16-1-10 The Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of the Lord is one of the most holy and venerable pieces in the Bible. The Catholic Lectionary says we should read it in Luke 3: 15, 16 and 21, 22. However my favourite description of this incident is in Matt. 3, in fact it is one of my favourite sections of the Bible. Baptism is a regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost who is the centre point of guidance in our religion.

Matt. 3: [1] In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, [2] And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. [3] For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. [4] And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. [5] Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, [6] And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. [7] But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? [8] Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: [9] And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. [10] And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. [11] I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: [12] Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. [13] Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. [14] But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? [15] And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. [16] And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: [17] And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

The Baptism of the Lord

A story speaking entirely for itself.

However there is another reading which tells us quite directly how to act as Christians:

Tit. 2: 11 to 14 and 3: 4 to 7: [11] For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, [12] Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; [13] Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; [14] Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

[4] But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, [5] Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; [6] Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; [7] That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Again pretty self – explanatory. It tells us not only how to act, but it tells us about our inner attitude towards the world and others. We are told that we should deny ungodliness and worldly lust. We should live soberly, righteously, and godly! We should do this in this present world!

So when someone tells us today to dream big and he tries to infatuate us with his speech and his dreams, trying to make us believe the impossible is possible, if we are only strong enough and want it enough, we should be sober.

When someone tells us today to compete, we still shall love our neighbours as we love ourselves. We shall not worry, but trust in God and in his trust act godly, unaffected by outside pressures!

If we obey these instructions, what does it matter whether we are saved by grace alone or by good deeds? If we obey these instruction, we will do good deeds, but it is not them which save us! It is his mercy and the washing, i.e. the baptism. The regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost is what saves us. So let us take an example in the Baptism of the Lord.

Now we can’t regenerate and renew the Holy Ghost just through baptism without good deeds, but good deeds are not sufficient! It is certainly a good deed to accept Moslems from Syria into Western countries to save them from the civil war there. Even tolerance to people of other religions is a good deed.

However, are we tolerant towards Moslems or are we negligent in religious matters? Are we negligent in the regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, by accepting that those people want to keep their religion? Why do they not migrate to a Moslem country? Can anybody who has not studied the Qur’an be truly tolerant towards it?

Let me just finish with a comment on the warning against worldly lusts in verse 12. The Greek word translated as lust, epithymia,, means what the mind is about, so what takes up your mind. This maybe sex, but it refers to anything that might distract us from the sober, righteous, and godly path, in this present world, desire for fast and impressive cars or houses, buildings, not tribes or families as in the Old Testament, the latest and greatest TV, computer, phone or any other gadget we might desire in our minds.

Sex, however, as explained in Greetings from Paradise, is an integral part of human life, the ultimate source of pleasure without which no developed species of living things could survive. It is the Image of God in which he created us in Gen. 1: 27!

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Amen!