Phases of Predestination
.... God loves each of us with an everlasting love. As a loving Father, He wants every person to come to repentance and to the knowledge of the truth as the truth is in Jesus. He passionately desires that we all be saved for He is not willing that any of us perish without Him. And that brings Him to an important, practical decision in each of our lives (Jeremiah 31:3; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Ephesians 4:21).
.... Being a God of purpose, God predestines all things according to the counsel of His will; and since He is not willing that any of us perish, He predestines certain events in the life of each one of us in an attempt to save us, if only we'll respond by trusting in Him:
.... "In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory."
.... Predestination is a subject wrought with controversy, chiefly because it is has been viewed presumptuously. So let's return to the most basic level and ask some fundamental questions about it. What, exactly, is being predestined? Outward circumstances, or inward decisions? Does predestination offer a hope, or does it ordain a result? And if God is controlling something in our lives, how does our own response play a role? In other words, what is predestination really meant to accomplish?
.... Over the next few postings we’ll examine three separate and distinct types of predestination that are outlined in the Scriptures. They apply to different people in different stages of a relationship with God, and they are intended to accomplish different things. Furthermore they seem to be divisible on a time line, having the overall appearance of phases, so we will address them in that manner (Phases 1, 2 and 3). Think of them as an introduction leading to a warming acquaintance, with the hope that a committed friendship will emerge. This, in turn, will deepen into love as we respond with interest at each step.
.... By its very nature, we will have to address this subject in broadest terms. The specifics are so personalized that we can do no better (though there may be some examples in the 'comments' section, and you are welcome to add more of your own). But showing a basic 'pattern' that God seems to follow would help our evangelistic efforts tremendously. By understanding someone’s degree of progress within this pattern we might help them relate to God’s overtures of the past, understand where they are now and what it means, and even anticipate what their next step might be. And hearing the thoughts of their heart revealed in this manner would testify to them very strongly, demonstrating that God is talking to them again even now through one of us (as in 1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
To proceed to the next lesson, click hereDaily Bible Reading: Mark 2
. ... Let’s begin this posting with some basic terminology. In the Scriptures, Christians are often referred to as ‘the elect’ (or, based on the same underlying Greek word, as ‘the chosen’). But what does this phrase mean, and how should we understand it?
.... The ‘Election’ of God was a decision that He made from before the foundation of the world, by His own foreknowledge, that would eventually open the door for our salvation. But this decision has been very widely misunderstood and has lead to confusion.
.... The most commonly held view is that God, by His foresight, chose certain persons to be saved. This was done in an arbitrary manner, without regard to who they were or what they would ever do, whether good or bad. It was simply God's own, personal decision to save them, without further reason or criteria. For some people, this would work out great! But of course, if you happened to be on the other side of that choice, it meant you were destined for hell by default!
.... Over the centuries, this doctrine has been received in an odious way. Even non-Christians seem to know that it cannot possibly be right (see John 1:9). And indeed, it isn’t right! While it’s true that God knew each one of us by His foresight, He kept a distinct criteria in mind the whole time in deciding whom He would call. His benchmark was higher than the heavens themselves, and absolutely staggering in its scope. So high was His requirement that winning His favor in the election required absolute merit, and as such it resulted in the choosing of only one person: Jesus Christ, the righteous:
.... "Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles."
(Isaiah 42:1, Matthew 12:18)
.... Please note that in this passage, Jesus is referred to as the ‘Elect One’ of God. For Jesus Christ is the one and only, and not simply one of many (See Galatians 3:16).
.... The event described in this passage may perhaps be referred to as ‘the election proper’. Before mankind was even created, as the veil of the ages was drawn aside, the majesty of Christ in God’s election was revealed, for He had this testimony from of old: that God delighted in Him. (For further details, click here).
