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Key To The Understanding Of The Scriptures
by H.P. MANSFIELD

SECTION 2
(7) To Christ Through Baptism

How Christ Fulfilled The Edenic Promise.

In fulfilment of the promises of God, Jesus, as "the seed of the woman," was born of the virgin Mary by the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit. His mother was told:

"The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35.)

Christ had no corporeal existence before that point of time. Though be was in the mind and Purpose of God from the very beginning, and in that sense was "with God," he did not exist as a person until the "word was made flesh and dwelt among" the Jews 1900 years ago (John 1:14).

Unfortunately, confusion reigns concerning the person of the Lord Jesus, and his purpose and place in the plan of God, as a result of the teaching that claims he is the second person of a Trinity, or that be pre-existed before his birth.

We ask that if the reader believes either of these doctrines, he suspend judgment upon what we have stated above, until all the evidence is before him. We undertake to explain any verse of Scripture in the light of the teaching we have set down, but we fail to understand how anybody can logically believe that Jesus and God are two persons and yet one, or that the Lord Jesus existed before he was born.

Jesus was born of his mother, and grew up to reverence God, his Father. We learn that he "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:52). This expresses normal development; but if Jesus were God such a statement is incomprehensible; or if he pre-existed, it meant that he must have forgotten everything he knew in his previous existence, and had to learn it all again!

Born of a human mother, he inherited the nature common to all mankind. This is a nature subject to death, so that the Lord was in need of redemption from death, just as much as those he came to save. He was subjected to the same trials and temptations as is mankind generally, but whereas all others have failed, he triumphed over the nature he possessed, and rendered sinless obedience to God.

Where did Christ derive the strength to conquer, whereas all others possessing the same nature have failed? The answer is: from God. God was his Father and a spiritually-minded woman was his mother, so that from birth the Lord inherited qualities that he was able to develop by his own independent freewill as he grew towards maturity (see Luke 2:40, 42-47, 52). In addition, he was granted the spirit of God without measure (John 3:34), and this quickened him in the understanding of God's will and purpose (Isaiah 11:2-3; Luke 4:18-19). By these means, Jesus, who was the "only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth" (John 1:14), received strength that enabled him to render sinless obedience to the requirements of his Father, and manifest a character which reflected the Divine image (1 Peter 2:21-24).

This was necessary for the work of redemption, so that it is not solely the work of Christ, but that of the Father and the Son acting in conjunction one with the other. The Bible teaches: "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19). Jesus leaned heavily upon the Father, and God strengthened him, with the result that the fulness of the Divine character was revealed in a human body, that inherited the consequences of the first sin.

The lesson of redemption, therefore, teaches that we must seek a Strength apart from flesh, even that which comes from God (James 1:17), if we would develop a character pleasing unto Him. Moreover, such Strength is available to us, as Paul taught. He declared: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13).

How The Seed Of The Woman Was Bruised On The Heel.

Thus, being the "begotten son of God," Jesus was the perfect "seed of the woman" promised in Genesis 3:15. In accordance with that prophetic covenant, his righteousness so excited the enmity and malice of his fleshly contemporaries, that they conspired to put him to death. They, (the seed of the serpent), by "wicked hands" brought him to the cross, thus, unconsciously, fulfilling "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23-24). God had decreed he should thus die (Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10) as a sacrifice for sin (Psalm 40:5-9; Heb. 10:5). They did not realise that he was the "lamb of God" to "bear away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), and therefore, they imagined that once they had crucified him, they had seen the last of him.

How mistaken they were was revealed three days later when be rose from the dead.

Why did God permit His son to die upon the cross? What was accomplished in his death? First of all, it constituted a public exhibition of what is due to flesh which the history of mankind has revealed to be evil and sinful in its tendency.

Jesus rendered perfect obedience to the Father, in spite of the flesh, not because of it (John 6:63). If Jesus had yielded to his own will instead of that of the Father, he would not have rendered perfect obedience "even unto the death of the cross," for in submitting to the requirements of God, did he not say: "Not my will but Thine be done."

Flesh which has proved so rebellious against God throughout the ages, could only be atoned for by one way: the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22). The flesh of Jesus, hanging lifeless upon the cross, presents the lesson of salvation to humanity. Being of our nature, he had to conquer it in order to attain unto immortality. This he did by rendering perfect obedience unto God through the strength he derived from that source. In a figurative sense, therefore, he had crucified the flesh in life by controlling its desires, and subjugating his will to that of his Father. When, at last, he hung lifeless upon the cross, the struggle was at an end. In that final act of dedication, the flesh bad been silenced for ever, and no longer could assert itself against the will of God.

