John Baptizes Jesus

Jesus was about to begin His public ministry, transitioning from being a carpenter to being an itinerant Rabbi, but were a couple of important things He had to do first. He couldn’t begin until He was “initiated” and had completed His “testing-period“.

No account of the life of Christ would be complete without His baptism by John the Baptist. As we saw last week, John the Baptist alluded to this event in John 1:31-34, so we are going to take a wee side-trip into Matthew 3 to pick up that narrative. We will follow that next week with Jesus’ temptation by Satan from Luke 4:1-13, before resuming our progress through John’s Gospel.

John the Baptist’s ministry…
Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight!’”

4 Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; 6 and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins. (Matthew 3:1-5)

John’s baptism was unique because he was calling for Jews to be baptized, not for ritual-purification, but as a symbol of spiritual-renewal. Jews used a ritual known as the “mikvah” whenever they were ceremonially-unclean. Gentiles also went through the mikvah when they converted to the Jewish faith.

Would John the Baptist be welcome in your church?

John baptizes Jesus
13 Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)

John was reluctant to baptize Jesus because he recognized that Jesus was the one person who had no need for repentance. but in order to “fulfill all righteousness“, Jesus had to be identified with His people as the bearer of their sins (2 Corin. 5:21). Ultimately John’s baptism pointed to Jesus, for only Jesus’ death on the cross, which He called a “baptism” (Luke 12:50), could take away sins. Jesus’ identification with His people included His baptism and death, His anointment with the Spirit, and His victory over temptation.

God’s kingdom (His sovereign rule in salvation and judgment) is defined by His righteousness. Jesus teaches the perfect righteousness that God requires (Matt. 5:20, 48); He also secures God’s righteousness for sinners. His baptism points to His death as “a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28) and shows the perfect obedience in which He fulfills all righteousness (Jer. 23:5, 6). Remission of sins and the gift of righteousness are received through faith in Jesus Christ (8:10; 23:23; cf. 21:32). Those who lack God’s righteousness, but hunger and thirst for it, will be filled (5:6; 6:23). Jesus calls those burdened with a load of self-righteousness to find their rest in Him (11:28-12:8).

To Fulfill All Righteousness?
That statement, which came from the lips of Jesus, would seem almost like an oxymoron, and yet that was the reason He gave to John the Baptist for requesting baptism. The sinless Son of God was “fulfilling all righteousness” by being baptized? How could that be?

Sit back, relax and buckle up for the tour, as we try to discover what He needed to be done with that act. The journey begins back in the Old Testament, where God gave Moses the instructions for consecrating priests. I also want to touch on why our own baptism should be such a wonderful, deeply-spiritual event.

As 21st century Christians, most of us haven’t been schooled in the Law of Moses. We know and understand the moral law – the Ten Commandments, but those are but the tip of the iceberg for a 1st century Jew. They were also schooled in and bound by the ceremonial law, which impacted virtually all facets of life. In a previous lesson, I mentioned circumcision and its importance and impact. Besides keeping the moral law perfectly, Jesus also kept the ceremonial law to the letter. I encourage you, if you haven’t done so already, to read the Pentateuch, because in my teaching and writings, I try to keep and portray a holistic view of the Bible without imposing 21st century culture on my interpretations.

Something that fails our understanding of worship in the Old Testament is how intimately-tied the Ceremonial Law was to their worship. God had called the children of Israel to be “set-apart“, a people who were markedly-different than their neighbors, and that included in their worship. We don’t quite “get” the difference between someone being “ceremonially-unclean” and something being “bad” or “wrong“, so it is quite easy for us to conclude that something which made a person “ceremonially-unclean” was “wrong”. Was it “bad” or “wrong” for a woman to have her monthly-period, or for a couple to have sex? Of course not, but both made them “ceremonially-unclean“, as did child-birth, which meant that they couldn’t participate in tabernacle or temple worship until they had gone through the necessary “purification“. (Leviticus 15:16-24) The Moral Law and the Ceremonial Law were known collectively as the Law of Moses.

Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle will pass from the Law until it is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

Jesus came to fulfill and keep both the Moral Law AND the entirety of the Ceremonial Law. The Law Giver came to be the perfect Law Keeper

According to the law…
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived. And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” (Luke 22:21-24)

There were no shortcuts in fulfilling the whole Law. Everything was done how and when it was supposed to be done, because Jesus was a “complete” Jew. In spite of being “hick-town” Jews, Galileans, Mary and Joseph were very conversant with the Law and kept it meticulously.

Circumcision is just another “medical procedure” to us, but it was the Rite of Passage to a Jewish boy. It visually-symbolized his inclusion in God’s covenant people, Israel. Jesus could not have been proclaimed to be “The King of the Jews” while He hung on the cross if He had not been circumcised.

Thirty years old…
Why did Jesus wait until he was thirty years old before he began his public ministry? (Luke 3:23) Priests and Levites were not allowed to enter temple-service until they were thirty years old. (Numbers 4:34-37)

Priestly consecration…
God gave very specific instructions to Moses regarding the consecration and installation of priests:

“Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve Me as priest.” (Exodus 40:12-13)

His baptism…
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so for now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)

Even though Jesus was not anointed with oil after His baptism, He was anointed with the Holy Spirit, which the oil symbolizes. Jesus, in His baptism, fully identified with His people, and willingly took on His role as our High Priest. As the water of baptism symbolically cleanses away sin, so Jesus, in entering the water of baptism, symbolically took upon Himself our sin and pollution.

Jesus – our High Priest…
Jesus was not descended from the priestly line of Aaron, the traditional Jewish priestly line. He was from the tribe of Judah, so He became a priest by special decree. “For it evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 7:14-17)

To fulfill all righteousness?
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, and being found in human form, he humbled himself by being obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)

Jesus, who is the eternal Word, laid-aside His divine glory and divine prerogatives, and became a human-being, a man, so that He could live the life we can not live, one of perfect obedience to His Father, and died the death that is rightfully ours, so that we may be clothed in His righteousness. He fulfilled ALL righteousness, because we can not do it for ourselves.

Why does it matter?
To come into the presence of God, we must be perfectly-holy, and a “clean-slate” isn’t good enough. Had Jesus only died for our sins, we would, at the moment of our salvation, be restored to a “pre-fall” condition, but the rest would be up to us. We must be righteous before God, which means that we must live a perfectly-holy life, but we can’t muster that for even one minute. Only by Jesus’ perfectly-holy life can His perfect-record become ours. When Jesus “fulfilled all righteousness“, He did for us what we cannot do for ourselves, make us righteous before God.

The Priesthood of all believers…
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

Baptism – our priestly consecration…
The 21st century church has forsaken the rich symbolism of baptism in the early church, and most people would be incensed if they had to strip naked in public and be baptized nude. Believers in the early church had no such cultural hangups, because they were thoroughly versed in the ceremonial practices of the Jewish faith and didn’t have the conveniences which we take for granted.. We miss out on the richness of the baptism rite, which was meant to symbolize, or reproduce, the consecration and anointing of priests in the Old Testament.

The putting off of the old garment symbolizes putting off the old man, our old, pre-believer self. The washing with water (baptism) symbolizes being cleansed, purified for holy service. The anointing with oil symbolizes the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Putting on a new, clean garment symbolizes being covered with the righteousness of Christ. It symbolizes a complete transformation, because once a priest, always a priest…a perpetual priesthood, under our great High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Even if we haven’t gone through the whole baptism rite, we must understand what our baptism symbolizes – becoming a kingdom of priests to our God and Father.

Have you been consecrated for holy service?

