Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
3. The Herald of the King; the Entrance upon His Public Ministry.
The third chapter relates the ministry of the herald of the King, who announces that the kingdom of the heavens has drawn nigh, and the presence of the King Himself, who is to come after him; the baptism of the King, who comes from Galilee to the Jordan to John, and the events connected with it, are given in the second half of the chapter.
“Now in those days comes John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea , and saying, Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn nigh. For this is He, who has been spoken of through Esaias the prophet saying, A voice of Him that crieth in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight His paths. And John himself had his garments of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins, and his nourishment was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:1-4).
The forerunner is John the Baptist, a typical Old Testament person, of whom the Lord says later in the Gospel, “Yea, I say to you, and more than a prophet, this is he of whom it is written, Behold I send My messenger before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee. Verily I say to you, that there is not arisen among the born of women a greater than John the Baptist, but he who is a little one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he” (Matthew 11:9-11). In the same discourse the Lord’ says, in vindication of John, who was then in prison: “And if ye will receive it, this is Elias who is to come.” In the first chapter of Luke the angel announces his birth and says: “For he shall be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine or strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the sons of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn hearts of fathers to children, and disobedient ones to the thoughts of just men, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people” (Luke 1:15-17). In these words, given through the Holy Spirit, the Lord Himself and an angel of the Lord, we have the three prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the forerunner quoted. These are: Isaiah 40:3-5; Malachi 3:1; Malachi 4:5-6. That he was sent in fulfillment of these prophecies is therefore unquestionable. To this comes the manner of his dress and the nourishment. It reminds us of the great prophet Elias, the Tishbite. “He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins” (2Kings 1:8).
John knew His personality and His mission, for he said: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias” (John 1:23). But when asked, Art thou Elias? he answered, I am not. The Jews expected Elijah, as the orthodox Jews expect him still, as the forerunner of King Messiah. At every passover ceremony a cup is reserved for the prophet Elijah, and at the circumcision of the child a chair is placed for that person, and many are the prayers which are said, that God may send soon the prophet Elijah, for his presence would indicate to them the nearness of the King. The character and preaching of Elijah were clearly reproduced in John. He was the Elias for his day. If they had received it, he would have been Elias. In this sense, Matthew 17:12, is to be understood: “Elias cometh and restoreth all things; But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they did not recognize him, but did unto him whatever they would.” He was rejected, and his rejection foretold how things would go, that the King Himself would be rejected. We would only mention that before the King comes again there will be once more a forerunner. Once more the message will be heard, The kingdom of the heavens draweth nigh. It will be the Gospel of the Kingdom preached by the remnant during the great tribulation. All we have in Malachi 4:5, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” will then be fulfilled. In Revelation 13:1-18 one of the two witnesses is, without question, one like Elijah. It is necessary to state, that no great and miracle-working preacher of repentance, in the spirit of Elijah, is promised to Christendom. We make this remark, because in our days persons stand up and declare that they are forerunners, or one of the witnesses or messengers of the covenant. These poor people err and know not the Scripture, and by their conceited claims work untold harm.
John the Baptist appears in the wilderness. He is not in the temple in the midst of the learned and the great. There was no room for him there. He is outside of the camp, and the people too have to leave Jerusalem and go out to him. This is once more significant. It shows what the end will be.
His preaching is, “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn nigh.”
The phrase, kingdom of the heavens, is mentioned thirty-two times in the Gospel of Matthew. Here it is for the first time. The strangest meaning has been put upon this term. Christendom at large is all at sea about the meaning of it. Heaven or the church are the general interpretations which are given. Both are wrong, and because the meaning of this term is so grossly misunderstood, there is no conception whatever of the thoughts and purposes of God. The kingdom of the heavens is an Old Testament term. It is to be in the earth and not in heaven. It is a kingdom in which the heavens rule (Daniel 4:26). The setting up of that kingdom is spoken of in Daniel 2:44, and in the seventh chapter, verse 14. It is in the hands of One who is the Son of Man, Messiah, the Son of David, who is to rule in righteousness. In that kingdom there will be universal peace, and the knowledge of the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the deep. His own people, the house of Judah and the house of Israel , will all be regathered into the land, Jerusalem built again and become the great center of blessing for the nations of the earth. In one word, the kingdom of the heavens is the literal fulfilment of all the prophecies and promises contained in the Old Testament, which the Lord gave to the seed of Abraham, and the blessings of the nations of the earth to come after this kingdom is set up. The Church is not known in the Old Testament, nor is it seen in the opening chapters of Matthew. _This _kingdom, the forerunner declares, now has drawn nigh, it is at hand. The King is in the earth, Emanuel, He whose name is Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, and concerning whom it is said, “that of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever.” Not alone did John preach this kingdom to its Jewish, earthly form, but the Lord Himself declared that it had drawn nigh, and when the King sent out His disciples He told them to preach, “The kingdom of the heavens has drawn nigh,” the special Messianic kingdom power was put upon them to heal the sick, to raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons (Matthew 10:1-42).
