Sunday, August 4, 2019

Better Than Moses

Better than Moses, Matt 5:17ff

(Note: the audio has bits that are not in the notes.)

The Sermon on the Mount covers chapters 5 - 7 in Matthew's gospel. The context is shortly after His temptation and the very beginning of His public ministry. Large crowds had begun to follow Him. Matthew 5:1-2 When He saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. Then He began to teach them. "Disciples" in this setting refers to the large crowds that followed Jesus from time to time; these people were not His 12 that we read of later.

After telling them about the characteristics of the people in His kingdom (the beatitudes, salt and light, city on a hill), Jesus abruptly shifts gears. He begins to transition into His main point: He is not just a prophet, He is greater than the greatest prophet YHWH had ever raised up. Here’s how He is compared in Hebrews 3:5-6 Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s household, as a testimony to what would be said in the future. But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household. And we are that household if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope. To be that household mean we are sons. Paul tells us we are no longer servants but sons of God; and since we are sons, we are heirs (Gal 4:7). What a contrast! Moses is described as faithful servant; Jesus is termed the faithful Son over the household of God. And we are sons of God through faith in Christ. This is the hinge-point of the Sermon on the Mount: Jesus unveiling Himself to pious Jews who desired to see the Messiah.

Matthew 5:17-20 (HCSB) “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

I. Jesus said He did not come to destroy the Law OR the Prophets. The phrase "the Law AND the Prophets" is a normal reference to the entire collection of Scripture known to the Jews, our "Old Testament." Jesus used a different phrasing, as if to separate Moses from the rest of the leaders of national Israel. This is to heighten the contrast between Moses and Christ.

Jesus was speaking to Jews, their lives were ruled by Moses' Law. Jesus is the fulfillment of every type portrayed in the Old Covenant - whether prophet, priest, judge, or king. The Law of Moses and all the prophets pointed to the promised Seed. He is the fulfillment of all of them. He was born under the law (Gal 4:4). He completed His work of redemption (John 19:30). He came to fulfill all righteousness (Matt 3:15). He blotted out the written ordinance (Col 2:14). Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for all who believe (Rom 10:4). In Christ we have been brought near to God by the blood of Christ; He tore down the wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile, abolishing the law of commandments (this clearly refers to the Mosaic Law) (Eph 2:12-15). This word, abolish, does not mean the law was removed from Scripture, as if it no longer exists. As covenant law between God and national Israel, that which kept them separate from other nations, it was abolished; the Mosaic Covenant and its law were brought to their planned end by the redemptive work of Christ. He did not come to destroy it, but to bring about its predetermined end. By His redemptive work, the Law was fulfilled - for the promised seed had met every requirement of that Law.

But some say the Law of Moses is still in effect, why? A friend of mine used to say that humans are hard-wired for works righteousness; we naturally love to show off how good we are, at least in our own eyes. This is a dangerous way to live and it’s deadly theology. Paul dealt with folks who were drifting into this perspective in Galatia. Galatians 3:2-3 I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh? Not only cannot you not begin your Christian life by law-keeping, you cannot complete it by law-keeping!

In the ditch on the other side of the road, there are some who care not enough about the Word of God that they are willing to unhinge the Law and the Prophets from Christian life. I heard one fellow Baptist say he would be happy if the Ten Commandments were thrown in the trash. Paul tells us the Law of Moses served a purpose - not to bring about righteousness but to show the power of sin. This makes the need of imputed righteousness all the more clear. The Law of Moses was given as guardian for national Israel to keep them as the people of God who were to bring the promised Seed to fruition. Once Christ came, that law ceased to function as Israel's guardian. But as Scripture, it is useful for edification, if used properly: not to be thrown away nor imposed a legal requirement that binds us.

Not only was the Law fulfilled, the prophets were. How were the Prophets of the OT fulfilled? One example – Isaiah. When he was sent by YHWH, it was to preach to Israel. Isaiah 6:9-10 Go! Say to these people: Keep listening, but do not understand; keep looking, but do not perceive. Dull the minds of these people; deafen their ears and blind their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their minds, turn back, and be healed. Listen to Jesus Mark 4:10-12 When He was alone with the Twelve, those who were around Him asked Him about the parables. He answered them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those outside, everything comes in parables so that they may look and look, yet not perceive; they may listen and listen, yet not understand; otherwise, they might turn back— and be forgiven.” Jesus is the greater prophet Who brought salvation to His people, not everyone.

As every prophet, judge, priest, and king given to national Israel failed to bring about righteousness to that people, the only prophet capable of bestowing righteousness to His people came in the person of Jesus. And He is the prophet, high priest, judge of all flesh, and King of kings! Fred Zaspel has commented, "The old law was not "full" in itself; it had a forward look. It anticipated a "fulfilling" which in Christ's teaching finally came to perfect realization." This applies to the Law and to the prophets.

II. Verse 18 For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. Only two verses in, and we have some of the most controversial things to look at! Note the strange construction of this sentence: Until heaven and earth pass away, nothing will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. Which phrase controls the continuation of the Mosaic Law? Does the first phrase, about heaven and earth, refer to the end of this age? The last phrase, all things being accomplished; does that refer to the redemptive work of Christ?

Charles John Ellicott's commentary is one of the few that does not get bogged down on the “smallest stroke” of the law; he reviews these descriptive phrases. He thought the first phrase was intended to reinforce the unchangeable nature of God's Word. We can be sure that every letter of Scripture will be available to God's people until the end of the age. In the age to come we will see Him as He is - the living Word - and we will be with Him forever. Ellicott saw the last phrase referring to the redemptive work of Christ. Most commentators maintain that Jesus was referring to His work of redemption AND His judgment of all flesh at the end of the age. Some claim that refers to Jesus' fulfilling the law. All three views can be supported, but not completely. The latter view, referring to everything Christ does before the end of the age, is aligned with the first phrase, emphasizing the security of the written Word until the living Word returns.

