The Preparation of Christ

 

The opening verse of Mark’s gospel pronounced the focus of this book; the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the revelation of Jesus as Person and a depiction of His Passion. Now we move on into the book of Mark looking at the preparation of Christ.

 

In Mark 1:2-13 we see the preparatory work of God in two respects. First we see the preparation of John the Baptist, the one who God would use to prepare the way for Jesus the Messiah. By looking at His preparation we can learn how to be prepared to be used by God to prepare the way for Jesus to be introduced today into other people’s lives.

 

Secondly, and most importantly, we see the preparation of Jesus Christ, the anointed One. As the anointed One, the Messiah, Jesus needed to receive the anointing, the approval of the Father, not so much for Himself, but for those to whom Jesus came to minister. The people then and all throughout history up until the present and even on in the future (as long as Jesus tarries) need to see the statement of approval from the Father regarding His only Son Jesus and the empowerment of the Spirit for ministry upon Jesus. Because God’s plan for the believer is to be conformed by the Spirit into the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29), by looking at the preparation of Jesus here, we gain further insight into how we can have the Holy Spirit prepare us to be used to prepare the way of introduction of Jesus into other’s lives.

 

The preparation of Jesus was set up by first the preparation of John the Baptist as a disciple and servant of the Lord. It is to this preparation that we first turn now.

 

The Preparation of the Prophet John the Baptist

 

Mark 1:2-3 – “As it is written in the Prophets:  “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.”3 “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.’ ”  [1]

Mark is inspired here to introduce the gospel by forming a composite of a number of Old Testament scriptures (Exodus 23:20; Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1). In Mark chapter 1 we are introduced to one of the most interesting persons in the ministry of Jesus. We are speaking of course of John the Baptist. The imagery conveyed by the word “messenger” is that of an envoy who goes ahead and prepares the way for a dignitary (Greek ANGELOS – Strong’s #32 -a[ggelo" aggeáloás, ang´-el-os; from  ajggevllw aggeálloµ . . . to bring tidings; a messenger; . . . an “angel”; . . .  a pastor . . .  messenger.[2])

 

Of John the Baptist the KJV Bible Commentary states:

 

“The forerunner of Christ was John the Baptist. He was the son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, and a cousin of the Lord (cf. Luke 1:5–80). The significance of his preparatory ministry cannot be overestimated. Even Josephus (Antiquities xviii  5.2) refers to him by name. John was a child of promise whose birth had been announced by the angel Gabriel to his father who was a priest. His birth was accompanied by the promise: “He shall be great in the sight of the Lord … and shall be filled with the Holy Ghost” (Luke 1:15) . Jesus said of him that there was none greater than John (Matthew 11:11) during the Old Testament dispensation. This would imply that John the Baptist was the epitome of the message of the Old Testament itself.”  [3]

 

John was called by God to “prepare Your way before You . . . Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight” (Isaiah 40:3-5; Mark 1:2-3, 7; Matthew 3:3).

 

If we look at the gospel accounts we see that John’s ministry to prepare the way of the Lord was unique in some ways:

 

1.)    His birth was announced by an angel – Luke 1:11-20.

2.)    He represented the epitome of an Old Testament prophet as he was set apart for God’s use with a Nazarite vow – Numbers 6:2; Luke 1:15.

3.)    He introduced Jesus as Messiah and therefore marked the transition from the Old to New Testament.

 

But while he was unique in these ways, he also pictures for us a ministry that all disciples have, that is, all disciples are prepared by God to be used by God to “prepare the way” for others to find Jesus. The disciple of Jesus can gain a lot of valuable instruction from examining John the Baptist. John the Baptist was a powerful instrument of God. What made him so powerful? Why was he so useful to God?  Let’s look at this man of God.

 

Prepare The Way For Jesus By Fulfilling God’s Word

One reason for John the Baptist’s effectiveness in ministry was that it was a fulfillment of God’s word. In Mark 1:2-3 Mark is spoken of as being the fulfillment of  scripture (Malachi 3:1; also Matthew 3:3; Luke 3:4-6). From this we can deduce the general truth that: When the disciple is walking in line with God’s word God’s power flows and the disciple can walk confidently.

Does this mean the disciple will never doubt or question? No, it doesn’t mean that. If we look at the life of John the Baptist, we see that there was a point in his ministry where he did have a desire for even more clarity on God’s direction for him and the ministry God had called him to (Matthew 11:2-3). Now this is interesting because early on in ministry it was John who recognized and proclaimed Jesus as “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). But notice too that God does not punish or shelve John for seeking assurance but rather confirms his ministry and who Jesus was and is (Matthew 11:4-6). How did Jesus reconfirm to John his calling and the fulfillment thereof? It was by referring to God’s word (Isaiah 35:4-6). Just like John, the disciple should live according to God’s word and be guided and confirmed in ministry by God’s word. When in doubt, the disciple needs to go to God’s word.

Being Prepared To Prepare The Way

 

Mark 1:4 – “John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”  [4] (See also Luke 3:2-3).

In Luke’s gospel account we are told that it was in the wilderness of Judea that John spent time alone with God and it was in this wilderness experience that, “the word of God came to John” (Luke 3:2-3). Before John could preach he had to receive God’s word. This is a key sequence for the disciple to see. When a disciple goes out to proclaim God’s word, they must and can only proclaim what they have received from God. The disciple should not just talk off the top of their head, but needs to spend time in God’s word first and then share what God has given them. In other words, the disciple needs to be prepared and filled with God’s word before they go out discipling and preparing the way for Jesus to be introduced to others.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the disciple has to go to Bible College or seminary, what it does mean is that at the very least, the disciple needs to spend private personal quiet time with God so He can prepare them for the ministry He is calling them to. Whether or not the disciple is directed by God to go to a place of formal training does not change the need for him or her to be prepared (daily) for ministry by a time alone with God.

There once was a young man who lived on a farm with his family. One day he was out in the fields laboring and in the sky he saw the clouds form the letters “PC.”  Right away he wondered what the letters meant. As he walked back to the house he thought to himself, “PC, hmmm, what can it mean, I know, PC means ‘Preach Christ’!” he ran to the house and told his wife God was calling him to the ministry. She looked at him and sternly said, “Honey, he may be calling you, but He sure ain’t calling me! If you want to go, go, but I’m staying here.” Hard as it was the young farmer left and began an itinerant ministry. Days passed into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. His efforts and all he did came hard to him and were packed with stress, hardship and fruitlessness. His wife left him for someone else and he lost the farm. Everything that could happen to a person that was bad happened to this young farmer turned preacher. But he pressed on, living a life he liked to liken to that of Job. He grew old and died. Upon his death he came to the pearly gates and was met by an angel. The preacher figured that now that he was in heaven, all his questions would be answered and the one that was burning on his heart was why his life and ministry had been so fouled up. The angel had a book on the preacher and when the preacher found this out he asked, “Angel, why was my life and ministry so fouled up and unfruitful?” The angel turned through many pages in the book on this preacher until he finally came to the circumstances when the preacher was working in the field and the heavenly message had been sent. The angel said, “Do you remember that time you were working in the field and God sent you that sign in the sky?” “You mean the ‘PC’?” said the preacher. “Yes, that’s right,” said the angel. The angel went on, “For some reason when the sign came to you, you left the fields, the farm and your wife and went off into ministry; why’d you do that?” asked the angel. “Well, you see,” said the preacher, “I thought the ‘PC’ meant ‘Preach Christ.’” “Oh,” said the angel, “Now I understand what happened. God sent you that sign in the sky not to tell you to leave everything and ‘Preach Christ’ but to tell you it was time to ‘Plant Corn.’” The preacher just looked at the angel in silence with his mouth dropped open and then he struck himself in the head and walked on through the gates into heaven.

If only the farmer had spent time in prayer before the Lord rather than march out presumptuously. It’s so important that it is God who calls and prepares us, that we spend time with Him before we march off on some “ministry” endeavor. As we will see in the lives of both John the Baptist and Jesus, God uses “the wilderness” to prepare His servants.

The Preparation of a Messenger (e.g. a Disciple)

The preparation of a messenger or disciple we are speaking of is not something that can be learned in a classroom. Classrooms and higher education oftentimes feed the flesh or carnal nature. Indeed the apostle Paul wrote:

  • 1 Corinthians 8:1b – “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”  [5]

So where was John the Baptist prepared for the ministry God called him too? John the Baptist was prepared by God in the wilderness. The wilderness is a place of solitude; a place where distractions are at a minimum and one can be alone and quiet before the Lord. The wilderness is a place where one can have an uninterrupted conversation with the Lord. It is a place where one almost must hear the Lord in order to survive. There were no institutions of higher learning for John the Baptist in the wilderness.

John went into the wilderness with the word of God in his heart. John grew up in a godly home where he had been taught God’s word. That word of God that was implanted in his heart in his formative years at home, is the word of God that he took with him into the wilderness. You see, they didn’t have pocket Bibles in those days or laptop computers with Bible programs.  No, John went into the wilderness and was alone with God. Perhaps the LORD revealed the substance of His word to John as He would later to with the apostle Paul (who also experienced the wilderness with God - Galatians 1:11-2:2).

The Mark of a Messenger Disciple

John was called by God to be a messenger of Jesus Christ. John was the first messenger disciple of Christ in the New Testament. What does a messenger disciple look like, what are their attributes?

