Living the Promise – God’s Seal of Approval
14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit 16(for as yet the Spirit had not come* upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). 17Then Peter and John* laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,* 16John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with* the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’ The Baptism of Jesus
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved;* with you I am well pleased.’*
Living the Promise: 1. accepting the gift of faith in Jesus (entering into a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus) 2. living our daily lives like we say we believe. It is growing to be more like Jesus in thought, word and action.
Both of these texts speak about baptism and the role of the Holy Spirit in baptism… and the role of the Person of the Holy Spirit is emphasized more
Before the accounting of Jesus’ baptism; people were filled with expectation; questioning in their hearts if John was the Messiah; John testified that he was not
What happened in Jesus’ baptism? He submitted to baptism; He was praying; Heaven opened and the Person of the Holy Spirit descended upon him; At the same moment God spoke, “You are my Son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased.”
What does Jesus’ baptism mean? I think it clearly gives testimony to John’s statement that he is not the Messiah and that Jesus is; I also think it clearly is God’s seal of approval on a) who Jesus is and b) Jesus’ attitudes and actions leading up to this point
~ As such we can understand Jesus’ baptism as an anointing as Messiah or Christ (that is after all the meaning of those words… anointed one) in the same manner that David was anointed by Samuel… he was the chosen shepherd of God’s people… a man after God’s own heart… but he had not yet ascended to his throne.
But in the words of the old song by Peggy Lee… “is that all there is?” I don’t think so.
~ When I think of what this might mean for us as human beings, it leads me to the questions, “What is the role of the Messiah? What is it about him that matters to me and my life today? Why is it important that he received God’s Seal of Approval? What is it about Jesus’ baptism (his anointing as Messiah) that is important for us” and finally, “How can it help me Live the Promise?”
The answer, for us, I believe lies in how God has revealed Himself in the Person of Jesus as God the Son… in other words “who” Jesus is and the role of the Holy Spirit in connecting us to God through faith in Jesus. The Connecting piece for us, in my mind, is Jesus’ baptism, how it relates to ours and how we should understand them.
Interesting reading regarding Peter and John’s baptizing in the Spirit. One commentary I read, while not able to explain why the people of Samaria were not baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit, connects Peter and John’s going to Samaria and baptizing in the name of the Holy Spirit to the first part of the book of Acts. There they initiated the practice of sharing all things equally and participating fully in the community of faith. This passage seems to indicate that this includes the missionary vocation.
There are a couple of things to note here: 1) There is a continuity between the Baptist’s words that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit (and with fire), Jesus’ promise to baptize with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5 “…John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…”), and the fact that John and Peter went to baptize in the name of the Holy Spirit. That continuity… that connection is the Person of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s talk about baptism for a moment. What does our baptism do effectively for us? Baptism is a symbol or sign of our faith or the faith we profess for our children. Baptism is a symbol of our remorse and regret for our sins and have turned away from sin and toward God. Baptism symbolizes our participation in God’s saving act, by faith, through the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Baptism symbolizes God’s acceptance of us as a part of God’s family the church.
The act of baptism in no way washes away our sins… Jesus’ sacrificial death did that. The act of baptism does not get us into heaven.
Baptism is a sacrament; a sign or symbol of what God has done; is doing; or will do in our lives to bring us to a life saving relationship with Jesus.
If baptism is a sign God’s power and grace at work in our lives (and it is); then for us baptism is a sign of our obedience and trust in God—our submission to God. And the means by which this is accomplished is the Person of the Holy Spirit.
Now I want to go back to the importance of Jesus’ baptism for us in this being able to take place.
We can’t look at and understand Jesus’ baptism in quite the same way we do our own. First of all Jesus was without sin. So his baptism should not be associated with any admission of sin and the repentance that John was calling for. So why submit to baptism? It is because of his unique nature as the incarnate Person of God the Son.
The witness of the early church, related to us in a hymn quoted by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians (2:5-8, explains it):
5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.
Because in Jesus God became human… he identified himself completely with us… Jesus came to do completely and perfectly what we could not… turn away from sin and back toward God… not as God… but as a human being… In the act of submitting to baptism he did for us what we cannot do completely and perfectly… he humbled himself and submitted his will as God the Son… his being… to God the Father…
God responded to this act with his seal of approval… the anointing of the Holy Spirit and the proclamation that this is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.
And it is the Person of the Holy Spirit the indwelt him in his human life that empowered him and enabled him to remain obedient because he was continually submitting to the will of God the Father. Jesus’ life was lived in and through the Person of the Holy Spirit. His preaching, his teaching, his acts of mercy, his miracles, his final act of obedience on the cross was enabled because of his intimate relationship with his heavenly Father mediated by the Person of the Holy Spirit. We have a fancy theological name for that—perichoresis (pear-i-core-ee-sis)—literally it means mutual interpenetration. It describes how the 3 persons of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are able to maintain their individuality while sharing completely and perfectly in the lives of the other two.
All of this is a detailed way to say that even when Jesus set aside his Godhood in the incarnation he still shared in the life of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So Jesus’ baptism is important for us because it, as a part of the Christ event—the incarnation, birth, life, sacrificial death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus—it makes it possible for us to submit ourselves to God and share in the life of God, however imperfectly, through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit by the gift of faith.
So, that’s how God helps us to Live the Promise… through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in us.
Need to notice a something… the purpose or goal of the Holy Spirit isn’t just to bring us closer to God… but so that we can participate as fully as possible in the life of God.
So what is the life of God focused on… in part, to reconcile the world to himself…
By our sharing in the baptism of Jesus through faith we also share in his life… his ministry… his mission.
He was able to do it as he submitted to the leading of God the Father through the guidance of the Holy Spirit… just the same way that the early church did after Pentecost… which is why Peter and John went to baptize with the Holy Spirit…
That means that we are called to do the same… and our effectiveness is determined by how well we seek out and submit to the leading of the Spirit…
How do we do that? Again we find our answer in Scripture…
Luke 3:21-22 …when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him…
He prayed. And it wasn’t the act of praying that was the most important, but the attitude in prayer… humble submission and willingness to obey…
So being able to Live the Promise is made possible by
Humbling ourselves before God and submitting/trusting ourselves to his leading
Stay in touch with God through prayer (listening as well as speaking)
When we’re able to do that we will someday hear God say This is my child, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased… and receive God’s seal of approval.