.... God chose Jesus before the world began; and in later years, when we would come to believe in Him, we would be joined together to become one spirit with Him, just as a bride becomes one flesh with her husband (1 Corinthians 6:17). Thus, Jesus becomes the champion of all who love Him and cling to Him (John 14:6). And it is through our abiding in Jesus, the Chosen One of God, that we, too, become chosen in Him:
.... "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love"
.... So our own election does not pertain to our works, whether good or bad – that part was true. But rather, it depends on Christ alone, and the standing we obtain through being united with Him in our lives. In other words the traditional understanding of the election must be turned on its head: rather than being saved because we are chosen, we are chosen in Him because we are saved (Colossians 3:11-12).
.... So in your evangelism, please keep this in mind and never pre-judge someone because you think they may or may not be the sort of person "that God would have chosen". Believing in Jesus changes everything; and God, through the wonderous merit of Jesus Christ, can save anyone who will respond to Him by faith: "For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13).
.... We will discuss this further in the following postings.
To proceed to the next lesson, click hereDaily Bible Reading: Mark 1
God’s Preparation for Evangelism
... As discussed in our previous posting, God pre- pared our redemption in Jesus before time began, and He enlightened us with the light of Christ when we came into this world (Revelation 13:8; John 1:9). Every man who is born has this hope hidden within him. But God also works outwardly, in the world itself, to reveal Himself in ways that will speak to us further. .
.... God has shown us His invisible attributes through the witness of creation, through the moods of the weather or in the bounty of nature, if only we will stop to reflect on them (Psalm 19:1-4; 107:23-31; Romans 8:22-23; Acts 14:17). All it takes is a little humility and thoughfulness on our part. In fact, these natural forms of witness are so instructive that He considers us without excuse if we fail to perceive their message (Romans 1:20).
.... God’s testimony within us and around us is bountiful, majestic and enlightening. So why would anyone not receive Jesus when they heard of Him? It’s because man has a basic problem with sin:
.... "There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who under- stands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one."
.... Left to ourselves, our sins will always make us reluctant to seek God: "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." (John 3:20). Passages like these pertain to every last one of us, for not one single person on earth would stir themselves up to seek God (Isaiah 64:7). Therefore, He must always begin another major work simply to draw us closer over time, in order to overcome our human reluctance (John 6:44).
.... ". . . so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us."
.... In the passage above we see a complete turn-around from our original attitude, as a result of God's preparation in drawing us closer, which He performs in the course of each person's life. In Scripture this working is called predestination -- a subject that is widely misunderstood. But when examined properly, it can help us navigate through an evangelistic opportunity and speak to someone’s heart in leading them to the Lord effectively.
.... Some may argue that exploring this process of preparation is not a ‘basic’ subject at all, but a rather complex one. Yet in a paradoxical way, new Christians can usually relate to it extremely well – possibly even better than they can relate to the gospel – because it will match their recent past, recap the steps that brought them to Jesus in the first place, and confirm their new faith in Him through their actual experience.
.... Furthermore we may see the same preparation underway in our family and friends who are still unsaved, and find encouragement to reach out to them more effectively. For our friends who are not yet Christians, who have not yet tasted of the fullness itself, this is as real as it gets, and it's witness can be extremely powerful. With that in mind, we’ll touch upon this testimony further in our next postings.
To proceed to the next lesson, click hereDaily Bible Reading: Matthew 28
The Lord of the Harvest
.... Evangelism is about sharing the gospel with unsaved persons, and leading them into a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. For the would-be evangelist, the most basic lesson is to understand this effort as a partnership, in which God Himself is the senior partner and we are, by far, the junior partners. For we may be the laborers in the field, but He Himself is the Lord of the Harvest (Matthew 9:38). The whole endeavor is His very own handiwork, and we are joining Him a very late stage. In fact, let’s start by examining what He accomplished long before we even became involved:
.... From before the foundation of the world, God chose His only Son Jesus to be the savior of all mankind (Isaiah 42:1; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Timothy 4:10). This event is called the ‘election’, which we will discuss in detail in a posting soon-to-come. As the Lamb of God in heaven, Jesus was slain for our sins before time began, before mankind was even created, before there was ever a need (Revelation 13:8). So when man was created and later fell into sin, the way of our redemption was already prepared. This was done so that God might be glorified in Jesus alone, as we all came to God through Him (Romans 11:36).
