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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

John the Baptist -- New Witness -- Water and Spirit Baptism

        After introducing Jesus as the Lamb of God, John the Baptist said in John 1:30-31, “This is the One I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.' I myself did not know Him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that He might be revealed to Israel.” John the Baptist knew Jesus naturally because he was Jesus' cousin. He didn't know Jesus' spiritual position until He saw the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove come down from heaven and rest upon Jesus. Once God revealed this to John the Baptist, he pointed people to Christ—the Divine Prophet, High Priest, Shepherd, Teacher and Evangelist. Jesus in His incarnate Body was the Supreme of the fivefold gifts that He gives His Body to build His temple – Apostle, Prophet, Teacher, Pastor and Evangelist. John the Baptist knew that Jesus was greater than him and was before him as the Eternal One.
       John the Baptist, a Jewish prophet and priest, continually exalted Jesus and reduced his own importance. John the Baptist had a large ministry and following, but he encouraged his disciples and others to take their eyes off of him and put them onto Jesus. He wanted his disciples to know that Jesus was everything, and he was nothing next to Him. John the Baptist had been the one the Jews honored and respected as a prophet of God, but John now tells them to give their honor and affection to Jesus. John was willing to move from his number one position among his disciples and take second place to Jesus. The Holy Spirit in John from birth gave him the power and love to do this. John now wanted his disciples and others to attach to Christ. Those who are in ministry with Christ must also be particularly careful not to draw people to themselves but must always give Christ the glory and the recognition. Any ministry we do is solely because of Jesus and the Holy Spirit within us. Therefore, any ministry we do is His ministry through His Body. Our gifts and ministry are the Godhead's gift to us, therefore we cannot take any glory or credit for it. Without Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, we wouldn't have a ministry. We can all – both Jew and Gentile – learn from John the Baptist.

Water Baptism

        Mark 1:1-3 quotes Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 to show that these scriptures are about to be fulfilled by John the Baptist. John was preaching in a wilderness region, not in the temple! He was God's messenger and voice who would prepare the way for the full revelation of God in His incarnate Son Jesus.
        John's outward appearance was unattractive. He wore the humble camel's hair garment of a prophet just like Elijah. In spite of his appearance, John the Baptist had tremendous influence on the multitudes. Luke 1:5 says “the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him.” They came to hear John the Baptist's message. The Land that was lukewarm spiritually when Jesus and John the Baptist were born is now having a great spiritual awakening. However, the established religious leadership didn't like John's message and were against him.  This didn't deter John.  He was bold and courageous in speaking the truth.
          John the Baptist baptized in the water of the Jordan River. The Jordan River is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Jordan in Hebrew (yarden) means “the descender.” The Jordan River flows from the highest place in God's Land down to the Dead Sea. The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus from the highest place in the heavens after John baptized Him in the Jordan River. Because of Jesus' sacrifice, the Holy Spirit also descends upon us.
          Water baptism cleansed the outside of a person, but it could not cleanse within a person so he or she would remain spiritually clean. However, the spiritual water of the Word and the Holy Spirit can. Jesus always takes the external into the internal. Jesus and the Holy Spirit want to cleanse our hearts and minds. John's water baptism was in preparation to meet Christ. The Law had many external “washing” requirements for the Jew for purification and for ministering before the Lord in the temple. Jesus, although sinless and not in need of cleansing, had John baptize Him “to fulfill all righteousness.” Matthew 3:15   In other words, Jesus did it once-for-all! We are the righteousness of God in Christ. If we are “in Him” and He abides in us, then we have His righteousness.
          John's authority to baptize was not from men. (see Matthew 21:23-32) It was from God. John's baptism was in water but Jesus would soon baptize with a spiritual baptism in the Spirit. John's baptism was not to be superficial. It required deep remorse for sin. John's baptism included 1) confession of sin (Matthew 3:6); 2) forgiveness of sin (Mark 1:4) and 3) true repentance (Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:4). This is in preparation to meet Jesus and establish His Kingdom on earth. The result of true repentance would be reflected in a change of heart and life. True faith in Jesus will become evident through lives that forsake sin and bear godly fruit. God wants to raise us to His level, not bring Him down to ours! The Bride of Christ is also to be prepared to meet Jesus. (see Revelation 21:2)  
           John saw that the Pharisees and Sadducees were taking his baptism lightly, so he rebuked them. “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” Matthew 3:7-8 True repentance would produce the fruit of righteousness. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were two of the most prominent religious groups of Judaism. Their religion was outward in form with no inward change of heart. They refused to acknowledge the depravity of their fleshly nature and their need for a Savior. They thought that the fact that they were descendants of Abraham would give them a place in heaven. John said, “And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.'” John the Baptist told them not to even think this way. Jesus made it clear that there was no other way to the Father except through Him. Natural heritage cannot get you there.