Sola Deo Gloria!
Steve

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Unity…

Is it any wonder that the Church seems powerless? Is it any wonder that the Church seems to be having less and less impact on society? Is it any wonder that there are more and more “churches” but fewer and fewer Christians? We all claim to be Brothers and Sisters in Christ, but you would never know it by the way we act. Where has our Unity gone?

The more the New Testament church spread, the less unity it exhibited. By the time the Apostle Paul came back to Jerusalem in Acts 15, the seeds of discord had already been sown.

Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. (Acts 15:1-2)

What followed that was the Jerusalem Council, which was convened to iron out their differences and formulate a uniform “standard“. The legalists were already making their voices heard and their presence felt.

Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.” (Acts 15:5)

If the legalists had their way, “salvation by grace through faith” would have been replaced by “Get circumcised, and keep the Law of Moses” so you can be saved. Do you remember the Pharisees from “Traditions…”?

“Issues”…
There are a lot if “issues” which divide Christians, even though we claim to read and believe the same Bible, and first “issue” is about which translation/Bible is the “real” Bible.

Bibles…
How can we have so many “Bibles” when they are all supposedly translated from the same “original” documents? Do the same original words mean different things to different people? Every church and denomination has its favorite. A few of the more familiar ones are:

King James (KJV) – because the “Apostles spoke King James English“. Many Baptist churches are KJV-only.

New King James (NKJV) – King James without the obsolete language.

New American Standard (NASB) – an updated translation using more modern English, and favored by many Reformed churches.

New International Version (NIV) – an updated translation done by an international group of scholars.

English Standard Version (ESV) – came on the scene recently, and is favored by many Reformed churches.

Even though this should be a “non-issue“, many churches and denominational-groups make it one.

Baptism…
I heard a “Reformed-Baptist” pastor say “Every time the word “baptize” is used, it should be translated “immerse”. Is how a person was baptized more important than that they WERE baptized? Many churches, particularly Baptist Churches, believe that it IS a BIGDEAL how a person was baptized, because they believe that a person hasn’t really been baptized until they have been immersed. I could never be a “member” of one of those Baptist churches because I was sprinkled, rather than being immersed.

Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) churches accept all modes of baptism as valid, even though they traditionally use sprinkling for baptisms. Is it any wonder that many PCA churches are “melting-pots“, welcoming people from many different religious-backgrounds?

Eschatology…
Why do so many churches and Bible-scholars think it is SO important to analyze every scrap of prophesy to pin down “exactly” how and when the End-times events are going to happen? Do they not have anything better to do, such as spreading the Good News of the Gospel? Can’t we accept that Jesus said that He didn’t even know the time-line? Can’t we just allow God to be God, and leave it to Him to determine how and when?

The Evangelical-Free Church has their eschatology-position as the last point in their ten-point Statement of Faith, and every candidate for church office must agree to all ten points. My wife and I were members of an E-Free church for a while, but I didn’t agree with that last point, so I couldn’t be an officer. The E-Free denomination courted my dad to become an E-Free pastor, but he also didn’t agree with their eschatology position. They missed-out on a very well-studied and scholarly pastor.

God’s desire for unity…

How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.
(Psalm 133)

The reference here is to the special oil which God commanded His people to make and use ONLY for holy purposes. Aaron, the first High Priest, was anointed with this special oil when God ushered-in worship in the just-completed Tabernacle in the wilderness.

The “dew of Herman falling on Mount Zion” represents God’s blessing when His people live together in unity. That is how much God values unity…

Is it any wonder that the Church seems powerless? Is it any wonder that the Church seems to be having less and less impact on society? Is it any wonder that there are more and more “churches” but fewer and fewer Christians? We all claim to be Brothers and Sisters in Christ, but you would never know it by the way we act. Where has our Unity gone?

Isn’t it time we quit bickering about things that don’t matter and get on with fulfilling the Great Commission?