.... And to insure that we would one day connect with Jesus, when we heard of Him, God hid something of the knowledge of Christ deeply inside each one of us:
.... "That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world"
.... Thus in the days to come, when we would first hear the good news of Jesus Christ, that message would touch deeply on this hidden knowledge that was already within us, match it, and confirm it to us in an eerie way. From deeply within ourselves we’d know that we had just heard the truth (1 Corinthians 2:13; see 1 Corinthians 14:25). And this would be so, even if we did not receive Jesus at the time (see Proverbs 25:21-22).
.... So when the Lord uses you in evangelism, realize that your message is always getting through to your listener at some level, even if it is not acknowledged at once. God may bring your words back to them in quiet, thoughtful moments in the days to come. And if you've shown a humble confidence in the Lord the whole time, He will add a special testimony above all, and it's something each of you will understand from deeply within yourselves:
.... "Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ . . . not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God."
.... Through this added testimony (which comes through your confidence in God) you will both know that you are saved, but they are still in their sins; and you will both perceive that this understanding has come to you from the Lord Himself. But the intention is not to condemn anyone. Your listener can be saved, if only they will humble themselves and repent, and seek Him as you have done.
To proceed to the next lesson, click hereDaily Bible Reading: Matthew 27
Introduction to Evangelism
.... In our previous module we discussed a series of proper responses to the gospel, but one type of response deserves a series of it’s own. It has to do with evangelism. For just as someone shared the gospel with us, we should be willing to share it with others.
.... In a sense, new Christians can be natural evangelists anyway. Even if they don’t yet know very much about the faith, they at least know how to become a Christian, and that’s enough to show someone else the way. They are also well connected. Many of their friends and family members may still be unsaved, but our new Christian has long ago earned a place for speaking with them -- and they will usually feel an urgent need for doing so. As a special bonus, they are a living example of their own message, providing a ‘before-and-after’ picture of the Lord’s work for those who had known them previously.
.... In many ways, a 'golden period' will emerge at this time as new Christians reach out to their old acquaintances to include them on the journey. They are still just a few steps ahead of them; it would be easy for them to catch up, and then they could still explore their new beliefs together. They are family members and long time friends; they would be at the same place in life, understanding each other’s backgrounds, questions, hopes and trials, which could only be of greater benefit to them all. And just as they were friends before their conversion, they could now become co-pilgrims on the road to eternal life.
. .... "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
.... In fact, the problem can sometimes be that our new Christian friend is a little too zealous, and despite some excellent intentions they might end up trampling their old friends instead of helping them. Years later, as they mature in Christ, they’ll look back on those early episodes with regret, wishing they’d know a little more at the time and fearing that those golden opportunities were lost. The following lessons will help them capitalize on their personal experience and enthusiasm, while avoiding some of those early mistakes, that they may learn to share the gospel correctly.
To proceed to the next lesson, click here
.... Jesus had a problem with His disciples. For years, He had taught them to be servants both to God and to men, but the irresistible lure of ambition kept clouding their minds. Repeatedly, He'd caught them arguing amongst themselves as to which of them should be the greatest (Mark 9:33-34; 10:37; Luke 9:46); and on each of those occasions He had given them examples in correcting them:
.... "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
.... Jesus had told them plainly; He had corrected them on each of those occasions, yet they always seemed to come back to this argument. And even now, at the last supper, He had caught them in the argument again (Luke 22:24). .
.... Something about a person’s dying words carry a special weight, and there were several lessons that Jesus saved for the context of this final hour. Now He would do something to settle this argument in their hearts once and for all. Arising from the table, He gird Himself with a towel and began to wash the apostle's feet: a way of honoring another person that is very humbling, personally (John 13:13-17).
.... The apostles were dismayed that the Lord Himself would wash their feet! And finally His example of servanthood got through to them:
.... "You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you."
.... The apostles were mortified with humility and understood His lesson at last. It was the very essence and concept of the life He had lived. Never again would this argument arise among them, as the true focus of servanthood prevailed.