Coming of the Holy Spirit

          To further assure the people that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, John the Baptist says that he “saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Him.” John 1:32 John saw this with his own eyes. John goes on to say, “I would not have known Him except that the One who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The Man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” vv 33-34 God revealed to John the Baptist how His Son would be identified. There was no doubt in John's mind about Jesus' identity.
           As soon as Jesus came up out of the waters of baptism in the Jordan River, the “heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove came down and remained on Him.” What happened to Jesus will happen to all who love and serve Him. But first, Jesus must die, be resurrected and ascend to the Father. Jesus has to make us holy so the Holy Spirit can dwell in us. Jesus always did in the “natural,” what He would do in the “supernatural.” 
          The New Testament water baptism is symbolic of Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension as well as the death of our fleshly ways, new resurrection life through Jesus and ascension to His higher ways. Jesus always wants to take us higher.  The devil wants to bring us down further and further into the dirt of the earth which is where he will abide forever, but Jesus wants to take us higher to His dwelling place.  If believers of Christ allowed every decision, action and word to be determined as if we were standing alone before God and wanting to please Him, our lives would be radically changed. When we allow our flesh to take over and sin against Him, we are hindered from living at the highest level God has for us.
        The background in scripture of the Holy Spirit finding a place to permanently rest its feet is foreshadowed in the account of Noah in the ark. I always like to take you back into the Older Testament scriptures so you can see how God fulfilled them through His Son Jesus, and that God's ways don't change. In Noah's time, God had sent the waters of destruction to cleanse the earth of its wickedness, but He also made sure Noah and his family were safe in the Ark. These waters sent by God both destroyed but also saved and cleansed just as the waters of the Red Sea saved God's people but destroyed their enemies. The water of the Word and Holy Spirit also are double-edged. They will burn sin out of us and destroy the works of the enemy, but they will also save and mature us into men an women of God. In Revelation 19:13-18, Jesus waged war against His enemies with His Word, (which is also His Name in this scripture), and His blood.  
            At His appointed time, God sent the wind to stop the waters of judgment and destruction at the time of Noah. The Hebrew word for wind is ruach meaning Spirit or breath of God. Jesus who is the true Ark of Salvation calmed the stormy waters by His powerful Anointed Word. He gives us the power of His Word and Holy Spirit so we can resist wickedness and restrain evil also. As we glean in His Word, we will be comforted and at peace during the storms of life.
            Noah's Ark rested on the highest place in the land. Mount Ararat was 17,000 feet high. The waters of judgment receded gradually just as the water of the Word and Holy Spirit remove sin in us gradually. Jesus reversed the waters of judgment into waters of grace, mercy and truth. Our rest is now in Jesus who is in the highest place with the Father. Noah sent a dove out of the one window (light) in the Ark to see if the waters had fully stopped. Then he sent out a dove from him to see if the water abated from the face of the land; but the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, so she returned to him into the Ark, for the water was on the surface of all the earth. Then Noah put out his hand and took her, and brought her into the Ark to himself. Genesis 8:8-9 The dove returned to Noah because there was no place to rest the sole of her feet. The waters were not fully abated. Once again, God fulfilled these scriptures in Jesus. Jesus abated the waters of God's judgment and destruction on the cross. The waters of judgment became waters of grace and truth in Christ bringing us blessing, not cursing. Those who abide in Christ are eternally saved because He is Eternal.
           At the time of Noah, the heavens were opened and God's judgment was poured out upon all flesh, but in Jesus the water of the Holy Spirit was poured out on God's people in power, life and blessing. Jesus received the dove of the Holy Spirit to Himself, just as Noah received the dove to himself. As Noah sent the dove out a second time and it returned with an olive branch signifying new life, Jesus in the second testament sent the Holy Spirit to bring new spiritual life to all who believe in Him. Jesus was born with the Holy Spirit within. The Holy Spirit was not only within Jesus in fullness, He also rested upon Him forever. The Holy Spirit is also within and without followers of Christ. He is without protecting, leading and guiding. He is within cleansing, teaching, transforming and disciplining. By abiding in Jesus, His glory and Holy Spirit abide in us eternally.
              John the Baptist had previously announced that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away sin. Now the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove rested upon Jesus. The Jews present should have understood these signs because a lamb or a dove were the sacrifices for atonement of sin according to the Law.
            Noah sent the dove out a second time. This time the dove returned to Noah at evening with an olive branch in its beak. The olive branch represented new life. The waters of destruction have abated and new life has come. The dove returned to Noah in the evening (darkness). Jesus and the Holy Spirit come to us when we are still in darkness to bring us new, spiritual life. Jesus abated the waters of God's judgment and sent the power of the Holy Spirit to bring us to new spiritual life.
             Noah waited 7 days and sent the dove out a third time. This time, the dove never returned. This is a picture of eternity when the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit have restored all to the original holy condition. In Noah's releasing of the dove, there were three periods of 7 days. 777 is the number of the fullness of the Godhead and spiritual perfection. In the New Jerusalem, there is only one river that flows from the Father and the Son. This river is the Holy Spirit. There are no seas or rivers there. All that is needed to maintain spiritual life in the New Jerusalem is the Holy Spirit and Word.  
          The Ark of Noah carried him and his family to resurrection ground. Jesus does the same for those who love and follow Him.


          How rich is God's grace, which He has given to us so fully and freely. Ephesians 1:7-8

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