October 5th, 2014
Meditation/Preparation: God made him (the strong, powerful, Creator-King of the Universe – Psalm 2) who had no sin to be sin for us, (meek, righteous, compassionate, despised, rejected, spit upon and humiliated- Isaiah 42 & 53) so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Can you wrap your puny little minds around this? What wondrous love is this?
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.— 2 Corinthians 5:21
- The gospel writer has given us the King’s ancestry (1:1-17), His arrival (1:18-25), His adoration (2:1-12), His attestation (2:13-23), and His announcement (3:1-12). Now we see His anointing, His coronation. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 73)
- We know from John’s greeting to Jesus that he recognized Him immediately, but we have no idea how well they knew each other at this time. They were cousins, and before their births Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months in the hill country of Judah, where the two women shared with each other their wonderful blessings (Lk 1:38-56). Elizabeth knew before Jesus’ birth that Mary’s child would be the Messiah, because she addressed Mary as “the mother of my Lord” (Lk 1:43). Surely Elizabeth would often have shared this wonderful news with her son John, the one whom the angel had told her husband would be “the forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Lk 1:17; cf. v. 66). Both boys grew physically and spiritually (Lk 1:80; 2:40), but they did so separately–Jesus in Nazareth and John in the wilderness. It may be, therefore, that they had little, if any, ongoing firsthand acquaintance with one another. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 75)
- Jesus’ baptism has far more significance than we might think. No wonder all four Gospels narrate this incident in one form or another (cf. Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3:21-22; Jn 1:29-34). This is the beginning of the ministry that will forever forge the direction of God’s relationship with his people. (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 139)
- John was unwilling to baptize the Pharisees and Sadducees, and he was also unwilling to baptize the Messiah. Easily accounted for. The one fell below, the other infinitely transcended the standard. (Joseph Parker, The Inner Life of Christ, Studies in Matthew 1-7, 70)
- (v. 13) When the Jewish priests took up their office they were washed with water (Ex 29:4), and when our great High Priest begins the great work he came into the world to accomplish he is publicly baptized. (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 15)
- (v. 13) John had been explaining that Jesus’ baptism would be much greater than his (3:11) when suddenly Jesus came to him and asked to be baptized! (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 50)
- (v. 14) There are two main views regarding that John meant. (1) Some scholars suggest that John wanted the Holy-Spirit-and-fire baptism that Jesus would bring (3:11). (2) Others say that John simply knew of Jesus’ superiority, so John wanted Jesus to baptize him. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 50)
- (v. 15) For Jesus to make a journey of around seventy miles from Nazareth to the area of John’s activity in a “foreign” territory would require significant motivation, and v. 15 suggests that Jesus was already aware of God’s special purpose for him, for which his baptism by John was an appropriate prelude. (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 119)
- (v. 15) The substance of Jesus’ reply is clear enough: John is to overcome his scruples and carry out the baptism requested. Whatever may be their ultimate relationship, this is the right course ‘for now,” and Jesus will be, now as throughout the gospel, perfectly obedient to the will of God. But the explanation given does not spell out why this is “the right way for us to fulfill all that is required of us.” The usage of dikaiosynē (which I have translated “what is required”) elsewhere in Matthew’s gospel indicates a basic meaning of the conduct which God expects of his people. (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 119)
- (v. 15) Matthew alone records John’s protest that Jesus did not need to be baptized, and John consents only when Christ says, “Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness” (3:15). (John F. Walvoord, Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come, 33)
- (v. 16) Verse 16 informs us that, having been baptized, Jesus stepped up out of the water again. That is all we know. It has not pleased the Holy Spirit to give us any specific details as to the mode of baptism practiced during the period covered by the NT. (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 214)
- (v. 16) The opening of heaven is familiar elsewhere in the NT as an expression for a visionary experience (Jn 1:51; Acts 7:56; 10:11; Rv 4:1; 19:11). There is a significant OT parallel in Ez 1:1 where Ezekiel, standing beside a river, also sees heaven opened and receives a theophanic vision and hears God’s voice commissioning him for his prophetic role and giving him the Spirit (Ez 2:2). Isa 63:19 (EVV 64:1) asks God to tear (LXX anoig , as here) the heavens and come down to redeem his people. (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 121)
- (v. 16) Did not Ezekiel also see the opened heavens (Ez 1:1;)? Did not Stephen (Acts 7:56)? And the apostle John on Patmos (Rv 4:1; 11:19; 19:11; cf. Isa 64:1; 2 Cor 12:1-4)? (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 214)
- (v. 16) The word for spirit is ruach, and ruach, like pneuma in Greek, means not only spirit; it also means breath. Breath is life; and therefore the promise of the Spirit is the promise of life. The Spirit of God breathes God’s life into a man. When the Spirit of God enters us, the tired, lack-luster, weary defeatedness of life is gone, and a surge of new life enters us. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 49)
- (v. 16) This word ruach not only means breath; it also means wind. It is the word for the storm wind, the mighty rushing wind that once Elijah heard. Wind means power. The gale of wind sweeps the ship before it and uproots the tree. The wind has an irresistible power. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of power. When the Spirit of God enters into a man, his weakness is clad with the power of God. He is enabled to do the undoable, and to face the unfaceable, and to bear the unbearable. Frustration is banished; victory arrives. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 49)