John would fulfill his calling because he learned his wilderness lessons well. Whatever took place between the LORD and John in the wilderness to form him into the epitome of a messenger disciple can be found in John’s gospel account. In the gospel of John we can see the God’s wilderness preparatory effect on John from the following passage from the Gospel of John, which states:

  • John 3:27-36 – “John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.28 “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’29 “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.31 “He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.32 “And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.33 “He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true.34 “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.35 “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.36 “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  [6]

From this passage we can see the following preparatory groundwork laid by God in John’s life in the form of six things God worked into John.

First, the messenger disciple prepared by God is not presumptive. The gospel states John said,  “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.” (John 3:27). One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is presuming on the will of God. Presumption is born of pride and leads to pain and suffering as well as big problems in life. Pride, self-confidence, self-centeredness, self-reliance, self-rule, and any other form of the carnal-self-sinful-nature needs to be crucified. The disciple needs to come to the point where they are not self-serving but self-crucifying (e.g. Galatians 2:20). This doesn’t mean one needs go into some secluded cave and deprive oneself of food, clothing and the amenities of life. It means that the disciple needs to subordinate their will to the will of God. It means they must cast aside their personal wants and or desires if they conflict with the plans of God. The disciple comes to realize that the only things that matter are those things that have been given them by God. (Now some may respond by saying, “doesn’t everything come from God?” Yes, but what we want and what God wants for and through us, is not always the same thing. Any person mindful of their walk with God knows this to be true. When our will conflicts with God’s will, the disciple submits to God’s will.)

Second, the messenger disciple prepared by God is not the Lord over what God calls them to do. Of John it is recorded that he said, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.” (John 3:28). The disciple must be prepared to take a back seat to Jesus in ministry. The disciple is a learner and follower of Christ. The disciple does not step out and take the lead; the disciple lets Jesus take the lead and follows wherever the Lord leads seeking to serve Him at His beck and call. The disciple does not launch out and then turn to Jesus and say, “Follow me Lord!”  The disciple who does that usually ends up praying, “Lord, bless this mess I’ve made.”

 

Third, the messenger disciple prepared by God must be focused on and do everything in his or her power to have others focus on Christ John the Baptist stated, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30). The disciple needs to be cleansed from any word or action that would take credit for something God has done or that would feed their pride. The disciple musts be willing to serve in anonimity and obscurity. Nothing will foul up a servant of God more than accolades or the spotlight that gets them thinking they are more than they really are. The disciple is an unworthy servant as Jesus said:

 

  • Luke 17:10 - “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ”  [7]

Being prepared by God to minister involves the crucifixion of one’s flesh. This can be painful at times, but it is necessary. The disciple will come to learn that the crucifixion of their flesh is really the path to fullness of life and joy. That is what John said, “Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.” (John 3:29).

 

Fourth, the messenger disciple prepared by God does not minister based on the response of others, but is prepared by God to simply remain faithful to Him regardless of the response of others. John stated, “He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.32 “And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.33 “He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true.” (John 3:31-33)  John is speaking of Jesus here, that His testimony will not be received. John is bearing witness to Jesus’ determination and making it his own as well. This does not mean that there will always be no response from those the disciple is ministering to. As we will see later in our study, fruitfulness, (that is often shown by the responsiveness of people) is a sign of God’s call. But the response of people to ministry is not the disciple’s sole or even primary focus.

 

When we look at the Old Testament prophets as well as the New Testament apostles and disciples, we find that they often ministered in the face of persecution and opposition  (Jeremiah 1; Matthew 5:10-12; John 5:16; Acts 7; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 2 Corinthians 4:9). The messenger disciple must be prepared to be faithful to God rather than depend on the response of people. The disciple is not called to a popularity contest but to faithful service to God. Paul shows us that the disciple needs to be prepared beforehand to not be deterred from God’s work in the face of opposition. In Acts he said this when bidding farewell to the Ephesians:

 

  • Acts 20:22-24 - “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there,23 “except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.24 “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”  [8]

The preparatory work of God sets the messenger disciple’s will and heart like flint so that they are prepared to be unmoved no matter what is thrown at them (Ezekiel 3:9). The messenger disciple in Christ is an unstoppable force in the Spirit when it comes to serving the Lord.

Fifth, the preparation of the messenger disciple involves learning to depend on the Spirit, not ones own strength. “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.” (John 3:34). There is a limitless supply of the Spirit’s power for those called by God as messenger disciples of the plan of God. The disciple will be effective in fulfilling God’s plans in proportion to the degree to which they rely on the Holy Spirit for empowerment. Remember the inspired words of Zechariah who said:

 

  • Zechariah 4:6 – “So he answered and said to me: 1 “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts.”  [9]

If the messenger disciple is to be a force for the Lord, it will be in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sixth, the message of God given to the messenger disciple is one that causes the need for decision. “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.36 “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  (John 3:35-36). Either you have life in the Son or you do not. The disciple holds nothing back, but speaks the truth in love trusting the Spirit of God to do His work. The message of the messenger disciple is one that calls for a decision from the recipients. That message points out that indecision is decision when it comes to Jesus and His gospel. You are either saved or unsaved. You either have the Spirit in your heart or you do not. And any postponement of decision is a risk that may result in eternal consequences. That is the undeniable truth of the message the Spirit brings to bear through the  messenger disciple. At the point the message of the messenger disciple is given the point to be emphasized is that “Today,” NOW is the right time to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord (Hebrews 3:7-15).

 

Seventh, God prepared John as a messenger disciple by teaching Him His love. As we study what John the Baptist was taught by God there is the danger that we will see these things are mere works and self-effort. But nothing could be further from the truth. John was not taught steps one through six and then told to do them. That would only puff him up (1 Corinthians 8:1).  I believe that what John learned and was built up by something that flowed out of the love of God. John had a love for God and His Groom Jesus and that compelled him and empowered him to be the messenger of God he was. The first six preparatory lessons God taught John would seem difficult if they were merely a set of do’s and don’ts. But all that John was taught by God flowed out of God’s love for John and John’s love for God. It was because John the Baptist loved the Lord that he was willing to submit to the self-crucifying life of serving God. The apostle Paul put it best when he was inspired to write:

 

  • 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 – “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”  [10]

Notice, Paul is not just talking about himself, he says, “the love of God compels us.” That is, God’s love compels God’s disciples and is the fuel that fires the furnace of service in the heart of a disciple. And that love is not a work either, it is provided by the presence of Spirit in the life of the disciple. This is testified to in the book of Romans by Paul who was inspired to write:

  • Romans 5:5 – “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  [11]

God pours out a love into the heart of the disciple that enables that messenger disciple to follow Him and be used by Him. John the Baptist may not have known this outpouring in its fullness (Matthew 11:9-13), but certainly he had a love for the Lord that could only have come from the Lord. It is God’s love in us by the Spirit that enables the messenger disciple to be prepared and useable to God. That is the primary preparatory work of God in the life of John the Baptist and the life of every true messenger disciple.

Prepared by Receiving the Spirit’s Powerful Love

How can we receive this powerful Spirit provided love? Jesus said all we need do is ask and God will provide the Spirit to us. In Luke it states:

  • Luke 11:13 - “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”  [12]

Why not pause a moment right now and ask the Lord to pour out, by the Holy Spirit, that compelling love of His into your heart? If you do, God is faithful; you will never be the same.

The Preparatory Calling and Anointing of God on John the Baptist

How did John discern God’s calling on his life? How can we know what God is calling us to do? What are some of the indications of God’s preparatory calling in our lives? God’s message, anointing and fruitfulness are key indicators in discovering God’s call in our lives. This is what we see in the life of John the Baptist. Let’s examine how God confirmed John’s calling and ministry. 

God Confirms His Calling by Giving an Anointed Clear Concise Message

Mark 1:4 - “John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.5 Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.”  [13]

John’s message was anointed by the Spirit, it was powerful and it was powerful because the message given to John by the Spirit was clear and concise.  When we speak of anointing we are referring to the power of God bestowed by God and working in and through a person (John 7:37-39; Ezekiel 47:1-12).

John said a man can receive nothing unless God gives it to him (John 3:27). John had a clear picture of what the Lord wanted him to do and what the Lord wanted him to say. This is evidence of God’s calling on his life.

When we say “concise” we do not mean to imply simplistic. The message of John was concise, but powerful; it was simple but profound. The Spirit anointed and used his message. The message of John was simple enough for all to understand and receive, but profound enough to challenge all and call them to make a life altering decision. Let’s examine the nature of the message God gave to John.

An Anointed Clear Message Calling for Repentance

John was moved by God to call people to repent. What does “repentance” mean? The word  “repentance” is translated from the Greek term METANOEO (Strong’s #3340-41) and means “to change one’s mind; to have a change of heart; decisive reversal.” In Matthew 3:2 John’s message is stated to have been, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” In Matthew 3:2 the word “repent” is a verb and the form of this Greek term (Present/Active/Imperative) conveys the thought of a continuous action and therefore the effect would be like, “Repent and keep on repenting!” Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change in life. John was calling people to turn their hearts to God sincerely, in a way that would last.

It should be noted here that repentance is an act of faith. Repentance and faith go hand in hand. If a person is putting faith in God, they repent or turn from their sin to Him. It is this turning in faith that results in the remitting of sin.

