baptism in Matthew after the account of Jesus’ baptism is Matthew 28:19. This fact is in keeping with Matthew’s emphasis on those aspects of the teachings of Jesus relevant for the continuing practice of the church1 and thus his book’s function as a teaching Gospel for the church. Matthew concludes his Gospel with Jesus’ declaration, commission, and promise:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and
make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the
Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded
you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20)2

1. For instance, Matthew like Mark but in contrast to Luke shortens the account of the Last Supper to those details pertinent to the church’s observance of the eucharist (Matt. 26:26-30).

2. Among the many studies of the passage note for a survey of issues Karl Kertelge, “Der sogenannte Taufbefehl Jesu (Mt 28,19),” in H. Auf Der Maur and B. Kleinheyer, eds., Zeichen des Glaubens: Studien zu Taufe und Firmung: Balthasar Fischer zum 60 Geburtstag (Freiburg: Herder, 1972), pp. 29–40. His exegetical notes include the ecclesiological dimension of baptism (“disciples”) and its connection with the Gentile mission.

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