- (v. 16) The spirit of God is connected with the work of creation. It was the Spirit of God who moved upon the face of the waters and made the chaos into a cosmos, turned disorder into order, and made a world out of the uncreated mists. The Spirits of God can re-create us. When the Spirit of God enters into a man the disorder of human nature becomes the order of God; our disheveled, disorderly, uncontrolled lives are molded by the Spirit into the harmony of God. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 49)
- (v. 16) To the Spirit the Jews assigned special functions. The Spirit brought God’s truth to men. Every new discovery in every realm of thought is the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit enters into a man’s mind and turns his human guesses into divine certainty, and changes his human ignorance into divine knowledge. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 49)
- (v. 17) This voice is God’s (“from heaven”) and testifies that God himself has broken silence and is again revealing himself to men–a clear sign of the dawning of the Messianic Age (cf. 17:5 and Jn 12:28). (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 109)
- Keep in mind, this was not the Spirit coming on Jesus for the first time, as if the Spirit had never been on Him before; the Holy Spirit was on Jesus even before He was born (Mt 1:18, 20). The picture in Matthew 3 is a public display of exactly what Isaiah prophesied–that the Spirit of the Lord would anoint the Messiah “to bring good news to the poor…to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners” (Isa 61:1). So while the Spirit was present with Jesus prior to Matthew 3, Jesus was set apart in a unique way by the Spirit for His public ministry at His baptism. (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 57)
- In 3:16-17, all three persons of the Trinity are present and active. The doctrine of the Trinity, which was developed much later in church history, teaches that God is three persons and yet one in essence. God the Father speaks; God the Son is baptized; God the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus. God is one, yet in three persons at the same time. This is one of God’s incomprehensible mysteries. Other Bible references that speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are Mt 28:19; Jn 15:26; 1 Cor 12:4-13; 2 Cor 13:14; Eph 2:18; 1 Thes 1:2-5 and 1 Pt 1:2. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 53)
- In 3:16-17 we have the appearance of the Spirit, the presence of the son, and the voice of the Father. As Leon Morris states, “Matthew has certain Trinitarian interest.” He will conclude his Gospel with another Trinitarian allusion in Jesus’ instruction that new disciples are to be baptized in the singular name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (28:19). (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 147)
- It is difficult to think of any testimony more impressive than one in which the entire Godhead is involved. (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 51)
The question to be answered is . . . Why in the world did perfect, sinless, powerful, Creator-King Jesus need to submit Himself to a baptism of confession and repentance of sin?
Answer: To fulfill all righteousness. Jesus was not baptized for His sins. He was baptized for our sins. Jesus came to earth to live the life we were supposed to live and die the death we deserved to die so we might be spared or saved.
The Word for the Day is . . . Vicarious
Vicarious = 1)- Serving instead of someone or something else. 2)- Performed or suffered by one person as a substitute for another or to the benefit of another.
The pronoun us refers not to John and Jesus but to Jesus and all the others who had come for baptism. Jesus identifies himself with his people in a movement of national repentance. It was required by God. Jesus’ own baptism demonstrates his solidarity with the people. (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 25)
“The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts prerogatives which belong to man alone.” (John R. W. Stott; The Cross of Christ, 160)
We identify with Jesus when we are baptized, being united to Him in His life, death, and resurrection, so it makes sense that baptism is in a very real sense His identification with us. (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 56)
That doctrine, if you take it as the Bible sets it forth as a whole, involves three great acts of imputation. First, Adam’s first sin is imputed to his descendants. Second, the sins of saved people are imputed to Christ. Third, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to saved people. (J. Gresham Machen, The Christian View of Man, 216)
What does Matthew 3:13-17 tell us about the nature of Jesus’ ministry?:
I- John demonstrates, not only Jesus’ perfection in not needing a baptism of repentance, but also that Jesus vicariously fulfilled all righteousness for us. (Mt 3:14-15; see also: Mt 5:17; Jn 8:46; Rom 5:19; 8:3; Gal 3:13; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15; 7:26-28; 1 Pt 1:19; 2:22; 3:18; 1 Jn 3:5)
In my opinion the best way to understand Jesus’ words is by understanding what I see as the primary significance of baptism, which is not immersion or sprinkling (that has only to do with the mode or form of baptism) but the idea of identification, which is what I think the word baptizo primarily means. In Christian baptism we are identified with Jesus in his death and resurrection. In Jesus’ baptism by John, Jesus identified himself with us in our humanity, thereby taking on himself the obligation to fulfill all righteousness so that he might be a perfect Savior and substitute for us. This was the beginning of what theologians call Christ’s active obedience. His passive obedience was his submitting to death on the cross in our place. His active obedience was his perfect obedience to all God’s commandments and decrees. (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 51)
It could not mean to fulfill the law, because no law required baptism. While “fulfill” generally refers to prophecy, there are no clear connections to baptism in prophecy. Most likely it refers to fulfilling a relationship with God by obeying him in every aspect of life. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 50)
