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CHRIST THE BAPTIZER

We have noticed that Christ is the head of the church as one who is ascended to heaven.  We have also noticed that His people are associated with Him in His rising from the dead and ascending to heaven.  This association with Christ is not casual, for Christians are united to Christ in the same way as the human body is united to the head.  That bond is vital and permanent.  There cannot be a functioning human body without a head.  The question we now need to address is how that bond between Christ and “the church which is His body” was formed.  The answer is that it was formed by the harmonious activity of the persons of the Godhead.

The Lord Jesus spoke in His prayer to His Father in these terms: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also that shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me”, John 17:20,21. 

This oneness has nothing to do with organisational unity, as is clear from the fact that it is oneness as Divine Persons have it.  Rather, this unity derives from two things:
1.    The common possession of eternal life.  Eternal life is the life of the Eternal.  At conversion that life is communicated, and the new birth takes place. As John 1:12 puts it, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name”.  In other words, when a person believes he has the authority to take his place in the family as a child of God.
2.    The giving of the Holy Spirit, who is one of the persons of the Godhead.  This happens the moment a person believes, as is seen from Galatians 3:2, where the apostle makes clear that the Spirit is received through the hearing of faith, not at some subsequent point through works of merit of some sort.

The giving of eternal life and the Holy Spirit, whilst linking believers to God, does not link them with one another.  For this, there needs to be the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  There is a lot of error taught about this subject, with some saying that it is an experience subsequent to conversion, and that the sign that it has happened is the ability to speak in tongues.  However, it was never God’s intention, even during the time when the gift of tongues was operating, that all believers should have the gift of tongues.  This is shown by the words of 1 Corinthians 12:29, “Do all speak with tongues?”  The apostle clearly expects a negative answer.

So that which unites believers of this present age together is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  This is not baptism that the Holy Spirit performs, but it is baptism that involves the Holy Spirit as the element into which believers are immersed.  John the Baptist spoke of this as he prepared the people for the coming of Christ.  John was careful to ensure that the people were in no doubt as to his own identity.  (We know from John 1:19-24 that there was confusion in the minds of the authorities about this).  So he makes clear that one of the features that distinguishes Christ from himself is that whereas he baptised with water, Christ would baptise with the Holy Spirit.  But this would have two aspects; one, in connection with the church, and the other to do with the nation of Israel in the future.

It is interesting to notice the different ways in which the writers of the four gospel present this.  In Matthew we read, “He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire”, Matthew 3:11,12.  Here the floor is the place where profession is tested, to distinguish between chaff and wheat, and when He comes to earth to reign the King will “gather out of His kingdom all things that offend”, Matthew 13:41, and gather His wheat, (true citizens of the kingdom), into the garner, (the security of the kingdom), but will burn up the chaff in the everlasting fire He spoke of in Matthew 25:41.

This is the fire-baptism, but the baptism with the Holy Spirit from Matthew’s perspective is when the nation of Israel is given the Holy Spirit when Christ comes to earth to reign over them.  See Joel 2:28-32; Isaiah 32:15; 44:3.

In Mark, typically, the account is more brief, stating “I indeed have baptised you with water: but He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost”, Mark 1:8.  Mark is presenting the activity of the Servant of Jehovah as He prepares His people to serve Him.  For this they must have power, for the energy of the flesh is of no use in the service of Christ.  So Mark emphasises the fact that the coming of the Spirit will empower God’s people to serve, (“ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you”, Acts 1:8).  This power from God He gives when they believe.  Mark is simply writing about the genuine servants, and does not mention the fire, or, indeed, the garner.  Ideally, the servant will only be satisfied when souls are delivered from the fire; and only concerned about being faithful in the work, and leaving the results, (the garner) to the Lord of the Harvest.

In Luke the words are almost the same as in Matthew, but taking into account the different aspect of things that the two writers present, we may say that Luke, (a companion of the apostle Paul), is not so much concerned with the King and His kingdom, but the Saviour and His church, for He is the Saviour of the body, Ephesians 5:23.  So now the floor is the place where Christian profession is tested, the gathering into the garner is the taking of His true people to heaven, and the fire is the fire of hell for those whose profession is not genuine.  The baptism of the Spirit is what takes place at Pentecost, from Luke’s view of things.

