Network Updates: Baptism

ROMANS: Buried Alive

We were left wondering if Paul’s assertion of the supremacy of grace was a dangerous license to sin. Paul now turns his attention to that nagging question:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Paul takes this fallacious line of thinking and shows it to be flawed. This amazing grace cannot be construed as a license to sin, for the very awakening to that grace was also a death to the kind of worldview that leads us to sin in the first place. Once we truly come to grasp and embrace this gospel of acceptance, we die to that former way of thinking — acting out of fear, preservation of self, and our unharnessed desires are replaced with a spirit of peace and a life of self-sacrifice. We die to that old way of thinking.

Paul then uses baptism as his picture and teaching point (to understand why Paul might use baptism at this point in his argument, I would recommend reading Elementary Principles by D. Thomas Lancaster; we will study this further in our upcoming look at the book of Hebrews).

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Paul says that this baptism we undergo is a physical picture (among other things) that teaches us about the transformation taking place. Just as Jesus died, was buried, and then brought back to life, so there is a part of us that has been put to death so the truest part of us might live on. Baptism is this watery grave, an image of burial and resurrection, teaching us about this new life.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

We left our “old self” in the watery grave; it died a death and can be put to rest. We, however, live on. The part of us that lives on is the part of us being shaped into the image of Christ (and you might notice all of the language of “joining” and “with him” and “united”).

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

This is where it really starts to sound like we are reading the culmination of one single narrative. This exhortation from Paul is nothing new at all. It takes us all the way back to the beginning of the story, where we meet Adam and Eve in the middle of the garden and are told about their temptations, their desires, and their invitation to demonstrate they are made in the image of God. They are invited to know when to say enough.

And so are we. Paul makes sure we know our invitation has not changed since the dawn of time; the language is incredibly similar to the language of Genesis. We are invited to trust the story, to master our desires, and to demonstrate self-control.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

Finally, Paul circles back to the question at hand. If grace is this good, should we just continue in our sin? Absolutely not! The truth is we will offer ourselves to one of two realities. We can live out our lives in service to fear or we can live out our lives in the service of trust, faith, and love. But a life of bland neutrality is not an option available to us. This gospel has come to rescue us and set us free from a life of servitude to fear and self-preservation; it has come to set us free to tzedekah — to righteousness, generosity, and self-sacrifice.

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ROMANS: Buried Alive

We were left wondering if Paul’s assertion of the supremacy of grace was a dangerous license to sin. Paul now turns his attention to that nagging question:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Paul takes this fallacious line of thinking and shows it to be flawed. This amazing grace cannot be construed as a license to sin, for the very awakening to that grace was also a death to the kind of worldview that leads us to sin in the first place. Once we truly come to grasp and embrace this gospel of acceptance, we die to that former way of thinking — acting out of fear, preservation of self, and our unharnessed desires are replaced with a spirit of peace and a life of self-sacrifice. We die to that old way of thinking.

Paul then uses baptism as his picture and teaching point (to understand why Paul might use baptism at this point in his argument, I would recommend reading Elementary Principles by D. Thomas Lancaster; we will study this further in our upcoming look at the book of Hebrews).

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Paul says that this baptism we undergo is a physical picture (among other things) that teaches us about the transformation taking place. Just as Jesus died, was buried, and then brought back to life, so there is a part of us that has been put to death so the truest part of us might live on. Baptism is this watery grave, an image of burial and resurrection, teaching us about this new life.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

We left our “old self” in the watery grave; it died a death and can be put to rest. We, however, live on. The part of us that lives on is the part of us being shaped into the image of Christ (and you might notice all of the language of “joining” and “with him” and “united”).

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

This is where it really starts to sound like we are reading the culmination of one single narrative. This exhortation from Paul is nothing new at all. It takes us all the way back to the beginning of the story, where we meet Adam and Eve in the middle of the garden and are told about their temptations, their desires, and their invitation to demonstrate they are made in the image of God. They are invited to know when to say enough.