.... The ceremony of foot washing takes the motivation of Jesus, in His dying hours, and translates it into an application. But should foot washing be considered an ordinance? Jesus offered it as an example that should be repeated, so technically we would have to say ‘Yes’. But the heart attitude behind foot washing, that we should serve each other without selfish ambition, is the true lesson and should be employed in every application of our lives and at all times.
.... A foot washing ceremony is something you may rarely see as a Christian. There is no prescribed interval, nor is it driven by outward events, but it seems to emerge only on occasions when the Lord’s own heart may prompt us to do so. But when this does happen, it is one of the most humbling things you will ever see and it seldom fails to bring tears, appreciation, and restoration. For by it, the issues of our pride are humbled before Jesus’ own example of humility in the very hour of His death is called again to our remembrance.
Congratulations, you have now completed the Gospel Ordinance Module! To proceed to the Pre-evangelism Module, click here
Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 25
The Double Meaning of Communion
.... In our previous posting we discussed the meaning of the Lord’s supper. It is a memorial to our Lord Jesus who gave Himself on the cross for our sins. The sacrament of bread represents His body which was broken, and the wine represents His blood which was shed (Matthew 26:26-28). But because the bread represent His body, it actually gives the Lord’s Supper a double meaning. For in a secondary sense, ‘the body of Christ’ represents all Christians; so as often as we partake of this bread we are also partaking of one another:
.... "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread."
(1 Corinthians 10:16-17)
In this passage, the Lord’s Supper is referred to as ‘communion’. It is a time for reflecting on what Jesus has done, and repenting if we need to do so; but it is also a time for reflecting on the needs of others around us who call on the name of Jesus, who may be sharing in the same ceremony. For in loving one another, the love of Jesus Christ, that was shown in the gospel, is fulfilled, and the testimony of His love may be seen by the rest of the world (John 13:35
In the first century church, communion often took place in the context of a larger church gathering known as 'the love feast’ (2 Peter 2:13
; Jude 12
). This was like a Christian ‘pot luck’, which took place on at least a weekly basis (as in 1 Corinthians 16:2
) or even, in some households, on a daily basis (Acts 2:46
). Though this event was centered around providing a meal, in all likelihood, in the same general spirit, it was an occasion to insure that the other needs in the body were met as well (in the spirit of Acts 2:44-46
.... Therefore when you partake of the Lord's supper, be mindful and thankful for His covenant, sealed by the His love and by the shedding of His blood; but also be mindful of those around you -- for in a very practical sense His body is represented in them as well. Further discussion may be found in the 'comments' section.
To proceed to the next lesson, click here Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 24
The Lord’s Supper
.... In our last few postings we've discussed baptism which, if done correctly, need never be repeated. It is designed as a one-time event because it marks the beginning of a life-long covenant. If we do sin again, we should repent rather than being re-baptized (1 John 1:9; Galatians 5:1). But this is not to say that the meaning of our baptism is fleeting. The same understanding is constantly recalled through another ceremony called "The Lord’s Supper". This ongoing ceremony is entirely symbolic in nature, for the purpose of reminding us that Jesus died for us all:
.... "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes."
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
Again we should emphasize that the Lord’s supper is entirely symbolic. It is not a re-sacrifice of Jesus, an additional increment of His sacrifice, nor anything of the sort, since then He would have needed to suffer often from the beginning of the world (Hebrews 9:25-28
). But rather, it is to recall that He was offered once
to bear the sins of many, and by this He has put away our sins forever (1 Peter 3:18
). It calls to mind the very covenant we sealed with Him through water baptism. Jesus Himself described this ceremony as a ‘memorial’ of the life He gave, and as often as we partake of it we are to remember
Him. Thus through the Lord’s supper, as in baptism, we show our continued faith in the gospel.
.... "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup . . . for if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged."
(1 Cor 11:28,31)
The Lord’s supper is a time for checking ourselves anew in our walk with God, to make sure we are still on track with Him. Like baptism, partaking of this ceremony should demonstrate, within ourselves, the answer of a good conscience toward God (1 Peter 3:21
). If not, we'll need to take a moment to confess our sins and repent of them, but afterward we should still partake.
