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.
[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!