An Anointed Clear Message Calling for Confession of Sin

Mark records John’s ministry as involving the, “confessing their sins” as people came to be baptized (1:5). What does “confession” mean? “Confessing,” means to agree with God about your sinfulness  (Strong’s # 1843 - ejxomologevw eáxoámoáloágeáoµ, ex-om-ol-og-eh´-o; . . . to acknowledge or . . . assent . . .  agree fully . . .  confess, profess, promise.”[14]) When we confess our sins, we admit our wrongness before God as well as His rightness, and that from the heart. Confession is not merely acknowledging something; it is entering into the feeling and emotion of it. To confess is to genuinely and deeply admit before our Holy God that we are unholy and filthy with sin before Him (Isaiah 64:6). Forgiveness is based on God’s faithfulness and righteousness not ours; we simply come in humility and neediness before Him in whom are eternal destiny hangs in the balance (1 John 1:9).

An Anointed Clear Message Culminating in Remission of Sins

John’s message in Mark is described as culminating in finding “remission of sins” by way of repenting (Mark 14). “Remission” here comes from the Greek term APHESIS (Strong’s # 859 - a[fesi" apheásis, af´-es-is) and is defined as, “ freedom; . . .  pardon . . .  deliverance, forgiveness, liberty, remission.” [15] When a person turns from their sin to God in faith and confesses their sin admitting they are sinful and seeing sin from God’s perspective, God frees and pardons the repentant sinner.

Repentance, confession and remission of sin, this is the clear message John preached and a clear message is a great advantage. When your message is clear and concise it enables the disciple to be bold because with clarity and conciseness comes certainty. If you are confused and uncertain about what you believe, your communication will be the same, confused and uncertain. Remember, God trained John in the wilderness. Formal training is not always necessary. Formal training should always be seen as supplemental, not the means by which one’s calling is obtained. You are not necessarily called to ministry or to be a messenger of the Lord because you’ve attended Bible College, Seminary or have some degree. There are a lot of people who have a great deal of training who by their lack of anointing and fruit are evidently not called by God. What is essential and indispensable to being used by God is that one knows God’s word.

The Indispensable Word of God

How do you think John the Baptist knew what God was calling him to do? How did he know he was the one called by God to prepare the way of the Lord? John recognized his calling through the knowledge of the word God had given him. At some point the Lord impressed upon John that he was the one called to prepare the way of the Lord in the various prophetic passages (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1). John was guided by God’s word in his life.

The messenger disciple needs to know the word of God and know it well enough to live it, communicate it and share it in a clear and concise way. This was Paul’s advice to young pastor Timothy when he was inspired to write:

  • 2 Timothy 2:15 – “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  [16]
  • 2 Timothy 3:14-17 – “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  [17]
  • 2 Timothy 4:1-2 – “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” [18]

The messenger disciple needs to know God’s word. And the messenger disciple needs to be anointed or empowered for ministry by God through the Spirit.

Anointed By God To Prepare The Way For Jesus

Mark 1:5 – “Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.”  [19]

The messenger disciple of God is anointed by God and this anointing is evidenced by God’s attracting people to be ministered to.  Notice how God brought the people to John, (“went out to him”). Such fruit is evidence of God’s anointing. John did not have to go out to get the people and drag them to be baptized. And when they came out to be baptized by John, they were “confessing their sins.” (3:6) This is evidence of the anointing of God on John. The conviction of the Holy Spirit was upon the repentant and they saw their sin from God’s perspective. As we said earlier, confession is coming to see sin from God’s perspective. This can only come as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11). To be anointed by God means the Spirit works in and through a person to convict the sinner of their sin and edify the believer to go deeper with God. The anointing of God brings fruitfulness and effectiveness.

John didn’t have to advertise or market his ministry, the anointing of God was upon it and the Spirit led people to him. God’s anointing and attracting people to ministry confirms one’s calling. This is one of the most important things for a disciple to learn. If God has anointed you for a certain aspect of ministry, receive it, enjoy it, fulfill it, and walk in it. Paul wrote to Timothy:

  • 1 Timothy 4:14 – “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.” [20]

God will reveal His calling on your life oftentimes by the fruit born in ministry a person serves in. As we humbly serve in ministry opportunities, God directs us by bearing fruit through us.

Discerning The Right Attraction

While it is true that God reveals His anointing by attracting people to a ministry, it is also just as evident that simply because a person can attract a crowd does not mean they are anointed by God. There are many charlatans and false teachers who are able to attract large crowds and these could hardly be called “anointed” by God.

So how can we discern if a group attraction is of the Lord? Simply by looking at the fruit of the one leading the ministry. John the Baptist sets the example for us here. We can assess an attraction by looking at John’s example and asking a few related questions:

First, John said a man could receive nothing unless God gave it to him (John 3:27). Does the one leading the attraction rely on God or something else to validate his authority to lead the gathering? Does the one leading the gathering show evidence of relying on manipulation, worldly tactics, or unbiblical strategies to justify his gathering?

Second, John was truthful and adhered to God’s word and calling, he did not put himself as lord over what God called him to do, but was willing to take a back seat to God’s will (John 3:28; 1 Peter 4:11). Does the one leading the gathering reign over the gathering in a way that disregards God’s word? Does the one leading the gathering disregard God’s word or “bend it” manipulate it to their whims?

Third, John new he was the best man, not the Groom Jesus and his motto was, “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:29-30). Does the one leading the gathering point people to Jesus or are they the center of attention? Are they the “Famous One” at the gathering or is God?

Fourth, John did not cater to public opinion but was most concerned about pleasing God (John 3:31-33). Does the one leading the gathering play to the crowd? Does he or she use crowd-oriented tactics to stir up emotions even if they mislead people? Do they hold back truth for fear of offending the crowd? Are they cautious to not do anything to offend the crowd that would impact how much the crowd gives in an offering?

Fifth, John depended on the Spirit to move and work on people (John 3:34; Zechariah 4:6). Does the one leading the gathering depend on the Spirit or gimmicks to control and get the crowd on his side?

Sixth, John was given a message from God that required a decision in response to Jesus (John 3:35-36). Does the one leading the gathering call people to make a decision in response to the gospel of Christ, or in raising money or supporting their “ministry”? Is a decision even sought regarding Jesus?

Seventh, John was compelled by the love of God; he loved God and His Groom Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Romans 5:5). What seems to compel the one leading the gathering, money, lust, power, and fame? Unless the love of the Spirit is dominant, we have to question the source of that gathering.

When we examine gatherings and ask these questions, we can discern who is the source of the gatherings. This is important because Satan can get a crowd together too. Satan was behind the crowd that condemned Jesus (Mark 15:13-14,20; Luke 23:21; John 19:6,15). There were many crowds in Acts that arose to oppose the messengers of God (Acts 17:8; 19:28-29; 21:27). Large crowds and big churches are not necessarily an indication that an anointing of God is present.

What Happens When One Attempts to Minister Without God’s Anointing?

An example of what can happen when God’s anointing is not present in ministry is seen in the book of Acts where an unannointed religious group of men tried to exorcise demons; read what happened:

  • Acts 19:11-20 – “Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul,12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”14 Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.15 And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”16 Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.17 This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.18 And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds.19 Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver.20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.”  [21]

Paul was powerfully anointed to the extent that God was doing unusual miracles through him. Notice it says, “unusual.” Some today try to make the unusual, usual. But the point to be made here is the contrasting futility of the sons of Sceva. Some might view this incident as comical, and it may well be, but it is tragically comical. God did end up blessing and magnifying Himself through this incident, but He did so in spite of the efforts of the sons of Sceva.

Those who try to do things for themselves, for others, or for God in their own strength will burn out. The person who ventures into ministry or service without the calling or anointing of God, will burn out and bust up the work of God. Without the calling and anointing of God the person who through self-will and self-reliance pushes themselves into areas of service will only be like gum on one’s gospel shoe, or a monkey wrench in the works. Leave your flesh behind and seek and be sensitive to the Lord’s calling. Your motive may be good, but if you use self-will to fulfill it, you will only make a wreck of your life and the life of others, not to mention the distinct probability that you will defame the name of the Lord.

Being Prepared by Relying On Jesus   and the Power of God

The secret to avoiding ministry burnout is realizing that the ministry and church belongs to Jesus and He is the One who will build and bless it. The messenger disciple has to rely on Him to work in and through the ministry. The ministry does involve God’s use of people, but it does not rely on people as much as it relies on Jesus. When the disciple realizes this, the pressure is off and one is free to minister in faithfulness trusting God for the outcome. Jesus said:

  • Matthew 11:28-29 - “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  [22]
  • Matthew 16:18 -  “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”  [23]

John the Baptist had power and pressed on because he relied on the power of God, not his own power. He knew God had called him and because he knew God had called him, he knew God would also empower him. The disciple needs to serve where God anoints them to serve and do so in the power of God.

Preparing the Way With Baptism

Mark 1:4a – “John came baptizing . . . .”[24]

As we continue now in studying the preparatory work of the Lord, we see the instrument used by Him to prepare the hearts of the people (i.e. sinners) to receive Jesus. We should note from the start that, it is not so much the ceremony of baptism that prepares the way for Jesus; it is what baptism symbolizes as having taken place in the person, i.e. conversion based on repentance by faith and confession of sin.

 

The Jews were familiar with baptism. To them it was linked to ceremonial washings and proselytes who converted to Judaism were often baptized as part of the transitional ceremony.  Baptism in these cases were usually self-administered. In the case of John the Baptist, people were coming to him to be baptized by him.

 

John was preparing the way for Jesus by baptizing people. Baptism is a means to outwardly express and testify to an inward work of God that has taken place in the one who is being baptized. Because of this, only those who have accepted Christ as their Savior are eligible for baptism. That is why repentance is so closely connected with baptism and emphasized by John (3:7-10).

