Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Baptism of John

The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men?” (Luke 20:4 NKJV). 

     John was known as ho baptistēs (the “baptist” or “baptizer”) (Matt. 3:1).1 The English word “baptism” is a transliteration of the Greek noun baptisma (verb baptizō), which biblically means to plunge, submerge, or immerse in water (cf. Mark 1:5, 8-10; John 3:23). All candidates of John’s baptism already had faith in God and were then called upon to believe on Christ Jesus for whom John was preparing the way (John 1:15, 23; Acts 19:4).
     Those immersed by John came “confessing their sins” (Matt. 3:6), and the baptism he preached was “a baptism of repentance” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; cf. Matt. 3:2, 11). Biblically defined, repentance involves (a) godly sorrow, (b) turning from sin, (c) turning to God, and (d) an observable reformation of life (Matt. 3:8; Luke 1:17; 3:8; cf. Acts 3:19, 26; 26:18-20; 2 Cor. 7:9-10). While multitudes submitted to the baptism John preached, many did not (Matt. 3:7; 21:25, 32; Luke 7:30b). To reject John’s message and the baptism it included was to reject “the will of God” (Luke 7:30a; cf. 20:4). 
     John’s baptism was “a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4; cf. Luke 1:77; 3:3).2 So how did this work, seeing that there is no remission without the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22), the blood of animals could not take away sins (Heb. 10:4), and Jesus’ blood had not yet been shed? When the Lord was crucified, forgiveness was made available to everyone through his blood (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:28; 10:12), including all who were faithful to God before Christ’s death (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 9:15; Gal. 4:4-5). John’s disciples, as penitent baptized believers, were thus forgiven in view of the Lord’s atoning sacrifice. 
     This “baptism of repentance for the remission of sins,” administered by John and then by Jesus and his disciples (John 3:5, 22-26; 4:1-2), laid the groundwork for the establishment of Christ’s church. Note that John’s ministry was intended “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). On the Day of Pentecost after the Lord’s resurrection and ascension, penitent believers whose sins were remitted at baptism “were added to them” (Acts 2:41). To whom were they added? They would have been added to the faithful disciples of Jesus who had already undergone a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (cf. Acts 1:13-15).3 
     Following the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, John’s baptism gave way to baptism in the likeness of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5; cf. Eph. 2:1-6; 4:5). John the baptizer had fulfilled his purpose of preparing the way for the Lord (cf. Luke 1:16-17, 76), and Jesus had completed his work of atonement. Now it was time for the next phase of God’s scheme of redemption to be initiated through the Spirit-guided apostles (John 15:25-26; 16:12-13). Baptizing penitent believers for the remission of sins was now an essential step in the disciple-making process (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38). 
     Over two decades after the Pentecost event, an Alexandrian Jew named Apollos was still teaching the baptism of John in the Asian city of Ephesus until he was shown the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:24-26). When Paul arrived on the scene, he found twelve disciples who had been immersed “into John’s baptism,” and he immersed them again (Acts 19:1-7), apparently because they had received the limited instruction of John’s baptism (by Apollos?) when it was no longer in effect. 
     The baptisms before the cross were preparatory for God’s approaching kingdom (Matt. 3:1-6; John 3:1–4:2), and Christ’s death on the cross was the transitional point between the old covenant of the Jews and his own new covenant system (Col. 2:14; Heb. 9:15-17). Because John effectively prepared the way for the Lord in “all the region around the Jordan” (Luke 3:3; cf. John 1:28; 3:23, 26),4 the teaching and influence of Jesus readily extended further into Galilee, as far north as Syria, as far south as Idumea, and eastward beyond the Jordan in Decapolis and Perea (Matt. 4:23-25; Mark 3:7-8). From here the gospel of the kingdom would then be taken “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:3, 8). “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matt. 11:11). 
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 See also Matt. 11:11, 12; 14:2, 8; 16:14; 17:13; Mark 6:24, 25; 8:28; Luke 7:20, 28, 33; 9:19; cf. F. Josephus, Antiquities 18.5.2.
     2 Why did Jesus undergo John’s baptism (Mark 1:9-11)? Jesus was not baptized for the remission of sins, since he had no sin (Heb. 4:15). Jesus was baptized “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15), i.e. it was the right thing for him to do. He set an example for his followers, none of whom could legitimately say, “I reject baptism because Jesus wasn’t baptized.” Jesus’ baptism was not necessarily for his own benefit but apparently for the benefit of those around him.
     3 Baptism as a requisite of entering God’s kingdom was observed prior to the Day of Pentecost (Matt. 21:31-32; Luke 3:3; 16:16; John 3:5, 22-23) and continued thereafter (Acts 8:12).
     4 “Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:4; cf. Matt. 3:5-6). This statement appears to be hyperbolic, seeing that not everyone in the region submitted to John’s baptism (cf. Luke 7:30), but his influence was widespread among a variety of people, including tax collectors and soldiers (Luke 3:12, 14; 7:29).

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Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Lord is the Spirit

     Does 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 teach that the Lord Jesus is the same Person as the Holy Spirit? The text reads: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (ESV). This passage makes reference to to pneuma (“the spirit”) and kuriou pneumatos (“spirit of [the] Lord”) but does not explicitly allude to “the Holy Spirit.” In fact, the Bible makes a clear distinction between Jesus and the Holy Spirit as separate divine Persons (13:14; John 14:26; etc.).
     The Greek word pneuma (“spirit”) is employed in various ways in the NT, including wind (John 3:8), breath (2 Thess. 2:8), both righteous and wicked spirit beings (Matt. 8:16; Heb. 1:14), the essence of God (John 4:24), the Holy Spirit (Matt. 4:1), and the inner person (Acts 7:59; 17:16); the context must therefore determine its usage.
     In the third chapter of 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul, having alluded to his own restless “spirit” [pneuma] (2:13), metaphorically describes the Corinthian church as an epistle of Christ, not literally written with ink or on stone but on human hearts with the “spirit” of the living God (v. 3). It is not the physical writing but the spiritual message of Christ’s new covenant that makes spiritual life accessible (v. 6). In vv. 7-16 Christ’s new covenant system (“the ministry of the spirit” [v. 8] = “the ministry of righteousness” [v. 9]) is contrasted with the physical, external, ritualistic and obsolete old-covenant-system of Moses (“the ministry of death” [v. 7] = “the ministry of condemnation” (v. 9]).
     When Paul says, “now the Lord is the spirit” (v. 17), which spirit has he been talking about? His theme has not been the Holy Spirit per se but the source of spiritual life, emanating from “the living God” (v. 3) “through Christ” (v. 4). The new covenant of Jesus Christ, in contrast to the old covenant of Moses, is now the source of spiritual life (v. 6). Note the contrast: “the ministry of death” (v. 7) vs. “the ministry of the spirit” (v. 8). It is the Lord [Christ], not Moses, who is the life-giving spirit.
--Kevin L. Moore

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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Confronting Porn Addiction with the Sword of the Spirit

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:14-24).

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:13-15).

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9); “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him ” (Colossians 1:10).

“Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:22-23).

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:16-17).

“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil” (Isaiah 1:16).

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

“Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression” (Psalm 19:13).

*All scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.

--Kevin L. Moore

Related articles: John Stonestreet's Latest numbers on porn; Jason Hardin's Fight for Mental Purity; Sam Guzman's Lust Won: How Porn Destroyed My Marriage

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