Was the Baptism of Christ Recorded in the Gospels a Useless Ritual?

Jordan RiverBaptism is one of the most disputed subject matters within the denominational world.  Many denominations claim that the act of baptism is”an outward sign of inward testimony”as if a simple confession in front of others would not accomplish the same thing.

One would have to ask: why would God have me do useless rituals that serve no real purpose?

Before we attempt to answer this question in this blog, we will first take a look at Christ’s example.

Christ’s Baptism

While Christ’s baptism is recorded in the first 3 gospels.  Let’s examine Matthew 3:13-1713 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

In looking at  verse 13 in the passage above let’s interject the notion of “baptism as an outward sign of an inward testimony.”  Why would John utter the words:  “I need to be baptized by you” if baptism was just a simple ritual?  This statement alone suggests that it was not a ritual.  In fact we can clearly see from his statement that John recognized that Christ was superior to himself.

What should certainly peak the interest of the reader next is the fact that Christ then uttered the words: “let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness”.  To those who have shut off their minds to accepting all truth from God’s word, this would be useless babbling or “Jesus talk”.  However, the answer is clear: Christ lead by example and never asked anyone to do something that he wouldn’t do himself regardless of whether he personally needed the activity.  The sign of a true leader.

Baptism was clearly a step toward being in right standing with God.  In fact after Jesus completed the act of baptism we can see in verse 16 that the Holy Spirit then came upon him.  We see this same process for Christians in Acts 2:38 when Peter is addressing a crowd of people on the Day of Pentecost:  38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism is a Step in the Process of Fulfilling All Righteousness

The only reason why Christ did not do step 1 in Acts 2:38: “Repent” is because he knew no sin to repent from: 2 Corinthians 5:21. However, he confirmed this with the pharisee, Nicodemus, when he stated in John 3:5Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

The spiritual rebirth process begins when one first repents (turns away from sin) and is obedient by being baptism (there is nothing in the water itself.  However, baptism is an act of obedient spiritual faith which removes sin).  Confessing ones sins without the act of baptism results in sins remaining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Does the Bible Really Say that Faith is all that You Need?

looking-to-heavenOne common misconception about faith in God is that works are not required to be both in right standing with God, and to live with him eternally.  However, this assertion could not be further from the truth.  Let’s explore the reasons why.

Faith without Works is Dead

James 2:14-26 is pretty clear that faith that is not backed up by works that supports the faith is no faith at all.  In fact, James provides an example of what is meant by the statement above by referencing someone in need (verses 15-16) of food and/or clothing. As James asserts in the text, if you say to that person: “go and be warmed and filled” without providing the things that they needed, you didn’t demonstrate anything.

He then provides the Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham demonstrated his faith to God by actually preparing Isaac for sacrifice as he had been commanded by God.  However,God stopped the sacrifice from occurring as he was satisfied with the action or works that Abraham performed prior to the sacrifice.

You see it wouldn’t have been enough for Abraham to simply say:  “God I would gladly sacrifice my son if you want me to do so”.  Genesis 22:3 says that he got up early to do so.  What an incredible demonstration of faith!

Consider James 2:19-20 (NASB): “19You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?”

Your Works are Your “Fruit”

Both Matthew 3:10 and Matthew 7:19 indicate that every tree (symbolic language for you and me) that does not bear good fruit (works) is cut down (cast out) and thrown into the fire (eternal punishment, hell).

John 15:2 says that if we bear fruit he (Jesus) will prune us (adjust, help, correct) to produce more fruit.  Furthermore, Jesus says that he have to be connected to him as he is “the vine” and we are the branches.  If we have not obediently followed his commandments so that we connect with him (e.g. Mark 16:16) we are not able to produce good fruit.  The reason being that we can do nothing outside of him that would be pleasing to God.

Christ Demonstrated His Love Through His Works

It wasn’t enough for Christ to come to this earth and tell everyone that he loves them, God loves them, etc.  Instead, he demonstrated his love through his works. For example, the miracles that he performed, the care and forgiveness that he offered, the teaching, insight, commandments and ultimately, his death on the cross for the redemption of mankind.

The notion that one would simply need to just become a Christian without the requirement of works as if this same person would be justified before God on judgement day is simply false.  This isn’t to say that your works will save you.  The works part of the christian’s life should be seen as faith demonstrated and no more than that.

Why is Being “Good” Not Enough to Get Me Into Heaven?

study-862994_640Many in the world are turned off by the notion that their definition of what good is may not be good enough to get them into heaven according to scriptures.  Let’s explore this matter further.

What is the definition of “Good”?

When we attempt to define the word good from a worldly standpoint taken from Merriam-Webster’s dictionary we find that there are many possible meanings of the word.  In general it means that something is suitable, satisfactory, or morally right.

The big elephant in the room is: “who gets to define what is good”?  After all, many people may contradict one another when it comes to this matter.  For example, one person might believe that stealing can be justified while another holds the belief that it is never justified. Whose side should we take?  Some may hold the belief that murder is OK in the name of religion, personal reasons, etc. while another person believes that it should never happen.  Again, who do we side with in this case?

Since the basis of this site is biblical we will seek the Bible for our answer to this dilemma.

There is None Good but God

Mark 10:18 (NASB) says: And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.  This scripture very explicitly states that God is the source and base of goodness.  In other words, he defines goodness.   Romans 3:10-l2 states: 10as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; 11THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; 12ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”

The “as it is written” part of the above verse references Psalm 14: 1-7.  To take it a step further Isaiah 64:6 says that are righteousness is like a filthy garment.  In other words, our good just isn’t good enough!