John’s record of these things is for an entirely different purpose.  There is no mention of fan, floor, filled garners, or fire, but the fact that He baptises with the Holy Spirit because He is the Son of God.  And the descent of the Spirit upon Him at His baptism was what convinced John of these things, John 1:31-34.

So Matthew presents the baptism of the Spirit that will take place in the future in connection with the nation of Israel, whereas Luke presents the baptism of the Spirit that happened at Pentecost. The apostle John emphasises the person who does the baptizing, even the Son of God. 

So it is that Luke records, “And when the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting…and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance”, Acts 2:1,2,4.  It is important to remember that the word for wind and Spirit is the same.  Notice that not only were the disciples filled with the Spirit, but also that the Spirit filled the house where they were sitting.  So they were immersed in the element of the Spirit.  This is the baptism of the Spirit.  And it is to this that the apostle Paul refers in 1 Corinthians 12:12,13, to which we now turn.

“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit”, 1 Corinthians 12:12,13.

In verse 12, in the expression “For as the body is one”, the apostle uses the figure of the human body to illustrate his point.  He is not using the word as in the phrase, “A body of people”.  He brings out the following points:
1.    The human body is one organic whole, not a mere assembly of parts. 
2.    It has many members, such as limbs, organs, etc. 
3.    All the different parts of that body which has just been described are one, or unified. 
4.    The sum total of the many members makes just one body in number, and one body in character, being a unified whole. 
5.    Such also is the case with Christ and His body, of which He is the head. 
Verse 13 gives us the explanation as to how the unity between Christ and His people, (which is as close as that between the head and the body), is made. 
1.    It is “by one Spirit”, and the preposition used for “by”, emphasises the character of the action which makes into one; the Spirit gives character to the act, hence the result is “the unity of the Spirit”, Ephesians 4:3. 
2.    All were baptized into one body, the church.
3.    This is whether we were Jews or Gentiles, for Divinely-made distinctions have gone; the Jew was separate on the basis of a relationship with Jehovah, now when he believes he is brought into a new unity, that of the body of Christ, which over-rides former things.  So too for the Gentiles; his former pagan-temple associations are gone. 
4.    And whether we were bond or free, for these man-made distinctions, which tend to result in other differences, such as cultural and social, are erased by the baptism.  All such things lose their relevance in the body, where all are equal before God.  We see this in Cornelius’ house, where Peter, a Jew, and Cornelius, a Gentile, were found in an equal relationship with God.  So also between Cornelius, a freeman, and his household servants, who were possibly bondmen. 
5.    We have been all made to drink into one Spirit.  This is something we do, in contrast to the baptism in the Spirit.  Just as villagers might all share one well, so believers all share the refreshment and encouragement of one Spirit.  The expression “made to drink” indicates that we drink by force of circumstances, for the Spirit of God is the only drink, see John 4:13,14; 7:37-39. The sense is, “All have been given the one Spirit to drink”.  In John 4 the Lord was sitting on Jacob’s well as He spoke to the Samaritan woman about drinking.  In other words, a Samaritan Gentile was drinking of an Israelite’s well.  Now Jew and Gentile drink from the same spiritual fountain.  There is not one drink for the Jew and another for the Gentile. This is a sure sign that unity has been achieved.

JOHN 1:19-28

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THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN, CHAPTER 1, VERSES 19-28:

1:19  And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?

1:20  And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

1:21  And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

1:22  Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?

1:23  He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

1:24  And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.

1:25  And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?

1:26  John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;

1:27  He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.

1:28  These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

 

SECTION 4        JOHN 1:  19-28

The Word in relation to John the Baptist: The Preferred One

1:19  And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?