.... Here, another question presents itself. How often should the Lord’s supper be observed? There are many opinions, but perhaps the immediate context is the most correct: that it should be done simply in the context of eating a meal -- any meal -- so that it is done very frequently, as a part of our lifestyle.
Most Christians have learned to bless their meals before eating, and Jesus Himself blessed His meals in this way -- including the last supper (Luke 9:16
). So if we take a moment to focus on Jesus before partaking of the bread, to be thankful for what He has done, it would be entirely appropriate. Thus He would be in constant remembrance lest we become shortsighted, even to blindness, and forget that we were cleansed from our old sins (2 Peter 1:9
To proceed to the next lesson, click hereDaily Bible Reading: Matthew 23
.... Acts 16 recalls the amazing story of the Philippian jailer, whose conversion holds many lessons for us all. In the beginning of this passage, Paul and Silas were under guard, locked within the inner prison and bound in the stocks for their faith -- yet they were singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.
.... Suddenly, at midnight, the whole prison was shaken and everyone’s bonds were loosed! The Philippian jailer, supposing that the prisoners had fled, was about to kill himself when Paul cried out to him with a loud voice and said: "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here!"
.... Trembling, the jailer came inside with a light and asked the apostles, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
.... "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."
.... The jailer brought them out of prison and washed their wounds; the apostles shared the gospel and washed away his sins. For when the jailer and his household heard the gospel, they all believed and were baptized at once.
.... In Scripture, everyone who believed the gospel was baptized immediately and this was no exception – even though the prison was shaken at midnight, the family was gatherered, and the gospel preached and received, so by this time it must have been at least one or two in the morning! Yet the jailer was gladly baptized , and he was still back at work the next morning at daybreak! (v 35). What a contrast with the lazy attitude of so many Christians today!
..... In 1998, I attended a church with several hundred members. The pastor spoke one morning on water baptism, and humbly called for every member who had not yet been baptized to come forward and do so during the evening service. Seventy-five persons came forward in response: a large percentage of the entire congregation.
.... Most of these persons had been Christians for many years! So what had been holding them back? And when I realized the truth, I found it disturbing. It was because, in their hearts, they were ashamed of the gospel of Christ; ashamed to humble themselves publicly in taking their stand for Him:
.... "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."
.... It was especially heartbreaking to compare the two sides of this equation. On Jesus' side of baptism, He took our sins on Himself, and all of their reproach, through the most brutal death imaginable. Yet in this process, He was not ashamed to call us His ‘brothers’ (Hebrews 2:11). So how could it be that on our own side of His death (which baptism represents), we are ashamed to take up His reproach? And after all, what is His reproach? Let us remember whose sins those were, that brought Him to such shame!
.... On that same evening, as I watched the long line of candidates make their way to the baptistry, the Lord brought another story to mind that dovetailed into this. In Mark chapter 5, Jesus was approached by Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, whose young daughter was dying. But as He went to heal her, a woman with an issue of blood pressed through the crowd and touched the hem of His garment, and was immediately healed. She received of His goodness; yet like those persons I mentioned, who had received His salvation so long ago, she quietly withdrew into the crowd and did not come forth to give Him glory. .
.... "And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, 'Who touched My clothes?' "
.... When she withdrew, Jesus stopped in His very tracks. Even though a young girl’s life was in the balance, He refused to go further. For He knew that virtue had gone out of Him, and He looked around in the crowd to see who had done this thing. Finally the woman, fearing and trembling, came and fell down before Him and declared the whole truth, publicly glorifyng God for the virtue she'd received from Him. And when she did, He allowed her to go in peace.
.... In a similar way, when we receive the virtue of salvation from Jesus, He requires us to come forward and glorify God through water baptism. Do not His eyes search our congregations still, for those who have held back so long and refused to come forward, who have hemmed and demurred for as long as they could, like those seventy-five on that night?
.... In Mark 5, as Jesus waited for the woman to glorify God, everything else was put on hold. The young girl who needed His ministry actually did die. Does this speak of how important it is to glorify Him properly, say, in following salvation with baptism? Might it explain some of the tragedic delays we have faced in our own churches, when we've needed the Lord’s hand, yet He seemed to tarry? But when the glory was given properly, healing broke forth and the young girl was raised from the dead.