The "crucified Jesus" is a public exhibition of what God requires of mankind if they would seek after salvation, whereas the "risen Christ" is the symbol of hope for those who are "in Christ."

How The Serpent Power Was Bruised On The Head.

Peter taught that whereas "wicked hands" crucified and slew the Lord Jesus, God raised him up, "having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be holden of it" (Acts 2:24).

Why was it "not possible that Jesus should be holden of death"?

Because God is just (Romans 3:26), and it would have been quite unjust of Him to have allowed death to retain its power over one who had rendered such perfect obedience.

But He raised him from the dead and the risen Christ becomes the token of hope for all who believe in him. Paul wrote that the Lord was "delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Romans 4:25). In another place (1 Corinthians 15:22-23), he showed that the fact that Jesus rose from the dead is a guarantee that all those "in Christ" will rise also: "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."

Though all mankind die, only "all those in Christ" will be granted eternal life.

As he triumphed over the serpent power in himself, so he has made it possible for mankind to triumph likewise.

Christ Triumphed -- How Can We?

Jesus rendered perfect obedience even unto death, and thus triumphed over the flesh, but we do not! How then can we gain the victory and avail ourselves of God's salvation?

The answer is, Through God's mercy. He is not only just but "the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Romans 3: 26).

How can a just God justify us if we sin?

The answer is: Only by the forgiveness of sins. And God is merciful to extend such forgiveness in Christ Jesus (Psalm 103:8-14). The process was symbolically revealed to Adam and Eve, for the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice reached backwards as well as forwards (Hebrew 9:15).

Our last study showed that after Adam and Eve had sinned, and had become conscious of their nakedness, God slew an animal, and with its skin He clothed them, thus teaching them that sin must be covered over, or blotted out, before He can be acceptably approached. The Bible declares: "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are COVERED. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Romans 4:7-8).

Jesus also declared: "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame" (Rev. 16:15).

How can sins be blotted out, or forgiven? Peter explained the process. He declared: "Repent, and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38. See also Acts 3:19). Paul taught: 'Ye are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ . (Gal. 3:25-26).

Those who have been properly baptised, have put on Christ as a garment, and as he is styled the "lamb of God," it can be said of them that they have been figuratively clothed in the skin of the sacrificial animal provided them by God, as Adam and Eve were literally.

We speak of being "properly baptised," for true baptism demands a sound understanding of the basic principles of God's word, followed by total bodily immersion in water. Such a baptism is essential to salvation, as the Bible reveals by precept and example.

Jesus was baptised, saying: ... "Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15). Paul was baptised at the bidding of Ananias: "Arise and be baptised, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, was baptised after Peter had declared "He (Jesus) commanded us to preach unto the people ... that whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:42-43). The Lord commissioned the Apostles to go forth with this command: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptised shall be saved..." (Mark 16:16).

Outside of baptism, a man is said to be "a stranger from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:11-13).

Why Baptism Is Required.

Baptism is a symbol of sacrifice. As Jesus gave up his life on the cross, the true believer, by submitting to baptism publicly proclaims that he will figuratively "crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof" (Galatians 5:24). A person does this when he subordinates his personal desires to perform the will of God.

Baptism is the first act of obedience; it is an act whereby the believer humbles self to please God.

The word "Baptism" comes from the Greek bapto. Concerning this word, one authority has written: "Bapto signifies 'immerse, dip, plunge.' No translator has ever ventured to render the word by 'sprinkle' or 'pour' in any version."

That being so, it is obvious, that what is styled "christening" is not a Scriptural baptism.

But though baptism requires complete immersion, it is in itself much more than mere immersion in water. A person may be completely immersed when he takes a bath, but he is not baptised when so doing. The Greek word baptiso comes from a word that signifies not merely immersion but also the act of dyeing; which process, of course, changes the colour, or appearance, of a garment.

Now immersion in water will not change a person unless it is prompted by an understanding of the will and purpose of God; and so, the first essential to a true baptism, is an understanding, and an acceptance, of the first principles of God's revelation (John 3:16; 11:25;17:3; Acts 8:37). It is this belief that transforms mere "immersion" into "baptism," and causes a person to be figuratively "dyed" with the blood of Christ.

Immersion without knowledge would be like trying to dye a garment in clear water!

