Baptism of Jesus. End of sacrifice, beginning of grace.

John the Baptist, Baptizing Jesus

End of sacrifice, beginning of Grace

Beginning prayer. Psalm 19: 14. Heavenly Father. May the words of my mouth, and the mediations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, my Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

  1. What seems to be a simple, forthright, straightforward Gospel story of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, upon further study, gets complicated really quickly.
    1. The usual points to ponder; John’s miraculous birth to Elizabeth at such an old age and Zechariah’s seeing an angel in the temple and losing his voice until John’s birth, his relation to Jesus (cousin), his ministry of baptizing for the repentance of sins and rebuking the temple leadership and King Herod.
      1. His was a voice in the wilderness – Matt 3:3, Mark 1: 3, Luke 3: 4, John 1: 23 all tell of this pivotal moment in both John’s and Jesus’ life.
        1. Isaiah 40: 3 A voice of one calling in the wilderness “prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
        1. Malachi 3: 1 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.” (this chapter would make several great bible studies – righteous tithing, only place in the bible where it says to test God, or complaining that evil doers get away with it and prosper)
      1. John’s fashion statement – camel hair and leather belt. Similar to the OT prophets Jeremiah and Malachi and Elijah (found in 2 Kings 1:8) (that’s why people asked John who he was, the Prophet or Elijah, he looked and lived the part). He lived a pure life, similar to the OT prophets. The attire and diet pointed to a very demanding, simple life of no distractions, Pure ministry. No alcohol either.
      1. John knew that his ministry must diminish before Jesus’ ministry could grow. This also gave a hint about the new order of forgiveness of sins, instead of repentance through sacrifices and the end of the Levitical priesthood.
      1. The Trinity makes a clear appearance. God speaks, Jesus comes up out of the water, and the Holy Spirit descends like a dove.
  2. What is baptism?
    1. Dunk or sprinkle? Credobaptist (after conversion, typically an adult) vs. paedobaptist (infant baptism)?
      1. Greek word is Baptizo which means to dip or to immerse. To be baptized into the belief, profession, or observance of something, for repentance (Mt 3:11, etc.) To be baptized into a profession of faith or into someone, in sincerer obedience to Him. Means to be identified with what the name of that one stands for. “Into Christ” On behalf of or for those being baptized on behalf of the dead. On a belief of the resurrection of the dead. To baptize in or with the Holy Spirit and in or with fire, the baptism in the Holy Spirit being the spiritual counterpart of the water baptism. A bath, metaphorically meaning the Word of God which, when believed, brings spiritual cleansing. Just as Christ died and was buried, so the baptized person is submerged under water. And just as Christ rose again from beneath the earth, so the baptized person rises again from beneath the water. Under the water is the believer’s old, dead, heavy, suffocating life. Out of the water, cleansed by the blood of Christ, is the believer’s new, fresh, purposeful life.
      1. Why do we sprinkle? Tradition. Infant baptism arose from the teachings of some early second and third century church fathers that baptism washed away sin. This meant that if you died without being baptized, then you died with your sins unforgiven and thus went to Hell. With the high infant mortality rate in the early centuries, the concept of baptizing babies as soon as possible came into vogue. Since it is not necessarily good to push a baby’s head under water, the idea of sprinkling took hold. Some churches hold that baptism by immersion is the only “correct” way to do it. Those who have been sprinkled have not been truly baptized.
        1. So do I need to be re-baptized? That’s a complicated question with several possible answers. Acts 19: 1-7. While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all. What do you do about baptism if you think that you might have been “born again” after your first one? According to JD Greear, there are several answers to this question, depending on your particular situation. If your baptism occurred as an infant, I (JDG) think the answer is clear: you should be baptized again. Your infant baptism was more a symbol of your parents’ faith than yours (and thank God for their faith!). Every baptism we see in the New Testament, however, was a believer confessing his or her own faith. So be baptized “again,” if you feel the need, fulfilling the hope your parents had when they baptized you as an infant. Don’t fear that you are dishonoring them. What better way to honor the hopes they expressed in your baptism than to choose for yourself to follow Jesus? But what if you were baptized after an initial conversion experience but now suspect that your actual “re-birth/born again” occurred later? Should you get re-baptized? There’s no hard and fast answer, but here’s what I’d suggest: if you know clearly that you were not saved at the point when you were baptized (i.e., you were pressured into baptism by your parents or friends, had no real grasp on salvation, had some ulterior motive, etc.), then be baptized again. However, if your baptism depicted the beginning of a journey of faith, a journey marked by numerous “awakenings” and defining moments, in season and out of season, then let it stand, even if you wonder that perhaps your “rebirth” happened later. Baptism is post-conversion act because it symbolizes a public choice to follow Jesus. But getting the technical order wrong in your own experience is not a perversion of the symbol of baptism, it’s just a timing mistake—and a minor one, at that. Baptism is not like the number sequence on a combination lock that if you get out of order will not open. So don’t obsess