Baptism – What is the Big Deal?

Matthew 3:13-17

Matt 3 17 (1)

Conversations abound over the importance of water baptism. Is it the baptism or simply a confession of faith? If baptism, then is it pouring, sprinkling or immersion? There is a semi-famous song about this. What about infant versus conscious baptism? What about those who do not have access to water? So many questions surround this topic. And these are just focusing on the methods and timing. What about what happens when we are baptized? What is the point or reason for being baptized? Why is it a public thing? It can be exhausting and at times confusing.

So let us look at the example set by Jesus. He travels from Nazareth in Galilee to the Jordan River where his cousin John is baptizing people in droves. Baptism itself was commonplace but it was a simple cleansing ritual. It was not too deep or meaningful and was certainly not a public spectacle. The people had never seen anything like what John was doing. In addition to the large masses of people coming to him he was telling them that this baptism was for the repentance of their sins. John was the precursor to Jesus, the keynote speaker if you will. He was highlighting the points that would be vital to Jesus’ ministry – repentance and the coming kingdom.

Jesus came to John to be baptized. John however recognized Jesus as the Messiah and understood that it was Jesus who should be baptizing John. He tried to argue with Jesus because he understood that among them only Jesus was righteous and sinless. Jesus was the only one who did not need this baptism.

Jesus’ response was that he must be baptized to fulfill all righteousness. In doing so he was consecrated by God and officially approved by Him. His baptism had nothing to do with Levitical Law though. John’s message of repentance and the coming kingdom pointed to a Messiah who would be righteous and bring righteousness to the sinner. Jesus was identifying with the sinful world even though he himself was without sin. His baptism also marked the arrival of the long expected Messiah and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. And finally his baptism was symbolic of his death, burial, and resurrection and was an example for his followers to come.

Upon being baptized the spirit of God rested upon him. This is the moment when God gave Jesus all authority and power to carry out his Father’s perfect will here on earth. Jesus later told his disciples that this same spirit, a portion only however, would come upon them. It is the same spirit received by all who come to God through Jesus and the waters of baptism. This spirit strengthened and encouraged Jesus when he needed it most, as it does for each of those who faithfully follow his example.

So he comes up out of the water and the Spirit of God comes upon him and then it happens! Something incredible! Something amazing! Something that has not happened for four hundred years. Man hears the first words from God since the close of the Old Testament. His silence is broken so that He can confirm Jesus is His son, “Whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” This statement in itself is timeless. God was not simply pleased that Jesus was beginning his ministry. It is the culmination of a millennia old plan to bring all people back to Him. The fulfillment of His covenant with Abram is realized in this moment. All people will be blessed through Jesus if they choose Yahweh as their God and Jesus as the way to Him. Past, present and future balanced on this man’s obedience to God.

John was baptizing in a river and most examples of baptism in the New Testament appear to be in or around large bodies of water so immersion in water makes the most sense for how we ought to be baptized. There are biblical examples of baptism of the spirit alone, a confession of faith without involvement of water. These examples however appear to be the exception and not the rule. People without access to water or without time to get to water are exceptions.

If someone has the means and opportunity to go through the waters of baptism and does not are they saved by confession of sin and repentance alone? I do not know just as I do not know if someone who confesses, repents, and is baptized is saved. We have biblical and personal examples of people being baptized and living in a way that is completely opposed to God’s will. God alone knows our hearts. He knows where we stand.

One of the radical things about what John was doing is that those who came to him to be baptized were obeying God from their heart. It is a conscious decision to be baptized. I was “baptized” as an infant but it meant nothing to me. I had not made the choice to change my life. I had not chosen God or His son until I was a grown man. That has been the point from the beginning, back when Adam and Eve were in the Garden. They had a choice to choose God or not, trust Him or not. They chose not. Jesus presents to the whole world that very same choice.

In this moment when Jesus was baptized God’s confirmation of Jesus was both for his assurance and for a witness to others. This is the same reason for us to publicly surrender and commit to God through Jesus. We need the inner confirmation of His great blessing upon us, and the world needs the testimony of a life committed to His will through Jesus.

 

To be continued…

Jeff Ransom

What Counts

1 Corinthians 7

Keeping God’s commands is what counts.

I hope you have enjoyed working through 1 Corinthians this week.  I’m going to finish with chapter 7 today.

 

Up until now Paul has been telling them about all of the changes that they need to make.  He has told them to set aside the worldly wisdom, and the associated status that comes with gaining it, for God’s wisdom.  He has told them to seek purity because they are members of the Body of Christ, and they cannot do things anymore just because their conscience says it isn’t bad, they need to listen to the Holy Spirit.   He has also instructed them to seek unity in the Body of Christ instead of handling their issues in the courts in order to “win” the argument. Several times in these instructions Paul has shifted tone between one of condemnation and rebuke, to one of conciliation and support.  Again here in chapter 7 Paul is lightening the blow from all of the changes he has asked of them in these previous chapters.