Although Jesus did not need forgiveness, he was baptized for the following reasons: (1) to confess sin on behalf of the nation, as Isaiah, Ezra, and Nehemiah had done (see Ezra 9:2; Neh 1:6; 9:1ff.; Isa 6:5); (2) to accomplish God’s mission and advance God’s work in the world; (3) to inaugurate his public ministry to bring the message of salvation to all people; (4) to show support for John’s ministry; (5) to identify with the penitent people of God, thus with humanness and sin; and (6) to give us an example to follow. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 51)
Those who were strongly influenced by Gnostic philosophy believed that until His baptism Jesus was just an ordinary man, sinful like every other man. At His baptism he was endowed with deity by the divine logos (Word), the “Christ-Spirit.” His baptism was therefore necessary to purify Him and make Him suitable to receive the divine endowment. Like the rest of the Gnostic views, that idea does not square with Scripture. Jesus was born the Son of God (Lk 1:32, 35) and was called “‘Immanuel,’ which translated means ‘God with us,’” even before His birth (Mt 1:23). (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 76)
John resisted baptizing Jesus for exactly the opposite reason that he resisted baptizing the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were in great need of repentance but were unwilling to ask for it and gave no evidence of having it. John therefore refused to baptize them, calling them a “brood of vipers” (3:7). Jesus, by contrast, came for baptism, though He alone of all mankind had no need of repentance. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 76)
Among John’s many God-given insights into who Jesus was, what He was like, and what He had come to do, was his knowledge that the One who now stood before him was without sin. In a less direct but yet definite way, John declared with the writer of Hebrews that Jesus, though “tempted in all things as we are, [is] yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). So even in his reluctance to baptize Christ, John was fulfilling the role of a herald and the office of a prophet by proclaiming the perfection of the Savior. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 77)
An acute dimension of Jesus’ ministry was His coming as the new Adam. He came as the embodiment and personification of Israel. To fulfill His mission, He had to obey every requirement that God had placed upon Israel and has given to man. Jesus had no sin of which to repent; His entire ministry was vicarious. He was a substitute. He was killed on the cross not for His sins but for the sins of His people. That is what He meant when He said, “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Even though He had no need for baptism, Jesus submitted to this rite as part of His corporate solidarity with His people. (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 47)
In order to obtain the blessedness which comes from a right relation to God, the pardon or nonimputation of sin is necessary, and this takes place through the “covering” of sin (Ps 32:1f.). The nature of this covering by the vicarious bearing of the penalty of sin is made clear in Isa 53. It is, moreover, the teaching of the OT that the righteousness which God demands is not to be found among people (Ps 130:3; 143:2; Isa 64:6). Accordingly, the prophets speak of a righteousness which is not from human works, but which is said to be in the Lord or to come from Him to His people (Isa. 32:16f.; 45:23f.; 54:17; 58:8; 61:3; Jer. 51:10; Hos. 10:12). This idea finds its clearest expression in connection with the work of the Messiah in Jer 33:16, where Jerusalem is called “the Lord is our righteousness” because of the coming of the messianic king, and in Jer 23:6 where the same name is given to the Messiah to express His significance for Israel. (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Vol. 2, 814)
If John’s baptism was for repentance from sin, why was Jesus baptized? While even the greatest prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) had to confess their sinfulness and need for repentance, Jesus didn’t need to admit sin–he was sinless (Jn 8:46; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15; 1 Jn 3:5). Although Jesus didn’t need forgiveness, he was baptized for the following reasons: (1) to confess sin on behalf of the nation, as Isaiah, Ezra, and Nehemiah had done (see Isa 6:5; Ezra 9:2; Neh 1:6; 9:1ff.); (2) to fulfill all righteousness (Mt 3:15) in order to accomplish God’s mission and advance God’s work in the world; (3) to inaugurate his public ministry to bring the message of salvation to all people; (4) to show support for John’s ministry; (5) to identify with the penitent people of God, thus with humanness and sin; and (6) to give an example to follow. John’s baptism for repentance was different from Christian baptism in the church. Paul had John’s followers baptized again (see Acts 19:2-5). (Bruce B. Barton, D.Min., Life Application Bible Commentary: Luke, 74)
Martin Luther wrote: “All the prophets did foresee in Spirit that Christ should become the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, rebel, blasphemer, etc., that ever was or could be in all the world. For he, being made a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world is not now an innocent person and without sins…but a sinner.” He was, of course, talking about the imputing of our wrongdoing to Christ as our substitute.
Luther continues: “Our most merciful Father…sent his only Son into the world and laid upon him…the sins of all men saying: Be thou Peter that denier; Paul that persecutor, blasphemer and cruel oppressor; David that adulterer; that sinner which did eat the apple in Paradise; that thief which hanged upon the cross; and briefly be thou the person which hath committed the sins of all men; see therefore that thou pay and satisfy for them. Here now comes the law and saith: I find him a sinner…therefore let him die upon the cross. And so he setteth upon him and killeth him. By this means the whole world is purged and cleansed from all sins.”
The presentation of the death of Christ as the substitute exhibits the love of the cross more richly, fully, gloriously, and glowingly than any other account of it. Luther saw this and gloried in it. He once wrote to a friend: “Learn to know Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him, and say, ‘Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and given me what is yours. You became what you were not, so that I might become what I was not.'”
What a great and wonderful exchange! Was there ever such love? (James Packer; Your Father Loves You, 20)
Jesus did not come to John to confess and repent of his own sins, of which he had none. He came to make himself one with those who did submit to the rite in order to fulfill all that the Law required. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. One, 123-24)
To fulfill all righteousness means more than “to do all that is right.” Jesus says it becometh us (i.e. either John and Himself, or Himself and His fellow men) to comply with all that God requires of them. (R.V.G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 51)
II- Meek and mild King Jesus, Messiah, Creator God, would be required to suffer greatly to comprehensively be our substitute. (Mt 3:16-17; see also: Isa ch 53; Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45; Lk 22:19-20; Jn 3:16; 6:51; Rom 3:21-26; 5:8-10, 19; 8:32; 2 Cor 5:17-21; Gal 2:20; 3:13; Eph 1:7; Phil 2:1-11; Heb 2:10; 9:11-15; 1 Pt 1:19; 2:22-24; 3:18; Rev 1:5)
Purity is the very foundation of His royalty. Meekness and gentleness are the very weapons of His conquest and the scepter of His rule. The dove will outfly all Rome’s eagles and all rapacious, unclean feeders with their strong wings, and curved talons, and sharp beaks. The lesson as to the true nature of the true Kingdom, which was taught of old when the prophet said “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, riding on an ass,” and not upon the warhorse of secular force; the lesson which was taught unwittingly, as to the true nature of the true Kingdom, when the scoffers, speaking a deeper truth than they understood, put upon His brow the crown of thorns, and forced into His hand the scepter of reed, was taught here–the lesson that meekness conquers, and that His kingdom is founded in suffering, and wielded in gentleness. (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 71-72)
The Dove comes, and where it comes there is peace, there is purity, there is sacrifice. If any man have not the Spirit of holiness he is none of Christ’s. (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 74-75)
Psalm 2 is a messianic psalm that describes the coronation of Christ, the eternal King. The rule of Christ described in the psalm would begin after his crucifixion and resurrection and will be fulfilled when he comes to set up his kingdom on earth. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 53)
Isa 42:1-17 describes the Servant-Messiah who would suffer and die as he served God and fulfilled his mission of atoning for sin on behalf of humanity. Thus, in the two phrases spoken, the voice from the throne of heaven described Jesus’ status both as the Servant who would suffer and die and as the King who would reign forever. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 53)
The Jews have (historically) said, “No way could the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 42 be the Messianic King of Psalm 2. And God from heaven says, “Yes, it is.” That the king is the servant. That the triumph will be a judgment. That the victory will be through a defeat. And that is the reason why John the Baptist says, “I don’t get it. You should be up here. You should be leading me.
And Jesus says, “No. I’ve come to be a substitute. I’ve come to take your place.”
And when the Devil says, “I would like you to turn the stones into bread.” That is an utter frontal assault on the whole idea of substitution. Because he is saying, “I want you to use your divine power. I don’t want you to depend upon the Holy Spirit that has just come upon you. I don’t want you to depend upon your father. I want you to use your own.
But, Jesus Christ at His baptism, put himself in your and my place and He lived His life exactly the way we should. Exactly! Which means praying to the Father for everything; clinging to the Father in complete weakness on his own.
In Acts 10:38 it says that the reason He was able to do the things that he did is because the Spirit was with Him and God was with Him. And Satan is coming to Him and saying, “I want you to no longer be a substitute. I don’t want you in the way of weakness. I want you in the way of strength. (Tim Keller message, “The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus”)
Vicarious suffering is the highest expression of love; such love takes voluntarily upon itself the sins and failures of others. And when it does so it becomes the greatest power for spiritual and moral redemption in the life of the world. (The Interpreter’s Bible: Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians)
According to Scripture’s consistent teaching the Messiah took on himself his people’s guilt, and vicariously bore (or: was to bear) its punishment (Isa 53:5, 6, 8, 10, 12; Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45; Lk 22:19, 20; Rom 3:24, 25, 5:8; 8:1; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13; Rv 1:5). (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Luke, 216)
The words spoken by the voice from heaven echo two OT passages. First, Ps 2:7, “He said to me, ‘You are my Son’” (NIV). Psalm 2 is a messianic psalm that describes the coronation of Christ, the eternal King. The rule of Christ described in the psalm will begin after his crucifixion and resurrection and will be fulfilled when he comes to set up his kingdom on earth. Second, Isa 42:1, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight” (NIV). Isa 42:1-17 describes the Servant-Messiah who would suffer and die as he served God and fulfilled his mission of atoning for sin on behalf of humanity. Thus, in the two phrases spoken, the voice from the throne of heaven described both Jesus’ status as the Servant who would suffer and die for all people, and as the King who would reign forever. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Luke, 75-76)
Reconciliation with God always requires blood, an atoning sacrifice. And since man himself is unable to render such a sacrifice, a substitutionary offering, accepted by faith, is required (Is 53:6, 8, 10, 12; Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45; Jn 3:16; 6:51; Ro 5:19; 8:32; 2 Cor 5:20, 21; Gal 2:20; 3:13; 1 Pet 2:24). (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Luke, 963)
III- That God the Father demonstrated audibly and visually that He is fully pleased with Christ and His work. (Mt 3:17; see also: Ps 2:7; Isa 11:2; 42:1; 61:1; 64:1; Mt 17:5; Jn 12:28; Heb 1:1-8; 10:4; 9:12)
In the Synoptics the voice from heaven is heard once again at the transfiguration (Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7; Lk 9:35). The only other occurrence is in Jn 12:28 following Jesus’ prediction of his death. (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 26)
The second part of the sentence (“with him I am well pleased”) comes from Isa 42:1, at the beginning of the prophecies of God’s suffering servant who would atone for Israel’s sin (Isa 42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:1-11; and 53:13-53:12). So here, in the words of God himself, we have verification of the essential message of John the Baptist and Christianity itself, described earlier, namely, that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, and that his work was to save people from their sins. (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 51)
The Bible does not tell us that anyone but Jesus saw the heavens. . . opened. It says they were opened to him. According to the Gospel of John (1:29-34), this event, and the Spirit of God descending like a dove, revealed the Messiah to John. The opening of the heavens presented God’s intervention into humanity in the human presence of God in Jesus Christ. It was as if the heavens rolled back to reveal the invisible throne of God (Isa 63:19-64:2).