.... So if you still have not been baptized, please think about this story and its testimony carefully, and humbly search your heart about it. And do not be like those others, who came in a group of seventy-five, to hide themselves in a crowd even then.
To proceed to the next lesson, click hereDaily Bible Reading: Matthew 22
Baptism: Substance or Symbolism?
.... In the days before the Protestant Reform- ation, the Catholic church taught salvation, essentially, through maintaining a regement of good works (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9). It was an attitude of earning one's salvation by sticking with the program. Then came Martin Luther, who proclaimed salvation by faith alone (sola fide), saying that it was a gift from God rather than something we earn from Him (Ephesians 2:8-9). A clear battle line seemed to be drawn.
.... Now, if you were a Catholic in those days, how would argue with a Protestant? You would probably try to find a hole in his beliefs that pointed to a need for works after all: "What about water baptism?" you might say. "Wouldn’t you say you would have to do something in order to be baptized?"
.... The alarmed Protestant would immediately sense a march on his premise. Holding up his palms defensively he would say. "Look, we are saved by faith alone," and would probably leave it at that. He'd be fearful of putting a feather in the Catholic’s cap. So from his point of view, the battle line is not so clear after all.
.... " . . . baptism . . . not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God -- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
(1 Peter 3:21)
.... Since the time of the Protestant Reformation, a vast theological no-man’s land has emerged between faith and works. Within this realm struggles every form of legitimate response to God, including such admirable qualities as loyalty, devotion, obedience and (in the case of water baptism,) ‘the answer of a good conscience toward God’ (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism, in particular, has been downplayed and reduced to an ‘optional’ status by many Protestants, who now seem to portray it as quaint ‘symbolism’ in order to dismiss it’s significance – to the shame of those who have done so.
.... Since the Protestant Reformation has been well under way for almost 500 years now, it is probably safe to assume that it is no longer too fragile to bear re-examination in such gray areas. In fact, there is good reason why we should do so. Because, in addition to forming a 'response' to God, those areas represent our side of building a relationship with Him, and this is something we shoudl not dismiss so easily.
. .... "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned."
.... So in this posting, let’s consider a simple yet controversial point. Is baptism merely symbolic, or does it actually serve a functional purpose? Opinions are widespread and, honestly, of no consequence, so let’s look at what the Scriptures have to say. We have listed a few below, then we’ll offer some elaboration in the ‘comments’ section, where I hope a lively discussion will follow:
.... "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
.... "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
To proceed to the next lesson, click here
Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 21
The Testimony of Jesus in Baptism
.... Water baptism is a very important step for every new believer, but we should especially understand God’s own perspective, beginning with the baptism of Jesus Himself. As John the Baptist said: "I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water." (John 1:31). So water baptism carries an important testimony of who Jesus is.
.... The baptism of Jesus was one of the most heavily prophesied events in the Old Testament, and to help us explore it's meaning Peter used some extensive ‘picture prophecy’ in an allegory:.
.... ". . . when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you-- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
(1 Peter 3:18-21 NAS)
.... In the days of Noah, the wickedness of man was very great on the earth, and the world was full of violence. And the Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men and saw that the way of all flesh had corrupted itself, for every intent of the thoughts of their heart was only evil continually. And the Lord said:
.... "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them."
Yet in His mercy, God spoke to Noah and warned him. Noah and his family would be spared from the wrath to come because they'd found grace in the eyes of the Lord – just as we ourselves would one day be saved by grace in Christ (Genesis 6:8
; Ephesians 2:8
God provided Noah with instructions for building the ark, the great vessel of His deliverance, which would represent Jesus Himself (see Joel 2:32
). Their lives would be sealed within to separate them from the world by death, and to bring them safely through to a new beginning (Genesis 7:16
; see 2 Corinthians 5:17
; Ephesians 1:13
; Colossians 2:11-12
.... "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened."