Here's what we can conclude: The Old Testament cannot be unhinged from our studies. But the New Covenant, brought about by the work of Jesus, has ended the Old Covenant, breaking the bonds of the ministry of death and changing how those laws apply to His New Covenant people. By rightly understanding our status in the New Covenant, we can determine how to apply OT teaching and which laws from the old do not apply at all - that is "rightly dividing the Word," by viewing all of Scripture through the lens of Christ Jesus and His redemptive work. We know Moses accuses those who put their hopes in him; he pointed to One Who was greater than himself (John 5:45-46), just as John the baptizer did. When Jesus comes the second time, He will judge the nations, gather His people, and make all things new. And the living Word will be among His people and the written Word will have fulfilled its purpose.

III. Matthew 5:19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Here's the question we must answer: what are “these commands” to which Jesus refers? Again, Fred Zaspel is helpful.

First, it could be taken very literally to mean that throughout this age the church should continue to observe every detail of the Mosaic law. But given the teaching that is capsulized in the book of Hebrews, few Christians would want to go this far. Second, it could be taken to mean that the moral law in general and/or the decalogue in particular should continue to be observed throughout this age. This is the standard Reformed position. But it would be difficult to understand "these least commandments" as a reference to this "weightier" aspect of the law! Further, it introduces a literary division of the law which is extraneous to the passage: it is every last "jot and tittle" that is in view _ not just the 10 words.

I would add that breaking the least of the Mosaic laws meant you had broken the whole Law (Jas 2:10) and breaking one of those “moral laws” carved on the tablets of stone would get you put to death by stoning (Deut 17:2-7). How would it make sense to say whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called the least in the kingdom if the penalty for doing so was death – for those in the kingdom? Another small thing – Jesus referred to “these commands,” not “the commandments” which is the normal way biblical writers refer to the Decalogue.

If Jesus wasn’t referring to the entire Mosaic Law or the Decalogue, what’s left? There are two more possibilities. Either Jesus is speaking of how the Law of Moses was fulfilled in Him OR He was pointing forward to the balance of His sermon. I going to assert that Jesus meant to draw attention to the balance of His sermon – all the more so because of verse 20, which was designed to be provocative: For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

IV. Who are the least and greatest in the kingdom that Jesus mentioned? Those who break the least of the commands are least and those keep all are the greatest. In Matthew 23 Jesus pronounces a series of woes on the religious leaders; verse 23 in that chapter is relevant: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy, and faith. These things should have been done without neglecting the others. Here we see the error of dissecting God’s law and doing (while teaching others to follow) some but breaking others. Jesus says in His kingdom, those who do such things are least (if anyone is in the kingdom he has been born from above by the Spirit of God). If we claim that we can divide up the Law of Moses into three categories and ignore two of them while claiming the third to be binding on the saints – are we not doing the same thing for which Jesus rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees? If we teach people to love God but don’t teach or model how to love our neighbor, are we not doing the same thing for which Jesus rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees? If we do, we are the least in the kingdom.

Contrary wise – who is the greatest? He who practices and teaches ALL that Christ has commanded. The Great Commission – make disciples, teaching them ALL I have commanded you. The first and greatest commandment – love God with ALL your heart, ALL your soul, ALL our strength, and ALL your mind. Weep and wail because you cannot do these; but rejoice if you are in Christ, for He alone is able. Who is greatest in the kingdom? None but Jesus! Not you, not mot me, not Moses. None of us should ever think we can meet that requirement, even as we strive to do so.

To enter the kingdom one must possess more righteousness than the Scribes and Pharisees. If we are not categorically better than them in law-keeping and discipling, how can we enter the kingdom? That is the question these first century Jews faced; it’s the question that faces anyone who reads the Scriptures. Every Jew considered these two groups of people to be the most religious people on the planet; that meant they were very righteous. No human could be more righteous than the Pharisees and Scribes – unless he possessed an alien righteousness. How can this be? That is the right question. This is why we must be born again, for only the imputed righteousness of Christ can enable us to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Let him who boasts, boast only in the Lord!

V. The Greater Prophet. Having given them a brief summation of the characteristics of His kingdom people (verses 1-16), He then told the crowd what kingdom life looks like – concluding with establishing Himself as more righteous than their religious leaders. In verse 21 through the end of the chapter, Jesus asserts His position as the greater prophet, making 6 “You have heard it said … But I say unto you” statements. How do we read these and what difference does it make? There are three ways this passage has been interpreted.

a.) Many reformers, people who build under the cover of the WCF or the 1689, claim Jesus is giving the "thick reading" of the TEN COMMANDMENTS, telling His audience what Moses really meant. You will search in vain for anything in the Old Testament indicating this. These reformers want this to be the case because their confessions assert the Law of Moses as the way of sanctification. But Jesus is not Moses' interpreter and Paul would say to these people, Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh? Also from Gal 3: For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” He is not an interpreter of Moses - He is the greater prophet Moses spoke of in Deuteronomy 18:18.

b.) Some folks, including some Reformed folk and those who hold to the "New Perspectives of Paul," claim Jesus is addressing the erroneous way the first century Pharisees taught the Law of Moses. This theory doesn't work for the same reason the first doesn’t: because every "you have heard it said" comment by Jesus is a direct quote from the Law of Moses. There is no mention or hint of Him addressing the myriad errors of the Pharisees in this passage – He simply quotes Moses.