In Christ,
Steve

To Fulfill All Righteousness…

That statement, which came from the lips of Jesus, would seem almost like an oxymoron, and yet that was the reason He gave to John the Baptist for requesting baptism. The sinless Son of God was “fulfilling all righteousness” by being baptized? How could that be? Sit back, relax and buckle up for the tour, as we try to discover what He needed to be done with that act. The journey begins back in the Old Testament, where God gave Moses the instructions for consecrating priests. I also want to touch on why our own baptism should be such a wonderful, deeply-spiritual event.

As 21st century Christians, most of us haven’t been schooled in the Law of Moses. We know and understand the moral law – the Ten Commandments, but those are but the tip of the iceberg for a 1st century Jew. They were also schooled in and bound by the ceremonial law, which impacted virtually all facets of life. In a previous post I mentioned circumcision and its importance and impact. Besides keeping the moral law prefectly, Jesus also kept the ceremonial law to the letter. I encourage you, if you haven’t done so already, to read the Pentateuch, because in my writings, I try to keep and portray a wholistic view of the Bible without imposing 21st century culture on my interpretations.

Something that fails our understanding of worship in the Old Testament is how intimately-tied the Ceremonial Law was to their worship. God had called the children of Israel to be “setapart“, a people who were markedly-different than their neighbors, and that included in their worship. We don’t quite “get” the difference between being “ceremonially-unclean” and something being “bad” or “wrong“, so it is quite easy for us to conclude that something which made a person “ceremonially-unclean” was wrong. Was it “bad” or “wrong” for a woman to have her monthly-period, or for a couple to have sex? Of course not, but both made them “ceremonially-unclean“, which meant that they couldn’t participate in tabernacle or temple worship until they had gone through the necessary “purification“. (Leviticus 15:16-24) The Moral Law and the Ceremonial Law were known collectively as the Law of Moses.

Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle will pass from the Law until it is accomplished.”(Matthew 5:17-18)

Jesus came to fulfill and keep both the Moral Law AND the entirety of the Ceremonial Law. The Law Giver came to be the perfect Law Keeper…

According to the law…

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived. And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” (Luke 22:21-24)

There were no shortcuts in fulfilling the whole Law. Everything was done how and when it was supposed to be done, because Jesus was a “complete” Jew.

Circumcision is just another “medical procedure” to us, but it was the Rite of Passage to a Jewish boy. It visually-symbolized his inclusion in God’s covenant people, Israel. Jesus could not have been proclaimed to be “The King of the Jews” while He hung on the cross if He had not been circumcised.

Thirty years old…

Why did Jesus wait until he was thirty years old before he began his public ministry? (Luke 3:23) Priests and Levites were not allowed to enter temple-service until they were thirty years old. (Numbers 4:34-37)

Priestly consecration…

God gave very specific instructions to Moses regarding the consecration and installation of priests. “Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve Me as priest.” (Exodus 40:12-13)

His baptism…

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so for now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)

Even though Jesus was not anointed with oil after His baptism, He was anointed by the Holy Spirit, which the oil symbolizes. Jesus, in His baptism, fully identified with His people, and willingly took on His role as our High Priest.

Jesus – our High Priest…

Jesus was not descended from the priestly line of Aaron, the traditional Jewish priestly line. He was from the tribe of Judah, so He became a priest by special decree. “For it evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructable life. For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 7:14-17)

To fulfill all righteousness?

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, and being found in human form, he humbled himself by being obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the nake that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)

Jesus lived the life we can not live, one of perfect obedience to His Father, and died the death that is rightfully ours, so that we may be clothed in His righteousness. He fulfilled ALL righteousness, because we can not do it for ourselves.

The Priesthood of all believers…

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

Baptism – our priestly consecration…

The 21st century church has forsaken the rich symbolism of baptism in the early church, and most people would be incensed if they had to strip naked in public and be baptized nude. Believers in the early church had no such cultural hangups, because they were thoroughly versed in the ceremonial practices of the Jewish faith and didn’t have the conveniences which we take for granted.. We miss out on the richness of the baptism rite, which was meant to symbolize, or reproduce, the consecration and anointing of priests in the Old Testament.