But as the forerunner and his testimony is rejected, and the King Himself, the coming of that kingdom of the heavens is postponed. It is not set aside completely, but only postponed, and all the glories of that earthly Messianic Kingdom, which will reach from sea to sea, so minutely pictured in Old Testament prophecy, will yet be established in the earth with Jerusalem as the center, for the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. The kingdom of the heavens is not the church, and the church is not the kingdom. How great the confusion is on this point in all Christian denominations who read the “history of the church” in the establishment and glory of the kingdom predicted by the prophets.
The proper word for John to utter when appearing in the wilderness was, repent. That kingdom which had now drawn nigh was to bring judgment of all that is evil. Judgments upon all unrighteousness are associated with the coming of that kingdom. Every Jew was acquainted with that fact. It is true the earthly glories of the kingdom of the heavens had been announced by every prophet, but equally true is it that the coming judgments were announced, and at all times in past generations of the earthly people of God, the cry, “Return! Repent!” was heard. Now the greatest one of all the prophets has come, and the cry of the Law and the Prophets, Repent, sounds forth once more, so strong and clear as never before.
Before we take up the meaning of repentance here and the baptism unto repentance wherewith he baptized, and compare them with repentance and baptism which are connected with the Gospel of Grace, we must call attention to the quotation from Isaiah which follows. The words are taken from that sublime chapter which begins with, Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, the fortieth chapter. In comparing Matthew with Luke we find that the quotation in Luke is complete, in Matthew it is only in part. Luke, or rather the Holy Spirit through him, adds, “Every gorge shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places smooth ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God (Luke 3:5-7).” One would look to the Gospel of Matthew as the Jewish Gospel, to find such a complete quotation from the Old Testament. Why then, is it not all quoted in Matthew, and why does it stand in Luke? The reason is easily found. Luke’s Gospel is for the Gentiles, to show that salvation is to be indeed offered to all flesh. For this reason the full quotation is perfectly in order in that Gospel, while in Matthew, here in the beginning in its narrower scope, it would be out of order. It is likewise to be remarked that the testimony of John was not only the cry in the wilderness, the loud and continued “Repent!” Such is heard here, and when the kingdom hopes are not realized, we shall see him later sending from the prison to the Lord with his question. But John had a more perfect knowledge, which he imparted to his disciples. The proper place for that testimony is neither Matthew, Mark nor Luke, but the Gospel where the Holy Spirit shows us our Saviour and Lord as the only begotten of the Father, the Gospel of John. There John points to Him and says, Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world. “I have seen and borne Him witness that He is the Son of God (John 1:29-34).” But clearer still is that wonderful address he delivers to his disciples when they came to him. “And John answered and said, A man can receive nothing unless it be given him out of heaven. Ye, yourselves, bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices in heart because of the voice of the bridegroom; this my joy then is fulfilled He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all. He who has his origin in the earth is of the earth, and speaks as of the earth. He who comes out of heaven is above all, and what He has seen and what He has heard this He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. He that has received His testimony has set to his seal that God is true; for He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives not the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things in His hand. He that believes on the Son has life eternal, and he that is not subject to the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth upon him” (John 3:27-36).
Such a testimony then was given by John, he knew of life through Christ and that the bridegroom is the Son of God.