Only a knowledge of God's way will transform a person's perspective. He then will view things from God's standpoint. He will begin to think along the channel of Divine ideas and ideals, and will strive to attain unto a higher way of life than is normal with most. The serpent impulses within him will become subdued by Christ who by his knowledge will "dwell in his heart by faith."

So important is a pre-baptismal understanding and belief, that there is recorded in the Bible an instance where some were re-baptised when it was brought home to them that they had lacked certain essential beliefs previously (Acts 19:1-5).

A Symbol Of Sacrifice.

Concerning the significance of baptism, Paul wrote:

"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." (Romans 6:3-6.)

The terms "baptised into his death," "crucified with him," "the likeness of his death," identify baptism with Christ's death. His death was sacrificial, so that baptism is a symbol of sacrifice. In submitting to the act, a person publicly indicates his intention of endeavouring to

follow in the footsteps of his Lord, in the hope of attaining unto life eternal at his return. As the death and resurrection of the Lord to life eternal bruised the head of the serpent power as far as he was concerned, so baptism is for believers the beginning of a process that will enable them to triumph over sin and death. The "body of sin" (or human nature) will be held in check morally as they imitate the example of Christ, and they will be physically changed at his return so that their present state of mortality will be clothed upon with immortality (1 Cor. 15: 51-54) .

By baptism, therefore, believers identify themselves with the offering of Christ. They confess their sins, acknowledge that death is the just penalty for sin, and recognise that the flesh is evil and needs to be overcome. Seeking the forgiveness of God for sins committed, they will try to build into their live those Divine attributes revealed in the character of the Son of God.

Baptism is a token of personal sacrifice; it is the etiquette required of God in order that we might acceptably approach Him. It is the outward symbol of an inward washing "by the Word" (Ephesians 5:26), the humble acceptance of God's will, the first act of obedience for the "remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Henceforth believers have an Advocate through whom they can approach the Father, an Advocate who "knows the feelings of our infirmity, for he was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" and through him they "can obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:15-16).

Believers commence a "new life" once they have accepted Christ through baptism (Colossians 3:9-10), thus beginning a process that will end with the complete conquest of the serpent power as far as they are concerned, by attaining unto life eternal at Christ's coming.

Paul taught: "IF we have been planted in the likeness of his death, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection" (Rom. 6:5). Let Christ guide us, and we shall ultimately win through to life eternal, and an everlasting abiding place upon this earth.

Meanwhile, that fellowship that existed between God and Adam, but which was broken by sin, is restored in Christ (1 John 1:3), and provision made for the forgiveness of sins when they are confessed before Him (1 John 1:9). By this means, and by the ultimate change to immortality, the serpent power of sin and death will be conquered, and the triumph of redemption will be complete:

"Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy (serpent's) sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 15:54-57.)

As Eve was first mentally corrupted by the lying doctrine of the serpent, then morally corrupted as she put it into execution, and, finally, experienced physical corruption when death lay hold on her, so those who attain unto life eternal will have reversed the process. They are mentally cleansed by endorsing God's truth (John 15:3), morally cleansed as they put it into practice, and will be physically cleansed when they are delivered from death, to attain unto the victory in Christ Jesus at his coming.

Thus the road to that victory leads to three developments, Belief, Baptism, and Obedience.


THE NEED FOR REPENTENCE

Man has departed from the right path, and become hardened in ways as hurtful to himself as they are abhorrent to God. A halt and a right-about-face are indispensable. The Gospel contains the call in this direction -- the command to "repent" -- as a preliminary to acceptance and salvation. Man hates this condition -- the insistence on the part of God that He shall be heard, believed and obeyed. This weakness accounts for the sad words of the Lord Jesus: "Many are called, but few are chosen." How solemnly, and in what manifold ways, has God inculcated the essentiality of obedience. It is this feature that largely makes the Bible a neglected book. People who have no relish for submission will not endure the chafing andpricking which a proper reading of it entails, and hence relegate it sooner or later to an unreachable shelf. Repentance, it must be remembered, means a change of mind -- a change from the human to the Divine.


QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 7

  1. Is flesh good or evil?
  2. Did Christ's nature differ from those whom he came to save?
  3. Why could not the grave hold him if he was mortal?
  4. Why was he raised from the dead, and clothed with immortality?
  5. What did Adam and Eve need, after they had sinned, and realized their nakedness?
  6. What provision has God made for the covering of our sins?
  7. What is baptism?
  8. How can we conquer sin?