Elijah and Elisha 25
Elijah and Elisha 24
There has been a bit of a break but let us return to Elisha – his name means: “my God saves!” Hallelujah! You may recall that I had spoken about the story of Naaman [P]. I have already done three sessions on Naaman; it’s about time that I moved on. I am not really going to talk about the story of Naaman again today, except to use it as a coat-hook to hang the message on. You may recall that I said that the issue of Naaman was salvation; but some people notice the dipping in the Jordan river – what does immersing in the Jordan river remind you of? …. [P] Baptism! So, I want to use the story of Naaman as an excuse to speak about baptism. I have not heard much teaching on baptism since I have come to Tedder ave. Maybe we think that we have moved from there. It is, after all, a basic foundational doctrine: [Hebrews 6:1–2 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings (literally it says baptisms – there is more than one) and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.] – baptism is an elementary teaching that the mature leave behind. So, it is back to basics today. I don’t want to press the parallel too far; but, in 2 Kings 2 we saw Elijah, who represents John the Baptist, going through the Jordan river; and we saw Elisha, who pictures Jesus also going through the Jordan river. Both Jesus and John baptized people in the Jordan river. You remember, Elisha crossing the Jordan with Elijah: [2 Kings 2:9 When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.”] He asked Elijah for the Spirit that was on Elijah to be his. Then returning to the Jordan: [2 Kings 2:14 He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, “Where is יהוה, the God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over.] The power of the God of Elijah was manifest and Elisha began his public ministry. And after Jesus had returned from being baptized in the Jordan then tempted in the wilderness, it says: [Luke 4:14 And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district.] Jesus came from baptism in the Jordan, in the power of the Spirit to commence His public ministry. Both Jesus and John baptized people in the Jordan, the same physical process in the same physical place that Naaman went through – he dipped, immersed himself in the Jordan (that is what the word “baptize” means – we don’t translate it, we just use the Greek word in English. In Scripture it was, without exception, adults and they were always dunked); it says in: [2 Kings 5:14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.] He obeyed and was made clean. When He came to Elisha: [2 Kings 5:10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.”] I told the you the story, Naaman was not happy, he said: [2 Kings 5:12 “Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?”] In the next verse it says: [2 Kings 5:13 Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”] The issue was being made clean! [P] Leprosy defiled you, you became ritually unclean; that is why leprosy pictures sin; sin defiles you and makes you unclean. Naaman was made clean; his defilement removed. It is a picture of cleansing from sin – that is why I maintained that the issue was salvation: salvation from sin. The New Testament is quite clear and consistent: cleansing from sin is through the blood of Jesus, not through the ritual of baptism, But, as I said, you can also see the dipping in the Jordan as representing baptism. Now, we read of John the Baptist coming and baptizing people; we can get the impression that this was some new innovation. And, in a way it was; but this immersing to be cleansed was not unfamiliar to the Jews. [P] Here are excavations of the community of Qumran, in the Judean wilderness. It is dry country but they placed great importance on ritual cleansing through immersion in water. What you are looking at is a mikve, where Jews immersed in water in a purifying ceremony; you notice that it is not a baptismal font! Water was at a premium, yet they had great pools constructed for this specific purpose. Mikve are still used in contemporary Judaism for achieving ritual purity. Some think that John the Baptist became part of the Qumran community. Whether he was or not, the process of ritual immersion was not unfamiliar in his time and was associated with purifying, cleansing. When people went to John to be baptized, this would have been the concept in their minds. [1 Peter 3: baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience]. Your theology may not like it, but the verse says “baptism now saves you”. Jesus also said in [Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved.] Peter goes on to say “not the removal of dirt from the flesh” – either baptism doesn’t cleanse you, or the cleansing is not physical. As I said, cleansing comes through Jesus’ blood. But it is an appeal for a good conscience; you are requesting a clean conscience from God. It is a desire to be clean. And that is why people came to John the Baptist to be baptized. His baptism was a baptism of [P] REPENTANCE [Luke 3:3 And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins;] – they came to John turning from sin. The baptism of John was for repentance: [Acts 13:24 after John had proclaimed before His coming (that is before Jesus came) a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.] They wanted to turn their back on that old way of life, to have a clear conscience before God. This purifying ceremony symbolized what was going on inside, they were turning from their old way of life, going their own way. Now they were going God’s way. John came preparing the way, the “Way of the LORD” making His paths straight. No longer living the crooked life of pleasing self; but going the straight and upright way