Jesus’ Baptism

Q. What is the meaning of Mt 3:15 But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. If one of the reasons is for God the Father to properly identify Jesus’ righteous godhood, then why “us”, meaning John the Baptist and Jesus Himself?

A. The purpose of Jesus’ baptism was not to identify Jesus as God – the post-baptism appearance of the Spirit (v 16) and the voice of the Father (v 17) did that – but for Jesus to completely identify Himself with sinful man. Jesus had no sin to repent of. John needed Jesus’ Spirit-and-fire baptism, not Jesus his water-baptism of repentance, so he hesitated.

Jesus understood John’s hesitation, and corrected him by pointing out the appropriateness of this action. The AMP and the EXB bring out the meaning more fully:
AMP Amplified Bible but Jesus replied to him, Permit it just now; for this is the fitting way for [both of] us to fulfill all righteousness [that is, to perform completely whatever is right]. Then he permitted Him.
• EXB Expanded Bible Jesus answered, “Let it be this way for [happen] now. We should do all things that are God’s will [or in this way we will do what God requires;  For thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness].” So John agreed to baptize Jesus [gave in; consented; allowed it].

The “us” does not refer to both Jesus and John being of the same nature, but to each of them to do what is right, what God requires – for Jesus to identify with man, and for John to be Jesus’ forerunner to prepare His ways:
Lk 1:17 It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
• Lk 1:76-77 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation]By the forgiveness of their sins,

The “us” is not about being, but doing. Each has a purpose to fulfill according to God’s will.

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Contradicting God’s Power?

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Q. Jesus dying on the cross is the only way to take us from our punishment for our sins. If there is any another way, God would have answered Jesus prayer of taking this cup away from Him. But doesn’t this contradict the fact that with God, everything is possible?

A. No it does not. We need to be careful how we interpret theological statements:
Mt 19:26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Also Mk 10:27, Lk 18:27)
• Lk 1:37 For nothing will be impossible with God.

When the Bible says with God all things are possible, and nothing will be impossible with God, it was contrasting what’s humanly very hard, to the point of being almost impossible, namely for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, or a barren woman to conceive a son in her old age, with what’s divinely possible. It does not mean absolute impossibility, since rich people like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are in God’s kingdom (Mt 8:11; Lk 13:28).

What it means is that anything that can be accomplished with power is possible with God, as God’s power is unlimited, and nothing is too difficult for Him:
Gen 18:14 Is anything too difficult for the LORD?
• Num 11:23 The LORD said to Moses, “Is the LORD’S power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.”
• Jer 32:17 ‘Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,
• Jer 32:27 “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?

But doesn’t God’s omnipotence means He can do anything and everything without limitation? The answer is both yes and no. Yes He can do anything achievable with power, but no He cannot act against His own nature:
2 Tim 2:13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
• Tit 1:12 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,
• Heb 6:18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.
• Jas 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.

There is no external limit to His power; but His power is subject to His nature of being absolutely holy and utterly opposed to evil. As such He is faithful, cannot lie, and cannot be tempted, because He cannot deny His nature. His divine being, who He is, demands this, and He can never change (immutable). Therefore it is more theologically correct to qualify the statement “with God all things are possible” with the clause “consistent with His nature“, which the biblical narrative omits as it is not a theology textbook.

Now back to the question “does Jesus’ death on the cross being the only way to save us contradict with God all things are possible?”. No it does not. Humanly speaking it is impossible to save mankind any other way. Only the perfect Son of God becoming our substitute can atone for our sins, and Jesus did exactly that. What’s impossible with people is possible with God.

In classical logic, the law of non-contradiction states that contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time i.e. something cannot be both true and not true at the same time in the same sense. Here the statements “Jesus’ death is the only way” and “with God all things are possible” are not mutually exclusive. There is no contradiction.

The Trinity a Contradiction?

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Q. You Christians believe in three Gods: the Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Yet you say there is only one God. You are contradicting yourself and totally confusing! How can anyone believe you?

A. Christians believe in one God who exists in three persons, not three Gods. There is no contradiction. The answer involves classical logic, the law of non-contradiction, which states that something cannot be both true and not true at the same time when dealing with the same context.

Those who say that the Trinity is a contradiction misunderstand what the doctrine actually said. They think that it said:
* God is one being and God is three beings, or
* God is one person and God is three persons
at the same time and in the same respect, in which case it would indeed be a contradiction. However, that’s not what the doctrine states.

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The doctrine actually says that God is one being in three persons. Being is the essence or nature. It is who you are. God’s essence is that He is deity, that which makes Him God. Persons means independent individuals, distinct from each other. The Bible teaches that there are three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are distinct from but equal to each other. Rightly understood, the doctrine of the Trinity states that there is one God, one essence, and this one essence exists in three Persons. God is one in one sense (being), and three in another sense (persons). It does not state that God is one and God is three in the same sense at the same time. There is no violation of the law of non-contradiction once you define everything clearly.

Jesus’ Perfection

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Q. Last Sunday the speaker told us not to be too hung up on Christmas, because Jesus had to be dedicated, circumcised and fulfill all the OT requirements in order to be perfect. What’s your opinion on this?

A. I have not heard the speaker for myself, but based on what you reported I would disagree with his premise. To claim that in order to be perfect, Jesus had to fulfill all OT requirements is to state that He achieved perfection by works or performance, which is heretical.

First, Jesus is perfect because He is God:
Col 2:9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,
In fact, He is the standard by which perfection is measured. He did not have to fulfill His own laws to qualify. It’s His nature.

Secondly, perfection can never come through the Levitical priesthood or the Law:
Heb 7:11 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron?
Jesus is priest according to the order of Melchizedek, higher than the order of Aaron.

The only sense Jesus need to be perfected was through sufferings:
Heb 2:10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.
This does not refer to Jesus being deficient in any moral sense. It only points out that as God Jesus had not experienced human suffering. Therefore He had to be made perfect or complete by suffering what we went through to sympathize with our weakness:
Heb 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

I believe Jesus is perfect because of who He is, not because of what He had done. The latter flows out of the former, not the other way around. Doing follows being.