In at least two of the six contrasts, Jesus explicitly does not teach the "true meaning" of Moses' Law nor does He build upon it. In speaking about divorce He throws out the liberal provisions of the Mosaic Law and imposes a far more restrictive rule. John Reisinger observed that “Moses allowed for divorce for uncleanness; but he mandated death for adultery (Deut 22:22). When Christ gives his new law that allow for divorce only in the case of adultery, he overturns the law that mandates death for adultery.” In His discussion of "an eye for an eye and tooth for tooth" Jesus says His people are not to resist evildoers; as Paul would say in 1 Cor 5, within the brotherhood we are to embrace being defrauded rather than take a brother to a civil court. The Old Covenant law provided for retribution; the New Covenant command is to suffer harm rather than vengeance – for vengeance belongs to YHWH.

Neither of these two teachings can be reconciled to the Mosaic Law. Jesus was not merely interpreting Moses; He was not merely correcting the Pharisees. If correcting the Pharisees was Jesus' intention, He would have likely said something like we read in Mark 7:10-11 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)." In this passage, He contrasts the Law of Moses with the traditions of man which make the Word of God void; in the Sermon on the Mount, He contrasts the Law of Moses with His Law. What was He doing? Jesus was giving new law from this greater prophet Who is the new law-giver.

c.) The right way is to see Jesus explaining the nature of His kingdom. First century Jews were looking for a renewal of earthly Jerusalem in all its glory; Jesus was announcing the soon coming of spiritual Israel and how it differs from earthly Israel; He was announcing Himself as Moses' greater prophet. A.T. Robertson, early 20th century Baptist, said, "Jesus now assumes a tone of superiority over the Mosaic regulations." It may be hard to fathom, but Jews and Samaritans in Jesus' day were convinced that being physically related to Abraham and doing your best (in your own eyes) to keep Moses' Law was good enough. That law given to guard a mostly unbelieving people is not suited for a people ruled by the Holy Spirit living within them. Rather than looking to a written code, we look to the Savior, Who is the righteousness of God. All we have need of is provided by our union with Christ; nothing we have need of is available outside that union.

In his book on this passage of Scripture, But I Say Unto You, John Reisinger observed, "In the Sermon on the Mount, the new lawgiver contrasts his teaching, based on the gracious covenant he established, with the teaching of Moses, based on a covenant of law." He further commented, "He (Jesus) replaces Moses in exactly the same way he replaces Aaron." New prophet, priesthood, and a New Covenant which, by necessity, brought about a change in law. There is no absence of law in the New Covenant, there is a new law with a new purpose, given by a new law-giver.

Summary. The Sermon on the Mount ends with Jesus asserting His Words are what men need to submit to and obey. This is why I believe Jesus was pointing forward, to the balance of His sermon when He mentioned the “least of these commands.” No mention of the Mosaic Law for sanctification, but the words of this prophet. And the people, Jews, were astonished.

Matthew 7:24-29 Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!” When Jesus had finished this sermon, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, because He was teaching them like one who had authority, and not like their scribes. We read that nothing would pass from the Law of Moses until heaven and earth pass away; Jesus would later say, Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away. The Law of Moses was for a time and place; the words of Christ are eternal.

Jesus is the new lawgiver for life in the New Covenant; He is not merely a greater teacher of what Moses was given. Many teach we are to look to Christ for salvation but look to Moses for sanctification. The first century Jews believed the law of Moses was “the great guarantee of holy living and sanctification.” Paul taught them they who were in Christ were no longer under the law but under grace (Rom 6:14). He went on in chapter 7 to explain how they were to walk: Romans 7:4-6 Therefore, my brothers, you also were put to death in relation to the law through the crucified body of the Messiah, so that you may belong to anotherto Him who was raised from the deadthat we may bear fruit for God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions operated through the law in every part of us and bore fruit for death. But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us, so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the law. Jews had been under the heavy yoke of Moses’ Law. By faith in Christ, they died to the law and, having been set free (if Christ has set you free you are free indeed!) they are to serve in the NEW WAY of the Spirit and not in the OLD letter of the law.

This is the instruction for us, though we never were under Moses’ Law, we were a law unto ourselves (Rom 2:14). And while we lived in the flesh, our sinful passions worked in us just as they did in those Jews Paul was addressing. And verse 6 was written for us, just as it was for those Jewish Christians Paul was addressing, even though different laws were at work: But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us, so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the law. Learn from all of Scripture as you seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. But do not shrink back and seek safety in law – look unto Christ daily and His Spirit will equip and guide you to do what is pleasing in His sight. The greater prophet has come, and He alone is our safe refuge.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Who are "the lost?"

Who are “the lost?”

It’s common, in the world of evangelical Christianity, to call everyone who is not redeemed, lost. Is that how the Bible uses the word “lost?” This word is found 14 times in the HCSB New Testament and three of them have nothing to do with being separated from God: Mark 2:22 is talking about mixing old covenant theology with new covenant theology, using wineskins as metaphors. Luke 22:18 shows the care of God in preserving His saints during trials. 1 Corinthian 3:15 reveals that some work done in this life by the saints will be burned up (lost) in the judgment.

What of the other 11 uses? They show up in 10 verses, each providing insight into who is “lost.”

Matthew uses this term three times, referring to those to whom Jesus was sent; no reference to those left to themselves. Jesus’ initial ministry was to national Israel, as these passages reflect. But God’s plan of redemption has always included people from every nation and tongue, as many passages reveal.

Matthew 10:5-6 Jesus sent out these 12 after giving them instructions: “Don’t take the road leading to other nations, and don’t enter any Samaritan town.  Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Matthew 15:24 He replied, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Matthew 18:11 For the Son of Man has come to save the lost.

Luke uses the word 6 times in 5 places; in each case, the person or thing described as lost is that which was searched for and found. The parables of the lost sheep, coin, and the prodigal son all get summed up in the last passage. Salvation has come because Jesus had come to seek and save the lost! No mention of that which was lost staying lost.

Luke 15:3-7 So He told them this parable: “What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it?  When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’  I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance.