The putting off of the old garment symbolizes putting off the old man, our old, pre-believer self. The washing with water(baptism) symbolizes being cleansed, purified for holy service. The anointing with oil symbolizes the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Putting on a new, clean garment symbolizes being covered with the righteousness of Christ. It symbolizes a complete transformation, because once a priest, always a priest…a perpetual priesthood, under our great High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Even if we haven’t gone through the whole baptism rite, we must understand what our baptism symbolizes – becoming a kingdom of priests to our God and Father.

Have you been consecrated for holy service?

In Christ,

Steve

Reformed…and Reforming…

While I am in one sense “Reformed“, in that I believe and subscribe to the doctrines of grace, the great creeds, and reformed theology, I am in a real sense reforming…being re-formed. As I read and study God’s Word, the Bible, I have an urgent desire to know God better, and to understand His Word more completely. I do not want to remain stagnant…stationary.

We sometimes think that if we just read enough books by Christian authors, we will come to know God better and His word more completely. Unfortunately the opposite is usually true. Rather than going to the SOURCE…God’s Word, we are influenced by what someone THINKS God’s Word means. We may even be influenced by some of their heresies or cultural interpretations…

“Re”-“Form “…

Re: The prefix “re” simply means to “do-again“. We “reuse“…”recycle“…”remodel“…”repaint“, and the list goes on. In every case, we are “doing-again” something that has already been done.

Form: A “form” is a mold in which something is made.

Reform: To “reform” is to make changes in (something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it.

Those who are in the Reformed “tradition” are often proud that they “have it right“…maybe too proud. If they are not willing to “reform” by bringing their theology more closely in line with the SOURCE… the Bible, they are letting “tradition” govern their theology, not God’s Word.

Working our way to the source…

Imagine wanting to know what pure water looks and tastes like…

  • The first source is a stagnant pond… How pure is it?
  • Next, we come to a mighty river, that just passed a sewage-treatment plant… How pure is it?
  • Next, we go upstream past that industrial district… How pure is it?
  • Maybe we get tired of the river, because there isn’t much clean, pure water there. Granted…the closer we get to the headwaters, the cleaner it gets…but…it still has feeders…
  • Next, we go to a stream that is fed by melting snow. It seems to be pretty clean, and even tastes good, but it has already passed several places where wildlife have drunk from it. How pure is it?
  • The closer we get to the snow-pack…the source, the cleaner and purer that water becomes. How pure is it really? How clean was that snow?
  • But what if that stream is fed by a spring…water bubbling up from the ground? The closer we get to THAT source, the truly-purer it becomes, and when we get to the spring, we are at the SOURCE!

Thus should be our study of God’s word…going to the SOURCE. As we are looking for the Water of Life, we must go to the source of living-water – God, as revealed in His Word. Secondary sources may get us close, but they are not the true SOURCE.

Example…

I have been attending a connect group from our church. Each Wednesday morning, we meet to read the Scripture and discuss the sermon from the previous Sunday’s worship service. It is a conservative (reformed) Presbyterian church, so by and large, they have their theology pretty straight. Unfortunately some Gnostic heresy has crept into the church and its theology. I was raised in that kind of environment, so I have a pretty good feel for what most people believe…and what I have believed also.

A few weeks ago, the topic of God’s image in us came up. Everyone could readily come up with the spiritual parts of God’s image in us, but when I mentioned that our bodies are ALSO created in God’s image, the leader recoiled in horror. Even though, given enough time to do so, I could have shown from the Bible that what I said was true, I let it go at that, since it was really a side-topic in discussion, (1 John 1:1-4). or is it?

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.

The leader’s response confirmed what I already suspected, that they had been influenced by the Gnostic heresy. They have been…even in a “Reformed” church culture.

The core Gnostic theology is “spirit/knowledge=GOOD, body/material world = BAD“.