The second sign, “The Spirit of God descending live a dove,” was probably visible to all the people, for Luke recounts that “the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove” (Lk 3:22 NRSV). (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 52)
It was not that Jesus needed to be filled with the Spirit (as if there was any lack in him) because he was “from the Holy Spirit” (1:20) since his conception. Rather, this was his royal anointing (see Isa 11:2; 42:1). (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 52)
Jesus’ anointing with the Holy Spirit was unique. It was given to empower Him in His humanness, but it was also given as a visible, confirming sign to John the Baptist and to everyone else watching. Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the great King whose coming the Lord had called John to announce and to prepare men for. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 80)
No OT sacrifice, no matter how carefully selected, had ever been truly pleasing to God. It was not possible to find an animal that did not have some blemish, some imperfection. Not only that, but the blood of those animals was at best only symbolic, “for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb 10:4; cf. 9:12). But the sacrifice Jesus would make on the cross would be “with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pt 1:19). Thus God could say He was well-pleased with the perfection of Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 17:5; Jn 12:28, where God repeats this superlative commendation). (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 80-81)
The dove symbol expresses characteristics often associated with a dove, such as gentleness and peace in contrast to judgment (recall the dove sent out by Noah to determine whether God’s time of judgment had ended, Gn 8:10), or the superintending and creative action of the Spirit hovering over the waters of the new creation (Gn 1:2). (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 141-42)
This is not to suggest that in his baptism Jesus receives the Spirit for the first time. His conception itself was “through the Holy Spirit” (1:20), which indicates that even as John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit from the womb, so was Jesus. Rather, the descent of the Spirit in the baptism is a formal anointing that inaugurates Jesus’ public ministry. John the Baptist declares elsewhere that the Spirit’s descent on Jesus is what confirmed for him that Jesus was indeed the Son of God (Jn 1:32-34). (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 142)
In order to bring about this vicarious redemption, the Holy Spirit, with all his qualifying power (Isa 11:2; 48:16; 61:1-3; Zech 4:6; Lk 4:18, 19), descended on Jesus qualifying him (according to his human nature) for the task he had taken upon himself. (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Luke, 217)
The opening of the heavens is a powerful metaphor for the in-breaking of God’s kingdom into this world through Jesus (see Ez 1:1; Jn 1:51; Acts 7:56; Rv 19:11). It was as if the heavens rolled back to reveal the throne of God (Isa 63:19-64:2). (Bruce B. Barton, D.Min., Life Application Bible Commentary: Luke, 74-75)
In Isa 64:1 the prophet called out: “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down!” In the story of the baptism of Jesus we see how God answered the sighings of the centuries and did indeed open the heavens, as we read in Mk 1:10. The heavens are opened to Jesus as our Representative and Substitute, and thus we have the divine assurance that every impediment and wall of partition that might hinder our return to God have been removed by Him. (Norval Geldenhuys, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Luke, 147)
Why do we fail to worship Christ whole-heartedly in light of His substitutionary life for us?:
1- We are ignorant of our status before God and our desperate need for a Savior.
In words so clear that explanation is hardly necessary, Paul points out that Israel’s basic fault consisted in this:
- It failed to acknowledge, that is, to accept and welcome, the righteousness that has God as its Author (3:21-24; 8:1; 9:30), is based on Christ’s substitutionary atonement (3:24; 5:8, 17, 18; 8:3, 4, 32; cf. Isa 53:4-8; Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13; 1 Tm 2:4, 6), and is appropriated by faith (some of these same passages and also Rom 1:17; 4:3-5, 16, 23-25; 5:1; cf. Hab 2:4; Gal 3:11).
- It substituted its own work-righteousness for God’s grace-righteousness. For the sad results, as pointed out by Paul, see Rom 2:17 f.; 3:20; 9:31, 32. (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary–Romans, 342)
The Jews tended to regard the law as a series of detached commands. To keep one of those commands was to gain credit. To break one was to incur debt. Therefore a man could add up the ones he kept and subtract the ones he broke and, as it were, emerge with a moral credit or debit balance.
That philosophy, of course, is common to every works-righteousness system of religion. The idea is that acceptance or rejection by God depends essentially on the moral standing of the person himself. If he does more good than bad, he is accepted by God. If the scale tilts the other way, he is rejected.
That totally unbiblical notion is firmly believed by many, many people, including many who name the name of Christ. God’s standard, however, is perfection. Jesus declared, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). God will accept nothing less. But because no sinful human being can possibly attain to that perfection, God has graciously provided for it to be imputed through the vicarious atonement of His sinless Son. (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 114-15)
2- We somehow think we are owed Christ’s ministry and merit.
3- We are too proud to admit to ourselves or others our condemned status before God and our desperate need for a Savior.
Some people vainly attempt to add to the finished work of Christ through works of their own. They do not understand that the debt has been fully canceled, the ransom paid, satisfaction made, and the substitute accepted. Do not mingle your unacceptable works with the finished work of Christ. If you are unwilling to trust him to provide fully for your salvation then Christ cannot be your Savior and Lord. (R.C. Sproul, Before the Face of God Book Two, 535)
4- We find it impossible to believe that God would love us, and the upside-down nature of the Kingdom of God.