Luke 15:8-10 “Or what woman who has 10 silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?  When she finds it, she calls her women friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found the silver coin I lost!’  I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”
Luke 15:24 because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:31-32 “‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Luke 19:9-10 “Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus told him, “because he too is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

In John’s gospel we find this word two times, including the one use of “lost” to describe someone that was not sought out and saved; Judas was lost. As the Pulpit Commentary points out, Judas was a specific exception, having been appointed by God to serve his role as the son of destruction or perdition. Rather than having been lost then found, Judas was seemingly found and then lost. But as the second passage shows, Judas was not given to Jesus to be kept, because Jesus claims to have lost none – not even one – of those given Him by the Father. This is why the Pulpit Commentary is right and it explains why Judas does not provide grounds to call all the unbelievers “lost.”

John 17:12 While I was with them, I was protecting them by Your name that You have given Me. I guarded them and not one of them is lost, except the son of destruction, so that the Scripture may be fulfilled.  The Pulpit Commentary: And I guarded (them) - ἐτήρουν signifies watchful observation; ἐφύλαξα, guardianship as behind the walls of a fortress - and not one perished - went to destruction - except that the son of perdition (has perished). Christ does not say that the son of perdition was given him by the Father and guarded from the evil one, and yet had gone to his own place; the exception refers simply to the "not one perished."

John 18:8-9 “I told you I am He, Jesus replied. So if youre looking for Me, let these men go.  This was to fulfill the words He had said: I have not lost one of those You have given Me.”

Summary. This last passage does not use “lost” but it shows two things: First, Jesus came to do the Father’s will, which was stated Matthew 18:11 and in Luke 19:10: For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost. Second, He will lose none of those given to Him by the Father. Every person who is lost will be saved; none who are saved will be lost. This does not say everybody will be saved, for not everyone is “lost” – only the unconverted elect are. Everyone who is not, today, a child of God is unconverted. Some of them are lost and will be found; the rest will face judgment without a refuge.

John 6:37-39 Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me.  This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up on the last day.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The End of the Age

When the Lord Jesus returns, this age comes to an end.
Matthew 25:31-34 (HCSB) “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
This is also revealed in John's Apocalypse:
Revelation 6:12-17 (HCSB) Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood; the stars of heaven fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a high wind; the sky separated like a scroll being rolled up; and every mountain and island was moved from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the military commanders, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?”
There will be no time to get ready once He comes. Today is the day of salvation! Flee to Christ in repentance and faith - there is no other refuge.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Is the gospel an offer?

First, what is an offer? From Webster's 1828 Dictionary:

OF'FER, verb transitive [Latin offero; ob and fero, to bring.]

1. Literally, to bring to or before; hence, to present for acceptance or rejection; to exhibit something that may be taken or received or not. He offered me a sum of money. He offered me his umbrella to defend me from the rain.

Does that sound like what the Bible describes as the gospel, something He offers up to be accepted or rejected?

After condemning the Pharisees with the parable of the tenants, Jesus tells them, (Matthew 21:43) Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit. The kingdom of God will be TAKEN from national Israel and GIVEN to spiritual Israel; God takes from one and gives to another.

Many people who claim the gospel is an offer turn to any of several places where God calls people to come to Him. In the first place, the English word, come, is an imperative - a command. When a mother tells her toddler "come here," she is not inviting him, she's not offering him the option; she's commanding him. When the queen of England bids an entertainer to sing for her, everybody calls it a "command performance" because the queen issued the "invitation." So many who call God sovereign posit Him as someone who offers and invites His creatures to come into His kingdom - as if He were less than the queen of England, less than a mother of small children.

How much more greater and grander and beyond our ability to comprehend is the Creator and Judge of all flesh? When the Lord of glory tells His chosen ones, "Come!" it is, as everyone who embraces the doctrines of grace knows, an irresistible call.  When you and I preach the gospel, we try to persuade men - the general call we give (not knowing who the elect are) can be resisted or accepted. Yet our words, our persuasive speech is not what saves anyone. The Spirit of God moves as does the wind - no man controls nor is able to know for sure where He goes. And He gives life to that which was dead, and those called by God to come are no more able to say no than Lazarus was, being 4 days dead in the tomb. Jesus did not invite Lazarus to come forth, didn't offer him another few years in the flesh. He commanded Lazarus to come forth; and Lazarus did so.

Preach the gospel to every creature, we are told. Nothing about offering the kingdom to anyone. Nothing about inviting them - compel them to come, the master of the wedding feast said. How do we compel people to come to Christ? By being faithful with our proclamation of His gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation for those who are being saved. He compels His chosen ones to come to the wedding feast.

Throughout Acts, we read of the kingdom being preached and proclaimed, not one instance of the kingdom being offered. We read in Revelation that God has made us a kingdom of priest unto Him.  Of 158 occurrences of "kingdom" in the HCSB new testament, not one of them can be portrayed as being offered to anyone.

A similar survey of "gospel" shows us the same results. Of 78 occurrences, we see much about proclaiming and preaching and announcing the gospel. People hear the gospel; the gospel is confessed and presented and it is preserved. The gospel is veiled to those who are perishing (2 Cor 4:3). The gospel is established and advanced. People are called by God through the gospel. No occurrence of the gospel being offered.

Why does this matter?

If the gospel and the kingdom are offered to sinners, God is put in the position of "the anxious seller," hoping people will accept Him. The Bible does not give any hint of God in this light. He commands the clouds where to go and drop rain, He gives life to that which was dead, He calls into existence things that do not exist.

While none of us is able to describe God comprehensively, each of us who name Christ as Lord should seek to never reduce Him in any of His attributes. God speaks and His sheep hear His voice. He needs not offer His kingdom to anyone - He gives it to whom He pleases.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Death that brings Life

For what reason did the Son of God come to live as a man? That is the question.