Repentance is his foremost message to the nation. Let us consider briefly what it means. Repentance as it is found in the Old Testament, is God’s request to His earthly people to return unto Him. This is the call of John the Baptist in this third chapter. It is the Gospel of the Kingdom which he preaches. The Gospel of Grace is something different. It was not known then, it could not be fully made known and preached till after the death, the resurrection, ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. To preach the Gospel of Grace from the words of John the Baptist, “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn nigh,” would be misleading. Still it is being done throughout Christendom. Not knowing what the kingdom of the heavens is, what the church is, and the differences between the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of Grace, there is a constant misapplication of the scriptures and preaching of a repentance which is Jewish. Theological systems, especially Arminianism, have produced a way of salvation, which is surely nothing less, than the new wine in old wineskins. There is the demand of a repentance, a certain form of penitence, a deep feeling of being lost, grief and despair, turning away from the world and worldly pleasures, seeking the Lord, perhaps for many weary months, then at last, after such a weird experience, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. After this the receiving of what is termed, the witness of the Spirit, a good feeling, by which it is claimed one alone can know that he is saved, a feeling which can be lost, after which the person is once more unsaved. That all this is not according to the Gospel of Grace, the teachings of Romans, as well as the other epistles is evident. One who has written on the subject of repentance has done it in such a scriptural and simple way that we desire to quote from his book:
“What then about repentance? Are faith and the Spirit’s work enough? Or is not repentance no less a necessity if men are to be saved? I meet this question boldly and at once by denouncing it as based, not so much on ignorance as on deep seated and systematic error. The repentance which thus obtrudes itself and claims notice in every sermon is not the friend of the Gospel but an enemy. It is like the officious guide, who forces himself upon the traveler only to mislead him. Faith and repentance are not successive stages on the road to life; they are not independent guides to direct the pilgrim’s path; they are not separate acts to be successively accomplished by the sinner as a condition of his salvation. But, in different phases of it, they represent the same Godward attitude of the soul, which the truth of God believed produces. “Salvation there cannot be without repentance any more than without faith, but the soundest and fullest Gospel preaching need not include any mention of the word. Neither as verb or noun does it occur in the Epistle to the Romans -- God’s great doctrinal treatise on redemption and righteousness -- save in the warnings of the second chapter. And the Gospel of John, pre-eminently the Gospel-book of the Bible -- will be searched in vain for a single mention of it. The beloved disciple wrote his Gospel that men might believe and live, and his Epistle followed to confirm believers in the simplicity and certainty of their faith; but yet from end to end of them the word ‘repent’ or ‘repentance’ never once occurs. It is to these writings before all others men have turned in every age to find words of peace and life, and yet some who profess to hold them inspired will cavil at a Gospel sermon because repentance is not mentioned in it -- a fault, if fault it be, that marks the testimony of the Apostle John and the preaching of our Lord Himself, as recorded by the fourth evangelist. The repentance of the Gospel is to be found in the Nicodemus discourse and in the gracious testimony to the woman at the well; and, I may add, any repentance that limits or jars upon those sacred words is wholly against the truth.” (The Gospel and its Ministry, By Robert Anderson.)
In Acts 3:19 we hear Peter preaching, “Repent.” It is here still to the nation connected with a national hope: The restoring of all things of which God has spoken by the mouth of His holy prophets. After the calling out of people for His name is accomplished, and the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, there will be once more the call heard, “Repent!”
But the call to repentance is associated with baptism -- the baptism unto repentance. “Then went out to Him Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the country round the Jordan , and were baptized by Him in the Jordan , confessing their sins (Matthew 3:5).” Concerning his baptism He said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance.” There was then a great stir, and large were the multitudes from the city who came out to hear and to follow the call to repent. Among them were many Pharisees and Sadducees, to whom He said, “Offspring of vipers, who has forewarned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce, therefore, fruit worthy of repentance. And do not think to say within yourselves, We have Abraham for our Father; for I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham. And already the axe is applied to the root of the trees; every tree therefore not producing good fruit is cut down and cast into the fire.” “And all the people when they heard it, and the publicans, justified God, having been baptized with John’s baptism; but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s counsel with regard to themselves, not being baptized by Him” (Luke 7:29-30).