What do I care that Jesus is our vicarious substitute and a suffering servant Messiah?:
A- The FIRST HALF of the GOSPEL: Without Jesus suffering on your behalf to satisfy the wrath of God against you there is no way anyone could ever be kept from being sent to hell. (Isa 53:4-6; Mt 16:21; 27:37; Mk 8:31; Lk 9:22; 17:25; 22:37; 24:26; Acts 3:18; 26:23; Rom 3:24-25; 2 Cor 5:18-21; Gal 3:13; 4:4-5; Eph 5:2; Phil 3:7-11; Col 1:14, 20-22; 2:14; 1 Tm 2:6; Heb 2:9-10, 17-18; 7:27; 9:26-28; 10:4, 10-18; 13:12; 1 Pt 2:22-25; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10)
Through the vicarious death of sacrificial animals, the Israelite accepted the provision of forgiveness and salvation. Similarly, through the vicarious death of Christ, the Christian accepts the provision of His redemption. As the blood of the Passover lamb kept God from killing the firstborn of the Hebrews, so the blood of Jesus shed on the Cross keeps God from punishing with death the penitent sinner. (Samuele Bacchiocchi, God’s Festivals in Scripture and History, 69-70)
The servant lives in intimate fellowship and communion with God, his silence and patience and humility are the expression of his nearness to his covenant Lord. It is the nations who live a broken and unholy existence, who need reconciliation and restoration. Therefore their sin must be atoned for. Sacrifice is the means of effecting the relationship. The servant’s nearness to God makes him an instrument for God’s purpose. He offers himself as an asham or “guilt offering” (Lv 5:1-19; 7:1-38; 14:1-57; 1 Sm 6:3) for the sins of the nations. He gives himself as a substitute, suffers vicariously, and his offering is efficacious in achieving the removal of the guilt of others. (The Interpreter’s Bible, 629)
An atonement is a reconciliation of alienated parties, the restoration of a broken relationship. Atonement is accomplished by making amends, blotting out offenses, and giving satisfaction for wrongs done.
According to scripture every person sins and needs to make atonement, but lacks the power and resources for doing so. We have offended our Creator, whose nature it is to hate sin (Jer 44:4; Hab 1:13) and to punish it (Ps 5:4-6; Rom 1:18; 2:5-9). Those who have sinned cannot be accepted by and do not have fellowship with God unless atonement is made. Since there is sin in even the best actions of sinful creatures, anything we do in the hope of making amends can only increase our guilt or worsen our situation, for the “sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD” (Prv 15:8). There is no way to establish one’s own righteousness before God (Job 15:46-16; Is. 64:6; Rom 10:2, 3); it simply cannot be done.
But against this background of human hopelessness, Scripture reveals the grace and mercy of God, who Himself provides the atonement that sin has made necessary. God’s amazing grace is the focus of Biblical faith; from Genesis to Revelation it shines out with breathtaking glory.
When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He set up as part of the covenant relationship a system of sacrifices that had at its heart the shedding of the blood of animals “to make atonement for your souls” (Lv 17;11). These sacrifices were “typical”; that is, as “types” they pointed forward to something better. Sins were forgiven when sacrifices were faithfully offered, but it was not the blood of animals that blotted out sins (Heb 10:4). It was the blood of the “antitype,” Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross atoned for sins already committed, as well as sins that would be committed afterwards (Rom 3:25, 26; 4:3-8; Heb 9:11-15).
According to the NT, Christ’s blood was shed as a sacrifice (Rom 3:25; 5:9; Eph 1:7; Rv 1:5). Christ redeemed His people by means of a ransom; His death was the price that freed us from guilt and from enslavement to sin (Rom 3:24; Gal 4:4, 5; Col 1:14). In Christ’s death, God reconciled us to Himself, overcoming His own hostility that our sins provoked (Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 5:18, 19; Col 1:20-22). The Cross propitiated God. That is to say, it quenched His wrath against us by expiating our sins, and so removing them from His sight (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). The Cross had this effect because in His suffering Christ assumed our identity and endured the retributive judgment due to us, that is, “the curse of the law” (Gal 3:13). He suffered as our substitute, with the damning record of our transgressions nailed by God to His cross as the list of crimes for which He died (Col 2:14; cf. Mt 27:37; Is. 53:4-6; Lk 22:37). (Luder Whitlock, Jr., New Geneva Study Bible, 1772)
John’s purpose on the pages of human history was to prepare the way for the coming of Christ. Everything he did was for that purpose. Obviously, we don’t prepare the way for Christ’s coming; instead, we tell the world that God’s Son has come. We don’t say, “He’s coming,” but “He’s come!” This is good news: Jesus, the King, has come to save us from our sins. But there’s bad news, too. Just as John the Baptist warned of impending judgment, we must to the same. (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 58-59)
The NT uses many images to describe what the cross is and how we should see it. It is a ransom (Mk 10:45; 1 Tm 2:6), a payment for the debt of sin. It is a substitution–Jesus offers himself in our place (cf. the meaning of Barabbas in the previous section; see also Lk 22:18-20; Jn 6:51-52; Rom 8:3; 2 Cor 5:21; cf. Isa 53:10). It is a propitiation, satisfying the justice of God by dealing with sin (Rom 3:25). It represents the “lifting up of Jesus,” and through it Satan is overthrown (Jn 3:14-15; 8:28; 12:31-32; 18:32). It is the means by which the church is purchased (Acts 20:28). It is the sacrifice that ends all other sacrifices for sin (Heb 8-10). It is the precursor to the Lord’s being lifted up and seated at God’s side (Acts 2:16-39; Heb 1:3). It is the basis on which God sets apart his children as a holy community (1 Pt 1:2, 18-25; 2:1-11). On the cross Jesus became a curse for us, a mediator of our guilt before God (Gal 3:13, 19-20). There reconciliation takes place between God and humanity, as well as between Jew and Gentile (Rom 5:8-11; 2 Cor 5:20-21; Eph 2:11-22; Col 1:21-22; 2:11-15). So God can now justify us, that is, declare us righteous before him (Rom 3:21-31). (Darrell L. Bock, The NIV Application Commentary: Luke, 600)
