Matthew R. Perry

Do We See the Dignity of Jesus?

In Apologetics, Cults, Preaching, Roman Catholicism, SBC, Sermons on January 21, 2008 at 2:17 pm

Luke 3:21-38

We as Baptists are at a critical time. We are defined more by what we do than by what we believe. I come across this mindset quite a bit. Some say they do not want their doctrine to get in the way of the Christianity — as if the two are mutually exclusive. We grow quite content with the basics rather than drinking deep and meditating on God’s revealed Word to us.

Weekly, I read through the Western Recorder (our state Baptist newspaper). One day, I decided to respond to much of what I read in this manner. I mention this note not simply to draw attention to this, but share with you my desire as your pastor here. We need to remember who Jesus is and the mission which he sent us to accomplish. That we all agree with. But do we see the cruciality of knowing who He is and what He accomplished? For instance, when we see the Great Commission, do we see that Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18)? Well, who is this Jesus who possesses this authority? If we simply say, “He loves me and died for me” — that could apply to a U.S. soldier. So it’s more than that!

Then you say, “Well, he died for my sins!” What qualifies him to do such a thing? “Because he died on the cross!” Why a cross? Many died on a cross — why was Jesus dying on a cross 2,000 years ago any big deal? The usual answer is, “So we could go to heaven!” But even in the Great Commission, Jesus exhorts us to teach those who would be disciples everything that he has commanded. My point is, the glory of Jesus is not that he simply put us on a mission, he wants us to know the One who commissions us.

1. See the divine dignity of Jesus.

Luke 3:21-22 tells us:

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, [22] and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22, ESV).

Notice that Jesus’ divinity is seen in a number of ways. First, the heavens opened up! That’s right — the clouds parted in a way that likely no filmmaker could reproduce. We see this happen in a number of other times in the Scriptures.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove. What was the purpose of this? When John the Baptist noted that Jesus would come along baptizing with the Holy Spirit and with fire, the fire represented the Word of God that has a two-fold function: it purges in judgment, but also reconciles by bringing peace. John Piper rightly puts it:

The dove suggests to Jesus purity, meekness, innocence. It was not majestic like the eagle or fierce like the hawk or flamboyant like the cardinal. It was simple, common, innocent, the kind of bird poor people could offer for a sacrifice.

Jesus called his disciples to minister in a rather interesting way. Matthew 10:16 says, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves”(ESV). Various political administrations are marked by a certain propensity for aggression or non-aggression. If they tend to lean toward war and aggression, they are called hawks. If toward a more peaceful understand and an aversion to war, they are called doves. But do not mistake us saying that Jesus’ ministry in being marked by a dove means that he is weak. It means that he will be tender with the weak.

Then the Lord calls from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus is of the same substance as the Father, thus he is fully God. This is not the only time the Father calls out of heaven. He did so during Jesus’ transfiguration. God is showing His seal of approval on his Son.

Let me ask you, when you think of Jesus, what comes across your mind? Is he someone that may cramp your style? A cosmic killjoy who wants to take away your freedom and fun? Or maybe you have gotten past this, but look around and really wonder if Jesus lives up to the biblical billing? Do you see his meekness as weakness? Do you see his humility as someone who is a chump before the world? Make no mistake about this One. His power conquers death. His power conquers the very thing that separates us from God.

With this we also see…

2. … the human dignity of Jesus.

The fact that God would condescend to minister to us as a human being is such an amazing fact and feat, words can hardly describe this. In fact, in the early part of church history, the average Christian had a difficult time grasping how Jesus could be fully divine and fully human. IN Jesus’ time, they had an easy time seeing Jesus as a human (after all, he was standing right in front of them) but not as divine. In our day, the problem is the exact opposite — all divine, but too far removed from being human.

In Jesus’ time, they had a difficult time seeing him as holy God! Yet, that’s exactly what the Scriptures in general teach about Christ — and what this passage teaches us about him. Here we see the emphasis on his divinity with some of his humanity intertwined. Notice the humanity. Jesus was ‘baptized and was praying.’ These two things seem like very human things, doesn’t it? If Jesus is God, two questions arise: why did he need to be baptized, and why was he praying?