 

The word “baptizing” here is translated from the Greek term BAPTIDZO (Strong’s #907) that means, “to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge,” [25] and “to plunge.” [26] Baptism symbolizes the dying to the old sinful way of life as the person is immersed beneath the water, and then rising to new life in Christ as the person is brought out of the water. That baptism symbolizes death is seen in Jesus using it to refer to His death on the cross (Mark 10:37-40). We also see the association with dying to the old life and rising to the new in the following inspired words of Paul who states:

 

  • Romans 6:4 – “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”  [27]

Baptism therefore, is an outward symbol of a very real experience worked by God in the one being baptized. Baptism is a way of identifying with the crucifixion of Jesus; it is making a faith statement that the death of Christ on the cross has been accepted as a free gift provision to work the atonement for and forgiveness of sin.

Baptism Symbolizes Spiritually Connecting To The Body of Christ

 

Baptism in the New Testament symbolizes a reality of new life that has taken place in a person. Later in the New Testament it is also is shown to be a symbol of joining the Body of Christ, the church as Paul states in the following verses:

 

  • 1 Corinthians 12:13 – “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”  [28]

Baptism is an outward witness to the inner work of the Spirit that has taken place in a person. Without the Spirit coming into a person, baptism is worthless and secures nothing for a person. Baptism is only valuable when it is symbolizing a redemptive work of God that has actually taken place in the heart of the one being baptized.

Baptism Is Not A Dead Ritual

 

Mark 1:5 - “confessing their sins.”  [29]

That baptism is not merely a ritual to partake in heartlessly is seen in the fact that the people who came to be baptized were “confessing their sins.” The word translated “confessing” here comes from the Greek term EXOMOLOGEO (Strong’s # 1843) that means, “to confess fully, acknowledge, praise, promise.” [30] The idea is to hold nothing back and see one’s sin honestly as God sees it. When you confess your sin, you see your sin as God sees it. The present tense form of this Greek participle also implies a continuous action so when the people were coming to John to be baptized they were confessing their sins outright and honestly before God as they were in deep repentance and symbolically leaving the old sinful way of life. This can only happen to someone whose heart has been laid bare before God. Baptism is a symbol of this work of God in a person.

 

Preparing The Way For Jesus Does Not Involve Religious or Ritualistic Works

Matthew 3:7 – “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”[31]

Mark’s gospel does not elaborate here on who was coming to be baptized, but in Matthew’s account we gain further insight that is pointed out later in Mark’s gospel. John was not about to allow his baptism to become another dead ritual. When, as Matthew’s account points out,  John saw the “Pharisees and Sadducees” coming to be baptized, he stopped them dead in their tracks and made sure they understood that the baptizing he was doing was not merely a ritualistic or magical practice. Jesus would later denounce the practice of the Pharisees and Sadducees of negating God’s word with their man-made traditions when He stated:

  • Mark 7:7-9 – “And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’8 “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”9 He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”  [32] (Matthew 15:3,6-9)

There is a great danger of falling into a dead heartless ritualistic relating to God when one follows traditions rather than the word of God. Later in the New Testament the apostle Paul would teach on this danger when he was inspired to write:

  • Colossians 2:8-9 – “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;”  [33] (See also the epistle to the Galatians)

Worldly philosophy and the traditions concocted by men which are not based on God’s word, are “empty,” and they will just leave you empty too. Such practices don’t come close to the fullness of a saving personal relationship with God in Christ through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism Is Not Magic

People who relate to God in terms of going through the motions of a ceremony or ritual devoid of heart agreement, cannot please God or find salvation. This is the major reason why infant baptism is not really a valid rite for the infant. God’s grace covers children until they reach the age of accountability, (which may vary according to the individual child). Baptism is only worthwhile as it depicts outwardly something that has consciously taken place in a person. If a person cannot make a willful decision to receive God’s gift of salvation in Christ, then baptism cannot do them any good. The grace of God covers those who cannot make a willful decision to accept Christ as Savior (e.g. young children; mentally impaired). Those who think that by performing a ritual that it automatically secures what they are looking for, whether it is forgiveness, salvation, etc. are fooling themselves. Such a view is nothing more than a magical way of thinking akin to a kind of sorcery. Magic and sorcery involves a way of thinking that believes a desired outcome can be obtained simply by following a formula. Magic or sorcery holds that if certain words are recited or certain incantations uttered, that reality can be influenced. In the same way people, whether they realize it or not buy into such views when they think that partaking in certain rituals or ceremonies alone will secure their salvation before God. This is offensive to God. What makes ritualism offensive to God is that rituals are often partaken in by people whose hearts are not involved. God wants people’s hearts. To think that performing a ritual or ceremony will somehow magically work favor with God, regardless if one’s heart is involved, is something that is offensive to God. Read what the LORD said through Malachi about those who go through the motions of ministry and ritual without their heart being given to God:

  • Malachi 2:1-3 - “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you.2 If you will not hear, 1 And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says the Lord of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart.3 “Behold, I will rebuke your descendants And spread refuse on your faces, The refuse of your solemn feasts; And one will take you away with it.”  [34]

God says He will smear feces on the face of those whose heart is not in their relating to Him. While it would be wrong to label all Pharisees and Sadducees as heartless toward God, (some were evidently considering the message of Jesus – see John 3) surely John perceived that the ones that were coming out to his baptism were indeed a, “Brood of vipers!”

The Heart of Baptism – Repentance

In Matthew’s account of John’s ministry of baptism, as in Mark’s we see the close connection between baptism and repentance. It is the close connection of repentance with baptism that keeps baptism from becoming a dead ritual. In Matthew John’s response to the religious leaders who came to be baptized makes this point very clear. In Matthew it states:

 

  • Matthew 3:8-10 - “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance,9 “and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.10 “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”  [35]

Baptism is an outward sign and testimony to an inward work of God that has taken place in the heart of the believer. True repentance bears fruit, or leads to measurable change and effects in the life of the repentant person. John was telling these religionists that they oughtn’t come and seek to be baptized as just another dead ritual, but as an outward sign of an inward work of God in their heart. That is the heart of baptism. John said that if they were to be baptized by him they needed to know that they were expected to follow their immersion with “fruits worthy of repentance.” They couldn’t merely rely on their racial heritage, (“We have Abraham as our father.”) Just because you are born into a godly family doesn’t mean you will be godly. Just because you are born into a church going family, doesn’t necessarily mean you are saved from your sin, you have to personally decide to follow Jesus. John was telling them that his baptism was an individual personal heart choice. These people could not rely on their family or others for their right standing before God. Each individual person needs to decide to follow God. There is no such thing as baptism by proxy (as the Mormon cult practices in their rituals). No, when a person is baptized, they are indicating what God has done in them, not anyone else. If you partake in baptism heartlessly or to please others rather than God, what John said is applicable to you, “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees”  (Matthew 3:10).

Being Resourceful As You Prepare The Way For Jesus

Mark 1:6 – “Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.”  [36]

John was clearly not into worldly things. He was simply, (if not oddly) dressed and ate an austere diet of locusts and honey. John used only what he needed to fuel his body for the task at hand, he didn’t live lavishly, but rather simply. He was focused on the ministry God had called him to that God had provided for. John didn’t get caught up in worldly distractions but his life was focused on the ministry of God. Someone has said, where God guides, God provides, and John is a clear in living by this.

Also we see that John the Baptist was an unconventional dresser and his diet was unconventional as well. He must have been quite a sight to behold. The point here is that God often uses those we might not expect Him to use. We can always take solace in the fact that God’s standard or qualifications to use someone are not the standards or qualifications that the world has. Paul wrote:

  • 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 – “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”   [37]

These verses give us great hope that God is able to use those things the world often sees as castoffs or useless. But there are too extremes to be avoided here. One extreme is looking at these verses and presuming on the Lord’s calling and marching out unprepared and untrained in God’s word. The other extreme must be in a seemingly endless time of preparation for ministry or to be used by God. The balance and best way to see this is that God wants us to be trained in His word and ministry and starts in little things and develops us to be used in larger things. There are no shortcuts with God; we all go through a wilderness of some kind (and sometimes God leads us back into the wilderness to relearn lessons – Luke 16:10-13).

The Preparation and Superiority of Jesus’ Baptism

Mark 1:7-8 – “And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose.8 “I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  [38]

John realized from the start that his ministry was merely transitional and that it pointed to, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I.” John’s baptism ministry paved the way for Jesus but as a lasting ministry it was inadequate. The word “mightier” used here by John comes from the Greek term ISCHURIOS (Strong’s # 2478 - -ijscurov" ischuroás, is-khoo-ros´) meaning, “forcible . . .  mighty (-ier), powerful, strong (-er, man), valiant.” [39] Similarly in the New Testament it states that the weakness of God is “mightier” than any strength of humanity (1 Corinthians 1:25) and through using things mankind sees as weak He shames what the world views as mighty (1 Corinthians 1:27). In what sense was the baptism of Jesus then, mightier than that of John’s?

John’s baptism was essentially an Old Testament baptism entered into with repentant faith in God. Old Testament saints who were accounted by God as righteous because of their faith (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4). But God merely “passed over” their sin based on the actual substitutionary sacrifice He foreknew Jesus would make (Romans 3:23-26). Once Jesus completed His atoning death on the cross, He descended into Sheol (Hebrew) or Hades (Greek) and preached the gospel to the Old Testament people held in this two-compartment abode and led the saints to heaven with Him (Luke 16:19-31; Ephesians 4:8-10; 1 Peter 3:18-20). Baptism without the sacrifice of Christ in view is inadequate. It is the Holy Spirit that drives home the centrality of the cross and who fills the one who by faith receives Jesus as Savior and Lord and then submits to be baptized as an outward sign of this inner work of the Spirit.