The Death that Brings Life, Luke 9:18-27

Isaiah 53:12 Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion, and He will receive the mighty as spoil, because He submitted Himself to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet He bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels.

This passage covers a lot of territory, from the identity of Christ, to the reason He had to come, the cost of being a disciple, and the promise of being in the kingdom.

I. The Question; vs 18-21. Jesus often pulled away from crowds for prayer and to teach His disciples. Luke 11:1, 22:39-41, and Matt 26:36 show various scenes and reasons for the Lord teaching His disciples privately. We see in this passage the reason for this privacy, in addition to the question asked and the answers given. Last week we heard how Jesus pulled His disciples away to teach them privately but the crowds saw them and pursued. Today, He takes His disciples away to teach them - and they are alone.

Those closest to Jesus needed the Holy Spirit to comprehend the true nature of Jesus. The crowds thought Him to be just another man - John or Elijah or another prophet. Those of the world cannot rightly see the Lamb of God, so they have endless alternatives that their natural minds can accept. Recall Herod's perspective, upon hearing of the miracles attending the teaching of the twelve - read Mark 6:14-16. Natural man, Paul wrote, suppresses his knowledge of the truth by his unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-19). This is why those who are told or shown the truth about Jesus say that He was a prophet or a good man - anyone but the God-man. And hence Paul also wrote, "No one can say "Jesus is LORD" except by the Holy Spirit." People can say those words, but that no more means they believe in Him than does merely tacking on the name of Jesus on a prayer that has no basis in Scripture gain the ear of God. We pray in His name by praying that which is honorable in His sight. We say "Jesus is LORD" by the Spirit when we believe on Him; our lives will reflect the life of the One who gave Himself for us.

The title, "the Christ of God," highlights the relationship between Jesus and His Father (Matt 16:16). In Luke 2:11 Jesus is declared the Messiah. Peter's confession asserts Jesus to be the Messiah, from the line of David. Contrary to David's kingdom in Palestine, the kingdom of Jesus is not of this world.

Jesus commands them not to tell anyone who He is. This was the reason for the privacy - it was not time for Him to known publically. Just as he told the lepers in Mark 1 not to tell anyone they had been healed. Although those healed often disobeyed and told everyone what Jesus had done, He was sticking to a time table set by His Father that no man could derail. See John 2:1-4, John 7:6, John 7:30.

Jesus did not want people focusing on the miracles He performed, but rather the message He proclaimed and the death He was going to die. The same is true today. God would rather that we be focused on the healing miracle of salvation through Jesus Christ instead of focusing on physical healings and/or miracles. When you see people on TBN or DayStar focusing on "miracles" rather than the glory of God, they are guilty of a false gospel, revealing themselves to be enemies of the cross. Natural man wants health and wealth and fame. When these are promised, in the guise of being what God wants for us, natural man is given what his sinful heart wants and Osteen, Jakes, Hinn, and the like get rich. Yet their flesh fails and they cannot heal themselves of poor eyesight not can they take their ill-gotten gain with them to the grave.
The greatest need of all of Adam's children is to be given new life in the Christ of God and this comes only by the Spirit of God.

II. The Mission; vs 22 (this is THE point of the message). The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. This is the reason the Son of God came to earth in the flesh: to suffer many things, to be rejected by His own people, to be put to death, to be raised up in glory. All who have faith in Him will enjoy the purity and joy of eternal life without temptation or sin.

How did He suffer? He was humiliated in taking on human flesh (Phil 2:6-8). The Creator learned obedience from His human parents (Heb 5:8-9). He was betrayed by Judas (Luke 22:48). He was taken captive (Matthew 26:50). He was deserted by His disciples (Matthew 26:56). He was falsely accused by those in the crowd, His kinsmen of the flesh (Matthew 26:60). He was spat upon and beat up (Matthew 26:67-68). He was falsely accused by whom He had put in positions of authority (Matthew 27:12). He was scourged and crucified (Matthew 27:26). He was mocked by the Roman soldiers (Matthew 27:29-30). He suffered many things.

He was rejected by the elders and chief priests (Read Matthew 26:3-5). He was rejected by own people, who demanded Barabbas be released (Read Matthew 27:21-22).

Jesus was crucified. We reviewed this method of killing prior to Easter. It was the most painful, gruesome form of death every contrived by man. Prior to being nailed to the cross, He was scourged with a whip that had bits of bone and iron balls that were effective at stripping the flesh from the bones. This scourging and the crucifixion were public, in full view of the throngs of people who had come to Jerusalem for the annual Passover. Countless saw Him beaten and lifted up to die. Roman soldiers guarded the tomb in which He was laid. His disciples were discouraged and fled in dismay. The light of the world lay physically dead in the earth. It appeared all hope was lost.

But He had told them on many occasions that He would be put to death AND be raised up on the third day. For this cause the Son of Man came - to give Himself a ransom for many. Without the resurrection, we have no gospel - no hope for fallen man. But Jesus DID rise up and come forth from the tomb in glory! For this cause, He came.

III. The Cost; vs 23-26. The point of these statements is to put to silence those who preach comfort and ease for the Christian; to expose the lie of being aligned with the world while claiming allegiance t Christ; to contrast the lie of the world with the truth of God. Let’s look to see what light our Lord sheds on this, by His example. In John 2, Jesus is at the wedding in Cana and the wine had been consumed. In verse 3, Mary tells Jesus “They have no wine.” We do not know what she was thinking – was Jesus supposed to go and buy some wine or did she know He could create it? His reply provides insight: John 2:4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” As a child, Jesus was subject to His earthly parents, ye when He was twelve years old He let them know there was a higher calling on His life – He must be about His Father’s business. As an adult, at this wedding, Jesus does not refer to Mary with any term of endearment – He simply calls her “woman” (which was NOT a term of disrespect) and asks why is she bothering Him; making clear she does not have parental oversight in this matter. In a later scene, Matthew 12:46-50 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Clearly, in each of these three scenes, the Lord has been showing His earthly family that there is a higher calling – the kingdom of God and those who belong to it are more important than earthly family, no matter how close.