that God desires. When they turned from their own way, the old way they lived (that is repented) then their sins were forgiven. Their consciences were cleansed – it was appealing to God for a good conscience. The Hebrew word for “repent” means “turn around” – you stop going your own way, living for yourself; and you turn around 180 degrees and go God’s way. The Greek word for “repent” indicates a change in thinking – a transformed mind. Your mindset is different – no longer taken up with self, but a mind set on God, on what His will is. Baptism was a public declaration of this determination to turn around, no longer live for yourself but for God. I asked Hannah what she thought baptism was about, she said: [P] “commitment”. And when you have gone public and been baptized in front of every one, it is a declaration before everyone of your commitment to go God’s way and not your own. And although that association is not explicit in Scripture, it has been the case when people are baptized. In many countries that oppose Christianity, there is not too much opposition if someone becomes a Christian – it is when they get baptized that they cop it. People know that they mean business for God. They may say they follow Jesus, but when they get baptized they have nailed their colours to the mast. No longer a cryptic Christian, I am boldly stating that I am following Jesus. It is a public testimony. [P] For many years I was a cryptic Christian. I’d been saved when I was young but I was rebellious, going my own way, living for myself. I knew I was not where I should be and tried to be more involved in church life. I knew I should be baptized but no one asked me. And being very shy, it was not a something I would initiate. Doing anything in public was a major trauma; so, I just drifted away, Mum and Dad shifted church, we shifted house, I ended up not going to church – I was a cryptic Christian. Some years went by. One day in my bedroom God spoke to me, not audibly, but very clearly. He said, “Paul, do you love Me?” When God speaks, you tell the truth, you can do no other! I said, “Yes, LORD.” Then He said, “Enough to get baptized?” Immediately He cut straight to the heart! Here was this issue that I had been disobedient on, pushing under the carpet for years. Love obeys! [John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.] How can you say you love God if you are not obeying Him! In my Bible reading that day I read those verses in 1 Peter 3, confirming the issue of baptism: [1 Peter 3:20–22 who once were disobedient, (and I was) when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, (and God had been very patient waiting for me) during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. (they were saved – that is what the story of Naaman is about) Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (it is all about resurrection to new life) who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.] So, with no outward indication of anything spiritually going on; I suddenly asked to be baptized. This timid hermit, who dreaded being with people, was baptized before this huge congregation, at the same time they prayed for me to be filled with the Holy Spirit – I publicly declared my allegiance to Jesus, love that obeyed. It was not an easy thing for me, in the state I was then; but let me tell you, I came out of those waters a different man to what went in. I knew it immediately! Fear was gone! I could face people! Things that had a hold of me my whole life long, that I had struggled absolutely unsuccessfully to overcome with all my own will power; were immediately and miraculously gone! We teach that baptism is only a symbol; but this was the hand of God! I was well brought up Biblically, I knew what the Bible said about baptism: it is a symbol, a symbol of what? Of burial and resurrection! [P] I came out of the waters raised a new person! The major key passage on the doctrine of baptism is found in: [Romans 6:1–11 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! (no, we have repented) How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (that is the repentance that John spoke about) Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life! (Hallelujah! That is what happened to me! Going down into the water is like being buried in the ground; but they don’t hold you down! You come up again, raised from the grave!) For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.] The key principle in Christian baptism is BURIAL AND RESURRECTION [P] We all know my favourite verse: [P] [Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.] That is how we come to new life in Christ: we are crucified with Him. When Jesus died on the cross, I died. Not some metaphysical abstract symbolic thing. When Jesus died, the cause was the sin that I had committed, He was carrying out my death penalty – literally. I ceased to live – it is no longer I that live, Christ is the one who lives in me. That is what that verse says. Complete identification with Christ in death. But the Gospel is not that Jesus died in my place; no, when Paul outlined the Gospel that He preached he said: [1 Corinthians 15:3–4 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, ]. Not only death, but burial and resurrection. What do you do when someone dies? You bury them. [P] Three essential elements of the Gospel: death, burial and resurrection. Jesus died, we died with Him. He was raised and we are raised to newness of life with Him: born again, born from above, no longer I but Christ. But resurrection doesn’t happen until after you are buried! How are we buried? Romans 6 tells us that “we are buried with Him through baptism”. There is no new life until you are buried. We say that baptism is symbolic; but something real and tangible