That John’s baptism of repentance was superceded by Jesus baptism is shown in the following verses:

  • Acts 18:24-26 – “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus.25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”  [40]

John’s baptism relied on water as a symbol and brought to mind the Old Testament ritual of purification. The Jewish New Testament Commentary gives the following insight here:

“According to the Torah one had to be ritually pure before entering the Tabernacle or Temple. Ritual purity could be lost in many ways; the preeminent means of restoring it was through washing. . . . A person who immerses himself participates in an obvious yet living metaphor of purification, with the water, as it were, washing away the impurity.” [41]

John did point people to Jesus, but did not include the full revelation of Jesus the Savior. Again in Acts this point is made:

  • Acts 19:1-5 – “And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples2 he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  [42]

Here those who had been baptized into John’s baptism go on to be “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The baptism of Jesus pointed to the sacrifice of Jesus as well as the indwelling of the Spirit in the heart of the believer, the new birth, the being “born again” that Jesus spoke of (John 3). John’s baptism was inadequate in comparison to the baptism of Jesus because the baptism of Jesus involves the benefits of the New Covenant He would secure on the cross.

The Sign of Being Prepared By God – A Servant’s Heart

John preached:

  • Mark 1:7 - “And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose.”

In the New Testament and Middle Eastern culture, when a visitor came into a person’s home it was expected that a servant of the house would be provided to wash the visitor’s feet. This was about the lowest of duties of a servant since sandals were the mode of footwear of the day and the muck and mire of the dirt roads would accumulate on the feet. John considered Jesus so much greater than himself that he did not even feel worthy to wash His feet (Mark 1:7-8). This demonstrates the attitude of a servant’s heart, an indispensable quality of the messenger of the Lord.

The night before Jesus went to the cross, He washed the disciples feet and said in doing so He was leaving them an example to follow (John 13). Some have mistakenly understood Jesus’ words to mean that disciples should go about washing each other’s feet. The greater meaning is that the disciple of Jesus should be willing to do whatever work is put before them, even that which is dirty and distasteful. Therefore, the evidence that one is prepared for service in the Lord’s work, is the willingness to serve in any capacity, even the dirty, disregarded and degrading forms of work. The servant of the Lord says, “I am an unworthy servant, ask of me whatever you wish Lord” (Luke 17:7-10). John the Baptist exemplified that attitude of heart.

But this raises an issue and I will pose it in the form of a question, “How can we get a servant’s heart like Jesus? The answer is not in something we do, not an effort in our own strength or understanding. The answer is that it is the work of the Spirit who empowers the believer to have and live with a servant’s heart. The baptism of Jesus is a baptism that brings the Holy Spirit to work in and through a person. Let’s look at this powerful preparation.

The Power for Preparation – The Holy Spirit and the Baptism of Jesus

John refers to a more effective baptism than his, that is the baptism that the One coming after him, Jesus, would bring. The baptism of Jesus is, “with the Holy Spirit.”  The ministry of Jesus involves the Holy Spirit. In all that God through His word directs us to do and be, none of it can come to pass and be completed unless it is God by the Spirit doing the work in and through us. This is a foundational truth of God’s word (e.g. Zechariah 4:6; John 14 and 16; Acts 1:8; Romans 8; Philippians 1:6; 2:13). This is something that needs to be always remembered and relied upon. If a person tries to abide by anything in God’s word in their own strength, the only result will be frustration, futility and failure. This is the essence of the meaning of John’s statement about the superior nature of the baptism of Jesus. Jesus’ baptism is far superior to John’s because Jesus is able to pour out the Holy Spirit into repentant believers who are then being baptized.

The baptism of Jesus begins with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the person who is converted or born again by God’s grace through faith alone in Christ alone (John 3; Ephesians 2:8-9). At the point of a person’s conversion they are indwelled by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). But there is also another aspect of baptism, an empowering aspect referred to as the baptism with the Holy Spirit. This baptism with the Holy Spirit is received by faith after a believer’s conversion and initial indwelling by the Spirit.  This second work of the Spirit is the baptism with the Holy Spirit.  

The Preparatory Power to Serve - The Baptism With The Holy Spirit

There is a second work of the Spirit wrought in the life of the believer and it is referred to as the baptism with the Holy Spirit. This baptism with the Holy Spirit is seen at Pentecost (Acts 1:5; 2:1-3; 11:16; Matthew 3:3). This raises a question, “Was Pentecost an initial indwelling of the early disciples with the Holy Spirit or a subsequent second work of the Spirit upon them? What is the evidence? There is evidence and a strong indication that the disciples had received the Holy Spirit prior to this Pentecostal event.

The apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit in the gospels, which precede Acts. In John’s gospel account we see toward the end of the gospel that Jesus breathed on and commanded the disciples to receive the Holy Spirit. This was before Pentecost in Acts. In John’s gospel it states:  

  • John 20:22 – “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” [43]

When Jesus says, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” you can be pretty confident that the disciples did receive the Spirit at that point. This was the regeneration that Jesus provided by way of the New Covenant He secured on the cross.

Under the New Covenant the person who repents and seeks forgiveness for their sins from God by grace through faith alone in Christ alone, that person is filled with the Spirit who brings the presence of God into the life and heart of the new believer. Hebrews explains the New Covenant experience in the following way:

  • Hebrews 8:10 - “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”  [44]

Notice the internalizing of the work of God in those under the New Covenant. This is a work of the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer at conversion.

Paul explains this New Covenant indwelling of the Spirit experienced by believers in the following way:

  • Romans 8:9-11 – “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”  [45]

This presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer results in an ongoing process of being conformed to the likeness of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit working in the believer (Romans 8:29). This process is called sanctification.

But if we analyze a bit the process of sanctification in the life of the believer we can see how a second work of God’s grace in empowering the believer through the Spirit is necessary. As the believer is conformed more and more to the likeness of Jesus, that conformity leads to a change in priorities and purposes in one’s life. When the Spirit proceeds to conform me to the likeness of Jesus, I begin to have a burden for the lost like Jesus does; I begin to seek to serve the Lord like Jesus and live like Jesus.

But a problem often arises in this sanctifying process. The problem that often surfaces does so as in my own strength and understanding (my flesh) I try to be like Jesus in life. What I find when I do that is that inside I know what to do, but I do not have the ability or power to do it because I am not strong enough to implement God’s directives in my life. This creates a situation of frustration and futility in the believer’s life that can lead to disappointment and even despair.

Paul spoke of this condition in the letter to the Romans. In Romans 4 we see the means by which we can be saved and justified before the Lord which is through faith. In Romans 5 we see Who we are to trust in to be justified before God, Jesus. In Romans 6 we see how we are supposed to live once we are saved. We are called to live a holy life. In Romans 7 we see the futility of trying to live a holy life in our own strength. The answer to this problem of futility is found in Romans 8. In Romans 8 we see that it is the Holy Spirit that empowers the believer to serve the Lord in holiness in life. Paul is inspired to teach it with these words:

  • Romans 8:14-17,26-39 – “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. . . . 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36 As it is written: 1 “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   [46]

It is only through the Lord’s working in us by the Holy Spirit that we can be more than a conqueror. Sometimes it takes a prolonged process of personal interaction with the Lord to come to the realization that we are first trying to live holy in our own strength, and then second, that we can’t do that and need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to serve the Lord in holiness.

The Flesh Worm

What do I mean when I refer to “the flesh”? The word “flesh” is translated from the Greek term SARX (Strong’s # 4561 - savrx sarx, sarx;[47]). The “flesh” is that part of our being that is self-centered, self-feeding, self-serving, self-reliant, self-absorbed and just selfish. Let me illustrate the Flesh and the problem it poses. The flesh goes on living in the believer and can be a great hindrance to spiritual well being and growth.

I once received by mail an advertisement from a Health organization offering a colon cleanser. It was a very zealous piece and traced the majority of physical and emotional ailments to a clogged colon. The material spoke of tape worms living inside our bodies that sap our strength, make us irritable, rob us of our nutrients and are generally ugly and have an ugly effect on our bodies. These tape worms can live inside a person undetected and reach over ten feet long in some cases. Imagine a ten-foot worm inside you! Now that is a perfect picture of our flesh. Our flesh is like a resident tapeworm that lives in side us and robs us of spiritual nutrients.

 

The flesh worm surrounds our heart, it digs in and slowly infests and it tightens around arteries and vessels where the lifeblood of Jesus wants to flow and bring life. The flesh worm chokes and clogs the heart in an effort to stifle the blood flow of the Lord and hinder its beats for God. When the Spirit speaks to our hearts the flesh worm counters with a selfish interpretation. These countering thoughts in us end up depriving us of our spiritual health. You see the flesh worm hungers and thirsts to feed itself. The flesh worm always looks at things in terms of “what’s in it for me, me, me?” The flesh worm says, “Don’t worry I can handle it.” The flesh worm likes to boast, “I did it my way!” The flesh worm likes to say, “everybody else is doing it, so why can’t I?” The flesh worm looks at life from a self-centered worldly perspective. Spiritually, all ugliness and impurity comes from the presence of the flesh worm in us. What makes this flesh worm so insidious is that its there, but we often don’t recognize its presence. It is filled with all lies and deception. And Satan incites and feeds it from without. The flesh worm therefore is like a spy, a traitor within us. The flesh worm needs to be cleanses! If it is not dealt with, the believer can be stifled and never experience all that God has for them.