.... At this point it is important to understand the meaning of the flood waters in our parable. The Bible declares that ‘the wages of sin is death,’ and the destructive waters were the result of man’s sin (Romans 6:23). As they prevailed and rose, they represented the destruction of sin that had filled the whole earth, as in this very similar passage from the Prophet Isaiah:
.... ". . . for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth are shaken. The earth is violently broken, the earth is split open, the earth is shaken exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut; its transgression shall be heavy upon it, and it will fall, and not rise again."
.... As the flood waters -- the destruction of sin -- mounted higher than the highest mountains, let us perceive this allegorically as the great weight of man’s transgressions on the earth, enveloping all and sinking all life within it. Yet the ark prevailed, bouying higher, and preserved their souls alive, till the end of many days when it rested on the mountains of Ararat:
.... "Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided."
.... And it came to pass that Noah opened the window of the ark and sent forth a raven, which flew about continually and never returned to him. The raven represented the world that had been, which would not return but would also, in another sense, remain.
.... Again, Noah sent forth a dove, to see if the waters had receded from the ground. But the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot and returned to him in the ark, for the waters still remained on the face of the earth. In this very sad passage, Noah put out his hand again and took her, and drew her into the ark to himself – The Lord signifying by this that the destruction of sin remained in the earth, and that true rest would not be found in Noah’s own days.
.... After seven days, Noah sent forth the dove again. This time it came back to him in the evening, having a freshly plucked olive leaf in her mouth. And when Noah saw the dove, he knew that the waters had receded, that the destruction of sin had abated from the face of the earth:
.... Now, when Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended in the bodily form of a dove, and the meaning in our parable is the same. For in Jesus Christ, the destruction of sin has abated from off the face of the whole earth (John 1:29-33). For He is that true and great vessel of God’s deliverance, and in Him the sign of the prophet Noah was fulfilled.
.... Yet seven days more, and Noah sent out the dove again, and this time it did not return to him. The Lord signifying by this that one day He would return to take us away forever.
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Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 20
Our Attitude in Baptism
.... In most of our churches today, a candidate for water baptism will receive appropriate instructions in advance. He'll be told what baptism means in relation to the gospel, and he'll be told to bring a towel and a change of clothes. But baptism is also referred to as the ‘answer of a good conscience toward God,’ so more should be said about searching our hearts in our preparation (1 Peter 3:21).
.... To demonstrate this concept, let’s consider the example of the penitent thief, who was crucified along side of Jesus:
.... "Then one of the crimi- nals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, ‘If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.’ But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise’."
.... The penitent thief recognized Jesus as Lord, and humbly called on Him for mercy (Romans 10:13). In the fear of God, he repented of his sins; he knew that he was the one worthy of death, rather than Jesus, and he confessed his sins to Him. In fact he did all of this publicly, taking his stand for the Lord before the entire world – and in so doing, he obtained the promise of eternal life. In this story we are actually seeing a complete response to the gospel message. But what about the thief's water baptism? That is the most interesting facet of all: .... We know that water baptism is symbolic of a spiritual reality: that we have been joined with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection. And that is exactly what the thief was doing through the promise he obtained. For this man could have said quite literally:
.... "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
.... And when the prophet foretold this thief, by mentioning him in passing, he said that Jesus would "make His grave with the wicked." The important point was that they made their grave together. So again, in his story, we find the literal application of Biblical symbolism that we are ‘buried with Him through baptism’ (see Isaiah 53:9; Romans 6:4). .
.... Since water baptism is symbolic of the thief’s reality, we may argue that he had no need of the symbolic version. Rather than going through death alone, he made his grave with Jesus and would now be joined with Jesus in His own death and resurrection -- and in this manner he would pass from death into life with Him (John 5:24).
Should not this man's experience speak to us all about our own attitude and thoughts in water baptism? For in that sense he becomes a model for us all. Therefore let all baptismal candidates consider his example wisely and in like manner reckon themselves dead indeed to sin, but alive to God, through their faith in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and the act of our joining together with Him, for the Scriptures say we were baptized "into Christ" (Romans 6:3,11
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Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 19