Read James 4:4, Matt 10:34-38. In another place, Jesus told a young man to leave the dead to bury their dead, when he had objected to the call to follow Christ. Nothing in this world can compare to the glory of being united to Christ, reconciled to God.

Brothers and sisters: Service to God and to one another is the highest priority and privilege anyone can have! Read 1 Cor 12:12-27. This body language - we each have gifts given us to serve one another as it pleased God. We belong to one another, bought at a price - belonging to Christ!

Our text reminds us of the higher calling, contrasting the lure of that which cannot satisfy with the sure promise of that which cannot fail to satisfy. The cost of discipleship is high, but only in terms of that which perishes.

IV. The Promise; vs 27. There are quite a few differing opinions as to the meaning of this verse. Some people think this means the second advent has already taken place, because He had to return before those being spoken to died. Full preterists think this and claim Jesus' second advent was in AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans.  

Spurgeon couldn't accept that view and he concluded Jesus meant Judas would not be cast into eternal punishment before the second advent. That is when the second death will claim those who believe not on the Lord Jesus. Does that single son of perdition align with Jesus' statement, "There are some standing here?" He would have likely said, "There is one standing here." He had no trouble mentioning "one" who betrayed Him - He didn't say "some."

Spurgeon also pointed out the difficulty in the view that Jesus was speaking of His ascension. That glorious event was only 6 days away when Jesus spoke these words. We know every day is a gift from God, but it strains reason to think Jesus was speaking about an event 6 days away when He said, "There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."

Considering the last phrase, those people would see the kingdom of God, ought to give a clue. In John 3, while speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus said one must be born from above in order to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). This rules Judas out - no serious student of Scripture thinks he was born by the Spirit into eternal life.

Many commentaries see this statement of Jesus referring to the establishment and growth of the New Covenant body of believers that took place during the lives of the apostles and continues to this day, pointing to the promised return of our Savior.

Matthew Poole summed it up like this: "But the most generally received opinion, and which seems best, is, that the coming of the Son of man here meant is, his resurrection from the dead. His ascension into heaven, and sending the Holy Spirit, after which the kingdom of grace came with a mighty power, subduing all nations to the Lord Jesus Christ. He was declared, (or determined), to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, Romans 1:4. And when, after his resurrection from the dead, they asked him, Acts 1:6, whether he would at that time restore the kingdom to Israel, he puts them off, and tells them for an answer, Acts 1:8, But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. And then, Acts 1:9, he in their sight ascended up into heaven. Then did the kingdom of the Son of man come with power, Acts 2:33-36, they knowing assuredly that the Son of man, whom the Jews had crucified, was made both Lord and Christ, as Acts 2:36, and, as Acts 2:34,35, set at God’s right hand, (according to the prophecy of David, Psalm 90:1), until his enemies should be made his footstool."

The kingdom was inaugurated with a display of the power and glory of God when He ascended and when the Spirit ignited the body of Christ and spread the gospel to those who had walked in darkness. The kingdom is now, Christ rules over all powers and dominions - He declared this when He gave the Great Commission: Read Matt 28:18-20. This is the kingdom: Christ in glory, His Spirit equipping and guiding His people to spread His gospel to the ends of the earth.

V. Application
a.) People today are just as curious and apathetic about who Jesus is as were the first century Jews. Some consider Jesus to have been a wise teacher, but not divine. Others think Him the things of mythology. Do you know the answer to the question - who is Jesus? Can you answer those who may ask you? If you are in Christ, you have the Spirit within - the same Spirit that revealed the answer to Peter so long ago. Be sure you know Him - and can tell others: Jesus is the Christ of God.

b.) Knowing the identity of Jesus hinges upon knowing why He came. If sin was not the problem, Jesus would not have had to suffer at the hands of men on our account nor would He have had to drink the cup of wrath to reconcile us to God the Father. And if we do not KNOW, deep down in our soul, that Christ Jesus was raised from the dead, then what hope of eternal life can we have?

c.) There is a cost to follow the Lord Jesus. The world and our flesh will pull at us, men who know not the Christ will ridicule us, those with a false gospel will argue for the works of man for salvation. Are you willing to be known as His in the workplace, in school, with your neighbors? I've known people at work who thought their faith had to be kept a secret. When Jesus said we should not be ashamed of His words, He is basically telling us to be public with our profession and walk. Those who fear man more than God will be ashamed of His words; those who are indwelt by the Spirit will not fear man. J.C. Ryle said, “It costs something to be a true Christian. It will cost us our sins, our self-righteousness, our ease, and our worldliness.” Those who are at ease with their sin need to examine themselves. Peace with sin means no peace with God. Peace with God means no peace with sin.

d.) While the context of our passage makes it clear that Jesus was talking about the first death, physical death, the promise to us has to do with the second death. This is the sure promise of God for those who are in Christ: having been given eternal life we are guaranteed that the second death has no grip on us.

When Jesus died, death for all who are in Him was defeated. John Owen, a man of many words, wrote a 426 page book titled, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. His point was to demonstrate that for all who are in Christ, the second death has no hold. Some men teach that Christ died for everyone, yet the benefit for those who are doomed to damnation is nowhere to be found; they are still dead in sin. The death of Christ gives life to those who were dead. This is what it means to see Jesus as the Christ of God. He had authority to lay down His life and to pick it back up again. And He gives life to that which was dead, reconciling wretched sinners to holy God.
And what wondrous love is this?
Though I raised my clenched fist,
He opened up my hand to received His gift

And what wondrous love is here?
That God Immortal has drawn near,
And shed His blood to close the rift.