 

The “Holy” Work of the Spirit “Upon” Us

Only the Holy Spirit can cleanse the flesh worm and subdue it.  It is the Holy Spirit who works in us to reveal our need to rely on Him to serve the Lord. The word “holy” means unique, separate, distinctive; we can’t use common means or the old ways to serve the Lord, we must uniquely and distinctively be set apart from our common reliance on the flesh and our own strength and allow the Spirit to empower and lead us in serving the Lord in life. This is a second work of the Spirit in the life of the believer.

In the book of Acts we see such a second work of the Spirit in the life of the believer. The book of Acts tells us that what happened at Pentecost was the coming “upon” them of the Holy Spirit to empower them for service. The use of this preposition “upon” (Greek – EPI) is significant.  Jesus described this event in the following way:

  • Acts 1:8 - “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  [48]

The idea contained in the preposition EPI or “upon” is that the Spirit overflows, envelopes and has free reign in the believer’s heart and life. Jesus described this work thusly:

  • John 7:37-39 – “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  [49]

Jesus said this second work of the Spirit upon the believer would literally be like the Spirit was gushing out of us, like a torrent and might rushing river blasting out of us. This is the only flow capable of cleansing out that ugly flesh worm. How about you, it’s the Spirit blasting forth from you? Are you a trickle or a blasting flow? Has the flesh worm got you clogged and confused, or are you a lean clean spiritual serving machine?

Prepositions that Speak of the Spirit’s Empowering Preparation

To get an understanding of the relationship of the Holy Spirit to people we need to examine the grammatical prepositions used to describe that relationship. There are three prepositions used in the New Testament to describe the relationship of the Holy Spirit to people.

Two of these prepositions are used in the gospel of John where it records Jesus’ words as:

  • John 14:16-18 - “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—17 “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.18 “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”  [50]

What do these prepositions tell us about the relationship of the Spirit with people? The Holy Spirit is “with” a person prior to their conversion to Christ seeking to reason with them, convict them of their sin and need of a Savior, striving with them to bring them to a knowledge and acknowledgement of their sinfulness (Genesis 6:3; John 16:8-11).

When a person accepts Jesus as their Savior and is born again the Holy Spirit then comes “in’ them (Romans 8:9-11; Ephesians 5:18; Hebrews 8:10). The Holy Spirit in a person works to bring them into the likeness of Jesus Christ (Romans 8).

But there is a third relationship of the Spirit to people, a second work for those who are in Christ. That second work is the baptism with the Holy Spirit. It is this baptism with the Holy Spirit which empowers the disciple for service as the Holy Spirit comes “upon” them  (Acts 1:8). We see this second work of the Spirit on disciples throughout the book of Acts.

“Filled with the Holy Spirit” in Acts

At Pentecost the disciples in the Upper Room praying were all filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). Being “filled with the Holy Spirit” is a generic phrase used in Acts to refer to this second work of the Spirit to empower a believer.

In describing the powerful ministry of those who had been baptized with the Holy Spirit, Luke goes on to tell us in Acts that, “great grace was upon them all.” This second blessing of God to empower for service is a gift of His grace and received by faith just as initial salvation is (Acts 4:31-33).

Further on in Acts we see that when the Samaritans “received the word of God” or were initially saved from their sins (Acts 8:14), Peter and John were sent to pray for the converts so the Holy Spirit would come “upon” them:

  • Acts 8:15-16 – “who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  [51]

The Samaritans had been baptized into the Lord Jesus, (a clear indication of their conversion), but they lacked and needed to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Therefore the apostles came to them and prayed for them to have the Spirit come upon them.

When Peter was preaching to the Gentiles, the Holy Spirit came “upon” the listeners. Here we see an occasion where the initial regeneration of the Holy Spirit and the subsequent baptism with the Holy Spirit occur so close to one another that the experiences seem to occur simultaneously with their conversion (Acts 10:44-45).

Later in Acts when Peter explains what happened to the Gentiles he preached to he speaks of this “upon” experience and links it to the empowering Pentecostal experience they had experienced earlier at Pentecost saying:

  • Acts 11:15 - “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning.”  [52]

Here we see evidence that this outpouring of the Spirit upon believers was not a one time epochal event at Pentecost but was something others experienced subsequent to Pentecost.

Also in Acts, when Paul went to Ephesus to minister he asked the believers if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed. They hadn’t even heard of the Holy Spirit and so Paul laid hands on them (a sing of unity) and the Holy Spirit came “upon’ them:

  • Acts 19:6 – “And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”  [53]

The second work of the Spirit in the life of the believer is to empower them to serve the Lord. It is a holy distinctive work that teaches the believer that relying on old ways of fleshly reasoning and self-reliance will not do, but to rather rely on the Spirit. But how does a believer receive such an empowering?

Prepared by Receiving The Spirit’s Empowerment By Faith

How can we be prepared by receiving the Spirit’s empowerment? How can we be cleansed, freed from the flesh worm? In Acts it tells us. When Peter was describing how the Gentiles had been saved and empowered and purified by the Spirit He said it was by faith. His exact words were:

  • Acts 15:8-9 - “So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us,9 “and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.”  [54]

Notice two things here; first, God pours out this empowering baptism with the Holy Spirit based on what He sees in the heart of the disciple. The phrase, “God, who knows the heart,” is translated from one Greek term KARDIOGNOSTES (Strong’s #2589) which means literally, “the heart-knower.” God is looking for those whose hearts are given over to Him. God is looking for believers who are fed up with the flesh worm’s ugliness.  God is looking for those who heed the Spirit’s teaching and conviction that they have been seeking to serve Him in their own strength and flesh and are now willing to by faith be overflowed and purified by the Holy Spirit.

In the Old Testament there is a great verse about God’s watching over the world looking for loyal hearted disciples. The verse is found in 2 Chronicles and states:

  • 2 Chronicles 16:9a - “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”  [55]

God is looking around for hearts ready to be empowered to serve Him. He is looking for those ready to be thoroughly cleansed from their flesh and say,  “I am a wretched man Lord, cleanse me Jesus!” (Romans 7:25).

Secondly, notice that Acts 15:9 says that their hearts were purified, “by faith.” Just as a person receives the gift of forgiveness and salvation by grace through faith, so does a person receive God’s purification and cleansing of their heart by faith. By faith we come to God and say, “Lord, I know there are some things in my heart that are limiting your use of me, please remove any impediment in me that would hinder Your use of me in ministry. By faith I believe you want to and will do this in me.” That prayer in faith, trusting in God will lead to the purifying of one’s heart and the empowering by God. 

 

The Ongoing Process of the Spirit’s Preparation

Now it should also be mentioned that if we look at the book of Acts we see repeated empowering or outpouring of the Spirit on believers such as in Acts 4 where it states:

  • Acts 4:31 – “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”  [56]

This implies that the baptism with the Spirit that empowers for ministry service is an ongoing process to some extent. When we by faith receive the cleansing of God in our heart and the baptism with the Holy Spirit, we do so by faith that we are surrendering to Him all of our heart as we know it at that moment.

Our heart is like a home with many rooms. Walking in the Spirit side by side with Jesus in our life is like going through our heart-home with Jesus. As we walk with the Lord, He reveals rooms in our heart’s home that need to be opened to Him to clean up. Life in Christ is a sanctifying process (i.e. cleansing process) where He brings us to parts of our heart-home and asks permission to go in and clean it out. By faith we must decide to give Him the key to the room He is asking about.  If we refuse, it means there is a part of us that we are still ruling over and if the power is to keep flowing, we need to give it up to Him. Jesus is a perfect gentleman and is patient with us. He doesn’t ram down the door, He’s a great houseguest. We grow in this relationship with the Lord and any disciple who has been a disciple for any length of time will tell you that they need to go back to the well on occasion so to speak. Every time the disciple is readying himself or herself to minister they should prayerfully surrender themselves, their heart’s home to the Spirit for cleansing and seek the Spirit’s anointing and empowerment for service. By faith in surrender to God, the Spirit will indeed empower the disciple to do the work He has set before them.

Another way to say this is that, the flesh worm doesn’t go away easily. When we think we’ve licked him, we find other vestiges, other worms that need to be dealt with. In Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 7:22) the Lord through Moses tells the people that when they go into the Promised Land that He was not going to defeat all their foes at once for they would not be ready, they wouldn’t be strong enough to live in the land. He said He would conquer the enemies “little by little.” In the same way, God doesn’t reveal all the flesh worms we have in us because if He did we’d be aghast and overwhelmed. Instead He takes us “little by little” step by step in life and as we walk with Him He goes to various rooms in our spiritual house where flesh worms reside. Then little by little He cleanses us as we ask Him to in faith. Each time this happens we are refreshed in the Spirit.

This ongoing process of being refreshed by the Spirit is supported by what Paul is inspired to write to the Ephesians when he says:

  • Ephesians 5:18 – “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,”  [57]

The grammatical form of the Greek word from which we get the phrase, “be filled,” is such that the idea being conveyed is an ongoing continual process of daily filling. “Be filled” comes from the Greek term PLEROO (Strong’s # 4137 - plhrovw pleµroáoµ, play-r´-o) which is a word that conveys the thought of, “to make replete, . . . to cram (a net), . . . to furnish . . . influence . . .  satisfy, . . .  make full . . . supply.” [58] Therefore, the believer is to by faith come before the Lord and seek that He cram us full with the influence of the Holy Spirit so that He has full reign in our lives and is the One we look to alone to make us full and supply whatever we need to please Him.

A Preparatory Illustration in The Baptism of Noah and Jonah

Baptism is a fitting means to illustrate what takes place in the believer’s life when they come to the Lord to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit. There are two Biblical figures who underwent a baptism of sorts and their experience illustrates the two aspects of the baptism. In Peter’s first epistle he uses Noah to refer to baptism when he states:

  • 1 Peter 3:21-22 – “There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.”  [59]

The name Noah literally means “comforter.”  It is interesting that Noah is another figure in the Bible, besides Jesus, to have a dove descend upon him (Genesis 8:9). Think of the circumstances surrounding Noah and the flood (see Genesis 6-9). Noah was in the ark, surrounded by water with the world submerged beneath him and the ark had lifted him above the world. Noah typifies the aspect of baptism where the person being baptized is symbolically dying to the world as they are submerged beneath the water and then rising out of the water to a new life in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Noah illustrates that baptism first symbolizes death to the world and new life in Christ.

A second figure who illustrates the second aspect of baptism is Jonah. Jonah’s name literally means, “Dove.” Jonah rebelled against God and found himself submerged beneath the sea in the belly of a whale for three days (Matthew 12:39-40). God finally got through to Jonah and used him to bring about one of the greatest revivals in history (see the book of Jonah). But realize this, Jonah had to die to his headstrong self, his flesh, his self-reliance, self-service, self-preoccupation, before God could use him. That is the second aspect of baptism, it symbolizes death to self and it is this death to self that opens the door to the empowering of the Holy Spirit who then finds a surrendered tool to use in ministry.

Now notice finally that after the 40 days of rain that Noah experienced he ultimately failed morally (Genesis 9:20-23). And even after being used in one of the greatest revivals in history Jonah ran away and pouted (Jonah 3). But where Noah and Jonah failed, Jesus Christ is victorious. Jesus was forty days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, but He never failed.

The disciple must die to self, but that can only come by living in Christ, as Paul was inspired to write:

  • Galatians 2:20 - “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  [60]

The disciple must first die to the world and be born again of the Spirit, and then they must die to self so they can be empowered and used by the Holy Spirit. Jesus modeled this process for us in His baptism.

The Preparation of Christ by the Spirit

Mark 1:9-11 – “It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.10 And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.11 Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  [61]

Jesus came from His hometown of Nazareth which is situated 15-20 miles due west from the southern most tip of the Sea of Galilee. The Jordan River flows into the Sea of Galilee at the north and continues out of the Sea of Galilee in the south and continues all the way down passing by the city of Jericho and then empties into the Dead Sea (it is called the “Dead Sea” because there are no outlets which creates a stagnant body of water incapable of sustaining fish life.) Jesus was very probably baptized near Jericho.

That it states Jesus was baptized “in” the Jordan (Greek EIS – Strong’s # 1519 - eij" eáis, ice; [62]) which means, “in; into” (Mark 1:9), implies that Jesus was immersed in water as the form of baptism. 

If you’re a person who has accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and have yet to be baptized because you don’t think it’s that big a deal, then look at Jesus. Jesus was baptized and if Jesus was baptized, His disciples should be too.

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

If Jesus was sinless and perfect, why was He baptized? Isn’t baptism a symbol of a regenerative work done in a person? If Jesus was sinless, HE didn’t need to be regenerated or saved from sin. Why then was He baptized? There are five reasons that Jesus was baptized.

First, Jesus was Baptized to Affirm John’s Ministry. In Mark it states:

  • Mark 1:9 – “It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.”  [63]

By going to John to be baptized Jesus was affirming that John’s calling to prepare the way was valid and that Jesus was the One that John was preparing the way for. If John said he had been called and sent by God to prepare the way for Messiah, and then no Messiah came, he would have been proved a liar and false prophet (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). Jesus coming and being baptized by John confirmed the truth of John’s calling and the plan of God.

Second, Jesus Was Baptized To Illustrate The True Triune Nature of God. In Mark it states:

  • Mark 1:10-11 – “And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.11 Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  [64]

Here we see the nature of the Person of God. The Spirit descended upon Jesus and the Father said, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Notice the personal aspect of the Father’s declaration, “You are My beloved Son . . . .” From the start of the ministry of Jesus on earth, it needed to be shown that God in His Triune nature was working out His plan on earth and He used this baptism to show that.

In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism we have two other reasons for Jesus submitting to being baptized.

Third, Jesus Was Baptized to Identify With Humankind Personally. In Matthew it states:

  • Matthew 3:14 – “And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”  [65]

John knew it was more fitting for Jesus to baptize Him than visa versa. But Jesus said:

  • Matthew 3:15 – “But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.”  [66]

Jesus is God in the flesh and as a Man He sought to relate personally with people. He began this by showing the need for baptism. Jesus related personally to humankind and was leading the way to salvation. From the very start the ministry of Jesus showed He would get down in the trenches with the lost (John 1:14; Hebrews 4:15-16).

This tells us a very important thing about Jesus and the plan of redemption of God. Jesus is referred to as “The Second Adam” (Romans 5:12-21). Adam was created sinless and perfect but when tempted, sinned in disobeying God. The result was the fall of humanity and the infection of sin from Adam’s generation to all generations of humankind (Genesis 3). To reverse that sinful predicament, Jesus came as God’s sinless representative Man who would be tempted (Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4; Luke 4:1-13) and not sin. The baptism of Jesus was an indication of this part of Jesus’ ministry of redemption and qualified Him as the legitimate sinless, spotless sacrifice Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world noted by John the Baptist (John 1:29).

Jesus, The Sinless One,  Confessed No Sin

But notice one important thing in all of the gospel accounts of His baptism that separates Jesus from all other humans who came to be baptized, JESUS CONFESSED NO SIN in conjunction with His submitting to being baptized. That is because Jesus was without sin. Read some of the testimony of scripture to this effect:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  [67]
  • Hebrews 4:15 – “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  [68]
  • 1 Peter 2:21-25 – “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”  [69]

Often in the study of God’s word we can learn not only from what is said by God’s revelation, but as here, by what God does not say. Jesus did not confess any sins because He was and is sinless. From the opening verses of our study in Mark we already learn something of the Person of Jesus; Jesus was and is sinless. Jesus was not baptized to mark a cleansing from sin in His life; He was baptized to identify with sinful humanity. Jesus is the Second Adam, the perfect representative human who would act redemptively to set in motion a reversal of the consequences of Adam’s sin (Romans 5).

Fourth, Jesus was Baptized To Publicly Declare His Acceptance of God’s Plan. In Matthew it states:

  • Matthew 3:15 – “But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.”  [70]

Jesus sought to “fulfill all righteousness” even if it meant doing that which was not required of Himself, such as baptism. Jesus was baptized to show He was submitting to His Father’s plan and also to demonstrate His faith in His Father’s power to raise Him from the dead. Just as Jesus submitted to the plan of salvation of the Father, so should the disciple of Jesus. Jesus submitted to the Father even though He knew it would cost Him his life, so should the disciple.

Fifth, Jesus was baptized to show the necessity of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in ministry and life. Back in Mark it states:

  • Mark 1:10 – “. . . the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.”

The descending of the Spirit upon Jesus symbolizes His anointing, His being empowered by the Spirit for ministry (Zechariah 4:6). If Jesus, the only begotten of the Father, the Son of God, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ, was descended upon by the Spirit, so should we. We are called to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21), walk as He walked (1 John 2:6), to be conformed to His likeness (Romans 8:29); being empowered by the Spirit then is something those who seek to be used by Jesus and conformed to His likeness need to receive too.

Prepared Personally by the Love of the Father

Mark 1:11 – “Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  [71]

These words indicate the unique nature of Jesus and His relationship with the Father. Jesus is uniquely the Son of God, as indicated by the Father’s words, “You are My beloved Son . . .” Jesus is not merely a son of God, He is THE Son of God, the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16). The Father did not say from heaven, “This is one of My many sons on earth that I love and am pleased with.” No, the Father identifies Jesus as His particular beloved Son. Jesus is special; He is the unique only begotten Son of God. This verse in Mark points out from the start that Jesus Person is unique and special.

Notice too the love that unties the Father and Son Jesus. The Father affirms and expresses His loving approval of Jesus by saying, “in whom I am well pleased.” Now notice the sequence of the Father’s declaration. The Father does not love the Son because of something He has done; the Father first loves the Son apart from anything He does and then expresses His pleasure in what the loved Son has done in being baptized. The Father says to Jesus His only Son, “I love You,” then that, “I am pleased with You.” This is a great lesson for parents to learn. Parental love should not be based on the performance of their children, but on a rock solid loving relationship ordained by God in the gift of the child’s birth to the parent (e.g. Psalm 127:3). The love of the Father for Jesus His only Son is unconditional and faithful. That same love of the Father in heaven for Jesus is shared with all humanity. Evidence of this is seen in the following verses:

 

  • Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”   [72]
  • John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  [73]
  • 1 John 3:1 – “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.”  [74]
  • 1 John 4:11-21 – “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
  • 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.19 We love Him because He first loved us.20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”   [75]

 

These are only a very few of the verses in scripture which tell us how much God loves us. There is one thing you can always be certain of, and that is that God loves you. Coming to know that is one of the foundation stones in being prepared as a messenger or disciple of God to serve Him.

 

Prepared in the Wilderness

Mark 1:12-13 – “Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.13 And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.”  [76]

Mark devotes two verses to Jesus being tried in the wilderness, whereas Matthew devotes twelve verses (Matthew 4:1-11) and Luke fourteen verses (Luke 4:1-13). But that should not be interpreted as making Jesus’ wilderness experience unimportant. From Mark’s account (as well as Matthew’s and Luke’s) we see that it is the Spirit that “drove” (EKBALLO - Strong’s # 1544 - ejkbavllw eákballoµ, ek-bal´-lo) Jesus into the wilderness. The word “drove” here means, “to eject . . .  bring forth, cast (forth, out), drive (out), expel, leave, pluck (pull, take, thrust) out, put forth (out), send away (forth, out).” [77]The grammatical form of the term implies and continuous action (Present/ Active/ Indicative). Going into the wilderness was something the Spirit directed Jesus to do and that was necessary in the preparation of Jesus.

Jesus was in the wilderness 40 days, a prolonged period of time. In the wilderness Jesus was “tempted” or tested by Satan (Strong’s # 3985 - peiravzw peáirazoµ, pi-rad´-zo; . . . “to test . . . i.e. endeavor, scrutinize, entice, discipline . . . assay, examine, go about, prove, tempt (-er), try.”  [78]) Here is an essential truth of being prepared to serve the Lord.  Even Jesus had to be tested and tried before launching out into ministry. That person who seeks to avoid or bypass their wilderness preparation in ministry or other facet of life, is trying to bypass an essential and crucial ingredient in their preparation. The wilderness preparation is where one’s calling is confirmed through temptation and testing that attempts to discourage and dissuade one from their calling, tempt them to cut corners in God’s plan and truth, and get them to rely on their own strength and not God’s power. The lessons that Jesus experienced in the wilderness were indispensable to Him and His mission passion. If it was necessary for Jesus to be led into the wilderness by the Spirit, how can anyone else feel such an experience can be bypassed for them (Philippians 2:1-11; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6).

 

The Wilderness of Preparation

 

When we look at this section of Mark as a whole, we see it starts with John coming from the wilderness and ends with Jesus going into the wilderness. The wilderness is indispensable to ministry and serving the Lord.

 

The word translated “wilderness” in Mark 1:4 and 12 comes from the Greek term EREMOS (Strong’s # 2048 - e[rhmo" eáreµmoás, er´-ay-mos) and means, “lonesome, . . . waste . . .  desert, desolate, solitary, wilderness.” [79]The wilderness is a place of solitude where a person is alone with the Lord. This wilderness may take the form of a situation or circumstance where the only one to turn to, who will understand, is the Lord. A wilderness may be a place you don’t want to be. The wilderness is a place of testing.

 

What is the lesson to be learned in the wilderness? The agent of testing is Satan (Mark 1:13), but the aim of the testing is our flesh. The wilderness is a place where the indispensable lesson is learned to rely on the Spirit (who leads us into the wilderness – Mark 1:12) not our flesh in fulfilling the will of God.

 

While Mark does not go into detail about Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, we can go to Matthew’s account and briefly share the nature of the wilderness testing.

 

First, the wilderness is a place where we are tested and tempted in some way to try and get us to compromise the way of the Spirit to fulfill our flesh. Satan tempted and tested Jesus by urging Him to turn stones into bread. He had just fasted 40 days and was physically weak and hungry. Satan struck at his weak spot. But Jesus successfully resisted this temptation by using God’s word (Matthew 4:2-4). Are you going to feed your flesh or follow the Spirit? That is the test here.

 

Second, the wilderness is a place where we are tested and tempted in some way to misuse and abuse God’s word and power in superficial demonstration. Satan took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and told him to jump off and call on the angels to catch Him. This would be some entertaining sight to the crowds below. But it would have been a superficial use of Jesus’ power and an abusive use of God’s word (Matthew 4:5-7). Jesus knew not to test the Father in this way. Jesus was into serving not making a spectacle. Are you going to base your ministry on superficial entertaining shows and spectacles, or are you going to rely on the power of God, the power of the Spirit? That is the test here.

 

Third, the wilderness is a place where we are tested and tempted in some way to avoid the cross, take a short cut or easy way out. Satan took Jesus to a high mountain and showed Him the kingdoms of the world. Hadn’t Jesus come to redeem these kingdoms? Didn’t Jesus want to rule as King? Satan offered all of this to Jesus, but to gain it, He would have to bow down to Satan. IN other words, Satan tempted Jesus by offering Him what He wanted but to get it He had to compromise God’s righteous plan and mission. Jesus knew it was sin to bow to anyone except the LORD. With Jesus the ends did not justify the means. With God the means to the ends are both important and not to be compromised (Matthew 4:8-10). Are you going to cut corners to get what you want? Are you going to cut corners to even get what you think God wants you to have? That is the test here.

 

These are the lessons to be learned in the wilderness. Jesus was tempted and tested like all of humanity and without sin or giving in (Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15-16). Jesus did this to show us a way to follow and in the Spirit we can follow in His steps.

 

Conclusion

In Deuteronomy there is an interesting verse, which states:

  • Deuteronomy 32:11-12 – “As an eagle stirs up its nest, Hovers over its young, Spreading out its wings, taking them up, Carrying them on its wings,12 So the Lord alone led him, And there was no foreign god with him.”  [80]

Eagles make their nests high up on mountain cliffs. They make nests that are strong with good sized branches. Now when a little eaglet is born hatched the branches don’t much bother them because they can fit in between them. But as they grow the branches begin to be a source of discomfort as their larger bodies are poked and prodded as they move around. As their feathers form from fluffy to firm the time comes where they must be taught how to fly. How does the mother eagle teach her young how to fly? By pushing them out of the nest! That’s right, the mother eagle pushes the young bird out of the nest from a great height. As the young eagle is pushed out of the nest by its mother and plummets to the earth it does what’s natural and flaps its wings. But its wings aren’t strong enough to do the job and all that happens is that a young eagle looks awkward as it heads for the ground. I wonder if that young eagle has a passing thought of, “Mom, I know I said I didn’t like your cooking but this discipline is a bit ridiculous don’t you think?”  As the young eagle gets fearfully close to the ground flapping its wings wildly, the mother, at the last possible moment swoops down and catches the young eagle on her back and brings it back up to the nest and deposits it there safely to the young eagle’s relief.

But the lesson isn’t over. The next day the same sequence occurs, and the next and the next. The young eagle must begin to wonder if his mom really loves him. “Why this torture? Why this mean treatment? Why this uncaring action by my mom?” the eagle must wonder. “I’ll bet you didn’t learn this from Dr. Dobson” he remarks to himself. But after a while of this treatment, the young eagle notices something. His wings are beginning to feel different. They’re feeling stronger. He is beginning to get accustomed to the wind in his wings and how to use his wings to make the wind move him a bit. Eventually the eagle learns to glide a bit until one day, before the mother has to swoop down to catch him, he swoops up in the are himself. He gloriously glides out of the nosedive and is able to fly up to the side of his mom and for the first time he sees the beauty of what she’s been doing. She’s been teaching him to mount up with wings like an eagle and soar in the clouds like he was created to do. This fearful process has all been a part of a bigger most beautiful preparation and plan of the parent eagle.

 Just as a mother eagle pushes her eaglet out of the nest from the high mountain face nest in order to teach it to fly, so too does God push us out of our comfort zone in order to prepare us and teach us to trust in Him. What God allows to happen in our lives at times may confuse us, may even seem unfair or cruel, but we know what the end result will be, we will learn to fly spiritually. In Isaiah it states:

  • Isaiah 40:31 – “But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”  [81]

God wants us to soar with Him spiritually. He wants what’s best for us and He will do whatever it takes to prepare us for His plan in our lives, even if that means we experience discomfort and fear on occasion. He wants us to realize the purpose for which we were created, to be like Jesus. And God will do anything necessary to bring that eternal purpose to pass in our lives. Don’t get caught up in the “now,” but look to God’s later future purpose. Trust the LORD. He is good, gracious and merciful. He loves you so much and wants only the best for you. Be led by the Spirit and God will fulfill His will in your life and you will never regret it. Be led by the Spirit and soar with Him.

Just as Jesus submitted to the Father in fulfillment of the Divine plan of preparation, so should anyone seeking to be a messenger or disciple of the Lord.  Disciples need to die to the world and die to self as symbolized in baptism. Have you been counting on a magical view of baptism? Have you been baptized since you’ve received Christ as Savior? Are you prepared by God to prepare the way for Jesus to enter the lives of the lost? Are you fulfilling the word of God in your life?  Let the Lord prepare you for His work. Be willing to serve in any capacity He chooses for you, for as long as it takes. Do that by faith and trust in Him, and God will use you to fulfill His plan in and through you by His Spirit.

 

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[3]Jerry Falwell, executive editor; Edward E. Hinson and Michael Kroll Woodrow, general editors, KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994.

[4]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[15]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25]Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

[26] The Complete Biblical Library – The New Testament Greek-English Dictionary – Alpha-Gamma (Springfield, MI: The Complete Biblical Library) 1990. p. 525-527

[27]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[28]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30] The Complete Biblical Library – The New Testament Greek-English Dictionary – Delta-Epsilon (Springfield, MI: The Complete Biblical Library) 1990. p. 478-479

 

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[37]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[38]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[39]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[40]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[41] David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc.) 1996. p. 15

[42]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[43]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[44]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[45]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[46]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[47]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[48]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[49]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[50]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[51]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[52]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[53]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[54]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[55]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[56]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[57]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[58]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[59]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[60]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[61]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[62]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[63]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[64]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[65]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[66]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[67]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[68]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[69]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[70]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[71]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[72]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[73]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[74]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[75]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[76]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[77]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[78]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[79]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[80]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[81]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.