Most of us long for miracles. And Jesus’ perfect life, death on sinners’ behalf as the fulfillment of Passover, and His physical resurrection prove that He is willing and able to meet our greatest needs: complete forgiveness and a new heart to trust and follow Him as our living King. But even in the Bible, most of the journey with Jesus is lived in the moments between miracles. In this 50-day series, we’ll consider some of those moments leading up to the next great miracle in the New Testament: the fulfillment of Pentecost and the incredible growth of the Church.
Yesterday’s post and the next few focus a little more on the meat of Jesus’ Great Commission at the end of Matthew. Why do this in a series on life between the moments of miracles? Because those times in between are inherently mundane, repetitious, and even boring. So we can be easily tempted to abandon daily grinds in search of immediate excitement, a more tangible sense of productivity, and even an entirely different direction for our own purposes. We need to be very clear and confident in what the Lord has called us to do and what He’s doing in us. Some key words and phrases in the Great Commission can keep us on the narrow road with Jesus and motivate us through the seemingly mundane toward the next miracle.
As we noted in yesterday’s post, discipleship is that day-to-day process of love that Jesus modeled for us. But many seem to try to reduce it to mere teaching or to see it as a radical lifestyle only for the Jesus freaks. The latter is pretty accurate, although not as an option for some Christians. Discipleship is not just for a few religious seasons of the year. It’s the only way for all of those who profess faith in Jesus.
Similarly, baptism is often misunderstood or twisted, too. Many hear Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 as His call for God’s people to do what we can to join more members to our churches, measured by public professions of faith and baptisms. Even more seem to interpret the importance as the amount of water and how it’s used in the baptisms.
Neither of these common emphases are the core meaning of baptism.
The core meaning of baptism is union with another person. The water is merely a visible reminder that union with Christ comes by His work of cleansing us.
Have you ever wondered why the Lord Jesus submitted Himself for baptism? He had no need to be cleansed of any sin because He never sinned (Luke 23:4, 2 Corinthians 5:21 Hebrew 4:5, 1 Peter 2:22, etc.). Jesus was joining Himself to the people for whom He would die. Notice after John baptizes Jesus, in Matthew 3:13-17 God the Father affirms His love directly to His Son for Jesus’ humble sacrificial love. But in Luke 3:21-22, God the Father affirms His love in the hearing of those around Jesus. Again, His baptism was not for His cleansing, but for our encouragement that He willingly joined Himself to us to become the sacrifice for our sins.
And have you ever notice what 1 Corinthians 10 says about baptism? First, notice the passage describes Israel as “baptized into Moses” (verse 2). They joined themselves to him (followed him) because they recognized that the Lord was working through him. Second, notice that they were “baptized…in the cloud and in the sea”. The cloud was above them, and the sea was on either side of them as they crossed through, but God’s Word is crystal clear that water never even touched them: it was absolutely dry ground (Exodus 14:16, 22, 29, and 15:19).
So, although how the water is used in Christian baptism can communicate important truths, water is not the central part of the message. It’s about joining or union with someone. And it’s not about new believers joining a church or church members “winning them to Christ”. It’s about being joined to (united with) the Name of all three persons of the Trinity.
When you follow Jesus by faith in Him, you can know that the Father, Son, and Spirit love you despite your past failures, in the midst of your present struggle, and will go with you into your unknowns tomorrow. You can know that all three are working on your behalf for your joy and rest in God. You can know that, just as “the name of the law” implies very specific purposes, authority, and power, being under the Name of God implies His very specific purposes, authority, and power as He has revealed those in His word.
And lastly, just to keep this article brief, remember that baptism was always received by the person. In other words, we do not join ourselves to God. When a pastor baptizes you, he does so “in the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit…” God Himself joins us to Himself. And, for that reason, we can be confident that the One who buried us with Him in baptism will also certainly raise us from the dead to be with Him forever. (Colossians 2:12)
I hope today’s thought and others in this series will be helpful to you as you journey with Jesus in the moments between miracles.