One of the big drivers this book by the Apostle John was to refute that Gnostic heresy, which said that Jesus Christ didn’t REALLY become flesh…become human, that He only APPEARED to be human. John starts by presenting the physical-evidence for the full-humanity of Jesus Christ. He has HEARD Him…he has SEEN Him…he has OBSERVED Him…he has TOUCHED Him, and it doesn’t get any more real than that.

While nobody who calls themselves “Reformed” would even subscribe to THAT heresy, they have still been influenced by it in more subtle ways.

Some of my “reformings”

I want to explain briefly some of the ways in which my theology has, and is being “reformed” by my study of the Bible.

Baptism…I was taught that the Presbyterian (Old Testament) way is by sprinkling. Pastors, including my dad, have pointed to certain passages in the Old Testament where certain ceremonial-cleansings have been done by sprinkling. They have claimed that the Baptists simply pulled a few words from where Jesus was baptized and formed their whole theology around them. I believed that for many years…

The problem is that there is far more Jewish and early-church history that supports immersion, including historical drawings, and very little that supports sprinkling. Oops

Early Christian converts were immersed…NUDE.

Circumcision…Anyone with even a little bit of knowledge of the Old Testament knows that the sign of circumcision was given by God to Abraham, as a visible symbol of inclusion in God’s covenant people. “Why circumcision?“, we may ask. How could it be a “visible” sign, because it was in such a “private” place? What was the “big-deal” after all? What IS circumcision?

Circumcision is the surgical-removal of the foreskin from a boy’s or man’s penis, permanently exposing the head of it. It is permanent, and thus a permanent sign. In our society, the penis is considered to be a “private-part“, but that wasn’t the case in Jewish society. We have indoor, private, restroom facilities. They didn’t, because there were no “one-bathroom” tents. Every time a boy or man had to relieve himself, he had to go to the public latrine area, because God had given specific regulations about where those “facilities” had to be. When a boy or man had to bathe himself, he had to go to the communal bath-facilities. Sorry, but no private showers back then. As if to reinforce the “public-ness” of a boy’s or man’s circumcision, God had also given specific regulation about WHEN those bathes were required. BTW, the ladies weren’t exempt from those bathing requirements. (Leviticus 15)

The “King of the Jews”…
That was what the sign that was place above Jesus on the cross said, however if Jesus had not been a Jew, and had not been circumcised, it would have been immediately obvious. As prophesy had foretold, and as was the Roman custom, Jesus was crucified NAKED, not with that cute little “loin-cloth” artists frequently paint on Him. His penis…His circumcision, was exposed in all its naked glory. That is how He could be proclaimed as “The King of the Jews“.

Yes, it WAS a big-deal, and yes, it WAS a visible sign.

Image of God…

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:8-9)

It is a bit difficult to create something in one’s own image, if there is nothing to base that image on. For someone to recoil at the mention of our bodies being created in God’s image shows just how insidious that Gnostic heresy is, and how deeply it has penetrated our churches.

The late Pope John Paul ll, while he was still an arch-bishop, developed a “Theology of the Body“, which was truly a landmark work in our understanding of God’s image in mankind. Great Bible-scholarship is not limited to certain denominations or schools of thought.

Nakedness in the Bible…

Since I have dealt with this in several other previous posts, I am not going to say much here. Nakedness is NEVER shameful in the Bible, and when there is shame attached, that shame is related to a sinful action or adverse situation. Nakedness or nudity was very common in the Old Testament, and was something nobody even gave a second-thought to. If our Savior was be crucified naked, with no shame of His own, why do our churches and our society make such a big deal of simple-nudity?

Reformed…and Reforming…

I am no longer content with “Thus saith tradition“. I want to know “Thus saith the Lord“. I pray that is your earnest desire as well. On that baptism…if I ever get the opportunity to be baptized in the same way as our Lord Jesus Christ was…naked, and all the way under, it will be my privilege to follow Him in baptism.

God bless!