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.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Matthew 3:14 The Baptism of Jesus Part II

John the Baptist testified numerous times that he was not the Christ and that the Christ was to come after him. John was humble and recognized his role as the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah. Sometimes in life, we have people who are convinced of their own importance and want to draw attention to themselves. Their motto seems to be “Look at me everyone.” John the Baptist was the antithesis of that type of person. We can observe his humility in his response to Jesus when He came to the Jordan to be baptized.

First of all, we notice that Matthew records John’s attitude toward Jesus coming to be baptized. John is said to have tried to prevent Him. The Greek word translated prevent is diakoluo. According to Vincent’s Word Studies, this verb is in the imperfect tense which means John had it in his mind to prevent Jesus from being baptized. There is also a Greek proposition attached which intensifies the force of the verb. In other words, John had strong objections to Jesus coming to him for baptism. So much so that he would have barred Him from taking part in the sacrament.

As we study further in this verse, we see why John had such strong feelings about this. First of all, John recognized not only who he was but who Jesus was. He said to him in verse 14 “I need to be baptized by You”. As a preacher to those in the wilderness of Judea, John was content to baptize those who came to him and repented of their sins. He was known as a wilderness man but he was also someone who sought the righteousness of God and had been filled with the Spirit of God since he was born. All in all, I think I’d be doing pretty well if I could be half as faithful to God as John was. But when he stood before God in human flesh, he shows humility. Not that he was proud and haughty before, but he recognizes that he is a sinner and is in the presence of the One who forgives sins. He knew the baptism he administered was merely a symbol of the spiritual reality that Christ would bring into this world. Therefore, he rightly recognizes that he needs what Jesus offers-true cleansing from sin. We should all pray for this kind of humble evaluation of ourselves. Whether we are pastors or laypersons, we all need to realize that we cannot achieve righteousness apart from our Lord Jesus.

Not only did he recognize his need of Christ’s baptism, but also Christ’s lack of need of his baptism. He said to him “…and are You coming to me?” He recognized the significance of the baptism he administered to those who come to him at the Jordan river. Those who came publically confessed of their sins and announced their repentance from those sins. Therefore, the baptism pictured a cleansing from sin. However, Jesus had no sin. John, in his question, not only recognizes Christ as the Messiah but also as the spotless Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. He acknowledges in his question not only his need of Christ but Christ’s sinlessness. This is an important point for us to consider. I have heard that an alarming number of Christians (professing) from all denominations have stated that they do not believe Jesus was sinless. Well, friend, if Jesus committed sin you and I have no hope whatsoever. The only way he could pay the price for our sin was for him to have no sin of his own. It is very important, therefore, that we observe not only John’s humble admission of his sinful state but also of Christ’s sinless perfection. We should praise God for clearly revealing these truths to us.

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

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Matthew 3:13 The Baptism of Jesus part I

God is very particular in His timing. In Genesis, He told Abraham that his descendants would be in bondage in Egypt for 400 years and they were. He told several prophets in the Old Testament about the exile of Judah for 70 years and it came to pass. Jesus Christ lived for 30 years on this earth before he began His earthly ministry. While God did not choose to reveal why Christ labored in relative obscurity for those years, we do know that Jesus began His ministry in accordance with the will of God the Father. To begin that ministry, we see Him come to John to participate in John’s baptism at the Jordan River.

Observe with me first of all the great distance that Jesus traveled. The journey took Jesus from “Galilee to…Jordan”. Jesus grew up in Nazareth as noted in Chapter 2. As we read earlier in this chapter, John was baptizing in the wilderness of Judea. According to Bible scholars, this would have been about a 3 days journey. We’re not talking about a trip to the Quickie-mart to pick up some Diet Dr. Pepper. This was a journey made with a purpose. He had a single intent on this trip. Not only was the trip arduous, it was also voluntary. No one compelled Him to go to John. Of course, we know He was obedient to God the Father. However, as far as anything in the world was concerned, He was under no obligation to go and be baptized by John.

We notice also the humility our Lord demonstrated. He was the Lord of all creation. All things that were made were made through Him. He was the Light and the Life of men. He came as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to a sinner for baptism. Now, we know John was a righteous man in the sight of God. However, we also know that in Romans 3:23 that we all have sinned. Therefore, the God of the universe condescended and came to John. By rights, He could have sent for John and commanded him to come to Nazareth. Instead, He makes this trip and in doing so validates the baptism of John. Obviously, if God in human flesh is willing to come and participate in this baptism, that is about the best seal of approval you could get. When we are tempted to demand our rights and our own way, we should remember this example of humility that our Lord gave us and pray for the strength to behave likewise.

Finally, however, we notice that Jesus came to John for the purpose of being baptized. As we read this, I think a good question for us to ask is “Why?” John’s baptism was one of repentance. Repentance from personal, specific sin was the message John preached. However, Jesus was perfect. He had no sin nature and he never sinned. We’ll look at this more specifically in the next few verses, but Jesus’ baptism had nothing to do with sin but it did accomplish 3 things. First of all, as we observed earlier, it validated John’s baptism. 2nd of all, it gave the opportunity for a miraculous sign as a proof of His Divinity when the voice from heaven spoke. Finally, it signified that He was being set apart for His ministry by being ceremonially washed. By humbly making the long journey from Nazareth to Judea, Jesus publically demonstrated His commitment to His Father’s will.

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

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Free at last!!!!!!!!!!!!


I should be back to a regular weekly posting schedule this week (maybe more than once a week). Our team finished the audit just in the nick of time on Friday. I can honestly say that the financial statements of the entity dated fiscal year end 6-30-07 fairly represent, in all material respects, the financial condition and activities reflected in those financial statements. That, by the way, is my PROFESSIONAL opinion.

Thank you for your paitience. God bless you.

in Him