This is why the world is in such chaos with it’s concept of relativism.  What’s relative to you is what’s good.  There has to be a foundation to reference for the definition of goodness.  Society changes its definition of goodness like someone changing clothes.  What’s good today is bad tomorrow and vice versa.

We Are Made Righteous Through Christ

Christ is the only qualified person to make us right and capable of getting into heaven.  It is only by his shed blood on the cross, faith (Romans 3:21-31), obedience in baptism (1 Peter 3:21) and living faithfully until death that allows us to be right with God.

Is Money the Root of All Evil?

moneyWhen we consider misinterpreted scriptures, I Timothy 6:10 is certainly one of them: “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (NASB).

In many cases the scripture is quoted as:  “money is the root of all evil.”  However, this is not what inferred by the scripture.  For proper context and interpretation we must first consider the previous verses, 8 and 9:  8If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 

It is clear that the intent of these passages is to convey the importance of being content and not to covet what others have.  In addition, getting rich should never be a focus of a  Christian because of the many traps, snares and entanglements that it may bring.

The scriptures do not condemn people who are blessed with wealth. However, time and time again we see that it deals with the heart and the intentions of individuals, and the desire to be rich can often lead to sin and evil acts.

We are also reminded of what Jesus said in Luke 16:13: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”  Unfortunately, for many people the desire for riches has replaced the true means of finding happiness; the desire for God.

If the Bible says “Thou Shalt Not Kill” Is Killing Ever Justified?

thou-shalt-not-killThere is a huge misconception out there regarding the following scripture found in Exodus 20:13 (King James Version): “Thou shalt not kill”.

The context of this scripture is in relation to Moses receiving God’s law; specifically the “10 commandments”.  For the purpose of explaining the misconception of this scripture we have elected to reference the King James Version.

The Hebrew word for “kill” is “ratsach” which means to slay or murder.  Many have mistakenly taking this word as some sort of catch all for all killings; i.e. the killing of animals, killings involved in war, self defense and capital punishment.  However, the intended meaning of the passage is to not kill in “cold blood”; to not murder or to not shed innocent blood.

Many of the other translations provide clarity of this word by using the word “murder” derived from the actual Hebrew word provided above.

Let’s consider the subject of “capital punishment”.  In further study of the scripture we do not find any indication that capital punishment is ever condemned.  For example: Genesis 9:6 – “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man” (NASB).  Also, Romans 13:3-4:  3“For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil”.

Furthermore, the sword was the most lethal weapon of the day during biblical times and would be considered the equivalent of today’s gun.  The goal of the sword was for both the punishment of crimes and as a crime deterrent.

Why Did Jesus Not Want to be Touched” After His Resurrection?

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John 20:17 (King James Version) states: “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”

To put this scripture in the proper context we will need to read the entire passage.  In summary, Christ was resurrected and Mary Magdalene was the first of his followers to see him.

The Greek word for “touch” in this passage of scripture is: “haptomai” which means “to adhere to” “fasten” or “to cling.” Speculation of the passage might suggest that Mary Magdalene was holding on to Christ or clinging to him (as suggested by many translations) as if to prevent him for leaving.  The statement “for I am not yet ascended to my Father” suggests that he wasn’t planning to leave right away to go to the Father and there may be additional opportunities for which she could see him before his final departure.

Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

crown-of-thornsStarting as a child all the way into adulthood I never quite got why Christ needed to die to save me.  It took some real interest and desire to see before the Holy Spirit opened my eyes

To understand the significance of Christ’s death we need to move beyond looking at things from a physical perspective to a spiritual perspective.  If one would read and study the 4 gospels it becomes abundantly clear that one of Christ’s goals was to have his followers see things spiritually.  The Bible teaches “God is a spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth(John 4:24).

Let’s consider for a moment the old testament.  From a physical perspective the Israelites followed the old testament ten commandment of “thou shalt not kill ( ratsach is the Hebrew word for kill which means murder in cold blood or slay; Deuteronomy 5:17.  In the new testament we see Christ addressing the spiritual aspect of this commandment by teaching us to nip anger and evil intentions in the bud before it leads to murder (Matthew 5:21).

Furthermore, God provided “physical prosperity” for old testament Israel for the obedience and physical suffering as a result of disobedience:  “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” (Joshua 1:8).  Moving into the New Testament we can see 2 Corinthians 9:8: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed“.

The old testament indicates that the shedding of blood atones for sin as we find in Leviticus 17:11.  While this is a physical action, the results are spiritual.  With that being said, the blood of bulls and goats used in sacrifices for sins was never capable of actually removing sins (Hebrews 10:4).  Instead Christ’s body was necessary as we find in verse 5.  The reason that blood and goats could not remove sin although the creatures were innocent is because these creatures have less value than man.  Only a perfect and pure being who was either equal or greater than man could atone for sin.

So Christ’s blood fulfilled the spiritual law as stated above requiring that blood is the only means through which man can find atonement for sin. Thanks to God for Christ who was both equal and greater than mankind; the only one capable of meeting this divine requirement!

Points to Remember

  • The blood of animals cannot remove sins
  • God’s spiritual law requires that blood can atone
  • Christ’s blood is spiritually superior to that of bulls and goats and is able to heal man of his sinful condition
  • Old testament sacrifices rolled sin forward until the perfect human sacrifice (Christ) came to earth