The Holy Spirit and The Jordan – “The Descender”

2009 July 1

Topic: Narrative Theology

Jordan means either “River” in very ancient middle eastern linguistics, or it is considered to be related to the Hebrew word “to descend” hence “the descender.”

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Matt 3.13-17

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Infants and the Law

2009 March 11

An ingredient that ought to be thrown into anyone’s stew if they are cooking up a theology about faith in children is this:

Infants are called to keep the law; infants can break the law.

Cursory examples are:

Gen 17 – Circumcision

Positive: Infants required to recieve circumcision;

Negative: he who did not receive circumcision are considered “cut off from his people”

Jdg 13 – Nazarite Vow

Positive: Samson required to be a Nazarite “from the womb”;

Negative: Samson must not drink alcohol – so his MOTHER could not drink it while he was in the womb, because it would cause HIM to break the command.

GRANTED:

Ability to break the law does not necessarily imply ability to keep the law.

Ability to keep the law externally does not imply internal regeneration.

However, I do think the fact that the Law binds infants is important to the question.  At very least it implies that whenever we talk about the subject of covenant infants it must be through or with God’s law, and not apart from God ‘s law.

Unrepentant covenant breakers are supposed to be excommunicated.  One of the reasons that some paedobaptists refuse to commune children is because they are either unsure of their faith or are sure that they have no faith at such a stage.

IF we are sure they have NO FAITH, then the children are necessarily UNREPENTANT COVENANT BREAKERS.  This means we must not say of them:

Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church; but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world. (WCF XXVIII.1)

In other words, if we KNOW that children have no faith, then we CANNOT mean that baptism is an intentional sign of regeneration and faith.  BUT that is exactly what both the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Bible maintain.  Both Baptism and Circumcision are seals of the righteousness that comes through faith.  Baptism says “this one is in Christ and forgiven” (See the Bible):

[Abraham] received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. (Rom 4.11 ESV)

11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.  (Col 2.11-14 ESV)

3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  (Rom 6.3-4 ESV)

27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Maybe, I’ll edit more into this later.


Baptism of John / Trinitarian Baptism

2009 March 10

2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”


I’ve just been reading Acts 18.24-19.7 (see 19)

As a baptist, I wanted John’s baptism to be synonymous with Christian Baptism.  So I tried to read this passage as if it was played out like this:

Paul: Into what were you baptized?

People: Into the Christian water baptism started by John.

Paul: You need the “Spirit Baptism!”  Let me pray for you with laying on of hands….

Obviously, this isn’t what he says or what chapter 18.24ff indicates.

Paul: Into what were you baptized?

People: Into the Jewish national repentance water baptism performed by John.

Paul: You haven’t yet identified with the church, the people of the name of Jesus, the people of the Spirit; you need the “Christian Baptism!”  Let me baptize you in the name of Jesus….

I think that is more like it.  One of the main points is that in Acts 18-19, Luke tells us two stories that indicate VERY CLEARLY that the Baptism of John was NOT the same as Christian or Trititarian Formula Baptism.

John’s Baptism was an intentionally offensive statement about the dirtiness of Israel.

When will the Messiah bring us victory over the Gentiles?  The Restoration of Kingdom to Israel?

This coming Kingdom, always anticipated by the disciples (Mk 10.35-45, Mt 20.20-28), and still on their minds after the resurrection (Ac 1.6), is a key to NT interpretation.

So what was preventing the Kindom’s arrival? Different answers:

The Pharisees said, the problem is other Jews – we must fix them.

The Essenes said, the problem is other Jews – we must flee them and let him save us.

John said, the Kingdom is upon us, time to admit that WE OURSELVES are the problem.  So he assembled people at the Jordan to make a public spectacle and mockery of Israel’s dirt.  And the declaration was personal, not at others, but at “ourselves.”

While Christian Baptism does say this about me, John’s work was a one time eschatological, pre-kingdom preparation to say the kingdom must come on God’s terms not on the laurels of self-righteous hijackers of the system – the Pharisees, especially.

—–

Spirit Baptism:

Two problem theologies come out of this passage –

Pentecostalism – all Christians receive the Spirit after Baptism as a second blessing, and when they do, they will speak in tongues.

Orthodox “Chrismation – the Coming of the Spirit is through laying on of hands not normatively immediate to faith on its own.

Chrismation was later separated from Baptism in the West, which developed the practice of Confirmation to give the Spirit in the Roman Church.

I expect that the “when Paul laid hands on them” it actually means “in the action of the baptism,”  but it could be a prayer separately.  What do you think?

Another main issue to add in is that in Romans 8, Paul says that (at least by the time of the writing of Romans), all believers HAD the spirit by default:

9You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.