And so are we. Paul makes sure we know our invitation has not changed since the dawn of time; the language is incredibly similar to the language of Genesis. We are invited to trust the story, to master our desires, and to demonstrate self-control.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

Finally, Paul circles back to the question at hand. If grace is this good, should we just continue in our sin? Absolutely not! The truth is we will offer ourselves to one of two realities. We can live out our lives in service to fear or we can live out our lives in the service of trust, faith, and love. But a life of bland neutrality is not an option available to us. This gospel has come to rescue us and set us free from a life of servitude to fear and self-preservation; it has come to set us free to tzedekah — to righteousness, generosity, and self-sacrifice.

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A Dry Tree

At the end of the story about Stephen, one of the most dominant characters of the New Testament makes his entrance. We are introduced to a man named Saul, who stands and holds the cloaks of the accusers while he oversees and approves the execution. While we will talk much more about Saul in the time to come, the next thing we see is this early church being persecuted and scattered throughout the land. At the beginning of Acts 8, we are told Saul continues to be one of the leaders of this persecution.

Nevertheless, it is the very next paragraph that assures the reader God’s redemptive plan for the world goes on unhindered. They continue to bring shalom to chaos and healing to brokenness. While the church gets pushed to different corners of the empire, Philip ends up in Samaria; he preaches to those in Samaria and the Kingdom of God advances explosively, just as Jesus taught them.

There is a sorcerer there who latches onto Philip and begins to follow him. When the church hears the news that people in Samaria are jumping in on God’s redemptive plan for the world, they excitedly send Peter and John to investigate. When Simon (the former sorcerer) sees them casting out evil spirits, his old self can’t help but want a piece of the action. But this early movement is not interested in cheap thrills, spiritual gimmicks, or economic advancement. They are wanting to grow deep roots and they exhort Simon accordingly.
I find the next story so inspiring to my walk as a Jesus follower. Continuing to follow the prompting of the Spirit, Philip heads down the road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza. There he meets an Ethiopian eunuch who has traveled to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel. It’s at this point where most of us might appreciate some context.

This Ethiopian eunuch is the treasurer for the Queen of Ethiopia; he’s an important guy.

He is on his way back from worshipping the God of Israel. We are not told he is a Jew, though it’s possible he might be. (I personally find it unlikely that Luke would leave such a detail out of his account.)

Even if he is a Jew, as a eunuch he will not be allowed to worship Adonai and would have been excluded from the assembly; he would have been forced to worship God as an outsider. The book of Deuteronomy explicitly excluded those with damaged (or altered) genitalia from entering the assembly of worship (cf. Deut. 23:1).

The guy is carrying around a scroll of Isaiah — this is unheard of. You may remember us talking about how an entire village would only have a few scrolls for the entire town of hundreds or thousands. The fact that this guy is carrying around Isaiah tells you he is obviously of incredible wealth (which is expected as the treasurer for Candace) and takes his Bible study very seriously. He knows everything we mentioned above — and he went to worship the God of Israel anyway. He is coming back from Jerusalem where he stood in the court of the Gentiles and caught glimpses of the House of God.

This outsider is content with what he is able to receive from God. And he’s serious about his Text.

Now, back to our story. Philip sees he is reading Isaiah and asks him if he understands what he is studying. Like a typical middle-easterner, the man responds with, “Who could understand by studying these words by themselves? How could I understand it without your help?”

I imagine, sensing this is the reason God had him on this road, Philip climbs into the chariot and begins to expound on the message of Isaiah. The passage tells us the eunuch is studying Isaiah 53. Being a holiday reading, it would make perfect sense for the eunuch to read this on his way to the Temple for worship and possibly still be thinking on it and studying it on his way back. This is the prescribed reading for his trip. Every Jew would be reading these words on that day.

But now watch what Philip does because HE KNOWS HIS TEXT.

What the passage says directly is that Philip tells the eunuch about Jesus, starting in Isaiah 53 (and the assumption is that he continues reading). You don’t suppose he got through the next few chapters, do you? Isaiah 56:

Thus says the Lord:

“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for soon my salvation will come,
    and my righteousness be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this,
    and the son of man who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,
    and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
    “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
and let not the eunuch say,
    “Behold, I am a dry tree.”

For thus says the Lord:

“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
    who choose the things that please me
    and hold fast my covenant,
I will give in my house and within my walls
    a monument and a name
    better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
    that shall not be cut off.”

