Sharpen Your Sword.
Topic: The Gospels.
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The Baptism of Christ
Scriptures – Matt. 3:1-17; Mk. 1:1-13; Lk. 3:1-22; Jn. 1:19-34.
Our study of the Gospels continue with baptism of Jesus Christ and its accompanying events. Though all the writers referenced this phase of the evolution of the ministry of Jesus Christ, it was to varying degrees. While Matthew, Mark and Luke opened their account of this event with the divine role of John the Baptist, the writer of the book of John, as earlier highlighted, chose to present the event from the perspective of Jesus Christ and his divine status.
- Whereas Matthew and Mark just dived straight into the core of the message of John the Baptist, Luke presented a brief history of how John commenced his mission by revealing the motivation behind his action as the Word that came to him, and which moved him to go into all the countries around the Jordan with the message for all to repent and be baptized – Lk. 3:1-3. In order to provide a timeline for this event, he opened up this account with the individuals that were occupying administrative positions at the time. This will no doubt help anyone interested in the timing of the event to locate it in history.
- The three writers noted that the core of his message was founded on the Old Testament scripture in which Isaiah advised that the Way of the Lord should be prepared with all its paths straightened out – Isa. 60:3; Matt. 3:1-3; Mk. 1:1-2; Lk. 3:1-6. The writer of the book of Matthew went ahead to confirm him as the one that Prophet Isaiah was referring to in that prophecy.
- The response to his message was also encouraging as many including the Pharisees, the Sadducees, Tax Collectors and Scribes were noticed amongst those that heeded his Call to Repentance – Matt. 3:5-8, Mk. 1:5.
- Though Luke and John did not record the massive turn out of people in response to his message, Luke did agree with Matthew on the reaction of John to those that arrived which was that it was not going to be sufficient for them to respond by simply coming to him, but they must also over time produce the evidence that they believed, accepted and practiced the content of the message, an area that Mark was silent about. He was noted to have warned them in the process not to hinge their salvation hopes on the fact that they were strong devotees of the Abrahamic covenant. If anything, Jehovah was able to make more hardened people with less value to him, become children of Abraham if that was all that was needed for salvation – Matt. 3:7-11; Lk. 3:7-10. His lifestyle also caught the attention of Mark who observed that he was dressed in a clothing made of sheep skin and fed on locust and wild honey – Mk. 1:6.
- Luke however noted also that his message also became the source of his physical death as he got imprisoned and was eventually killed by Herod – Lk. 3:19-20.
- He identified the limits of his Call by letting all his listeners know that his role was only that of a fore-runner to a greater personality who he does not even know himself but who was going to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire, whilst he only baptized with water – Matt. 3:11-12; Mk. 1:7-8; Lk. 3:15-18. This personality was going to come with the message of Salvation, different from his own message of Repentance for forgiveness of sins.
- Just like every other respondent, Jesus Christ also heeded the message asking also to be baptized, a request John initially refused with claims that he was not positioned sufficiently to implement such an act. He was however left with no choice after Jesus Christ himself had insisted – Matt. 3:13-15.
- However, there was something different about this baptism because John himself was reported to have said, that he saw the heavens opened with the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus Christ accompanied by a voice which referred to Jesus Christ as a beloved son in whom he is well pleased – Matt. 3:16-17; Mk. 1:9-11; Lk. 3:21-22.
- The baptism of Jesus Christ turned out to be another watershed in the events of his life as he was immediately led by the Holy Spirit into the desert where he remained for forty days, fasting and praying – Matt. 4:1-3; Mk. 1:12; Lk. 4:1-2.
- Most of the above events were of little significance to the writer of the book of John, who as stated in earlier studies seemed to be more interested in the divinity of Jesus Christ. He was more focused on establishing the existence of Jesus Christ before his incarnation into the earthly realm – Jn. 1:1-18.
- The summary of his arguments are as follows;
- That there was a divine entity named WORD whose role was very strategic when Jehovah was creating the earth, as everything was done through him – Jn. 1:1-3.
- The LIFE in this WORD became the LIGHT for mankind – Jn. 1:4.
- That this LIGHT was such that darkness could not even comprehend, more so overcome – Jn. 1:5.
- That John was sent from Jehovah to be the fore-runner of WORD, that was the light of men but he was not the light – Jn. 1:6-9.
- That WORD was not recognized and accepted by most earthlings when he incarnated and lived in a world that he co-created, but he granted special grace and right to all who choose to recognize and accept him, to become spiritual children of Jehovah – Jn. 1:10-14.
- He made it clear that his testimony was about what he witnessed and which John the Baptist also testified to – Jn. 1:15.
- In addition, he was a beneficiary of this Grace as he has being receiving one blessing after another since acknowledging him – Jn. 1:16.
- He also affirmed that Jesus Christ, by his activities also was able to reveal the nature of Jehovah whom no one had seen, to mankind – Jn. 1:17.
The Christian Today.
That all the Gospel writers noted the event around the act of Baptism using that of Jesus Christ as the reference, though to different extent, underscores its significance.
All religious groupings and even some secular groupings have a process that initializes the journey of a new entrant, usually referred to as Initiation. The norm is that no matter who the individual is, there is an expected transformation that should become evident after the intiation process. Amongst the followers of Jesus Christ, this process is called Baptism.
