Thursday, December 27, 2007

Matthew 3:15-17 The Baptism of Jesus Part III

Jesus was capable of a stinging rebuke when it was necessary. He routinely called the Pharisees and Sadducees vipers and children of the devil. Twice in His ministry, He drove people doing business in the temple out with a whip. However, Jesus was also compassionate and caring when dealing with people who were honestly seeking God. His response to John in verse 15 is just such a case.

John had wanted to refuse to baptize Jesus because he did not feel it was appropriate. We noted in the previous lesson why John felt this way. Jesus responded to John by telling him to “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus didn’t demand John’s obedience though He could have done so. He reassured him. He used John’s question to draw a response of faith and obedience from him. Also, He used the opportunity to reveal Himself to John in a supernatural way.

As I read this verse, I struggled for some time over what Jesus meant when He said that the baptism was “fitting to fulfill all righteousness.” We know that baptism does not save. The testimony of scripture is overwhelming that baptism is simply a rite administered to those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and have repented of their sins or, in the case of John’s baptism, the baptism was administered to someone who publically confessed and repented of their sins in preparation of the coming of the Messiah. Therefore, the baptism of Jesus could not have made Him righteous or added to the righteousness that He would impute to believers by His death, burial, and resurrection. We know that Jesus didn’t do anything unless it was the will of God the Father (Luke 2:49, John 8:28, John 12:49, John 14:31). Therefore, the baptism of Jesus did fulfill all righteousness because Jesus was obedient to God’s will. Since Jesus went to John to be baptized, God must have sent Him to do that. Further, if Jesus went to John to be baptized, that would mean that God wanted John to baptize Him. Therefore, they were both being obedient to God the Father. Also, Jesus’ baptism signified His approval of John’s ministry. If the God of the universe was willing to allow John to baptism Him, that meant John’s baptism must have been valid for those who repented and were baptized. In addition, by being baptized by John, Jesus indentified Himself with the other sinners who were baptized and with all sinners who He would save by His precious blood. Finally, this baptism announced the entry of Jesus into public ministry. In much the same way as Moses was commanded to wash Aaron and his sons prior to their beginning of the Levitical priesthood, so our true High Priest presented Himself to be washed as a symbol of entering into the work of ministry.

We notice a supernatural affirmation of Jesus and His life up to this point. This is an important statement for us to take note of because there are people who teach lies about the Son of God in churches today. According to a survey I’ve heard of (probably Barna), a troubling percentage of people who call themselves Christians believe that Jesus was a sinner just like everyone else. People actually teach that in churches as crazy as that sounds. Furthermore, people teach that Jesus was not divine but was a man that was inhabited by God after this baptism. However, we notice a supernatural sign as Jesus comes up from the water in verse 16. The verse says that “the heavens were opened to Him and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him.” This supernatural sight was followed by the very voice of God. From God’s own statement, we can tell that Jesus was divine and had lived a perfect, sinless life. God said in verse 17 “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” God identifies Jesus as His Son. Therefore, He must have been divine. A human being can become a child of God through the power of Jesus and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, but we do not start out being the children of God. God doesn’t say Jesus became His Son but that “this is My beloved Son”. Also, He dismisses any doubt of the purity of Christ’s life to this point by saying that He was well pleased with Jesus. Psalm 1 teaches us that God will not have sinners in His presence. If He calls the life of Jesus a life with which He was well pleased, that life must have been a sinless life.

As we read these words of Jesus and God the Father, we can be encouraged that we have a faithful, compassionate High Priest who is able to redeem us and present us faultless before God. Praise the Lord.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

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