The Baptism of Jesus

Luke 3:21-22

Have you skipped stones on a lake or pond? Many people have. It is a fun pastime with friends, or on a date on a sunny afternoon, a playful challenge between male and female to see who can have the most skips or skip a stone the farthest.  Please don’t do it if someone is fishing nearby!

Over many years of teaching the Bible, I have found that many people like to play another kind of skipping. When they ought to be focused on the passage of Holy Scripture before them, they like to play, “Let’s skip this passage and talk about these other verses or ideas or something else.” I’m not sure what their problem is. Perhaps they have difficulty concentrating, or their minds were on something else in the first place, or they’re uncomfortable with what the passage is teaching, and they want to run away, Jonah style.

The problem with this, besides endless spiritual distraction, is that such skippers miss what the Holy Spirit has caused to be written for their benefit in the passage they’re supposed to be reading. This is one reason (there are others!) that cross references and study notes in a Bible might be hindrances rather than helps for some people.

So then, let’s focus on Luke’s account of the baptism of Jesus and listen to what he wrote, instead of thinking about Matthew, Mark, and John, which are excellent presentations. What does Dr. Luke tell us about the great event?

Jesus joined with the crowds in baptism. When all the people were being baptized… (3:21 NIV). At this point, we must remember the context. Their baptism was a sign of their repentance or change of mind. They said by this act that they needed to have a world and life view that was ready for the Lord to appear among them. They confessed they needed the forgiveness of sins (3:3). They became learned who were to produce fruit in keeping with repentance (3:8). But Jesus needed neither repentance or forgiveness. Then why was he baptized. He, the Lord, had arrived and he joined with the people to proclaim that his world and life view was centered on God and that he would live accordingly.

Jesus prayed at his baptism. And as he was praying… (3:21 NIV). Jesus didn’t merely participate in a ritual; he worshiped; he prayed to his Father in heaven. He demonstrated that our life in God’s presence is to be characterized by prayer. The prayer life of Jesus is a theme in the Gospel of Luke (5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28-29; 11:1; 22:32, 41; 23:35, 46). John had taught his disciples to pray (11:1), and so Jesus acted as a follower at his baptism. We all should pray as we participate in worship at our local gatherings of believers. It is what genuine disciples do.

Jesus received honor at his baptism (3:22). At this time, he was anointed by the Spirit for his ministry. Notice how God pointed out that this was a significant event.

Heaven was opened. Luke did not write all the details that we would like to know, but in some way the Father let Jesus have a vision of the glories of heaven after about thirty years in human form. This would provide encouragement and certainty to the man, Christ Jesus.

The Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove in bodily form. I think this is the only time in the Bible that the Spirit came on someone in bodily form. The point of this in Luke’s Gospel will be discussed in 4:14, 18. Here is the event; the interpretation of the event comes later.

A voice from heaven identified him as God’s Son. We should hear “echoes” from two important texts from the Old Testament Scriptures. The first is Psalm 2:7, where the Messiah is identified as God’s Son. The second is Isaiah 42:1, where the Messiah is identified as God’s Servant, in whom the Lord delights. We should hear the Father in heaven talking of the Son as a covenant for the people and a light for the nations (Isaiah 42:6). All three Persons of the Trinity join to mark the dawn of the new covenant era, the age of freedom and light!

We all personally ought to invest time in thinking through the implications of Psalm 2 and Isaiah 42:1-9 and their connection with Jesus, his baptism, and his ministry. God is pleased in his Son. Is he our delight?

Grace and peace, David

Thinking about God and His Friendship with His People (Part Three)

Psalm 25:12-15

Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being,  and his offspring shall inherit the land.  The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net (ESV).

How did David find forgiveness for his confessed great sins? How did he light the way for others in the same kind of difficulties? David traced forgiveness back to its real source. He does not say “for my sake” nor “for the sake of what I have earned or deserved”. Instead, he looks to God’s name—his true character. He believed what God said about himself—that he forgives sinners. He believed that God would forgive even great sin, in order to show the greatness of his glory. “To forgive a great sinner like me will bring you great glory, Lord; therefore, for your name’s sake forgive me.”

Learn well how this verse is contrary to a legalistic attitude. A mentality of salvation by works looks at the man or woman and their indebtedness and actions to find mercy, but salvation by grace through faith looks higher to the goodness of God. Instead of being staggered by how much he or she owes, faith looks to the precious blood of Christ and pleads more vigorously for forgiveness for the sake of God’s name.

The more we see how serious and hideous our sins are, the closer we are to forgiveness. We wrote in our previous post on this psalm about calling our sins by biblical names, like rebellion, trespass, and missing the mark. Now, we need to see that all of our sins are great, because they are against the great God. In every sin we despise God’s greatness, mock his wisdom, twist his love, and make something else our god (cf. Col 3:5).