The baptism of John shows clearly what repentance means. Jordan is always in the Word the type of death. Thus John baptized in the river of death, which would mean unto death. (Baptism in water was known and practiced among the Jews centuries before John. Proselytes were not only circumcised but also dipped in water.) The people came, confessed their sins, seeing then their true position, what they were and what they deserved; they went down into Jordan to be buried in water, thus typifying death. They heard, they believed, they confessed and witnessed to it outwardly. In this way they justified God, as recorded in the above passage from Luke. Christian baptism is, of course, something essentially different. It is not a baptism unto repentance of deserved death, but it is unto Christ’s death, who has taken our place and died for us. “Are you ignorant that we, as many as have been baptized unto Christ, have been baptized unto His death? We have been therefore buried with Him by baptism unto death, in order that even as Christ has been raised up from among the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-5). Christian baptism is not taught in the third chapter of Matthew. How much confusion has resulted from giving it such a meaning, placing believers into a sad legalism.
Many then were baptized unto repentance by the forerunner. But now for the first time we meet with the two great religious classes and leaders among the Jews, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who came out to John. These two classes play an important role in the Gospel. The Pharisees were the strictly religious, orthodox-ritualistic class. [The name Pharisee means a Separatist. One who says: “I am holier than them.”] They were well versed in the traditions of the elders, and occupied themselves with creating new commandments and strange interpretations of the law. They are the fathers of the talmudical Jews of the present day and typical of ritualistic Christendom, having the form of godliness and not the power. The Sadducees were the rationalists, the unbelieving class. They were much given to reform. Their offspring today are the reformed Jews, who reject the greater part of the Word of God, and in Christendom they are remarkably reproduced in the unevangelical “Isms,” though they call themselves “Christian” (as the Sadducees called themselves Jews), who reject portions of the Word, who do not believe in the inspiration of the Bible.
“Offspring of vipers!” thus the Holy Spirit declared through the forerunner their true character. What a strong and cutting word it is, which applies not alone to the Pharisees and Sadducees, but to all ritualistic-religiousness and unbelieving criticism. They are the offspring not of God but of vipers. But still they were the proud boasters of being the seed of Abraham and as such entitled to the promised blessing. They believed that they were to be saved from the wrath of God connected with the establishment of the kingdom, and the wrath would fall entirely upon the Gentile nations. One only needs to peruse some of the tracts of the Talmud to find the reflection of their proud, self-righteous belief. When they came, they were far from taking that true position in repentance, in death. And so John demands of them that they are to bring forth fruit worthy of repentance. He uncovers their false pretensions, and shows that no natural birth, no religious attainment would deliver them in the day of wrath. This is followed by the announcement of the nearness of the judgment, the axe laid at the root of the trees, ready to fell the mighty trees void of fruit. All this finds an application in the day in which we live, when the axe is once more laid at the roots to cut off and cast into the fire that which has not brought fruit. (The conditions in nominal Christendom now, immediately before the Second Coming of Christ, are the same as the conditions in professing Judaism at the time of His first coming.)
From the words of condemnation upon the proud, self-righteous Pharisees and Sadducees, the herald of the King now turns to speak, as it became him in humility, of the glorious Person of the King Himself. And what a far reaching testimony it is we have in the eleventh and twelfth verses! “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He that comes after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not fit to bear; He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire; whose winnowing fan is in His hand, and He shall thoroughly purge His threshing floor, and shall gather His wheat into the garner, but the chaff He will burn with fire unquenchable.”
Here we have another passage which is of vital importance. Let us understand in the first place that the words spoken refer to the first and second coming of our Lord. Let this be clearly fixed in our minds, and all will be plain. The promise connected with the first coming is, He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit. The second coming of the Lord will bring the baptism with Fire, as it is seen at once in the words which follow, which speak clearly of judgment and fire unquenchable. It may appear strange at the first glance that John says in one breath: “He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” -- that the Holy Spirit should refer to His first coming and the fire to His second appearing, but let us take into consideration that John still belongs to the Old Testament, and he expresses himself in a way as many of the prophets did, who frequently spoke in one clause of the Lord’s first and second coming. However, the fifth verse in the first chapter of Acts puts into our hands the key. The Lord said then to His disciples, “John, indeed, baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence.” That our Lord speaks of what John said in our passage here is evident, yet He does not mention baptism with fire. If He had added, and with fire, it would clearly prove that the baptism connected with His first coming is a baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire. But He leaves out the fire because it stands in connection with His second coming. Thus it is seen in the entire prophetic Word, which speaks of the day of wrath and vengeance as being a day of burning and fire. How could we even undertake to mention but half of the erroneous doctrines which are more or less emanating from this passage wrongly applied? The doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the work of the Holy Spirit, etc., has of late years been made very prominent. Conventions for baptisms, fillings with the Holy Spirit, the enduement of the Spirit for power in service, and many other topics in relation to the doctrine of the Spirit and for a so-called “second blessing” (a term which is nowhere found in the Word) are being held. But how sad it is to see the contortions of the Scriptures as well as the unscriptural, abnormal applications which have been made. A good deal comes from teaching that the believer is to be baptized not alone with the Spirit but also with fire. It is not enough to have believed, so they teach, and be saved by Grace, but there is to be a baptism with fire, a second experience which outshines all others. Hence we find the most extravagant terms which are used in connection with the Holy Spirit, such as Holy Ghost preachers and Holy Ghost fire.