happens! Hallelujah! You are changed! Praise the LORD! If not, the baptism is not real: what did John say to the Pharisees? [Matthew 3:7–11 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? “Therefore, bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”] – if there is no change, fruit, then the baptism is meaningless. The old fleshly life is gone, buried in the ground: [Colossians 2:11–15 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, (baptism is burial) in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (New life!) When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.] I was shocked! After I was baptized; I was a different man! Things that I had always done, I no longer did. It was the power of God! Supernatural and miraculous. A new creation! The work of God! No longer the old fleshly life but clothed with Christ Himself! [P] [Galatians 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.] When someone dies, the Bible speaks of them putting off their clothing, the clothing of their earthly body; for example: [2 Corinthians 5:1–5 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.] When you die you put off your clothing; when you are raised you put on new clothing. When you are baptized, you put off your old fleshly life and are clothed, instead, with Christ. It is His life that is seen. But how on earth can I live like Christ?! I mean, He is God! Perfect! The answer is that you cannot! Only Christ can be Christ! I need Him, His life, His person! Him in me! How is Jesus in me, when He is at the Father’s right hand? In the Person of His Holy Spirit. [P] Jesus said: [John 14:18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:16–17 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.] Only the Holy Spirit can produce the life of Jesus in me. When I was baptized, those baptizing me said that when they baptize people in water, they also pray for them to be baptized in the Holy Spirit; and asked if I was willing. Well, I had been brought up on fairly scary stories about the Holy Spirit; but I thought: “I have come this far, I just as well go the whole hog.” So that is what they did – and there is a clear association with baptism and the Holy Spirit. That was the case with Jesus Himself: [Matthew 3:16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, ] When John was baptizing he said: [Matthew 3:7–11 As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.] There was coming a baptism after that of John, that of Jesus: a baptism with the Holy Spirit. The same thing happened in the early church: [Acts 19:1–6 It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” (now there was another baptism: into Jesus) When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (what followed subsequently?) And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.] What gave me the power to change what I was unable to change? What gave me love, where I was unable to love? What gave me the self-control that was absent in my life? Not “what” but “Who”! It was the Holy Spirit! What did Peter say on the day of Pentecost? [Acts 2:37–38 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.] What was the promise that would happen when they repented and were baptized in the name of Jesus? That they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit! Not, symbolic, intangible – but real! And the effect was immediately obvious to all around! People knew, they could tell. Do a little study in the book of Acts – every time it someone is filled with the Spirit, it is tangible and evident to those around. But what Peter said was a command [P] – in the text, both “repent” and “be baptized” are imperatives. Why was the blessing of God absent in my life? Because I was living in disobedience. I knew that God wanted me to be baptized. As soon as He spoke to me, I knew what the issue was. We all know well what is called Jesus’ final commission: [Matthew 28:18–20 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”] What had Jesus commanded them? To make disciples and baptize them. Paul told of his conversion in [Acts 22:14–16 Ananias said to him, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. (that is Jesus, isn’t it?) For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’] Again, “baptized” is an imperative, a command. Also note the association with cleansing. But here is Paul, he met up with Jesus on the Damascus road only three days before; he had only had the Gospel explained to him; and here is Ananias rebuking him for delaying. [P] What was he waiting for?! You believe, then you get baptized. I had a friend who used to say: “We have too many unburied corpses in the church!” Conversion is being crucified with Christ, dying with Him. We die. What do you do with a corpse? You bury it! What do you do with a new believer? You baptize him. You don’t mess around, you don’t wait, see whether he proves himself as consistent, wait till he has full understanding. No, you get saved, then you get baptized. This is what Paul said to the jailer in Philippi: [Acts 16:31–33 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.] No hanging about! He had only just believed and immediately he was baptized. It was the same with the Ethiopian eunuch: Stephen explained the Gospel, he believed, as soon as they came to some water he said: [Acts 8:36–38 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.] For most of you, I don’t know whether you have been baptized or not; but if you believe, may I rephrase the eunuch’s question and ask: “What prevents you from being baptized?” If you have died with Him, you need to be buried with Him; in order that you may live with Him, have the resurrection life of Jesus manifested in you through the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit.