As soon as Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens breaking open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove.
I. A FULFILMENT OF LEGAL RIGHTEOUSNESS. It was one ceremony of the Law taken as representative of the spirit and essence of the whole ceremonial system. Inasmuch as it involved a confession of sin, he by undergoing it
(1) humiliated himself; and
(2) identified himself with the sinful nature of the race.
Whilst condemning in his pure spirit the sin of man, he yet takes his place with sinners, as one with them in their penalty and their hope.
II. A FULFILMENT OF SPIRITUAL CONSCIOUSNESS.
1. Through plenary reception of the Holy Spirit. This was the same Spirit in which he had already been living, but given now "without measure." Inspiration ensues upon conscious acts of obedience and righteousness; true spiritual baptism is given to those who submit willingly to the positive requirements of God's Law. This was
(1) the completion of the Divine-human consciousness; and
(2) the communion of God and man, of heaven and earth. The (violently and suddenly) rent heaven symbolized this.
2. Through Divine attestation. It was a voice to John, but much more to Jesus himself. Through this experience he realized that the attitude he had assumed, and the career upon which he was about to enter, were approved of his Father. The favor and acceptance therein declared were also, by implication, a recognition of his perfect personal purity. It was not as a sinner that he submitted to baptism, but as the sinner's Friend and intending Saviour. - M.
The heavens opened.
(Bishop Jeremy Taylor.)
The Spirit like a dove
(J. Morison, D. D.)I. INNOCENT and harmless (Hebrews 7:26).
II. LOVING and tender hearted (Ephesians 3:19).
III. MEEK and gentle (Matthew 11:29). This is matter of singular comfort to the faithful members of Christ: for Christ being innocent and harmless like the dove, yea, pure from all spot of sin, this His purity and holiness is imputed to so many as truly believe in Him; and by it they are accepted, as holy and pure through Christ, though in themselves they are polluted and sinful. Again, Christ being also a loving, gentle, and meek Saviour, He will not deal with us in rigour or wrath; but in compassion, love, and gentleness, accepting our weak endeavours in His service, pardoning our wants and infirmities, and cherishing in us the smallest beginnings of grace (Isaiah 42:2, 3). Strive we to imitate our Saviour Christ in these properties of the dove.
II. THE IMPROVEMENT OF BAPTISM IS THE BEST PREPARATION OF THE LORD'S SUPPER (John 13:8). Before the Church, none but baptized persons have a right to the Lord's Table; before God, none but those who have the fruit of baptism have a right to the benefit thereof.
III. IF WE IMPROVE IT NOT, BAPTISM WILL BE A WITNESS AGAINST US. One Elpidophorus relapsed into Arianism, and the deacon who baptized him showed him the garments in which he had been baptized, and said, "These shall be a witness against thee to all eternity." But how shall we improve it?
1. We must personally and solemnly own the covenant made with God in infancy. What was then done for us must now be done by us.
2. Renew often the sense of obligation to God, and keep a constant reckoning of obedience (2 Peter 1:9).
3. Use frequent self-reflection to know whether you are indeed washed from the guilt and filth of sin (1 Corinthians 6:11).
4. Use it as a great help in all temptations (1 Corinthians 6:15). Dionysia comforted her son Majoricus, an African martyr, with this speech, "Remember, my son, that thou art baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and be constant." Luther, when tempted to despair, used to say, "I am baptized, and believe in Christ crucified."
II. III. IV. V. VI. VII.
III. IV. V. VI. VII.
IV. V. VI. VII.