And this is the record of John- the apostle now begins the main part of his gospel after the prologue in verses 1-18 in which he set out the main principles governing him as he wrote.  John the Baptist had a unique role.  Not only was he one sent that men might believe on Christ, verse 7, but he was also the one who introduced the Lord Jesus at the beginning of His public ministry.  See Acts 13:24, where Paul declared that John preached before His coming, or entrance.  He was the porter who opened the door for the True Shepherd to come amongst the sheep, John 10:3.  The apostle John does not call him John the Baptist, but rather the witness.  Baptist emphasises his public work of baptising, whereas the word witness emphasises his personal testimony.
When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?  Remember that John was the son of a priest, so possibly some of those sent to him were his relatives.  In John’s gospel the title Jews means the Jewish authorities.  They are coming from the centre of Judaism, Jerusalem, no doubt anxious as to whether John represented a threat to their authority and position. When they ask who he is they are enquiring as to his claims.  This expression can be used even if the person asking knows the other, see Ruth 3:16.  Naomi knows who her daughter-in-law is, but does not know the outcome of her visit to Boaz, and whether Ruth is now his prospective wife.  The thought is, “What position do you hold; what is your status?”

1:20  And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ- John does not deny that he is a man sent from God, but he does confess that he is not the Christ, or Messiah.  From Daniel 9:24-26 it would be possible to know that the time of the manifestation of the Messiah was near, and the Jews are wondering if John is He.  Despite being the greatest prophet among those born of women, Luke 7:28, John is quick to honour Christ.  The people later thought that Christ was John the Baptist come back from the dead, Matthew 16:14, which says much for his likeness to Christ.

1:21  And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not John came in the spirit and power of Elijah, Luke 1:17, but his birth is carefully recorded by Luke to show, amongst other things, that he was not Elijah back from the dead.  Similarities with Elijah include appearing suddenly on the scene; his clothing of skin; being persecuted by a wicked woman; denouncing the sins of a king; a messenger of judgement and wrath; depressed when he felt his ministry had not achieved anything; giving way to a successor.  Elijah is prophesied by Malachi to return when God judges the earth in the tribulation period, Malachi 4:5,6; Matthew 11:14, but John the Baptist announces the One who came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them, Luke 9:54-56.
Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No- the word prophet has the definite article before it, so the prophet is some well-defined person, as well-defined as “the” Messiah.  The people of Israel requested that the direct voice of God at Sinai not be heard any more.  So God promised “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him”, Deuteronomy 18:15-19.  That this prophet was Christ is made clear by Peter in Acts 3:22.  In John 7:40, 41, the people were confused about this prophet, thinking Him to be a different person to the Messiah.  Perhaps this gives a clue as to why John sent to Christ to ask if he was really the Christ, or whether they should look for someone else.  The Lord’s answer emphasised His miracle ministry and His preaching ministry, showing that He combined the prophetic ministry as The Prophet, with the miracle ministry of The Messiah, Luke 7:18-23.

1:22  Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?

Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?  Frustrated by his denials, they press John to give them an answer.  He had purposely made his three-fold denial to dispel any illusions they might have about him being the Messiah.  Once he has done that, he is free to declare who he is.  Notice that even when he tells who he is, he emphasises the person of the Lord, as his father did in his song, Luke 1:67-80, where Zecharias spoke more about the unborn Christ than his own, long awaited new-born son.  “He must increase, I must decrease”, was John’s motto, John 3:30, and should be ours too.

1:23  He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. 

He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias- Zecharias was struck dumb by the angel because he had not believed the message that he would have a son.  Now his son is anything but dumb.  “The priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and the people should learn the law at his mouth”, Malachi 2:7, so John, the son of a priest, is imparting knowledge, and truth, but not about the law, but about the One who had come in grace.  The contrasts between the word and the voice were pointed out long ago.  The word is in the mind, before the voice is heard, so Christ was before John.  The word is of more importance than the voice that utters it, so Christ has precedence over John.  The truth expressed in the word continues when the voice has died away, so Christ’s glories remain after John has passed off the scene.  Note that he cried in the wilderness, for the Temple courts were not ready for such a message as John brought.  The nation of Israel was in a moral and spiritual wilderness, and it is fitting that John should preach in a wilderness.  John quotes the language of Isaiah 40:3 about himself, whereas Matthew, Mark and Luke quote what Isaiah said of him. He is conscious of his mission, and that he is the messenger that Malachi prophesied would come, see Mark 1: 1-4 with its two quotations from the Old Testament.  Mark does not quote Malachi 4:4,5 about Elijah coming.  The title Lord is “Jehovah”, and so John the Baptist is really setting out the theme of John the apostle’s gospel, that Jesus is equal with the Jehovah of the Old Testament.
Like John, Christ will be in the wilderness too, but as one who leads His people on the better things ahead, just as the movement of the Tabernacle was the sign for the people to move with it through the desert to the promised land..  The path must be made straight for Him, because He is sinless, and does not walk a crooked way; nor will those who follow Him.  They must repent, therefore.