No, that would be crazy if Philip went to THAT passage! Crazy brilliant.
But now wait. We need to look at the question the eunuch asked and Philip is answering, because I think therein lies the lesson. The eunuch had asked him: “Is this passage [Isaiah 53] talking about the prophet or someone else?”

You might remember that we talked about this entire ending to Isaiah as being a call for Israel to be God’s servant. Because they suffer, they will be building the future. For the historical readers of Isaiah, this is not a “messianic” prophecy. This is an exhortation to suffer for the LORD. My point is that the eunuch’s question has nothing to do with the Messiah.

His question is about himself.

His question is this: “Does this exhortation belong only to the prophet and the people of God? Does it apply to outsiders like me?

And Philip explains to him, using Isaiah (possibly chapter 56), that in Jesus, this good news and call from God is for ALL PEOPLE. While he may be excluded from the assembly of worshippers at the Temple, he is not excluded from the community of God and the invitation to partner with Him in putting the world back together.

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

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A Dry Tree

At the end of the story about Stephen, one of the most dominant characters of the New Testament makes his entrance. We are introduced to a man named Saul, who stands and holds the cloaks of the accusers while he oversees and approves the execution. While we will talk much more about Saul in the time to come, the next thing we see is this early church being persecuted and scattered throughout the land. At the beginning of Acts 8, we are told Saul continues to be one of the leaders of this persecution.

Nevertheless, it is the very next paragraph that assures the reader God’s redemptive plan for the world goes on unhindered. They continue to bring shalom to chaos and healing to brokenness. While the church gets pushed to different corners of the empire, Philip ends up in Samaria; he preaches to those in Samaria and the Kingdom of God advances explosively, just as Jesus taught them.

There is a sorcerer there who latches onto Philip and begins to follow him. When the church hears the news that people in Samaria are jumping in on God’s redemptive plan for the world, they excitedly send Peter and John to investigate. When Simon (the former sorcerer) sees them casting out evil spirits, his old self can’t help but want a piece of the action. But this early movement is not interested in cheap thrills, spiritual gimmicks, or economic advancement. They are wanting to grow deep roots and they exhort Simon accordingly.
I find the next story so inspiring to my walk as a Jesus follower. Continuing to follow the prompting of the Spirit, Philip heads down the road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza. There he meets an Ethiopian eunuch who has traveled to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel. It’s at this point where most of us might appreciate some context.

This Ethiopian eunuch is the treasurer for the Queen of Ethiopia; he’s an important guy.

He is on his way back from worshipping the God of Israel. We are not told he is a Jew, though it’s possible he might be. (I personally find it unlikely that Luke would leave such a detail out of his account.)

Even if he is a Jew, as a eunuch he will not be allowed to worship Adonai and would have been excluded from the assembly; he would have been forced to worship God as an outsider. The book of Deuteronomy explicitly excluded those with damaged (or altered) genitalia from entering the assembly of worship (cf. Deut. 23:1).

The guy is carrying around a scroll of Isaiah — this is unheard of. You may remember us talking about how an entire village would only have a few scrolls for the entire town of hundreds or thousands. The fact that this guy is carrying around Isaiah tells you he is obviously of incredible wealth (which is expected as the treasurer for Candace) and takes his Bible study very seriously. He knows everything we mentioned above — and he went to worship the God of Israel anyway. He is coming back from Jerusalem where he stood in the court of the Gentiles and caught glimpses of the House of God.

This outsider is content with what he is able to receive from God. And he’s serious about his Text.

Now, back to our story. Philip sees he is reading Isaiah and asks him if he understands what he is studying. Like a typical middle-easterner, the man responds with, “Who could understand by studying these words by themselves? How could I understand it without your help?”

I imagine, sensing this is the reason God had him on this road, Philip climbs into the chariot and begins to expound on the message of Isaiah. The passage tells us the eunuch is studying Isaiah 53. Being a holiday reading, it would make perfect sense for the eunuch to read this on his way to the Temple for worship and possibly still be thinking on it and studying it on his way back. This is the prescribed reading for his trip. Every Jew would be reading these words on that day.

But now watch what Philip does because HE KNOWS HIS TEXT.

