Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 5 Study # 1
Thesis: The first issue of John's "baptism" is the issue of what God attaches to it.
Introduction: This morning we are going to step out on the bridge that connects Jesus' "John material" and Luke's decision to include the Pharisees and lawyers in his presentation. This "bridge" is the issue of John's baptism. We see that Luke 7:29-30 records the fact that "the people and the tax collectors" responded one way because they had been baptized by John and the fact that "the Pharisees and lawyers" responded another way because they had not submitted to the baptism of John. Thus, the issue of "being baptized" is brought to the fore of our attention by the text.
It will be helpful to our understanding of this issue if we keep the larger picture in view. Luke wrote chapter seven in order to "bookcase" the most critical issues of that most critical of all issues: one's participation in the Kingdom of God. At the end of Jesus' presentation of the Kingdom of God, He made a distinction between the wise man and the fool on one basis: hearing and acting upon the words He had delivered regarding the true nature and methods of the Father's Kingdom. Since the distinction between foolishness and wisdom consists of "doing", there is no more important issue before man than the question of "how" to "do". Luke's answer is chapter seven. It begins with "faith" and ends with "love". These are the bookends. But, within those bookends there exists some key questions. Most fundamental to the "faith" issue is the question of its "legitimacy". Thus, we have both the record of the raising of the dead and the question of John: these answer the "legitimacy" issue.
Then, having established the "legitimacy" issue and its necessary corollary, "faith", we have the mega-question: if legitimacy is established, why do "fools" exist? This is what Luke intended to address as he "bridged" into the rest of his presentation of the bookends. Fools exist, Luke argues, because the most basic of all issues is not what one "believes", but what one "loves". If a person "loves" a faulty "love", he/she will, ipso facto, "believe" improperly. And if a person believes improperly, there goes all hope of participation in the Kingdom of God.
This brings us to the "bridge". The "wise" were those "baptized" by John. The "foolish" were those who "rejected God's purpose for themselves". The two are separated by "baptism".
This morning we are going to look into the issues of "baptism" to see, first of all, why John baptized, and then to see the major issue that "rejection" brings to the fore.
October 19, 2008
- I. Why Did John Baptize?
- A. This is not an "idle" question.
- 1. We have four major doctrinal "positions" that people take regarding "baptism".
- a. The first of the four is the position taken by those who attach "justification" to the act.
- 1) There are a multitude of variations in this camp.
- 2) All of the variants have one fundamental thesis: baptism is inescapably crucial to the question of entrance into the Kingdom of God.
- b. The second of the four is the position taken by those who, because they cannot see how justification can be divorced from the taking of an action so that if one "must" be baptized, salvation is "by works", teach that baptism in not "for" the Church Age.
- 1) There are not many in this "camp".
- 2) The position is too radical to fit Scripture and it rests upon ignorance of God's reasons for commanding baptism.
- c. The third of the four is the position taken by a vast number of people between the extremes of the first two who simply do not think much about it.
- 1) Some of these "do it" because the preacher tells them to.
- 2) Some of these "ignore it" because the preacher does not hammer on it.
- d. The fourth of the four is the position given by the Scriptures.
- 2. That we have at least four "positions" and the only legitimate one is the one "given by the Scriptures", we, obviously, need to know what the Scriptures teach about it.
- 3. Luke deliberately made the "baptism" issue a "bridge" between "faith" and "love", so we will profit from understanding why he did that.
- B. The short answer is: God told him to (the Scriptures certainly teach this).
- 1. This is a good enough answer for those who love God and simply wish to please Him (it is enough for "love" to simply be told "do this" and "don't do that").
- 2. This, however, is not a good enough answer to be able to obey that injunction made by the God we are to "love" given to us in 1 Peter 3:15.
- 3. In other words, the short answer will work for one's personal relationship with God, but it will not work for one's labor for God.
- C. The longer answer, therefore, has to do with why God "told him to" (the Scriptures are not silent about this).
- 1. The most crucial issue: God never tells anyone to "do" anything without having a very good reason for it that arises out of His natural interest in sharing His Life.
- 2. The next issues fall in no special order.
- a. First, we must understand the distinction that God makes in His Word between His "attitude" toward people and His "practice" of enforcing the cause/effect reality of His creative work.
- 1) With God, everyone reaps in abundance what they sow.
- a) He does not typically make a distinction between those who are His children and those who are not when the issue is reaping what is sown.
- b) When it comes to "baptism" it cannot be argued that "baptism" is not an action taken in a cause/effect universe.
- c) Thus, if a person is baptized in a cause/effect universe certain harvest issues are going to "flow to him/her" without regard for what is driving it and if a person is not baptized in a cause/effect universe a definite "lack" of harvest issues is not going to "flow to him/her" without regard for what kept the action from taking place.
- 2) With God, His "attitude" toward a person is defined according to the presence or absence of a "love driven faith".
- a) Those who take action without a love driven faith are enormously displeasing to God (Hebrews 11:6).
- b) Those who take action because of a love driven faith are enormously pleasing to God (Luke 7:9).
- c) No one can take action without either the presence of, or absence of, a love driven faith: all actions come from somewhere.
- d) Thus, if a person is baptized, or not, the action is either enormously displeasing, or enormously pleasing, to God.
- b. Second, we must understand the particular harvest issues that are deliberately attached by God to the "baptism" issue.
- 1) The "harvest issue" is determined by what the Bible says is directly attached to "water baptism".
- 2) In our text, the Bible says that a direct result of John's "water baptism" was that those who submitted to it were able to recognize the truth and legitimacy of Jesus' teaching.
- a) This assumes the legitimacy of the "baptism" (that it was undertaken by those identified out of a proper love/faith).
- b) This means that God responds to legitimate "baptism" by giving those who submit to it a certain kind of spiritual perceptiveness.
- 3) In our text, the Bible says that a direct result of rejecting John's "water baptism" was that the rejectors continued to be like foolish children who could not grasp "wisdom" even though it surrounded them.
- a) This means that God responds to the illegitimate rejection of His "baptism" command by blinding people to "wisdom".
- b) The issue of "illegitimate" rejection is in my argument because of the reality of our "four positions" theological setting (there is such a thing as legitimate rejection of "baptism" if it reflects a flawed theology).
- 4) In another text, 1 Peter 3:21, the Bible says that a direct result of obedience to His "baptism" command is a "good conscience".
- a) This is one of those "duh" realities: clearly no one who refuses God's commands can have a good conscience and anyone who obeys God's commands out of a legitimate love/faith reality will be in possession of the good conscience that arises out of love-driven/faith-sponsored obedience.
- b) When associated with the Lukan text, the Petrine text advances our understanding of why Jesus made "baptizing" an integrated aspect of the "disciple-making" process in what is known as "The Great Commission" of Matthew 28:19.
- i. If God gives spiritual perception to those who are baptized, those who are baptized are in a position to grow into legitimate disciples.
- ii. If God withholds spiritual perception from those who refuse to obey Him, there is no way they are going to become real disciples.
- iii. If one must "obey" in order to have a clear conscience, obviously no one is going to develop into a real disciple who walks with a violated conscience.