Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Son's Ordination & Confirmation

Mark 1:10-11 reads:
And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Since Jesus came “up out of the water” one may be sure that He went down into the water. In other words, He was immersed. The Greek word translated “baptized” literally means to dip an object in water or some liquid. It does not mean to have the water/liquid placed on the object.
Immersion was the only form of baptism officially practiced by Christians until the 14th century. At the council of Ravenna in 1311 the Catholic Church recognized effusion: sprinkling or pouring. In volume one of his Matthew commentary John MacArthur quotes Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic theologian from that era: “In immersion the setting forth of the burial of Christ is more plainly expressed, in which this manner of baptizing is more commendable.” (John MacArthur, Matthew 1-7 (Chicago: Moody, 1985), 79.)

Christian baptism, which is the same as John’s baptism, is never done to signify cleansing. It does not cleanse sin, nor does it picture sins cleansed. Baptism is a symbol of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Christ’s baptism identified Him with sinners; illustrated the Cross, and provided an example for believer’s to follow. This event also marked the beginning of His earthly ministry. Mark records that after Jesus came “up out of the water…the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him” (Mark 1:10).

Why did the Spirit descend on Jesus in the form of a dove? Not because Jesus lacked the Spirit. In His incarnation God the Son never lost His divinity. He was always God in human form. Following His baptism the Spirit descended on Christ as a unique and public anointing. In a sense this was Jesus’ ordination. In His humanity God the Son was being anointed for service and strengthened for ministry by God the Father through God the Spirit. Just as the prophet Isaiah had predicted: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Isaiah 61:1; cf. Luke 4:18).

Why was Jesus Christ the Son of God baptized? To be identified with the sinners He came to redeem and the Cross upon which He came to die, to be ordained for His earthly ministry, and to be publicly confirmed by the Father: “And there came a voice from heaven, saying, ‘Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”

The Father's public approval of Christ was voiced on Jordan’s banks. This divine endorsement was not only for the purity of the thirty years preceding the baptism. This was an announcement that Jesus Christ was the acceptable sacrifice, the pure and spotless lamb without blemish.

No previous sacrifice had been completely satisfactory to God because no previous sacrifice was completely without blemish; no matter how carefully selected. Besides that, the Old Testament sacrifices were strictly symbolic and by no means sacramental. Hebrews 10:4 says, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.”

The OT sacrifices were a type pointing to the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. Jesus was that Lamb. John had preached of His coming and then pointed Him out to others. At His baptism God the Father confirmed the efficacy of Christ as the substitute. Listen to the words of the apostle Peter from 1 Peter 1:18-21,

“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.”

The Greek word agapetos is translated beloved” and this word is not only a declaration of affection, but it also carries the meaning of “the only one.” The Father’s announcement brings to mind another of Isaiah’s prophetic statements, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles” (42:1).

Only in the Son could the Father be fully well pleased. In Him were no imperfections. He was the perfect, sinless, and spotless substitute in whom God was delighted. The only reason that believers are a delight unto the Father is because they are found in the Son.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
  • Ephesians 1:6-7 – “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace”

Christ “always [did] those things that please[d] him [the Father].” (John 8:29) The Father is still pleased with the Son. He is the light of heaven, and the glory of eternity.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was baptized by John in the River Jordan. He was baptized not to identify Himself as a penitent sinner. Instead He was baptized to identify that He was the sinless One who had come die on the cross for sinners, and not just die on the cross but be raised from the grave. Christ’s baptism marked the commencement of His earthly ministry. Here the Son was empowered and ordained by the Spirit. Here also the Son was publicly confirmed by the Father. God the Father announced that He was well pleased in His Son, and only the Son could be well pleasing to the Father. All others fall terribly short of the mark (Romans 3:23-25; 5:15).

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