about making sure it happened after your born again experience. If you were baptized after making a sincere, conscious confession of faith, accept that and move on, even if you sometimes suspect that your rebirth may have happened later. As Christians we continually have new experiences of grace that make us feel like everything we have experienced up to that point was useless, or as Paul said “garbage.” C. S. Lewis describes a day in 1951 (after writing The Four Loves and giving the talks that became Mere Christianity) where he passed from “mere intellectual acceptance of, to realization of, the doctrine that our sins are forgiven.” He did not think of this as his conversion, but he did say that in light of it “what I had previously called ‘belief’ looked absolutely unreal.” When that happens to you, when you have a life changing epiphany, I would encourage you not to see it as conversion, but as a progressive deepening of your relationship with Jesus Christ.
    1. Why are we baptized? Is it required for salvation?
      1. John 3: 5 says Jesus answered (Nicodemus), “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.” He is talking about baptism with water and receiving the Holy Spirit so we may enter heaven. Not John’s baptism for the forgiveness of sins but baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is who we are taking an oath to, who we are standing with.
      1. Our baptism is an outward expression of our inward commitment to God. First step as a disciple of Christ.
      1. From the prophet Isaiah, chapter 1, verses 16-20, we hear “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from your souls; learn to do well, judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow: and come and let us reason together, saith the Lord. And though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white like wool; and though they be crimson, I will make them white as snow. But if ye refuse and rebel, the sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” And from Justin Martyr, First Apology (Defense of the Gospel) Ch. 61 (written circa 155AD) we hear “and for this rite we have learned from the apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together (in sinful behavior), and we were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; (baptism was given to us) in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over them who choose to be born again, and have repented of their sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe; and in the name of Jesus Christ, and in the name of the Holy Ghost, who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus, (let) he who is illuminated (be) is washed.”
  3. So why was Jesus baptized? Or, why was Jesus baptized by John? An end, and a new beginning.
    1. End of sacrifices and the beginning of Grace.
      1. John was the last Levite, Aaronic Priest. Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were from the lineage of Aaron, and so was their son. Luke 1: 11-17.
        1. By this time, the High Priest was a political position, chosen by the government (Caesar), not necessarily a religious man, hence the corruption and greed in the temple.
      1. “And, when John begins his ministry, what does he do? Begins baptizing for the repentance of sins. And when Jesus wanted to be baptized, John, at first, refused. He refused on the basis of his unworthiness (“unworthy to untie his sandals”), that he was baptizing a baptism of repentance, and Jesus had nothing of which he needed to repent. Jesus, however, said “for righteousness, let it be done.” What righteousness is he talking about? When Aaron was ordained to be the Priest, the ordination service included the “washing” of Aaron, and his sons. The particular Hebrew word for wash that is used in the ordination of the Priest is not a word for rinse, or for sprinkling, or for pouring, but it’s a word that means to get all the way into the water. In Judaism, the Mikva served as the baptistery. A Jew would go into the Mikva and be completely submerged into the water. When the law says that the Priest was to be washed when he was ordained, it is likely referring to a Mikva experience; that is, a baptism by immersion. And when Jesus was ready to begin his ministry, he said, “Let it be, this is for righteousness sake.” I believe that John, the last of the High Priest, according to the order of Aaron, is baptizing Jesus, the High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek! In other words, John is transferring authority to the new order of the Priesthood; the old order of Aaron is passing away (the LAW), and now is transferred to Jesus (the GOSPEL), “who is our Priest according to the Priestly order of Melchizedek” a priest who lives forever. (Dr. Randy White)
      1. Jesus like Melchizedek or was He actually Melchizedek? Genesis 14, Psalm 110, Hebrews 7, and Nag Hammadi fragments from the 4th century AD.

I know that is a lot to absorb and think about but let’s talk about how this can relate to our own walk with God.

  • What is our personal mission work? Anyone?
    • How do we start? Believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, be baptized, and pray. And then go! What’s holding you back?
  • What is WCC’s mission work? Anyone?
    • How do we start? – we ask God for the four C’s
      • Clarity of mission. Is this really what you want me to do? My one dream of Noah’s Ark in Wilbur. Received no clarification.
      • Courage. Dear Lord, I need help, I am afraid of (insert list here)
      • Confidence that what we are doing is correct, according to God’s will and not our own.
      • Commitment to see the job through.

Clarity. Courage. Confidence. Commitment.

Let us pray. Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for bringing us together to hear your word. Please help us to remember these words in the coming week, so we can talk about it with our family and friends, so we can begin to understand, obey, and serve. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.