1:24  And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.

And they which were sent were of the Pharisees- these were the “straitest sect ” as Paul, a former Pharisee, said, Acts 26:5.  “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter the kingdom of heaven”, Matthew 5:20.  As Pharisees, they would be interested in religious ritual, and are curious about John’s baptism.  They might be the straitest sect, but they are not prepared to enter at the strait gate, for they rejected the counsel of God against themselves by not being baptised with the baptism of John, Luke 7:30.

1:25  And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?

And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?  They do not enquire about the person John witnesses to, but are only focussed on possible threats to their influence, if John begins a new movement by baptising.  They have listened to John’s denials about himself, but not his affirmations about Christ.  See Matthew 2:4-6 where the scribes do not quote Micah 5 as far as “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting”.

1:26  John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;

John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not- since they do not enquire about Christ themselves, John tells them about Him nonetheless. At this point, their ignorance of Christ is understandable, for He has not yet been revealed.  John is preparing their hearts for the time when He will be.  The fit man who took the scapegoat into the wilderness bearing its load of sin, was literally, “a man standing ready”, Leviticus 16:21 margin.  So Christ is amongst them, fit to do the work that will be His at Calvary.  John will say in verse 33 that in the past he had not known Him either, but for him that ignorance was changed to insight.  We should remember that at this point the baptism of Christ had taken place, He had gone into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil, and had returned.  It was the events at Christ’s baptism which convinced John that Christ was the Son of God, as verses 32-34 will show.

1:27  He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.

He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose- this is John’s initial statement to this effect; in verse 30 he refers to the statement; in verse 15 the apostle John refers to it.  “Preferred” is the translation of a noun, and signifies, “hath precedence over me”.  John is not making a comment about the relative popularity of Christ, as if Christ was preferred to John in that sense, for he had not yet been manifest for them to make a comparison. But is making a statement of fact as to His person.  John does not tell the Pharisees why He had precedence over him, for they showed no interest.  He will not cast pearls before swine, Matthew 7:6.

All four gospels record John’s saying about the shoes:
In Matthew it is that John does not count himself worthy to bear the shoes of the King as He is introduced to the nation.
In Mark, he is not worthy even to stoop down and do the servant’s lowly task.  Even though Christ has made Himself of no reputation and taken the form of a servant, John is still not worthy to do the most menial task for Him.
In Luke, the thought is that he is not worthy to unloose His shoes, with no reference to stooping down.  Perhaps the emphasis in Luke’s “domestic” gospel, where so many events took place in houses.  So that, just as in Luke 7:44-46 where Simon the Pharisee withheld from his Guest the customary foot washing, the Lord was not welcomed in Israel.  John the Baptist was prepared to give Him that welcome and “wash His feet”, but felt unworthy to do so, since He was mightier than he.  John realises that to be able to baptise with the Holy Spirit shows greater might than baptising with water.
In John, it is not so much His greater might, but His greater rank, for He has precedence over John.  He realises his proper place is at the feet of Christ, but feels unworthy to serve Him in the smallest way whilst there.  John knows that worship not service is the first priority of those who know the Son of God in all His greatness.

1:28  These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing- Edersheim says that Bethabara, (East of Jordan and Southeast of the Sea of Galilee), was one of the best-known fords across the Jordan into Perea, see John 10:40. It was 20 miles from Nazareth.  Oreb and Zeeb were defeated at Bethabara, in a battle compared by the psalmist, Psalm 83:9-11, with the classic battle between Barak and Sisera in Judges 5.  Deborah encouraged Barak to “lead thy captivity captive”, Judges 5:12, a phrase used by the apostle Paul in reference to the triumph of Christ in ascension, having defeated the forces of evil, Ephesians 4:8. A foretaste of that triumph would soon come, as the Lord Jesus confronted the Devil in the wilderness, and utterly routed him, Matthew 4:11.