B- The less well known SECOND HALF of the GOSPEL: Without Jesus being perfect for you, and allowing you, by faith, to be “In Christ” there is no way anyone could ever qualify for heaven. (Mt 5:48; Rom 3:21;-4:25; Gal 3:6; Col 1:22, 28; Phil 3:7-11; 2 Tm 4:8; Heb 4:15; 7:26; 10:14; 11:6-7, 40; 12:23; Jas 2:23)
What is meant by “…were righteous”? Apart from the sovereign grace of God revealed basically in the atoning death (the “blood”) of Christ no one can ever be truly “righteous” (Ex 12:13; Ps 49:7; Isa 53:4-6; Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45; Lk 22:19, 20; Rom 3:21-24; Eph 1:7; Heb 9:22; 1 Pt 2:24; Rv 7:14). Another way of saying this is that basically there is no way in which a person can be truly “righteous before God,” or “blameless,” other than by imputation, so that the sinner’s guilt is laid upon the Savior, and the Savior’s righteousness upon the sinner. (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Luke, 66)
That this reckoning, or imputation, of righteousness to the believer lies at the heart of the Biblical doctrine of salvation is corroborated by other Scripture. The Apostle Paul uses the phrase “righteousness of God” nine times (Rom 1:17; 3:5, 21ff.; 10:3, 2 Cor 5:21), and in most of these instances it is mentioned in order to teach that God grants the sinner a new legal standing; i.e., he is counted righteous even while a sinner. A righteousness of God “apart from the law” has been manifested, says Paul, although both law and prophets bear witness to it. It is a righteousness of God “effective through faith in Christ for all who have such faith” (Rom 3:22 NEB). This righteousness is seen in Christ who brought redemption. In Him God proves that He is righteous when He justifies the sinful believer (3:25f.). Law is not overthrown but upheld in this redemption of lost man (v. 31). (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible: Vol. Three, 266)
C- By faith we are “in Christ” and children of God. Therefore we have full confidence that God is pleased to call those who are “In Christ” His children and co-heirs with Christ and invites us to call Him “Daddy”. (Mt 6:9; Jn 1:11-12; 6:29; 14:6; Rom 1:7; 3:26; 5:9, 17-21; 8:15-21; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3; 2:20; 3:27; 4:1-7; Eph 1:2-6; 3:6; Phil 1:2; 3:21; Col 1:2, 27; 2 Thes 1:1; 2:16; Heb 4:16; 9:11-15; 10:19; 11:6; 1 Pt 2:24; 2 Pt 1:4; 1 Jn 2:1; 3:1-2)
Do you not hear the same old, rich voice? “God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good” [Gn 1:31]. “Lo, a voice from heaven saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” In both cases he sets himself in a relation of satisfaction to what is before him. Man, standing there, fashioned in his own image, upright, faultless, inexperienced, with a great destiny to work out–on him is written “Very good.” The last outcome of this human growth and mystery stands before him on Jordan’s banks, and a voice says, “Well pleased,” and when God is pleased law is satisfied and grace is triumphant. (Joseph Parker, The Inner Life of Christ, Studies in Matthew 1-7, 75)
The public appearance of Christ, to undertake the office of Mediator, was accompanied by this announcement, in which he was offered to us by the Father, that we may rely on this pledge of our adoption, and boldly call God himself our Father. The designation of Son belongs truly and naturally to Christ alone; but yet he was declared to be the Son of God in our flesh, that the favor of Him, whom he alone has a right to call Father, may be also obtained for us. And thus when God presents Christ to us as Mediator, accompanied by the title of Son, he declares that he is the Father of us all, (Eph 4:6). (John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 206)
As believers, we too are a delight to the Father, because we are now in the Son. Because the Father finds no imperfection in His Son, He now by His grace finds no imperfection in those who trust in Him (cf. Rom 3:26; 5:17, 21; Gal 2:20; 3:27; Eph 1:3-6; etc.). (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 81)
Even God’s title as Father is a reference to His essential relationship to Jesus Christ. God is presented in the NT more as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ (Mt 11:27; Jn 5:17-18; 10:29-33; 14:6-11; 17:1-5; Rom 15:6; 2 Cor 1:3; Eph 1:3, 17; Phil 2:9-11; 1 Pt 1:3; 2 Jn 3) than as the Father of believers (Mt 6:9). (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 81-82)
Covenantal restoration, according to the NT, occurs only through a man’s identification with the righteous life, substitutionary death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Mt 3:15; Phil 3:21; Col 1:27; 1 Pt 2:24; cf. Jn 14:6); and this fact applies equally to the saved of all ages, to those of the Old as well as of the NT (Heb 11:40). OT Israel stood quite literally under the blood (Ex 24:8; Heb 9:19), and the effectiveness of the blood lay not in bulls and goats (Heb 10:4) but in its anticipation of the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (v. 12). (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. One, 1004)
What Jesus was doing, including His baptism by John, totally pleased God. Jesus was in no way becoming God’s Son at his baptism; instead, his true nature was being revealed. Jesus’ baptism showed that he was identifying with sinful men and women, without implying that he himself was a sinner. Luke further underscored this point with his record of the story of Jesus’ temptation soon after–another example of Jesus’ identifying with sinners without committing sin. Because Jesus went through everything human beings have to go through, people can be confident that he can sympathize with their weaknesses, when they attempt to follow his perfect example. (Bruce B. Barton, D.Min., Life Application Bible Commentary: Luke, 73-74)
Why does God put up with us? Why does God defend us? Not because of anything in us but for his own sake and for the sake of the ultimate David, Jesus Christ. He is committed to us not because of us but because of our Substitute. That is our strong position with God. (Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., Preaching the Word: Isaiah, 219)
Worship Point: If you begin to understand the vicarious work of Jesus in both His life and His death, then you should have no problem worshiping Christ the Savior.
