Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 5 Study # 1
May 7, 2006
21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
1901 ASV Translation:
21 Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that, Jesus also having been baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
22 and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form, as a dove, upon him, and a voice came out of heaven, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
- I. Now it came to pass...
- A. Luke uses the word "come to pass" at least 132 times in his gospel alone. It seems to be a favorite to reflect the things that enter into the history of God's creation. It is Luke's settled intent to present his material as "historical": things that really happened in true time and space. It is fundamental to "faith" that its object(s) be "Truth", and it seems to be fundamental to "Truth" that it shows up in men's experiences -- though it is also basic to "Error" that it is promoted in the same realm. The difference is that "Truth" is in harmony with Reality and "Error" simply postures without true correspondence. "Jesus was raised from the dead" is either "Truth" or a "postured lie".
- B. The term carries with it the idea of "incremental progression" -- a whole series of individual events that move in a determined direction as interactive parts of a larger whole.
- II. When all the people were baptized...
- A. Clearly Luke intends to "tie" the imprisonment of John to a "fact" -- that his "ministry" was fundamentally "over". The "forerunner's task" had been accomplished.
- B. The "ministry" had been "to prepare a people for the Lord". He had done this in two ways: he had proclaimed the doctrine of "forgiveness upon repentance"; and, he had "identified" those who embraced that doctrine by means of water baptism -- an action that he, himself, minimized in respect to its "efficacy".
- 1. By preaching "forgiveness", John had laid the foundations for the Coming One because "forgiveness" has serious and profound "requirements".
- a. Forgiveness requires that Justice be satisfied in some other way than retaliation upon the perpetrator of evil.
- b. Forgiveness, as preached by John (who stripped "legalism" of all of its Justice-meeting methods), is fundamentally associated with the glory of God in that it directly challenges the issue of how it is ever possible, given the Justice of God.
- 1) "Legalism" argues that Justice can be genuinely satisfied by human, compensatory action. Though that is never experientially true in real history, it is at least theoretically possible within a "closed system" of human's sinning against each other. It is never true in history because men can never "get it right" in terms of "Justice", which requires an "exact" compensation. If the compensation is too little, Justice remains dissatisfied, but if the compensation is too great, the compensator becomes one who has been sinned against in that he has had too much taken from him. The larger problem, though, is that men never "sin" in a "closed system" -- man's sins against his fellow man are simply a mirror of the true nature of his sins: they are against God, Whose infinity brings a level of impossibility to the problem for finite man.
- 2) But, does not "divine" satisfaction of the Justice issue go "overboard" in making the compensation of the Son of God "too much"? Even if man does sin against God so that the sin has aspects of "infinity" associated with it, is not the "payment" by the Son of God greater than the sin? Is this not the boast of the New Testament -- that "grace" is "much more" than "sin"? How, then, is Justice met by "overpayment"? How is "overpayment" not "unJust"? Is it so that "Justice" is met by exacting the precise amount of compensation, but Mercy is such that it posts far more to the "compensation fund" than will ever be necessary? God is not required to be "merciful", or to "forgive", but if He does determine to be such, He must, at least, be Just. However, is He "caught" by the fact that there can never be an "exact" recompense because sin has overtones of infinity tangled up in it? No, "Justice" only requires the offender to compensate the offended "exactly"; it does not require the offended to refrain from gracious mercy. It is "unjust" for the offender to be forgiven without payment being made, but "Justice" does not deny "mercy" or "grace" in its extension of benefit beyond what is "deserved". In other words, "sin" against another is "taking from another", but "mercy" is "giving to another what is needed". As long as the "payment" of the One forgiving is not "required" (neither mercy, nor forgiveness, is "required") so that the One forgiving is pursuing a non-Justice action, there is nothing in "Justice" that can react against "over-payment". It may not be "Just" for One to voluntarily "over-pay", but it is not "unJust". Mercy is free from the constraints of Justice as long as the requirements of Justice are legitimately met. If the debt is $10, there is nothing "unjust" about it being met by means of a $100 bill as long as the one meeting it is not constrained beyond the $10. "Keep the change" is a "freedom" of Mercy that is not addressed, or rejected, by Justice. One can be "merciful" as long as One is not "unjust".
- 2. By baptizing, he established a visible "community" of those who, at the very minimum, subscribed to a "Truth" thesis: that "Life" is rooted in "relational integrity", not "Justice".
- a. That "sinners" are given an opportunity to "repent" means something.
- 1) To be "redeemed"; to be "regenerated"; to be "forgiven": these concepts all have an underlying significance.
- 2) That the issues of the "reclamation of sinners by God" are all rooted by the New Testament in the concept of the "Love" of God has to mean something profound to our understanding of the Glory of God.
- a) Why is it important to God that sinners be reclaimed?
- b) What is it about human beings that God would adapt Himself to their reality (The Son of God became flesh) forever?
- c) The focus of divine revelation is upon the issue of the triune God as a Life-communicating Person Whose essential glory puts a premium upon both creating and imparting.
- i. Creating is not a "take-it-or-leave-it" matter with the God of Glory. It is impossible to imagine the sacrifice of Calvary in any "take-it-or-leave-it" scenario.
- ii. Imparting as an integral aspect of creation (from everything we know, the action of creation involves putting oneself into the result) means that "creating" is not finished until the "imparting" is finished. In other words, until the creation is in a "final state", the actual on-going input of God is not only required, but a fore-gone conclusion.
- d) At what point is the creation "finished"? Apparently, it is never finished. If creating is a fundamental aspect of the divine Glory, it has no "end". And, if creating has no end, neither does imparting.
- b. Thus, we must conclude that the "reclamation of sinnners" is both a very necessary aspect of the on-going creating/imparting Glory of God and a real point in the on-going reality.
- 1) The Glory of God has a focus in the issue of the creation and sustaining of inter-personal relationships on the basis of mutual relational integrity. The "final" definition of "Life" is beyond us, but it is the "focus" of the Glory of God and it must be pursued as a matter of relationship and relational integrity.
- 2) The real point...
- a) As creatures, we cannot conceive of anything that does not contain some kind of "linear" reality wherein one thing follows another.
- b) That John's "ministry" was "finished" is an aspect of that kind of reality: in real space and linear time, John was God's instrument of grace for a particular accomplishment that was accomplished. He "prepared a people for the Coming Lord".