The baptism with the Holy Spirit promised by the Lord took place on the day of Pentecost. By this one Spirit are we all baptized into the one body, which is the Church (1Corinthians 12:13). We are not born again by the baptism of the Spirit, but those who are born again become by it the members of that one body. Every believer who has believed in the Lord Jesus Christ hath the Holy Spirit. He the blessed Paraclete, is abiding in him. It is wrong for a believer to plead or pray for the Holy Spirit to come unto him, and equally unscriptural is it to pray for a baptism with fire, for there is no such baptism now, and no believer could pray for the flaming fire to fall upon him, for he is delivered from that wrath.
The Lord comes again, and then it will be with a baptism of fire. The wheat will be gathered into the garner, and then the chaff upon the threshing floor swept together, corresponding with the tares in the parables put together in bundles, will be given over to the fire unquenchable.
John unquestionably waited anxiously for the appearing of Him whose advent he had announced. God, who had sent him to baptize with water, had told him that upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and abiding on him, he it is who baptizes with the Spirit (John 1:32-34). At last the moment came. What a moment it was! It terminated the ministry of the forerunner. It was the beginning of the public ministry of the King Himself. He now steps to the front to go that path of obedience marked out for Him, to be presented as King to the nation, to be rejected, and to do that work which no Prophet, no John, no Angel or Archangel could do, but He alone.
“Then comes Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized of him.” The Lord, He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire, He who is greater than John, to whom the Baptist bowed in humility and worship, He who is the creator of all things, comes to the preacher of repentance and presents Himself to be baptized. What a scene! John stood amazed. “He forbade Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?” In other words, I am the sinner, I need repentance, I deserve to go into that river of death, but Thou art holy -- no evil in Thee, nothing worthy of death.
Thus in the very beginning of His public ministry we have the testimony of His holiness. He is the one who alone is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners; He knew no sin, who could not sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. When at last the prince of this world came he had nothing in Him. But why then should He, the holy one, this spotless, pure being, present Himself to the preacher of repentance? Why should He go into the river of death and take His place in death? Where there is no sin there need be no confession. Where there is no sin there can be no death. How could He, the King, that holy thing born of the virgin, God manifested in the flesh, ever confess sin when there was no sin? Yet He not only came to be baptized, but He was baptized. The question has had many answers. We said above that His baptism marks the beginning of His public ministry, He enters upon His work, and there can be only one meaning to His baptism, which is in fullest harmony with that work He came to do. Baptism means death and resurrection. He had no sin, but came to be the substitute for sinners, and so He takes in the very beginning their place, the sinner’s place in death. He knew His work before. It is not to be understood as if now He had learned for the first time who He is and what His work is. But publicly He declares in presence of men, angels, demons, and in the presence of God that He is here to fulfill all righteousness. “Suffer it now, for it thus becometh us to fulfill all righteousness” (verse 13). No confessing or repenting on His part, He was fulfilling all righteousness. As one has said, “He saw His sheep struggling in the dark waters of the river of judgment, the meaning of the Jordan , and He must go in for their rescue. He must become identified with them, taking their place in judgment that they might be made the righteousness of God in Him, bringing in “the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ towards all and upon all those who believe” (Romans 3:22). He knew no sin, was made sin for us, and His baptism declares this. The details of His baptism are not given. Then he suffers Him. He placed Himself into the hands of John and went into the waters of Jordan . Later He said, I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how I am strengthened until it shall have been accomplished! The man of sorrows and acquainted with grief soon reached that place, when He went into the deep waters of suffering and death, when all the billows broke over His head. His baptism was but a type of this.