What the passage says directly is that Philip tells the eunuch about Jesus, starting in Isaiah 53 (and the assumption is that he continues reading). You don’t suppose he got through the next few chapters, do you? Isaiah 56:

Thus says the Lord:

“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for soon my salvation will come,
    and my righteousness be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this,
    and the son of man who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,
    and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
    “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
and let not the eunuch say,
    “Behold, I am a dry tree.”

For thus says the Lord:

“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
    who choose the things that please me
    and hold fast my covenant,
I will give in my house and within my walls
    a monument and a name
    better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
    that shall not be cut off.”

No, that would be crazy if Philip went to THAT passage! Crazy brilliant.
But now wait. We need to look at the question the eunuch asked and Philip is answering, because I think therein lies the lesson. The eunuch had asked him: “Is this passage [Isaiah 53] talking about the prophet or someone else?”

You might remember that we talked about this entire ending to Isaiah as being a call for Israel to be God’s servant. Because they suffer, they will be building the future. For the historical readers of Isaiah, this is not a “messianic” prophecy. This is an exhortation to suffer for the LORD. My point is that the eunuch’s question has nothing to do with the Messiah.

His question is about himself.

His question is this: “Does this exhortation belong only to the prophet and the people of God? Does it apply to outsiders like me?

And Philip explains to him, using Isaiah (possibly chapter 56), that in Jesus, this good news and call from God is for ALL PEOPLE. While he may be excluded from the assembly of worshippers at the Temple, he is not excluded from the community of God and the invitation to partner with Him in putting the world back together.

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

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Go

So once the disciples arrive at “the mountain” in the Galilee, we are told the following:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.

I love that we are told some of the disciples doubted. Before one of the greatest and final commands Jesus gives in his early ministry, we are told there are still those who doubt. And Jesus commissions them anyway. He does not separate the sheep from the goats for the great commission. He does not put the doubters in one pile and the believers in another.

Apparently doubt is acceptable for commissioned disciple-makers of Jesus.

That’s good news, because I have some great moments of wrestling, don’t you? It’s okay to admit it. Nobody is listening (although you may look quite odd to your coworker if you are talking to your computer).

Jesus tells them:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Now, let’s unpack this piece by piece. In fact, let’s do it backwards.

Teach them. Jesus wants his followers to be teachers. One of our jobs is to open our eyes and assist others in opening their eyes to the truth and reality of God’s story all around them. We aren’t to bring them to some holy place where they can see God — no, we are to help them see God everywhere. We are to teach them about God as seen in the person of Jesus Christ. We are to pass on his teachings. As we’ve discussed before, I’m not sure how we will fulfill this command if we do not know his teachings…

Baptize them. If you remember, the act of baptism is an act of repentance. We are inviting people to “return home.” We are inviting them to come back to where God originally created them to be. We are bringing people “good news” about a far better Kingdom than the ones they are accustomed to. We are marking entrance into this Kingdom with a washing — a cleansing. It’s a putting on of a new self and a washing away of the old. This new reality is throwing the lights on for people everywhere, setting them free.

Make disciples. This is the portion that gets me in the most trouble. I say this because I do not believe the great commission is inviting us to make converts. I do not believe Jesus is inviting us here to call people into deeper spiritual formation or mentorship. I do not believe the great commission (specifically) is a call to spiritual growth or maturity. I believe that, like the rest of the Bible, I need to hear this command through the ears of context. The call to make disciples is a call to rabbinical, “Come, follow me” discipleship. It is a call to find people who are willing and able to spend their whole selves becoming like their rabbi. We talked earlier in this series about the process of discipleship, about how a disciple wanted to “know what the rabbi knows, in order to do what the rabbi does, in order to be just like the rabbi in his walk with God.” This is what the call of discipleship is. I would expound on this, but I’m not sure where I would stop. This is one of my greatest passions. I’m not sure why so few are making disciples the way Jesus made disciples; that seems like a recipe of foolishness to me. The call of discipleship is not for everyone, but it should be for someone. This is the reason I got into campus ministry; somebody needs to be finding ways to look at a student and say, “Come, follow me.”

