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Substance and Shadow
Witnessing Tools
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Wendy Wippel

Ever hit a difficult passage, checked your commentaries and the internet, and understood less than before?  (Lots of fools that only want air their own opinions?  (Proverbs 18:2) God is not the author of confusion, (I Corinthians 14:33).  He is, however, the author of the solution!

I'm going to take for granted that virtually all of us with some exposure to the Scriptures realize that God says that he authored the Bible.  Peter (through God's inspiration) tells us that "holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." (II Peter 1:20-21) Timothy similarly said that all scripture was "God- breathed." 2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)

We know this, but we don't really get the implications.

I have nothing against commentaries; I use quite a few of them.  But Peter tells us that "no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation," and Solomon, "the more the words the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone? "

Check out three commentaries, you'll probably get four opinions.  Indeed, how does that profit anyone?

Take the issue of baptism.  Some churches sprinkle, some immerse.  Some hold it vital to salvation, some don't.  One church I visited required three dunks: one for the Father, one for the Son, and one for the Holy Ghost.

God obviously didn't author that confusion.  So what's the problem?

Recognize God as the author of the Scriptures and there is no problem.  Let God explain himself.

A good example of how the application of this principal can really make your Bible come alive is Matthew 3: the baptism of Jesus. 

The narrative is pretty straightforward.  The big question is the Why.

Why did the Son of God, the Messiah, the sinless one named Jesus need to get baptized?

In his words, "to fulfill all righteousness."  But what does that mean?

A sampling of internet commentary (3 million hits on this question) gives us a clear picture of the confusion that springs from "private interpretation".

  • "The baptism of Jesus served as a gesture of humility and submission of Jesus to God and to the ministry of John the Baptist.  This showed the humanity of Jesus and his submission to the will of God." (The scriptures say he humbled himself by his death, not his baptism. (Philippians 2:8) And the veil didn't rip when he was baptized, but when he died.)
  • The baptism of Jesus serves as an example to others.  If he being perfect had the need to be baptized, how much more need do we, being imperfect, have now? (Does baptism make us perfect?)
  • He had to be baptized because we, as sinners, require baptism in addition to faith for salvation. (That's a whole separate column.)
  • His baptism would equip Jesus in a special way for the extra hard work that lay ahead in His public ministry. (Did he get dipped in 5-Hour Energy?)
  • He had to get baptized so he would remember his previous life in heaven!  (That's a new one on me!)
  • The baptism was a public way of making known His humanity.  (I'm pretty sure there wasn't a problem with that. The problem was going to be with the concept that he was God.)
  • Jesus got baptized to identify with our sin.  (Then why did God say that he was well pleased?)
  • The Jordan river. The people had to cross it to get to the promised land. The waters of the river stand for the ancient forces of chaos and death which would overwhelm the people if they were not protected by the stone tablets in the Ark of the Covenant….In the same way, the story of Jesus baptism tells how Jesus leads the way through chaos and death (the Cross) to bring his people to the promised land.  (uh…I'll just give that one most creative.)

So why did Jesus have to be baptized to "fulfill all righteousness"?  Can the Scriptures shed some light on this question ? (which obviously confuses a lot of people!)

Our first clue is in Hebrews 9:11: "But Christ came as High Priest".

Our second is what Jesus made clear to his followers on the Emmaus Road: everything from Moses and the Prophets on spoke of Him. 

So what, with regards to the high priests, spoke of Jesus?  Obviously he presented our sin offering, himself, to God.  But is there more?  Yep.  Actually, there's lots of other information in Moses and the Prophets about the high priests.

Particularly, for our purposes, information about how Old Testament priests were consecrated.

Aaron and his sons were selected from among the Israelites to serve as high priests.  The position could only be passed down from father to son.  Exodus 28:1 records their calling to this office by God: "bring Aaron and his sons … so that they may serve me as priests." This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants." (For the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:29)

1) The first step was that the high priests were called to ministry.  We pick it up again at the time of their actual ordination: "Moses brought Aaron … forward and washed them with water."  Leviticus 8:6

(Although this verse doesn't specify immersion, we do know from I Kings 7:23-27 that the bronze washing basin made for the Temple was thirty cubits (about 45 feet ) in circumference, and 5 cubits (about 8 feet) in depth (plenty big enough for immersion).

We also know that Jewish tradition specifies that Aaron and his sons were immersed in a Mikvah-- the traditional practice vessel of ritual cleansing that demanded total immersion in a river or artificial fount with flowing, not stagnant water.)

2) The second step was a ritual cleansing.

The ordination continues: Moses …"poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron's head and anointed him to consecrate him. " (Leviticus 8:12)

3) The third step was anointing with oil.

Aaron then went with Moses into the tent of meeting,  and when they came out, "the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people"  (Leviticus 9:23), ostensibly as confirmation of God's approval on their ordination.

4) The fourth step was confirmation by the presence of God.

Now let's take another look at the baptism of Jesus. 

Matthew tells us that Jesus' being brought back to Israel as a child was a fulfillment of prophecy: "I called my son out of Egypt." Matthew 2:15

What was his calling?  John 12:27 (NASB) tells us; "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour."

Jesus' calling was to bear our sins in his body on the tree, so that whosoever believes in him could have ever lasting life.

1)  Jesus --our high priest--was called.

2) Jesus--our high priest-- underwent a ritual cleansing.  He was baptized!  (Matthew 3:15)

After his Baptism, Matthew records that; "Jesus immediately came up out of the water, and  at that moment, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended and alighted on him." (Matthew 3:16)

3) Jesus--our high priest-- was anointed (with the Holy Spirit).  (Acts 10:38)

Matthew 3:16 also tells us that; "When the dove alighted on Jesus, a voice from heaven confirmed God's presence, saying, this is my son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased." 

4) Jesus- our high priest-- was confirmed by the presence of  God.

The last time a voice came from heaven it had announced the coming of the  Law, which dictated the exact steps required for the ordination of the High Priest, the mediator between God and man.   But the law, according to Hebrews, is only a shadow of the reality to be found in Christ. (Hebrews 10:1)

Jesus' baptism represented the arrival of the real High Priest. That high priest, to fulfill the righteousness of God that the law represented as the shadow of the real righteousness of God, submitted to the prescribed steps of ordination.

Jesus, is our real High Priest who "offered one sacrifice for sins forever" (Hebrews 10:12)  before he sat down at the right hand of God. He is the sole mediator between man and God  and  the only one who can therefore "present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy". (Jude 24)

That deserves a Halleljuah!

And doesn't Leviticus suddenly seem a lot more intriguing?

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: Palpable Prophecy



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