Why did Jesus have to be baptized? To many, this looks very undignified. If Jesus is truly God, and if he is King of kings and Lord of lords, why would he come to John, asking to be baptized by him? This baptism was a baptism of repentance. Was Jesus coming up and confessing some sin or shortcoming in his keeping of the law? It goes back to why Jesus came to begin with. Jesus came to save his people from their sins. In order to do this, Jesus needed to identify with his people. Remember from Galatians 4:4-7:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, [5] to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. [6] And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” [7] So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Look at this again. God sent forth his Son. In what way did he enter into the world? He was “born of a woman.” Under what conditions? He was “born under the law.” What was the result? “To redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons.” This explains what the Gospel of Matthew was referring to. Look with me at Matthew 3:13-17:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. [14] John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” [15] But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. [16] And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; [17] and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

So what was Jesus doing? Jesus was being undignified — at least as far as the world is concerned. How many dignitaries and famous people do you know who would condescend to merely speak or shake hands with and ‘ordinary’ person? Yet why would he do such a thing? He did this to identify with our situation so he may be able to be a worthy substitute in paying for our sins. Consider this passage from Romans 5:12-21:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— [13] for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. [14] Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

[15] But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. [16] And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. [17] If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

[18] Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. [19] For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. [20] Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, [21] so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jesus came as a Second Adam to overpower the curse of sin in this world. The grace He brings is far superior than the bleakness and the devastation of the curse. And on a day to day level, let’s see why Jesus coming as a human is so important:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. [15] For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. [16] Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16, ESV).

What temptations has Jesus faced? All of them. Think of how you are tempted — things in which you would be mortified to see the light of day . Things that you afraid to even mention in your prayers to God. Please know that our Great High Priest (the only priest I need in this life and the next) not only intercedes for us, but also understands our issues. We can approach Him through the Gospel and find sanctifying help whenever the need arises — and that need constantly arises.

Conclusion

In reference to the letter I wrote to the Western Recorder, a reader left a comment that I thought was particularly enlightening. Her name is Wendy Duncan who authored a book entitled, “I Can’t Hear God Anymore: Life in a Dallas Cult.”

Hi Bro Matt,

Thank you for responding to the letter in the Kentucky State Baptist paper. As a former Southern Baptist with a master’s degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I am one of those who “strayed” to a cult. It was a Bible-based cult with a masterful and manipulative cult leader and like several other former Baptists who were involved in this cult, I got hooked. Interestingly, one of the cult members worked for our state Baptist paper.

When I was in seminary I took a course on cults and the emphasis was on the teachings and doctrines of the various cults. Before joining this particular cult, I did my research. I reviewed their doctrinal statement and it could have passed for any mainstream Christian group. I also called several cult awareness ministries to see if this group was included in their list of cults and was told it was not.

I ended up staying in this cult for over seven years before leaving. One of my last conversations with the cult leader was most telling. I said (shouted), “Your voice is so loud, Ole, that I can’t hear God’s anymore.”

After leaving the cult, my husband, who had been a member for twenty years, and I, struggled to regain our relationship with God. The first year after leaving was one of the worst periods of my life, but with God’s grace, we are managing to hang on to our faith. We joined a liturgical church (cult experts recommend going to a church completely different than the cult experience) and are slowly making our way back to a strong relationship with Christ.

Although now I see that the doctrine that this cult taught was heretical, the teachings were only one thing that was problematic. I think it is important that we teach the church and especially our young people, the other signs of a cult, as well as how they recruit and why they appeal to individuals.

The largest number of cults in our society today is Bible-based cults. Thank you for addressing this issue. I pray you will continue to grow your church in these areas and teach your members how to minister to those who leave cults.

My desire is that you are so gripped by the Gospel, you would never find yourself becoming fodder for Bible-based cults who hijack our terminology, but redefine those same terms. Chase hard after God to see what His will is and to understand what his Word says. Let’s not be a mile wide and an inch deep. Let’s explore the depths of Christ as found in His Word!

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  1. Brother Perry,

    Your identification of the critical nature and state of Baptists belief’s presently are encouraging. Knowing this, preaching a proper Christ-centered Gospel is and always will be an antidote. I feel so encouraged that you are where you are and that the Lord is using you.

    This article on what Kentucky Baptists believe is a revealing and condemning blow to a lack of clarity and focus on theology in the Kentucky Baptist sphere and its effects on believers.

    http://www1.kybaptist.org/kbc/welcome.nsf/pages/discstudy200710

    When we realize that theology should never be abstract from worship, and that theology is nothing more that understanding who God is in Christ, we can be encouraged to teach a living and robust theology to our sheep.

    In his commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther said,

    “The church is a tender plant. It must be watched. People hear a couple of sermons, scan a few pages of Holy Writ, and think they know it all. They are bold because they have never gone through any trials of faith. Void of the Holy Spirit, they teach what they please as long as it sounds good to the common people who are ever ready to join something new.”

    The Gospel is the power of salvation, and the the power of sanctification, and something well need to hear. According to one story, Martin Luther was once asked at his church why, week after week, all he preached was the Gospel,

    to which Luther replied (according to the story) ‘Well, because week after week you forget it. Until you walk in here looking like people who are truly liberated by the truth of the Gospel, I’m going to keep on preaching it to you.'”

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