Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 5 Study # 2
May 14, 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. Why Was Jesus Baptized?
- A. In one sense, He was baptized for the same reason that all of the other people were: to affirm His complete acceptance of John's message of grace.
- 1. No one was baptized to "accomplish" the forgiveness of sins, or to "bring redemption to pass".
- a. Water baptism was, as John pointedly declared, an uncommonly ineffectual tool... except to accomplish what God intended all along.
- 1) He deliberately contrasted his "baptism with water" with Jesus' "baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire"...to create a sense of the huge distance between the two in terms of how "effectual" they were.
- 2) He baptized to highlight and emphasize the content of his message of grace. Those whom he baptized were doing nothing more, nor less, than affirming their agreement with his grace message that God forgives upon repentance. But, even as "little" a matter as this is as an individual act, it really could not even guarantee that the individual was reflecting the real truth of his/her own heart. The act "claimed" the individual was embracing "grace", but the reality of the claim was not guaranteed by the baptism.
- 3) But one thing was accomplished by John's baptism: it, because of the massive numbers of people participating, clearly set the "grace" message of "forgiveness upon repentance" before the public eye and forced a confrontation with the "establishment" theology of salvation for the deserving.
- b. Jesus could not have been baptized if John's baptism was designed to have a particular part in bringing "forgiveness" or "redemption" to pass for the one being baptized.
- 1) John's baptism had a general part to play in bringing forgiveness and redemption to pass in that forgiveness and redemption come by faith in the message that John was preaching and water baptism forced that message upon the consciousness of the people so that they had to either "believe" it or "reject" it.
- 2) But, there was no particular part for water baptism in the actual forgiveness or redemption -- two things that were already accomplished for the individual before the water was ever applied. If God actually forgives and redeems at the point of repentance, He obviously does so before anyone ever decides to be baptized in water for one simple reason: people do not "believe" as they are going into the water for it is their "faith" in the message that sponsors their participation in the larger plan of which "water" is a part -- i.e., the public pressing of the message of grace upon the consciousness of the people.
- 3) Jesus could not have been "baptized" if it were an instrument of particular forgiveness or redemption -- for He had need of neither and "acting like He did" would have been a godless charade.
- 2. Thus, Jesus was "baptized" in order to do what everyone else was also doing: to force the message of grace upon the popular conscience.
- B. In another sense, Jesus was baptized to "fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15). But, what does that mean?
- 1. Jesus declared of Himself that He had come to fulfill the Law. This meant that He had come to "do" everything that was "imposed" upon men.
- 2. One of the things "imposed" upon men is the command to be "baptized". It does not matter what the divine reason for the imposition is; it only matters that there is a divine reason and a divine imperative. If there is a divine imperative, the accomplishment of "all righteousness" means that everything that God has commanded has been met with obedience. Thus, if Jesus was to actually be the Redeemer, He must have met every divine imperative with obedience -- no matter how great or small the imperative may be seen by men to be.
- a. That Jesus met this imperative with obedience does not, like some seem to think, mean that men are not to meet the imperative with obedience. Just because Jesus refrained from committing adultery as an obedience to the divine imperative does not mean that those who believe in the sufficiency of His obedience are, thus, free to commit adultery.
- b. Jesus met the divine imperatives -- every last one of them -- for men, to set them free from the condemnation that arises from disobedience, but not to set them free from the moral imperative. I am not free to flaunt the Law just because it has been fulfilled for me by Jesus. That I am redeemed and regenerated because He set me free from the condemnation of failure means I am now free from that which forced my failure in the first place. And that means I can now do what God commands because I am free from the spirit of rebellion that drove my earlier disobedience. So, Jesus not only did for me what was required of me, He also set me free to do what is still required of me in a wholly different sense.
- 1) Under "Law" condemnation awaits those who sin. This makes obedience necessary in order to escape being cast away from the presence of God.
- 2) Under "Grace" divine discipline for training purposes awaits those who sin. This makes obedience necessary in order to participate in a healthy childhood as a Child of God.
- 3) The difference between "Law" and "Grace" is not in the issue of a moral imperative; it is, rather, in both the provision for obedience and the actual consequences of disobedience. Under "Law" the only provision for obedience is the "flesh"; but, under "Grace" the provision is the "Spirit". Under "Law" the consequence of disobedience is condemnation; but, under "Grace" the consequence of disobedience is disciplinary training.