When Jesus comes to John, he says, “Baptize me”. Now everybody knows and John knew, that baptism is a sign of repentance. It is a way of saying, “I’m sinful.” Baptism symbolizes the cleansing away of sin.
And here is what . . . John says, “Wait a minute. I need to be in your place. Why am I baptizing you . . . It should be the other way around. In other words he is saying, “What are you doing in my place? And what am I doing in yours?” . . .
Jesus says, “I’m here as a substitute. My main mission in life is to not only get baptized like you should—Even though I don’t need it—I’ve come, not just to repent in your place; I’ve come to live in your place and fulfill all righteousness. All, all, all. And, I’ve come to die in your place so that you can stand in mine, John. I’m going to take the curse you deserve so that you can have the blessing.” (Tim Keller message, “The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus”)
Gospel Application: Jesus completely satisfied the Law which stood to condemn you in oh so many ways. In fact, by faith, Jesus has paid double for all your sins (Isa 40:2) by both His perfect life and substitutionary atonement through his death that satisfied of the Law.
Spiritual Challenge: Contemplate your status before God without Christ. Contemplate your status before God “in Christ”. Find great hope, power, courage, strength, and joy in being God’s adopted son in whom God is well pleased. Not by your merits or status, but by Christ’s. And never forget . . . the greatest in the Kingdom of God is the servant willing to suffer for the sake of others.
Jesus came into the world to identify with men; and to identify with men is to identify with sin. He could not purchase righteousness for mankind if He did not identify with mankind’s sin. Hundreds of years before Christ’s coming, Isaiah had declared that the Messiah “was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors” (Isa 53:12). (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 78)
We hasten to add, however, that such perfection is impossible on this sinful earth. Yet, the demand of God’s law is not abrogated. The solution of this problem has been furnished by God himself. Jesus Christ, by the substitutionary sacrifice of himself and by his life of perfect obedience, has done for us what we ourselves would never have been able to do. See Rom 8:1-3; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13. Therefore:
- We must sincerely confess that it is forever impossible for us, by our own action, to fulfill the demands of God’s law: “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal 2:16).
- We must, by God’s grace and the power of his Spirit, place our trust in Christ (Jn 3:16, 36).
- Out of gratitude for the salvation which, because of Christ’s merits, we have received as a free gift, we must now, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, live a life to the glory of God Triune. This means that even in principle we will begin to live in accordance with his law. The law of love has not been abrogated. See Rom 13:8-10. (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Luke, 596)
“Any failure of actual righteousness is always a failure to live in accordance with our imputed righteousness. We make something besides Jesus our real hope and life. So believing the gospel means to repent, not just of our sins, but of the particular (self) righteousness(es) underlying our behavior. That is the secret of change. (Tim Keller commeting on Martin Luther’s Theses from Galatians Commentary).
Christ’s suffering is for propitiation, our suffering is for propagation. (John Piper; Desiring God, 230)
The admonition to speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty is tantamount to saying, “Live and act as a true believer who has been saved by God’s grace and who will be judged on the basis of Christ’s imputed righteousness. That righteousness frees the believer from the law of bondage and judges him under the redeeming law of liberty, God’s Word of the gospel, the NT in Jesus Christ, which frees the repentant sinner from the bondage of sin (cf. Jn 8:31-32). (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 116) (James 2:12)
The Son of Man has come unto the world to take upon Himself the sins of the world. If you want to follow Him you must be willing to do the same. (Jesus: in the Jesus of Nazareth video)
We all like to be called servants until we are treated like one. (Mark Devers message, 5 Keys to Spiritual Growth)
Quotes to Note:
Noah’s dove came back to the ark with one leaf in his beak. That was the prophecy and the foretaste of a whole world of beauty and of verdure. The dove that comes to us, bearing with it some leaf plucked from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God is the earnest of our inheritance until the day of redemption. All the gifts of that divine Spirit, gifts of holiness, of gentleness, of wisdom, of truth–all these are forecasts and anticipations of the perfectness of the heavens. To us, sailing over a dismal sea, the spirit comes bearing with it a message that tells us of the far-off land and the fair garden of God in which the blessed shall walk. (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 75-76)
Baptism is such a common symbol for many in the church today that if we’re not careful, we’ll miss some of the imagery here. This is a picture of death. Dipping (immersion) symbolizes a decisive, even violent, turn from yourself and your way of life, including any dependence on your heritage, your righteousness, or your success. Baptism indicates that you are going to rely on the mercy of God. It is a confession, a profession, that there’s nothing you can do to save yourself from your sins; you need the Lord to do that. That’s the good news John brought in verse 11: “I baptize you with water for repentance, but the One who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove His sandals. He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Baptism is a foretaste of a greater reality to come. (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 54)