If you are His, He has drawn you close and commanded you, as you go, to make disciples, teaching those who believe all He has commanded. If you are not His, while it is yet today, cry out to Him for faith and repentance. Oh how dreadful, when the great fountains of God’s wrath shall be broken up and all His bitter vials poured out! Today is the day - if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart as they did in the days of the wilderness. Jesus saves sinners - turn to Him, look to Him and be saved!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Water Baptism

There are some comments and teaching in the audio not contained in the notes below.

Water Baptism

Baptists baptize believers – by submersion. We're in the minority. Denominations that practice "infant baptism" include Roman Catholics, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, some Nazarenes, the United Church of Christ (UCC), Moravian Church, Metropolitan Community Church, Wesleyans, and Episcopalians. There are some who believe baptism is salvific – Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and those who hold to Federal Vision.

Baptists used to be called “people of the book,” resting on the sure foundation of Scripture and submitting to the authority of Scripture. If we are not tenacious in this matter, we are vulnerable to smooth sounding arguments that end up becoming traditions that cannot be questioned. Just as has happened for those who sprinkle little ones. I do not want to spend much time explaining why the paedobaptist view on baptism is wrong, I will appeal to a few of their finest theologians to tells us they are wrong.

John Calvin: “John and Christ administered baptism totins corpore submersione, by the submission of the whole body … The very word 'baptize' … signifies to immerse entirely, and it is certain that immersion was the practice of the ancient church.”

Martin Luther: “The Greek word baptizo means 'immerse' or 'plunge', and the word baptisma means immersion.”

Ulrich Zwingli: “Immersion of the whole body was used from the beginning, which expresses the force of the word 'baptize', whence John baptized in the river. It was afterward changed into sprinkling, though it is uncertain when or by whom.”

And the great B.B.Warfield: “It is true that there is no express command to baptize infants in the New Testament, no express record of the baptism of infants, and no passages so stringently implying it that we must infer from them that infants were baptized.”

These four giants of the Reformation and the development of Presbyterian theology unabashedly tell us their position is not based on the Scriptures. It’s what I call “white space theology” – derived from the spaces between the words in the Word; what they call "good and necessary inference." When did this great controversy over baptism start? If believers' baptism is what the Bible teaches, why and when did people start baptizing babies? History records the creeping ignorance and superstition that led to this practice and the religion which institutionalized it. In the 3rd century, some people in the church became convinced that baptism was meritorious and had a magical power to help save the soul. At first, people only baptized infants who were sick – as an insurance policy. Quickly, all infants were baptized, sprinkled instead of dipped – for their physical health. Church men began to argue over when the infant should be baptized – saying on the 8th day? Others argued it ought be delayed as long as possible so that more sins would be covered. Such was the case with Constantine, who refused to be “baptized” until he was on his death bed. Lack of knowledge and trust in the Word of God leads men astray, to trust in the imaginations of men. Something that divides people for centuries, shedding no little blood, ought to be based on clear teachings from Scripture - not inferences needed to support that which is not found clearly taught.

When Christianity was legalized, the church, already suffering from an unhealthy view of “holy clergy”, saw infant baptism as an effective way to number the people so they could be taxed and controlled. And to convince the ignorant masses, these compromised churchmen played up the false notion that baptism plays a part in saving one's soul. This is called Sacerdotalism – using a sacrament (a religious rite) as a means of conveying God's favor to the people. When the Reformation broke out, some were called Magisterial Reformers – they maintained the close connection between church and state. One of these, Zwingli, was stuck between his belief that the Bible commands believers' baptism and his practice, which was more than a thousand years old, the union of church and state and control of the people by infant baptism. So he persecuted those who did not practice what the state commanded because he feared the people. Such is the power of our unexamined presuppositions and the influence of the culture. We must be people of the book!

In the early 17th century, the Puritans fled England in search of religious liberty. They had been persecuted because they believed in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone and they were persecuted because the state church held to a sacerdotal view. Yet they, like Zwingli, failed to escape the trap they fled – they brought it with them, just like Lot did when he fled Zoar. Baptists also fled to the New World to escape religious persecution. In a report, Ill News from New England, early American Baptist John Clark records how he, Obidiah Jones, and John Crandall were arrested because they had discussed baptism over dinner at a boarding house. These three were hauled before the court in Boston, found guilty of not honoring the state religion. They were beaten, fined, and thrown in prison. The Puritans had established state churches in the colonies and they persecuted those who did not agree with their religious views – just like the Church of England which persecuted them. Our theology affects how we live, just as it did these Puritans and these Baptists.

With that brief historical backdrop, I want to explore the deepest meaning of this ordinance. Why is baptism – baptism of believers – important? What does it signify?

We know what Romans 6:4 says, we rightly hear it every time a child of God gets baptized - We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. This gives us a picture of what has been done to us, that as the Lord Jesus was put to death and raised up, so are we. This is an important truth that we must never forget. But I hope we open our eyes to the greater meaning of this simple ordinance and pray that we see together what a glorious picture has been given to us by our great and gracious Lord.

As with most important truths from Scripture, the spiritual significance of what God has revealed is far, far greater than we at first comprehend. Unless we dig into the Word and pray for wisdom, we may not get to the place where we see more and are given even more reason to humbly thank our God, in awe of Who He is and what, in truth, has been done.

I highly recommend a small book by Baptist Pastor Hal Brunson, titled The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror, a book of parables about baptism, which is most helpful.

