Friday, April 10, 2015

Lesson 2: Baptism and the Temptations

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Luke

Lesson 2: Baptism and the Temptations


The 1888 Message "Dynamic": Baptism symbolizes death to self and humble acceptance of the Holy Spirit's power to resist temptation. Without that power, temptation cannot be resisted.


It was not by accident that the Holy Spirit directed Jesus to submit to baptism before He was led into the wilderness to be tempted. Baptism is a demonstration of a choice that the person has made to no longer live for self, but to be symbolically dead to self and alive only in Christ Jesus.

A. T. Jones, one of the 1888 "messengers," describes baptism this way: "For a person to be baptized in his name, signifies much more than merely to have the phrase recited over him and then to be buried in the water. To be baptized in the name of the Lord, really signifies that just as the person is buried, overwhelmed, and lost sight of, in the water, so also is he buried, overwhelmed, and lost sight of, in the name, the character, the nature, of the Lord. It signifies that that person's old, original nature and character are no more to be seen in the world; but in their stead the nature and character of the Lord. It signifies that he is no more to be manifest in the world; but that God, instead of himself, is to be manifest in him in the world. [1]

Why would baptism be necessary for the spotless Lamb of God as John the Baptist implied when he questioned Christ's request? "When Jesus came to be baptized, John recognized in Him a purity of character that he had never before perceived in any man. … How could he, a sinner, baptize the Sinless One? And why should He who needed no repentance submit to a rite that was a confession of guilt to be washed away?" [2] Why would Jesus need to be "buried, overwhelmed, and lost sight of," as A. T. Jones describes above?

Understanding the nature that Jesus assumed at His incarnation is the key. There are two common views regarding the nature of Christ. The majority of theologians who have considered the issue believe that Christ must have taken the nature of Adam before he sinned in the Garden of Eden. This "pre-fall" nature was necessarily sinless. If baptism "signifies that that person's old, original nature and character are no more to be seen in the world…" and Christ came in the pre-fall nature, He would have no need for baptism. The view of the 1888 messengers is that the only reason we are to die to self and signify that by baptism is that we have a nature that is sinful and deserves to be "buried, overwhelmed, and lost sight of."

Because Jesus came "in the likeness of sinful flesh," and would have to overcome temptations in that flesh, He was baptized to signify He was submitting to the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish His mission. It is important to remember that Christ merely "assumed" or came "in the likeness" of sinful flesh, He did not become sinful. What's the difference and does it matter?

"With regard to the statement that God sent His Son 'in the likeness of sinful flesh,' Waggoner states, 'There is a common idea that this means that Christ simulated sinful flesh, that he did not take upon himself actual sinful flesh, but only what appeared to be such.'

"In rebuttal Waggoner quoted Hebrews 2:17, which affirms that Jesus had 'to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.'

"… to establish the reason for Christ coming in the likeness of sinful flesh, Waggoner places side by side Romans 8:3, 4 and 2 Corinthians 5:21. 'The former says that Christ was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us." The latter says that God "made him to be sin for us," although he knew no sin, "that we might be made in the righteousness of God in him." …

"To make sure that his public was clear on the point, Waggoner insisted, 'The word was made perfect flesh in Adam, but in Christ was the Word made fallen flesh. Christ goes down to the bottom, and there is the Word flesh, sinful flesh.'

"In an article in Signs of the Times entitled 'God Manifested in Flesh,' Waggoner stipulates that our sins were not laid on Christ in a symbolic manner, but that they were really laid on Him." [3]

The question remains, why did Christ insist on being baptized? He told John "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15, NASB). "Jesus did not receive baptism as a confession of guilt on His own account. He identified Himself with sinners, taking the steps that we are to take, and doing the work that we must do. His life of suffering and patient endurance after His baptism was also an example to us." [4] Since Christ had taken the fallen nature that needed redeeming, He needed to symbolize His death to that nature by baptism. We are to follow His example in spirit and action.

The Temptation of Christ

"After tempting man to sin, Satan claimed the earth was his, and styled himself the prince of this world. Having conformed to his own nature the father and mother of our race, he thought to establish here his empire." [5] That last sentence is important. When Adam and Eve chose sin it changed their natures from the image of God to the image of Satan. God claimed to be all powerful, but Satan claimed that He had lost power over the human race and they now belonged to him. He also claimed it was impossible for them to keep God's law, and he hoped to demonstrate that by tempting Christ to give in to sin.

In a sense, Satan had a point. Once Adam fell, it was impossible for him to keep God's law in his own power. In the conversation between God and the fallen pair in the garden, God promised to "put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your seed and her seed" (Gen. 3:15). Without this, the change in their nature would have made it impossible to be drawn toward anything other than what they were, self-centered and wicked.

Soon after the wilderness temptations, "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit" (Luke 4:14). He was teaching in synagogues and came to Nazareth, His home town. He read the words of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18, 19).

A. T. Jones commented on this event, emphasizing that Jesus was not using His own divine power (He laid that aside; see Phil. 2) but was living a sinless life in the sinful nature He had assumed. "Bear in mind, also, that these words which Jesus read that day in the synagogue, and which he said were that day fulfilled, begin thus: 'The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me;' and that only a few days before this he had been baptized with the Holy Ghost, in order to do that which thus lay before him in the last period of his work on the earth …

"Yet it was essential to the completion of the work of God in that day, that he should be baptized with the Holy Ghost. In that closing period of his work, there were trials, persecutions, temptations, and the cross to meet, which he could not meet successfully without this baptism of the Holy Spirit. So likewise it is essential to the completion of the work of God in this our day, that we be baptized with the Holy Ghost. In this closing period of our work, there are trials, persecutions, temptations, and crosses for us to meet, which we cannot meet successfully without this same baptism of the Holy Spirit.

"Not only do we need this, not only must we have it, but thank the Lord we can have it. God longs for us to receive it. The Father loves us just as he loves Jesus. And praise his holy name, when he places before us the same work that lay before Jesus, he gives us the same Holy Spirit in full measure, to fit us for that work, just as he gave it to Jesus.

"Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift, for his tender love, and for his gentle leading of his people." [6]

--Arlene Hill


[1] A. T. Jones, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Oct. 1, 1895 (emphasis in original).

[2] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.110.

[3] J. R. Zurcher, Touched with Our Feelings, pp. 74, 75 (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1999).

[4] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.111.

[5] op. cit., p. 114.

[6] A. T. Jones, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Oct. 12, 1897 (emphasis in original).