Tag Archives: John the Baptist

The Relationship

“And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” Then they began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing. Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. (Luke 22:22-24)

This passage, from the last Passover Jesus Christ kept with His disciples, illustrates that pride was a very real problem even for those who were named as a part of the foundation of the New Testament church of God. In Matt. 26:22 it says each one of the disciples asked Him, “Lord, is it I?” when Christ said that one of them would betray Him. But from this brief moment of introspection, they went right into a dispute about who would be greatest!

This desire for self exaltation is so strong among human beings that we consider the story of Johnathan and his self-less friendship with David – who he knew would replace his father as king – a highly unusual departure from basic human nature. Self-exaltation, in one form or another is a priority for nearly every one on the planet, especially every male.

But what about the two members of the Godhead? I’d like to take a brief look at their thoughts and their ways in regard to each other.

The Greatest

There are several places in the Old Testament where God admits that He is a jealous God, but are the Father and the Son ever jealous of one another? Do they ever argue about who is greatest? Do they care if human worshipers give one of Them more honor than the other?

You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I. (John 14:28)

So there you have it in plain words spoken by “the Word,” the logos himself … “my Father is greater than I.” Just to re-enforce this point a little bit, let’s read John 5.

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. …

I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:19, 30)

Jesus, the Christ speaks of Himself as “the One sent” 48 times in the 4 gospels, and in John 4:34 He says, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” Doing what the Father wanted Him to do is what really sustained Him.  You see this same thing throughout the New Testament. Christ is always in the submissive role, and always yielding to the Father’s ways, and the Father’s thoughts and will. And we see in Hebrews 10 just how far the Son was willing to go with this submission.

Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come — in the volume of the book it is written of Me — to do Your will, O God.’ (Heb. 10:5-7)

So the Father, clearly is “the greatest.” There is no argument about that between Him and the Son, so … as “the greatest,” how does He conduct Himself towards the Son?

Lord and Christ

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matt. 28:18)

The Greek word translated “authority” is exousia (G1849), and it also means delegated influence, privilege, jurisdiction, liberty, and permission. Now, if all authority was given to Him, there had to be a giver … and who could that “giver” be but His Father? This can be viewed as a measure of the love and respect of the Father for His Son, who had ‘finished the work that He was given to do’ … a son with whom He was ‘well-pleased.’ But this greater God being didn’t stop there …as He spelled out in greater detail elsewhere in the New Testament.

This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. … Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:32-33, 36)

John the baptist described Jesus as He who would “baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire” … but that’s not all, as verse 36 points out here in Acts. The title “Lord” is kurios (G2962) in the Greek, and it means owner, master, and ruler. “Christ” is from the word Christos (G5547), and it means, the anointed. So, the Father anointed Him to be the owner, master, and ruler of all mankind, who also has been given “authority over all flesh” (John 17:2).

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Eph. 1:15-23)

This is one of those sections of scripture that you have to read through real slow … thinking about the deep meaning of every word. I’ve probably done that a thousand times, and I still wonder if I’m getting it. Once again, we see something of great importance and gravity being given to Jesus, the Lord and Christ, by His Father who is … “greater” than He. Notice these gifts always include an increase of His responsibility over the welfare of humanity.

Brethren, these are just a few examples of how the “greater” God has exalted and honored the “One sent”, and, in fact has made Him to be the one indispensable link between us and Himself, and thus the goal of eternal life as well.

Hope of Eternity

In fact, there are 441 New Testament  scriptures that speak of Him in exactly those terms … as being the one in whom, through whom, by whom, and in the name of whom we have the hope of eternal life, and through whom we have our relationship with the Father, and all of this by the will and direction of God the Father, who is “the greatest.” I can think of no better area of the word of God to go to to summarize “The Relationship” than this one:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:5-11)

Notice that it glorifies God the Father when we submit ourselves to His will by honoring and glorifying His son, and confess His ownership, His mastery of, and His rulership over us as our ‘kurios‘ in all of the offices and functions to which the Father has appointed Him.
When we do that, we are “letting the mind of Christ be in us.” We are submitting our thoughts and our ways to Gods thoughts and ways. And when we do that, we come closer and closer ourselves, to being invited by these two Beings to fully participate in “The Relationship”!