And the best part of this whole thing is that Jesus doesn’t do the normal “rabbi thing.” Typically, rabbis would pass on their authority to at least one or some of their disciples so the story might continue. But we’re listening to a resurrected Jesus talk here. He’s very much alive — and he keeps all the authority for himself.

We are to go and make disciples. We are to make disciples the way Jesus made disciples. We are commissioned in the living authority of Jesus. And when the going gets tough and the mistakes happen and the fear is overwhelming…

…lo, he is with us always. Forever. To the very end of the age.

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Tavilah T’shuvah

One of the ways that the gospel writers introduce us to Jesus is by setting the stage with the “stage setter” himself, John the Baptist. Matthew starts out chapter three this way:

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,

‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’ ”

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

Matthew describes this character who is pursuing the life of being that voice crying out in the desert. This figure is a man of rustic character, wearing camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist. The question is raised in the mind of the reader: Who is this man? Is he a mad man? Why would he be wearing such a distinct outfit.

It’s in the Text. Second Kings 1 to be exact:

When the messengers returned to the king, he asked them, “Why have you come back?”

“A man came to meet us,” they replied. “And he said to us, ‘Go back to the king who sent you and tell him, “This is what the Lord says: Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending messengers to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!” ’ ”

The king asked them, “What kind of man was it who came to meet you and told you this?”

They replied, “He had a garment of hair and had a leather belt around his waist.”

The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.”

John the Baptist showed up wearing his Elijah costume. When the king heard the description of the “man” who had spoken to the messengers, he immediately knew who they were describing. Apparently, people knew about Elijah and how he dressed. John the Baptist is making the claim that he is a prophetic Elijah figure. If John the Baptist was a western American, he would stand on a chair and declare that he thought he was Elijah. He would then give his defense in a three-point treatise where all three points started with the same letter.

John the Baptist isn’t a westerner, however; he is an easterner. And so he shows up wearing his Elijah costume.

His message is one that Elijah would resonate with, as well. It would be helpful to go back and review the teaching about Elijah here.

John the Baptist shows up and calls everyone to repentance. We’re told that entire crowds come out to be baptized. In the gospel of Luke, we are told about the characters in this crowd. Some are tax collectors, some are soldiers, many are cultural outcasts. Some students of the Text have pointed out it is possible John was performing mikveh for a bunch of people who were not allowed to perform mikveh at the Temple. This would be easy to swallow considering John is the son of Zechariah, and very possibly a product of the Essenes (maybe even the Essenes at Qumran).

John stands in the water and invites people to a “baptism of repentance” — what is called tavilah t’shuvah. This mikveh was an Essene baptism. While the Pharisees performed mikveh as a regular, ritual cleansing, the Essenes performed a baptism of repentance. It required that the baptized be truly repentant BEFORE they enter the water. John is calling the people to change their behavior and mark this repentance with the waters of mikveh.

And then, John looks up to see the Pharisees and Sadducees:

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”

John is not a fan of what the leadership has done to the people of God. He’s inviting the people to repent and follow after God, not the misguided devotion of the Pharisees or the corrupted system of the Sadducees. This is one fiery Essene holding revivals out in the desert, outside of bounds of the religious systems of power.

But then, John reveals the theology that drives his ministry:

“The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

John’s understanding is that Messiah is coming, and He’s bringing the kingdom of God with Him. This kingdom of God is coming with fire and judgment. John uses electric language about an ax at the root of the trees and a winnowing fork purging the threshing floor and a baptism of fire (harkening the reader to the first baptism of fire — Sodom and Gomorrah). John believes that judgment is at hand and the people need to repent.

Is this a correct assessment of the situation?

It seems to me that Jesus said he came not to condemn the world, but to save it — to shine light in dark places. What’s going on here? In order to answer that question, I’m going to put this post on hold and let the reader speculate on their explanation until a story later in the gospel accounts (and no, it won’t be the next post). What is John’s understanding of the world? Is he correct? More

Student Baptism Highlight: Josh

We want to recognize and celebrate God working in Josh’s life as he was recently baptized at Southeast Christian Church one week ago today! We are proud of you Josh for taking this huge step toward following Jesus more closely! More

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12-12-12 Reading Day Baptism Party!

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