The metaphor in Romans 6:4 gives us the active or present reality of the meaning of Christ's death, that introspective reality of the first resurrection, when we die to sin and are raised to new life. But this verse and the act of baptism also point back historically to the death of Christ and prophetically forward to the physical resurrection of all the saints when He returns to judge all flesh. Baptism is a multifaceted word picture that ought to remind us of far more than the glorious change wrought in the life of the redeemed sinner. One aspect of baptism that baby sprinklers cannot lay claim to is baptism as a picture of submersion into great waters, portraying the great waters of Divine judgment. We see in Scripture several passages where great waters are graphic symbols of God's judgment and wrath against sin – which Christ took upon His body as the Lamb sacrificed for our sin. He was submersed into the ocean of God's wrath on our account, and raised up on the third day. There are at least four major word pictures used in Scripture that describe baptism.

  1. The flood of Noah.
  2. The sorrows of David, described as “great waters”.
  3. Jonah being cast into the sea.
  4. Jesus' understanding of His death.

The Apostle Peter points to this great flood of the entire earth as a vivid picture of the believer's baptism as well as a figure or type pointing to the suffering of Christ. In proclaiming (1 Pet 3:18) that Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, Peter then alludes to the flood and how only 8 persons were saved in the ark, brought through the great waters of God's judgment against sin. And Peter goes on in his first letter to tell us that baptism corresponds to this – the flood of Noah, the outpouring of God's wrath in judgment and the only refuge being in the ark which is Christ. In 2 Peter, the flood is listed with another well-known symbol of God's wrath against sin – Sodom and Gomorrah. God's wrath against sin is real, it is certain, it is final. We need a savior, One Who can bear up under this wrath, One Who has no sin of His own to atone for. Not only did Christ provide refuge from God's wrath, He was buried in God's judgment as payment for sin. He is worthy of our praise.

What about the sorrows of David? This man after God's own heart knew of his own sin and the despair of trusting in any mortal man for reconciliation with Holy God. David and other Psalmists described their deep sorrows as a kind of burial beneath the billows and waves of the Almighty. In Psalm 42 we read, Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? In this sorrowful lament with his soul, he describes his afflictions in terms that point to baptism - Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. Three images of water – waterfalls, breakers, and waves – all communicate the idea of a cascading waterfall pummeling the poet, with the brutal breakers and waves of an angry ocean violently washing over his head. These terrifying metaphors of his torment and anguish wash over him, drowning him in his sorrows. Carried along by the Spirit of God to write these things, perhaps the Psalmist knew not that he prophesied of the promised Messiah, but his words anticipate the sufferings and death of Christ as a kind of baptism. The word for deep in the psalm is used as a synonym for sheol, connecting to the death of Christ as a submersion into the deepest waters of sheol. And the water metaphors in this psalm undoubtedly describe the suffering servant of God - Psalm 42:10  As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” This is widely recognized as prophecy of the Lord's sword-pierced side and the cruel mockery of those who blasphemed while He hung on the cross.

David's description of his soul's suffering in deep water takes us more deeply into the sufferings of Jesus. As did the high priest of Israel, we are brought through the first veil, the holy place of Christ's impeccable flesh, gazing upon His physical sufferings; and then through the second veil into the holy of holies, to the very heart of Christ, where we see the spiritual anguish of the Lamb being under the rod of God's wrath. In Psalm 18, David wrote about his persecution at the hand of Saul – but the eternal message of redemption contained in all of Scripture here portrays the Savior's passion, not David's sorrow; death and hell as the persecutor of Christ, not Saul chasing David. The king of Israel describes his trials in terms of sorrow and death and hell which have a human and a divine cause, stark images of his soul's baptism into the lesser sea of man's wrath and the greater ocean of God's wrath. David is immersed in human wrath, Saul's rage is real. But David's words tell of God's judgment on sin and care for His people. Psalm 18:7-17 Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry.  Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him. He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds. The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire. And he sent out his arrows and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings and routed them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils. He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.

But as God did not leave David's soul in torment, neither would He suffer His Holy One to see corruption, as Christ was not left buried beneath the sea of God's wrath and the ocean of His judgment. As David cried out in his distress and called upon the Lord from beneath the deep waters of his sufferings, so also the Savior, as it were, from beneath the burning waters of the cross, (Matthew 27:46) Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” As deep calls to deep, the Almighty heard the voices of David and David's seed, and thus He bowed the heavens and came down, riding on a cherub and flying on the wings of the wind; God answered the cry of His Son and sent from above and drew Him out of many waters.

The sorrows of David and other psalmists resonate with all who suffer, but they point us to the One Who suffered what we deserve, to bring many sons and daughters to glory. The love of God for His elect caused the Son of God – David's promised seed – to submit to the baptism of His Father's wrath, so we who are called by His name would be reconciled to our Father and not be left to our just deserts.

When we baptize a new convert, we are not drinking His cup, but we bapize in remembrance of what He did – to cut the New Covenant in His blood to reconcile sinners to Holy God. Paul asks, Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Rom 6:3) And further he tells us, (1 Corinthians 12:13) For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Oh, the Savior’s love for His Father – and all those He chose to redeem in Christ! Baptism – it's an ordinance which shows how spiritually dead people have been raised to new life in Christ. But, oh my dear brothers and sisters – it is much, much more than that. I pray you got a glimpse of a better picture of the grand and glorious sacrifice of our Lord and Savior was prophesied and pictured in various ways as a baptism into God the Father's judgment. The price He paid and the suffering He took as He drank the cup of wrath due us, summed up the submersion and emersion as one is plunged beneath the waters of baptism and raised up from the deep as did our Savior. Let us never see baptism as only the celebration of a new-born brother in Christ, and not ever the mere sprinkling of water over a little one who knows nothing and fears not the sprinkled water. Let us always remember the One Who was baptized in a way you and I could never survive. Christ paid the price we could not pay. He drank the cup and underwent the baptism we could never do. Every time we see this ordinance, let us think on His sacrifice, His obedience, His submission. And let us be thankful we have a faithful God Who did not allow His Holy One to see corruption – that we would have the firm hope of life eternal. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. It is a glorious picture of our Redeemer, but we won't know that if we are not people of the book!