So, where is our hope when we admit that we are great sinners? When God interacts with those who repent and believe, all he does is in conformity with his love and faithfulness (25:10). He shows the mercy of his purposes and the truthfulness of his promises.

The Lord confides in his people. The Hebrew is well-translated by the NIV here (cf. Proverbs 3:32). It means “confidential speech”. It is the speech of one friend to another (Psalm 55:13-14). This has been God’s way with believing people from long ago. He wanted to tell Abraham what he was going to do with Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:17). God chose not to act until he told his servants the prophets what he was going to do (Amos 3:7). So over the course of thousands of years, as God prepared to send his Son when his time had fully come, God gave increasing revelation to his people about the Messiah. And so that his people did not miss the Messiah, he sent John the Baptist to point him out clearly (John 1:29-31).

It is in Christ that God confides in us most closely. The Messiah is our covenant. The Lord said to his Servant, the Messiah: “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness (Isaiah 42:6-7 ESV, my emphasis). Christ our covenant calls us his friends, assuring us of a hearty welcome into his company (John 15:15). And since we are in Christ, we have the source of all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). God’s invitation is now to lay hold of his deep friendship by faith (Ephesians 3:14-19).

Our tragic problem as sons and daughters of God is that we settle for far too little. God has provided the way to know him in Christ, and has promised a warm welcome in him, yet we stand at a distance, imagining that God doesn’t really like us that much! We go on a wild goose chase for intimate friendship, when God invites us to draw near to him and promises that he will draw near to us (James 4:8). Dear friends, the way to friendship with God is wide-open and near. We need only approach the Father by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace, David

The Triumph of God’s Plan


Isaiah 42:9

God reminds people of what he had done already. Often we see this in the Scriptures, as in the Psalms of salvation history (Psalms 78, 105, 106, etc.) God retells his story, so that we can have confidence in him during our present trials. Since we are his people also, we can meditate on his mighty works and his purpose in them and live in our situations with a godly perspective. Whatever has happened to God’s people previously happened because of his prophetic word, precious promises, and solemn covenants.

Now, in this Servant Song, Yahweh leads them into the future, into what he will accomplish in and through his Son, who is his Servant. He tells them this before these things happen, so that they can recognize that this is the word of the Lord (Isaiah 44:6-8; 45:20-23; 46:9-10). God announces that new events will occur. These are the events of Christ and his new and better covenant that he has just declared (42:6-7). And so God’s people can expect greater things. This is what happened when Jesus Christ came, lived among people, taught us, died for sinners on the cross, was buried, was raised to life on the third day, ascended into heaven, and poured out the Holy Spirit on all who believe. The newness includes God’s ultimate triumph when he makes all things new (Revelation 21:5).

God’s announcement of these new events is intended to lift up the Lord Jesus Christ before us in our thoughts and ideas. God wants us to have a radical change of mind about the Lord Christ and to trust in him for the light and liberation of salvation. He wants us to have Christ as the center point of our relationship with him, instead of spiritual experiences, performance of rituals, activity in church programs, or obedience to commands. Christ is our covenant. For this reason the Father asserts his glory, the glory of the One who chose and sent the Servant, that we might have a higher view of the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you among those who have repented and believed? How does this glorify God? He is greatly praised in the salvation of his chosen people (Ephesians 1:3-14). God is also glorified when his people live in conformity with his plan rather than human opinions. Is Christ your functional covenant in the way you relate to God? Strangely, too many seem to prefer to relate to God through rituals or rules or some other supposed path of spirituality. The Lord Jesus is our great high priest and mediator (Hebrews 4:14; 9:15) and he is our covenant, and so the Father wants us to draw near to him through his Son (Ephesians 2:18). Don’t miss God’s way, because you’re too involved with what other people tell you.

Grace and peace, David

Christ Our Covenant (Part 2)

E67272F0-E623-42C4-92EC-1864B7C445DDGod explains his mission for his Servant (Isaiah 42:6b). The Father called his Servant to be a covenant for the people. A Biblical covenant that God makes is a solemn agreement between God and people to provide rescue for them and/or a relationship with them. The core of the covenant varies according to the covenant made. The core of the covenants made with Noah, Abraham, and David were God’s promises to each one. The first two had signs—something that testified to the reality of the covenant. The covenant with Noah had the sign of the rainbow and the one with Abraham had the sign of circumcision. The core of the law or old covenant was the law written on tablets of stone, the Ten Commandments. Its sign was the Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-18).

The core of the new or better covenant is a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. Note carefully that Christ is the covenant (cf. Isaiah 49:8) as well as its Messenger (Malachi 3:1) and Mediator (Hebrews 9:15). Messiah, the Servant of the Lord, himself is the fulfillment of all that comes before him, and so we read here that he himself is the covenant. “In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song, This Cornerstone, this solid ground Firm through the fiercest drought and storm…” (Getty and Townend). The sign or evidence that a person is in the new covenant is the reception of the Holy Spirit when he or she believes in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38).

God also called his Son to be a light for the nations (Gentiles). Notice carefully that not only does Christ bring light (Ephesians 5:13-14), but that he himself is the light (John 8:12; 9:5), as he is the covenant. Some have balked at the idea that Christ is the covenant. But that should give them no more concern than the truth that Jesus is the light for the nations. “Light” is a figurative way of saying “salvation” (Isaiah 49:6b). Matthew points this out in the ministry of Jesus (Matthew 4:16-17). Christ’s mission has a worldwide significance: “to the nations”. The people who are in covenant (“in Christ”) will include not only the believing Jews but believers from all nations (Ephesians 2:11-22; etc.) Read Jesus’ words (Luke 24:44-47).

Since Christ is our covenant and light, we have salvation in him. We have our relationship with God in him and through him. How can we be sure that we can draw near to God? Christ is our covenant relationship with God. How can we be certain of salvation? Christ is our light. If you are struggling about your relationship with God or with assurance of your salvation, refocus on Christ our covenant and light (cf. Hebrews 12:1-2).

Grace and peace, David

Christ Our Covenant


Isaiah 42:6-7

I really enjoy a good Reuben sandwich; in fact, I like to make them. But a good Reuben sandwich can be hard to find, because often the restaurant or diner cuts various corners that lower the quality of their Reuben. All parts of the sandwich are important, and having the right ingredients and putting them together the right way can dramatically increase the taste of the Reuben. For example, having delicious rye bread is essential. Skimp with the bread, and the sandwich is inferior. But the insides of the sandwich are just as important: quality corned beef, coleslaw, sauerkraut, and homemade Russian dressing. (To use factory made Russian dressing is probably the worst thing you can do to a Reuben sandwich!)

Our text is like a sandwich. The bread is found in verses Isaiah 42:5 and 42:8-9. And we could rightly have started with those verses. But today, I want to focus on the innards of the sandwich, verses six and seven. However, don’t think for a moment that the “bread” is nonessential.

First, God appointed his Servant for a mission (42:6a). God the Father has an active part in the plan of salvation. Though the Bible should be read in a Christ-focused manner, it is thoroughly Trinitarian. In various places in the Bible we see this truth. For example, in 42:1, we saw that the Father is the One who chose the Servant. In John 3:16 we are told that the Father gave his Son so that people who believe in Jesus might be saved. The Father presented his Son as a propitiation (Romans 3:25). And in many places we learn that the Father raised the Son from the dead after his finished sacrifice for sin (Ephesians 1:20; etc.)

Here, the idea is that the Father called his Son “in righteousness” or “for a righteous purpose”. God wants all people to know that his plan of salvation is right. Justice is satisfied and sinful people are justly forgiven and declared right with God when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us. In addition, since God’s purpose is righteous, it is also wise, good, and loving. This is important, because for anything to be wise, good, or loving, it must first be righteous. All God’s love alone could not have saved us apart from Christ’s propitiation on the cross (Rm 3:25-26).

God the Father guarantees his power to help his chosen Servant in his mission. When God says that he is holding your hand, he is letting you know that he is with you. In this way, the Father watched over the Son up to the cross. After the Son paid the full price for our redemption, the Father was there to receive his spirit (Luke 23:46). Three days later, the Father raised Jesus from the dead! So then, in the psalm of the cross (Psalm 22), we read great words of hope and trust from the Suffering Messiah by way of prophecy.

The Father promised to keep him. And so, after forty days of fierce temptation, the Father sent angels to serve his Servant (Mark 1:13). At Christ’s baptism (Mark 1:11) and transfiguration (Mark 9:7), God owned his Servant as his Son. At the conclusion of the public teaching ministry of Jesus, the Father spoke from heaven to affirm the message of his Son (John 12:27-28). After the resurrection, the Father had him sit at his right, the place of honor. He kept him all the way to glory.

The Father was actively involved in the saving work of his dearly loved Son. The God who made covenants with people is the one who called Christ to be a new and better covenant. He was directly involved in this event. And Jesus did all to glorify the Father (Jn 17:4). Are you honoring the Father for the way of salvation? To honor him, you must first believe or trust in Jesus Christ whom he sent (Jn 17:3). God the Father is close to his Son (John 1:1-2); the only way to get near the Father is through the Son he sent (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:18). The way to nearness to God is through Jesus, the Servant of the Lord.

Grace and peace, David