“And Jesus, having been baptized, went straightway from the water, and lo, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and coming upon Him; and behold a voice out of the heavens saying, This is my beloved Son in whom I have found My delight (Matthew 3:16-17).”
Here we have something which leads us still deeper. It is a glorious manifestation of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son who has gone down comes out to be anointed by the Holy Spirit, and proclaimed as the beloved Son by the Father’s voice. He is anointed for the work He had to do. He was begotten by the Holy Spirit, filled with the Spirit, and through the eternal Spirit He offered Himself without spot to God. John learned now that He was the true One. The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus in the form of a dove. The dove is the type of the Holy Spirit. We are reminded of the dove which flew across the dark waters of judgment, come from the ark, lifted above all judgment, finding no resting place and returned to the ark. And when sent out the second time the dove returns with an olive branch and the third time there was no return to the ark. This speaks of the sending forth of the Holy Spirit in the different dispensations. But here is the One upon whom the Holy Spirit came to abide. We are reminded of the prophet whose book and experience is a type of Christ, Jonah the son of Amittai, translated, the Dove, the Son of Truth. The dove is, as one of the sacrificial birds, a type of Christ. And through Him and in Him we have the Holy Spirit as the abiding one, the Paraclete. He was poured out after His death and resurrection.
The heavens were opened unto Him. This is a significant word which is often overlooked. For Him alone the heavens are open. No one has gone up into heaven save He who came down out of heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven (John 3:13). He came out of heaven. The heavens were opened unto Him and He has passed through the heavens. In Him the heavens are opened for us, and He has taken us all, who believe, into heaven, bringing many sons to glory. And now a voice is heard. It is not the voice of an Angel, but the voice of the Father. Wonderful fact, that now after He, who is eternally the Son of God, subsisting in the form of God, and who became Son of God incarnate, after He has thus taken the place in death for sinners, that the Father speaks to approve of Him. He had seen Him, His beloved Son, go down to fulfill all righteousness, and now He vindicates Him by declaring, This is My beloved Son in whom I have found My delight. This corresponds to the word in the second Psalm, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten thee. The Lord Jesus Christ is eternally the Son of God, but here in both passages we see Him as the Son of God incarnate. Never could it be said of Him as the Only begotten of the Father, This day have I begotten Thee. Equally true is it that eternally the Father’s delight has been in the Son. But Romans 1:3 speaks of Him as His Son, come of David’s seed according to flesh, marked out as Son of God in power, according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection of the dead Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the first begotten, and in Acts 13:1-52 we have the true application of that word, Thou art My Son -- “having raised up Jesus;” as it is also written in the second Psalm, “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee” -- it is then in resurrection, by the resurrection from the dead that He is marked out Son of God.
And thus we see it here. In going down into Jordan He typifies His own death, but His coming up straightway is the type of resurrection, and in this coming up the Father’s voice is heard declaring Him the well beloved. “Therefore doth My Father love Me -- because I lay down My life that I might take it again.” Well pleasing to the Father He was, and how else could it be with the Sinless One, who was made like unto His brethren. It is then seen from the baptism of our Lord that He is the Lamb of God for the sacrifice, even as John recognized it in pointing to Him, Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world. He is perfectly pleasing to the Father, and by the Holy Spirit who came upon Him He is consecrated to the work before Him. It is also clear from these meditations that the baptism of the Lord is typical of His death and resurrection.
And now, after all this took place and He entered thus upon His official work -- then Jesus was carried up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted of the devil (Matthew 4:1).
Many other teachings could be given in connection with the third chapter in which we tarried longer than we expected. How rich, how unfathomable is God’s Word! Divine from beginning to end, a living Word, energetic, and sharper than any two-edged sword. May we praise our God for His written Word, and for Him who is the living Word, who took our place in death, delivered for our offences, but raised from the dead on account of our justification. All honor and praise and glory to Him who loveth us and has washed us, to Him the Son who has made us sons, and in whom we hear the Father’s loving voice. “And because ye are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba Father” (Galatians 4:6).