 

Paul does not want to overwhelm them with the changes he is asking for, so in chapter 7 he clarifies about the things that he is not asking them to change, but they may have thought he wanted them to change.  They do not need to get a divorce if they are married to an unbeliever, but are to do everything in their power to maintain a healthy relationship. If they are a slave then they do not need to attain freedom, although if they can that is nice, but it is not required. Contrary to what some of the Jews in the early Church were saying they do not need to be circumcised. Paul understands that these life changes would be a roadblock to some new believers and that they are not what God really wants, he says “Keeping God’s commands is what counts.”  God wants them to change their hearts. And maybe some of the life changes would be wise, but those things can come later as you grow in God’s wisdom. The most important thing to work on is obeying God’s commands and following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

 

Thanks again for reading along.  I hope some of this has helped you.

Until next time,

Chris Mattison

Don’t be Mutton

John 10

John 10 14

In John chapter 10, we find Jesus telling a story about shepherds and sheep.  A person who is hired to protect the sheep will run away when his own life is in danger (like when a wolf comes), and abandons the sheep.  The true shepherd will put his life in harm’s way to defend his sheep.  Then we find this gem in verses 14 through 18:

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

I see a couple of things in these verses that I’d like to comment on.

We all know that we are his sheep, and that Jesus laid down his life for his sheep.  We may be less focused on Jesus’ comment that he has other sheep not of this sheep pen that will listen to his voice and be part of the same flock.  In Jesus’ day, he was talking with the Jews, who thought they were the exclusive people who could have a relationship with God.  Jesus was pointing out that non-Jews would also come to God through Jesus.

Then we see this phrase in verse 17 that says God loves Jesus because Jesus is going to lay down his life.  I believe Jesus was saying that it was his decision whether or not to completely obey God.  He had the authority to obey, and lose his life.  He also had the authority to disobey, and retain his life.  My interpretation for all of this is:  Jesus had complete free will to do whatever he chose to do, just like we have free will.  It’s just that Jesus always chose to do God’s will.  This is exemplified in Jesus’ willingness to follow God’s will, no matter what, even to the point of suffering and dying.  And God loves that fact about Jesus.  (As an aside, this attribute of Jesus is undoubtedly why God said, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him.”)

You might be thinking, “This is a nice story, but how does it apply to me?”

I’m glad you asked.

First, I want God to be pleased with me.  And I project from this story that if I am obedient to God like Jesus was obedient to God, I will please God.  So, I’d like to challenge you to be completely obedient to God as well.

Second, I might tend to think, like the Jews, that I, or my church, or my denomination have an exclusive relationship with God.  I need to remember that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, not me, and he (not me) gets to decide who are and who are not his sheep.

Finally, we see from this passage that Jesus knows his sheep, and his sheep know him.  Wolves are prowling around outside the sheep pen.  If you’re not in the protection of the pen, being protected by the Shepherd, you’re going to be mutton.  So if you don’t know Jesus, there’s no time like today.

-Steve Mattison

Obeying Immediately and Without Questions

Matthew 2

Matt 2 14

How do you deal with situations where you have to completely change what you had planned?  I always think I have a long term plan for my life.  When it doesn’t work out, or I have to change something, I don’t always deal well with it.

I want to look at how Joseph reacts to some very difficult situations.  I am going to jump back to Matthew chapter 1 for the first example.  Joseph found out Mary was pregnant and planned to divorce her quietly.  Then, he is visited by an angel, and was told in Matthew 1:21-22, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a Son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  So, first Joseph plans to marry Mary.  Then, when she is pregnant, he plans to divorce her quietly.  So, his plans have already been messed up once before being visited by the angel.  He is given a message from God.  How does he react?  By everything we see in scripture, it appears Joseph just listened to what God told him through the angel, and accepted it.  That is amazing faith and obedience.

The second example is after the visit from the magi.  This was probably one to two years later.  We don’t have any real information about the life of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus during this time, but most likely they had settled into a routine and things were fairly normal.  Then, after the Magi visit, Joseph receives another message from an angel. Matthew 2:13 record this message to Joseph, “Get up!  Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”  Again, his reaction was swift and decisive.  Matthew 2:14 says, “So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.”  He didn’t even wait till morning but left immediately.

Then, sometime later, an angel appeared to Joseph a third time.  This time he was told, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead” in Matt 2:20.  So, he went back to Israel, but because he was warned in a dream, they went to Nazareth.  Again, there are no signs of questioning, just doing what he was told.

I have never been spoken to by an angel, so I don’t know how I would react in that situation.  However, I have received direction from God in some pretty clear ways.  I questioned what I was being told because it did not fit into my plans.  So, I know that this immediate obedience is extremely difficult, but when we put all our trust in God, it is possible.

-Andrew Hamilton