Though it was in existence before Christianity as it is being practiced today, it remains a process that all, who claim to be full fledged Christians, and expect to have and enjoy the full advantage of the Faith should experience. Such may be able to perform acts similar to that which members of the group are capable of, but such should not consider self a bonafide Christian – Acts 8:9-13; Matt. 7:21-23.
Baptism is said to have its origin in the latin word, “baptizo” which means to immerse in water, so the exercise should be deemed to have been properly implemented if the individual is completely immersed into water, whether in a bowl (if possible) or in an ocean (if safe) or anything in between that will allow for such process to be truly implemented. Sprinkling of water on an individual will definitely not fall into this category.
Though Christianity as a religion was not yet in existence, the practice of this initiation act was already on so it was either that he was baptized into the Jewish religion or into a modified form of the Jewish religion that the people were yet to understand. Both scenarios could be considered right as the people seemed to understand the core of his message which was the need for them to repent so that they can be forgiven of their sins by Jehovah but obviously, the baptismal exercise was done in the name of Jehovah – Matt. 5:17-20.
Indeed you heard the message and you heeded the Call but you will need to answer some soul searching questions sincerely. Do you know and understand the reason for your Call? Were you baptized in the true meaning of the word? Jesus Christ was obviously baptized in the name of Jehovah but into a religious belief that was later going to champion. In whose name were you baptized and what were you baptized into? How sure are you about your response to the above? Since this initiation process is spiritual in origin, did you experience any spiritual change on completion of the process? Was the change evident for all to see like in the case of Jesus Christ? If the response to any or all of the above is negative, then there may be the need to re-assess the process of your baptism, with a view to repeating it, as all it means is that, the earlier exercise did not trigger the commencement of the expected new life. This is a possible reason for all the faithlessness that is being witnessed in Christendom today.
Still on your being Called, are you able to identify and focus on His reason for calling you with a view to ensuring that you do not step beyond what He called you for as highlighted by John the Baptist? This is very important as that remains one of the major reasons why many who are trully Called today eventually crash spiritually – 1Sam. 13:1-15. However it should not be a surprise to anyone if operating in the Call will be the reason for the many trials and life threatening situations that will manifest just like in the case of John the Baptist. Those trials simply do not have any meaning to Jehovah as long as such is operating in the Call
In truth, you may actually begin to realize that there is something fundamentally wrong with your Water Baptism as you are not able to exercise your full authority as a Christian. The age at which you came to this realization or your status, social or spiritual, should not matter, after all John the Baptist openly acknowledged the superiority of Jesus Christ, who had come to him to be baptized, but Jesus Christ would not allow that to stop him from helping him to lay a solid foundation for success in his earthly mission. Taking a cue from his reason that things had to be that way at that moment for it to be considered to have been done properly, you may also have to drop all those claims of being superior because of your earthly status if you are to make your spiritual life meaningful. Humble yourself by submitting to someone who will be able to implement a meaningful and impactful baptismal exercise in your life so that you can truly commence the new life as a true Child of Jehovah – Jn. 1:12-13. There will simply be no proper growth if there is no proper rooting in the Faith – Psa. 11:3-7.
Claims of accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and speaking in tongues will be seriously questioned if a faulty foundation with regards to baptism was laid. This is because the pre-qualifying conditions for a proper and effective water Baptism, as championed by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:5-10), remains a sine qua non for any form of true spiritual experience to manifest, one of which is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, with speaking in tongues being one of the various manifestations of the occurrence of that event in the life of man – Acts 2:37-39. This will be the case even if the physical exercise of water baptism is to come after the experience of the Holy Spirit baptism – Acts 10:44-48.
The writer of the book of John, however seemed to be more interested in the spiritual baptism into the WORD rather than the spirituality behind the physical acts of water baptism. With the bible describing the WORD as water (Eph. 5:25-27), he seemed to be advocating for an immersion of the new entrant into the doctrines of the WORD, which he categorically says is Jesus Christ – Jn. 1:1-14. For him, the new entrant must figuratively drown in the WORD to achieve the objective of baptism which is salvation from the wages of sin – Acts 3:19-20.
Take a break and think about your baptismal experience. Did it have any effect on your life? Was there any physical manifestation of the experience that can justify the intention behind its implementation? Are you presently living the life of one who was truly baptized? It is simply impossible to lay claims to have experienced true baptism, whether of water or of the Holy Spirit and still be comfortable in sin. That will be you crucifying Jesus Christ the second time – Heb. 6:6. Do you have the true spirit of Jehovah operating in those spiritual acts that you are implementing? Yes you may be able to use the name of Jehovah or His Christ to register several achievements but it should be obvious to you by now that it is not sufficient proof that you are indeed a true Christian – Matt. 7:22-23. Despite all those works that you are receiving human applause for, will He applaud you when he returns? All your efforts in Christendom may come to nothing if this important block in the laying of the foundation of your Christian life is faulty. Do a honest assessment today and do the needful where necessary.
May Jehovah help us all as we try to rebuild or strengthen the foundation of our Christian life in Jesus name. Amen.
References: Acts 2:1-13; 10:23-48; 19:1-8; Gal. 5:15-26.
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