|Volume 18 Number 12 December 2016||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Questions concerning the prayer of Cornelius were answered previously in the pages of Gospel Gazette Online. See the following URL.
To that, I merely add the observations of the following commentators. “…having acted according to the light which he had, his prayers were heard, and his alms were accepted” (Barnes). “He was heard because he was yearning for light and using all the light he had” (Johnson). Aside from the miraculous trappings that existed in the first century since such does not persist in the present age (1 Corinthians 13:8-13), God’s providential (behind the scenes) response to earnest truth-seekers does still continue (Hebrews 11:6).
Barnes Notes. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2005.
Johnson, B.W. The People’s New Testament. Georgetown: Wordsearch, 2008.
Is It Possible to
Repent after Death?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
No, repenting after death is not an option presented in the Bible. Numerous passages call upon the living to repent of their sins (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31 NKJV). Repentance, we see from this verse, precedes judgment and is not something that dare be put off until after death and when judgment is imminent. In addition, the rich man of Luke 16:19-31 was very much interested in repentance for his brothers who were yet alive (Luke 16:30). Yet, he was not afforded an opportunity after death to repent whereby he could change his eternal destiny. His eternal disposition following death was fixed and unchangeable (Luke 16:26). Hence, the culminating point of the first recorded Gospel sermon is a divine message regarding repentance that every man and woman urgently needs to embrace. “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…’” (Acts 2:38).
The Spirit at the
Baptism of Jesus
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Brother Rushmore, I appreciate so much all of your good work and learn much from your writings. One of our members posed a question recently that I would appreciate your thoughts regarding. The question basically was: Did Jesus not have the Holy Spirit prior to the Spirit descending on Him at His baptism? Or, did Jesus have powers after this event that he did not have before (e.g. ability to perform miracles, etc.)? I have searched for and read some of your writings regarding Jesus’ baptism, but did not find anything directly on point with this. Thanks for your many efforts for the Kingdom. In Him, Mark
Albert Barnes made the following observation on Matthew 3:16.
The gift of the Holy Spirit, in this manner, was the public approbation of Jesus (John 1:33), and a sign of his being set apart to the office of the Messiah. We are not to suppose that there was any change done in the moral character of Jesus, but only that he was publicly set apart to his work, and solemnly approved by God in the office to which he was appointed. (Barnes’).
Certainly, it is true that the baptism of Jesus Christ inaugurated His earthly ministry. It is equally certain that His ethic of righteousness remained the same excellence after His baptism as it had been likewise flawless – sinless – prior to His baptism (Hebrews 4:15). However, the question remains, “Did Jesus of Nazareth possess miraculous powers before His baptism at the hands of His cousin, John the Baptist?”
“…Cerinthians, named for their chief advocate, Cerinthus…” claimed that “[a]t the baptism of the man Jesus, the Spirit Christ entered into the man Jesus through the descending Dove” (Hatcher 19). This form of Gnosticism believed that Jesus of Nazareth and the Second Person of the Godhead – Christ – were separate persons. They thought that the former was wholly human and guilty of sin, whereas the latter was holy, divine and sinless. This doctrine taught that Christ the Spirit separated from Jesus the man at the cross – leaving only the man Jesus to die thereon. Aside from the grievous errors of this corruption of Christian teaching, obviously these proponents of Gnosticism would have limited the miraculous ability of Jesus Christ to the period of His ministry commencing with His baptism. Yet, just because these Gnostics were grossly wrong about the nature of Jesus Christ – being wholly human and wholly divine at the same time – neither invalidates nor validates their observation and subsequent belief that Jesus Christ only performed His miracles after His baptism – because He only had miraculous ability after His baptism (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:18; John 3:34).
This question is not easily answered, and it is largely ignored by writers (e.g., in commentaries, lectureship books, etc.). However, the author of a College Press commentary on Matthew seems to indicate that only following the baptism of Jesus Christ did He have the ability to perform miracles. He especially associates Isaiah 11:2 and the baptism of our Lord to conclude that from the baptism of Jesus Christ He possessed the miraculous power observed in His earthly ministry.
The Spirit of God descending. Here is Jesus’ promised power. (Isa. 11:lff) Jesus emerged from His baptism as the Messiah, designated, qualified and proclaimed so by God Himself. In this capacity He received the fullness of the Spirit for His work. (cf. Ps. 45:7 with Heb. 1:9; Isa. 61:1 with Lk. 4:18) In His human nature which He had assumed in order to bring about our redemption, He received the Spirit (Jn. 3:34). As God, He needed nothing. It was only as the God-Man, or God in human flesh, that He needed such a gift of power as the Holy Spirit, and particularly so now, as He was ready to begin that great work for which He had come. This anointing by the Spirit does not mean that Jesus was not pure and holy before, or that He was not aware of His divine mission previously, or that He was not possessed of divine wisdom before this, for He was all this before His baptism. The coming of the Spirit performed these all-important functions: 1. The divine authentication of His identity: HE, and no other, is God’s Son and Messiah; 2. His public anointing as God’s Messiah (Ac. 10:38); 3. The reinforcement of the human nature of Jesus for the great work and suffering which He must shortly commence. From this point on, we see Jesus led and empowered by the Holy Spirit as never before (Mt. 4:1; Mk. 1:12; Lk. 4:1, 14, 21; Mt, 12:18f; Lk. 10:21; Heb. 9:14; Ro. 1:4; 8:11). (Gospel of Matthew 118)
Jesus Christ divested Himself of many of the trappings of Deity – being God – when He came to earth (Philippians 2:6-8). In addition to laying aside the glory and honor due Him as the Second Person of the Godhead (Acts 17:29) and leaving behind all of the glory, magnificence and splendor of heaven (2 Corinthians 8:9), did Christ also put off His divine power? Did He experience all of the temptations (Hebrews 2:14-17; 4:15) that typically buffet humanity without divine power at His disposal? If so, that may be more impressive in that He experienced what we experience without the benefit of all of the divine weaponry possessed by the Godhead; in any case, Jesus did not sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22).
On the other hand, at His birth, angels styled our Lord as “Immanuel… God with us” (Matthew 1:23). The prophet Isaiah 700 years before wrote prophetically about the birth of Jesus, saying, “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV). So, was Jesus Christ “Mighty God” respecting divine, miraculous powers at His incarnation through the Virgin Birth – only restraining Himself, or was divine power restored to the Second Person of the Godhead at His baptism at the hands of John the Baptist?
I cannot satisfactorily answer this question definitively based on the available biblical information and my present awareness of relevant Scripture. The ancient, non-canonical writing, Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which was never accepted as authentic by the Christian community, was written about 100 years after Jesus lived, in which it claimed that the child Jesus performed miracles. The Islamic book the Quran adopted the notion that Jesus as a child performed miracles, though Islam is nearly 600 years more recent than Christianity. As a Catholic youth, I recall being taught that Jesus miraculously fixed the toys of His playmates. However, the Bible, our only true and reliable authority in religion, does not substantiate any of that. We merely read that Jesus began to perform miracles in His earthly ministry after His baptism officiated its commencement.
Barnes’ Notes. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2005.
Gospel of Matthew, The. Joplin: College P., 1968.
Hatcher, Michael. “John – An Introduction.” Studies in John. Dub McClish, ed., Denton: Valid P., 1999, 12-25.