He Must Increase

I thought I’d take a little break from doing multiple part sermons in small blog segments, and just do a simple message pointing to the coming feast of Pentecost (or first fruits), and our goal of actually becoming first-fruits unto the lamb.

And while the means of reaching that goal may be as varied as the number of people reading this blog, … because we all do have our own personal relationships with the Godhead, I’d like to take a look at a simple statement of fact by one deeply committed man that might be able to provide us with some direction as to how we can achieve the ultimate goal in life of becoming the first fruits of God, and the Lamb.

John’s Mission

The man of whom I am speaking is John the Baptist, and it might be a good idea to begin with a reminder of Christ’s evaluation of John in Luke 7, where He said that “among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” (Luke 7:28). Just think about all the prophets of the Bible. Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel … you’d be in pretty good company just to be numbered among them, but Jesus, the Christ of God, says here there is none greater among them than John the Baptist!

In John 3:30, John makes this brief statement that speaks volumes about his personal character and mission in life. In fact, it could rightly be a life mission statement for any of us, brethren. Speaking of Jesus Christ, John simply says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

This is a message and an example that you see again and again throughout the New Testament in the lives and words of the called out ones in the early church. Perhaps the greatest examples of actually living this way are found in the writings of the apostle Paul.

Decreasing Self

Paul expressed this attitude vividly in Philippians 3. As we read this, notice the thought of the decreasing self (all that is important to us in the flesh … our status, our standing in the community, our wealth, that burning, fleshly desire for importance and glory in the eyes of other men) as opposed to the increase of Christ within us.

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:7-11)

You could read through the whole chapter of Matthew 23, and see what Paul’s peers in the Pharisaical community valued in life. That was Paul’s life before he was confronted by Christ on the road to Damascus.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. (Phil 3:12-15)

Colossians 2:6-9 talks about walking in Christ Jesus, in whom “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” This word “fullness” is pieroma (G 4138), which means just what it says – a filling up and being full. In verse 10, we are told that we are “are complete in Him,” and the word here is pieroo (G4137), which is the root word for pieroma. It means to fill as a net with fish, to fill up, supply fully, accomplish, perform fully. Once again, we see this sentiment expressed – that Christ, in us must increase until He is fully formed in us.

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What is the end product of the “He must increase, but I must decrease” mentality?

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ (Eph. 4:7-15)

In verse 10 … this word “fill” is also the same Greek word, pieroo, that was translated “complete” in Col. 2:10. So, it’s a part of Christ’s job in the church to fill us up and to complete us. Then reading on, we see all of these functions in the church are given so that the entire body might achieve the goals of edification and perfection.

Brethren, in each of our lives, for the rest of our lives, we would all do well to commit ourselves to the attitude and aspiration in life that was voiced so long ago by a man that Christ described as “the greatest prophet born of women” and by the apostle Paul, who fully lived the words that John spoke when he uttered that exemplary phrase, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

The Interactive Book: Introduction

After 33 years in the Churches of God, both corporate and independent groups, I’ve seen a lot … some things that seemed to work pretty well … others that were obvious mistakes … some that were disasters. For years, I talked about giving a sermon entitled “The Interactive Book,” did a lot of self-examination, study, and soul-searching before actually giving a sermon with that title. I was overwhelmed with the volume of material that comes into my mind … enough really for several sermons. It ended up as a 3-part sermon, which I’d like to share in a series of blog posts over the next few weeks.

What do you mean“interactive”?

What I’m definitely NOT talking about is inserting present-day human beings into offices described in scripture. “Oh, this church leader is an apostle … this church leader is Zerubbabel … this one is Joshua … this one is the Elijah to come … and this world leader is definitely ‘the beast.’” I’ve “actually” met the two witnesses (or at least a man and his wife who claimed the title). The problem is, if you bother to peruse Revelation 11, there are some things in there that don’t really match up with what I saw. And who among us hasn’t met at least one “watchman on the wall?”

It seems some human beings have such a need for significance, and recognition these days, they’ll make just about any crazy claim just to get that “15 minutes of fame.”You see that happening on Facebook all the time – everyone wants to be a big shot. Well, what I’m talking about is Bible interactivity for little folks who are small in their own eyes, and want to stay that way. When it comes to Bible interaction, the only type of, “I am” statement that should even cross our minds is “I am a servant, son, friend, or slave of God,” or as Paul said in Philemon 1:1 “a prisoner of Christ Jesus.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Is. 55:6-11)

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We should want Bible interaction with the goal of becoming more like God and Jesus Christ, to bring our wayward thoughts and ways into line with Their thoughts and ways. How would you like to be one of those in whom God’s Word does not return void, who accomplishes God’s pleasure for His glory“? And what do you think it would be like to have the next verse as your reward?

For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. (Is. 55:12)

Jesus Christ was sent to show us the way to do just what we read about in Isaiah 55. What was His attitude? “Hey, look at me!” or “I’m the messiah. See, I’m a big shot!” Let’s look at His reaction when “the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him” after He healed a man on the Sabbath day (Matt. 12:14).

But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. Yet He warned them not to make Him known, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory; and in His name Gentiles will trust.” (Matt 12:16-21)

Jesus knew the violent thoughts plotted against Him, and He left peacefully but He also drove home the lesson that it’s ok to do good on the sabbath! This passage says He healed all who followed him! That was an even greater miracle than the one He did before. His attitude was one of quiet humility before God. The things that He did do, which gained him “fame” were simply to see to it that God’s word accomplished it’s purpose in Him.

This Being is our example of living by every word of God. We were called to “follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21) We were not called to read God’s word faithfully for a half hour a day, and then go back about our business. We were not called to support a man’s vision of what “the work of God” should be, or to pray, pay, stay, and obey. We were not called to give until it hurts – I know families that have done that to the point where their kid’s only impression of “the work of God” was living in grinding poverty, and wearing clothes to school that had another kid’s name on them. If we have truly “returned to the Shepherd and Overseer” of our souls, we will desire to follow His example in every balanced way that we can (1 Pet. 2:25).

How did Christ interact with His Father’s word and will?

We all began our real spiritual walk with God at baptism, so … our example … was baptized in Matthew 3, and this was really a bit confusing for John. He knew that his baptism was just a token of something much greater that would be done by the One Sent, the Christ, the messiah on a spiritual plane (Matt. 3:11-12).

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. (Matt. 3:13-15)

When the One Sent came to him to be baptized, the biggest question on John’s mind was, ”wait a minute! who should be doing the baptizing, here?” Christ’s reply says a lot to us about how He intended to live His converted life. He knew He was going to live a perfect life, and thus had no personal need for physical baptism in water, but He knew it was His father’s will. His father backed Him up with visible signs, and a voice from heaven declaring His pleasure with Christ’s actions (Matt. 3:16-17).

Christ’s interaction with the Father on a very personal level is recorded all through the gospels as an example to us. An example is something you imitate. God is doing a creative work in us now. We are all supposed to end up with the likeness of the Firstborn, so He sent the Word in flesh as our example, our Teacher with that end in mind.

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“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Think about that “in the beginning.” Before the Old Testament, before the New Testament, all the thoughts and then some were in the mind of this being. The character, the thought processes, who and what He was and is came out in the words of this book during His interaction with His creation. Some of that interaction was very positive, some of it was very negative, but all of it shows us a little more about His character and person. His being, and how He has learned to deal with the creation, including us, during the thousands of years of human history, and pre-history.

“All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). All things: angelic beings, planets, galaxies, constellations, the universe, the elements, DNA. Then, in verse 14 we see a great miracle: “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” He became the One Sent, the Emmanuel – “God with us” – to dwell with us and to show us the glory of God in the perfect example of His behavior among men. He demonstrated a very personal interactivity with His human creation.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)

Is it too much for our minds to think of the Bible as “God, personified” in the One sent, and to begin to interact with it, as we would interact with a far superior human being? We often have no problem at all subjecting ourselves to “ministerial authority,” which sooner or later usually disappoints, betrays, deserts, or fails us entirely. Real faith relies on a conviction in that which is not seen.

“The Interactive Book” series:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Key To Scripture

Part 3: Fellowship With The Word Of Life

Part 4: Judgment and Friendship

Part 5: A Personal Call

Part 6: Working Out Your Own Salvation

Baptism For Life, part 1

By way of introduction for myself and the title of this blog, I wanted to begin with a series of posts titled “Baptism For Life”, based on a series of 3 full-length (60-70 min.) sermons by the same name.   The basic idea is that baptism is a life-long process, not a one-time dunking in the water. Before we go on to some deeper things, though, there’s groundwork that must be laid, especially for those who haven’t heard this concept before.

 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (Heb. 6:1-2)

Notice in verse 2, it says baptisms – plural. This is speaking of the basic doctrines of the church – foundational things for us to build our fund of knowledge on. I’d like to ask this question: How much do we really know about the doctrine of baptisms, plural? Do we think we know it all? How solid is our foundation in the faith regarding our understanding of the role of God’s baptisms in our lives?

On To Perfection

Paul says we should go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation, but what if we find ourselves years after baptism, trying to move toward perfection and we discover some big cracks in our foundation? We aren’t after all … skyscrapers with load-bearing walls. We’re human beings with a mental, intellectual, and emotional fund of knowledge as our foundation, and we are counseled by God’s word to grow in knowledge and grace

 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Cor. 2:7-10)

The action, the activity of the spirit within us is (or should be) this way. Reaching out, searching, re-searching, and re-re-searching to find the deep things of God, to enhance knowledge and understanding, to grow towards perfection. My kids are all sci-fi geeks, and there’s a statement in The Matrix that comes to mind: “Do you care to see … how deep the rabbit hole goes”.

How deep are the deep things of God in Relation to Baptism?

This is the kind of question that no man with a mind that is humble before God can answer, but we can learn more as we grow. We often think of ‘baptism’ as a single event that we submit ourselves to, where we are immersed in water by a minister, and have his hands laid on us, so we can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We’ve always viewed it as being a very important, if not the most important single event of our lives – March 1, 1980, for me. But is that all there is to baptism? Because the only things we really looked at regarding baptism were the ways that the Bible differs from the common practices of the religions we see in this world who sprinkle instead of immerse, who practice infant baptism, and who are baptized for the dead.

In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance.” John’s baptism was a physical baptism, by immersion in water. It is a physical act intended to communicate to God our desire to be granted repentance at His hand, our willingness to change, to place our lives under His power and authority, and to request the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to help us to finish our course in the flesh and become a part of His family. It is also a request for betrothal to His son, an expression of love, the desire to be married to Him, to become “one flesh,” a member of His body, the church. And last, but not least, it is a request to God for a greater and weightier baptism to be performed for us in the spiritual realm by a spiritual being.

In this verse, John is pointing out the inferiority of his baptism to another another type of baptism, performed by a greater Baptist, that would follow. Look at what John says about the One who was to come after him as verse 11 continues: “He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Just to clarify matters, it appears from John 4:1-2 that Jesus Christ Himself did not baptize anyone in water (though His disciples did, under His guidance). In Matthew 3:11, John is very plainly speaking of another kind of baptism – one performed by another Baptist “with the Holy Spirit and fire.” There is a greater baptism that takes place on a spiritual plane, and that begins (for most of us – we’ll look at some exceptions to this later) after we are baptized in water.

We know that our physical baptism is symbolic of a deeper cleansing from sin and moral filth. “But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). The word “washed” is translated from a form of the Greek word apolouo (G628). Spiros Zodhiates contrasts this phrase with ‘you were baptized’, which refers to an outward cleansing, where apolouo refers to an inner cleansing of the heart. The word ‘sanctified’ (G37) means a setting apart of our lives for holy use, and ‘justified’ (G1344) means to render just or innocent and, “to bring out what is desired in a person.”

Physical baptism in water is just the first step in a baptismal process that should last for our entire life. When God and Jesus Christ begin to work in us, we can be confident that They will bring us to completion (Phil. 1:6). In part 2, we will continue to look at the distinction between the baptism of John, and the baptism performed throughout our lives by Jesus Christ.

Baptism For Life series:

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6