0 Dispensationalism


The Middle Galilean Period (Continue)

B. The Parable of the Sower: Matt. 13:3-9, 18-23;Mk. 4:1-20; Lk. 8:4-15.

Jesus Himself explained the interpretation of this parable, and we would not presume to improve upon His words. The Sower is Christ, the seed is the Gospel of the Kingdom, and the ground upon which the seed fell represents four different kinds of hearers. The wayside hearer is the one who hears the Kingdom message but does not understand it, and the wicked one comes as a bird would and snatches the Word from his heart. The stony place hearer is the one who hears the Word and immediately with joy receives it but because he has no root in himself, becomes offended as soon as persecution or tribulation arises, as represented by the heat of the sun. The seed which fell among thorns and was choked or stunted represents those who permit the care of the world and the deceitfulness of riches to choke the Word and thus become unfruitful. Finally, the seed which fell on good ground represents those who hear the Word, understand it, and bear varying degrees of fruit.

Nothing is said specifically about salvation. The parable is concerned with fruit- bearing. It is evident that those in the first category could not have been saved. The second group seem not to have been saved since they had no root. The third group might represent saved people who had become unfruitful. However, the only way we can be sure people are saved is by their fruit. God alone knows the heart. Fruit-bearing is always the result of salvation; never the cause of it.

The parable teaches that the preaching of the Kingdom Gospel will not result in the conversion of an entire nation or of the world. There will be only partial success. Only a fourth of the preaching might produce fruit. We know that the same principle holds true for the preaching of the Gospel of the grace of God in our day and hence we may make a secondary application of the parable to our own preaching. However, we must be careful in making such an application that we do not confuse personal salvation with fruit bearing. Truly saved people have been caused to doubt their salvation by a faulty application of this parable to our day.

C. The Parable of the Wheat and Tares: Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43.

We are fortunate again in having Christ’s own explanation of the meaning of this parable. It is a parable of two sowers. One man sowed good seed in his field and his enemy sowed tares in the same field while the man slept. Jesus again is the man who sowed the good seed. The enemy is the Devil; the field is the world, the good seed are the children of the Kingdom and the tares are the children of the wicked one. The workers ask whether they should pull up the tares, and the answer is, “No, you may also pull up the wheat along with the tares; let them both grow together until the harvest.” The harvest is the end of the age; the reapers are the angels who are sent forth by the Son of man to gather out the tares. Those that are evil will be cast into a furnace of fire, and then the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.

In trying to apply this parable to God’s present spiritual program with the Church several facts should be observed. The first is that the wheat represents the children of the Millennial Kingdom (including the tribulation saints); not members of the Body of Christ. Next, this parable culminates with the end of the age. This present evil age ends with the second coming of Christ after the Great Tribulation. The Body of Christ will be raptured or gathered out of this world before the Great Tribulation. In the parable the ones who are gathered out by the angels are those who offend and do iniquity; the righteous are left on earth to enjoy the Kingdom. Just the opposite happens at the Rapture: the saints are gathered out to be with Christ in glory, and the ungodly are left to go through the Tribulation on earth. The only thing in this parable which is similar to God’s present spiritual program is the fact that both good and evil exist together in the world; all else is in contrast.

The first two parables are given in much detail and are fully explained for us. The remaining five must be interpreted in harmony with the first two. The lesson of the first two is that there will be a period of preaching of the Kingdom during which good and evil will grow up together, which will be terminated by the second coming of Christ at the end of the age to punish the wicked and to reward the righteous in the new age of the Millennium.

D. The Parable of the Mustard Seed: Matt. 13:31,32; Mk. 4:30-32; Lk. 13:18,19.

The mustard plant in this parable is thought to be the black mustard (Sinapsis nigra), which grows quite large. There are smaller seeds than the mustard, but it is probably smallest of the garden seeds. The statement that the birds lodged in the branches does not mean that they built their nests in it, but lighted on its branches to rest or to eat the seeds. The birds were probably small sparrow-like birds.

The parable speaks of rapid growth, but growth that is temporary, for mustard is a herb which lasts for only a season, and not a tree which endures for many years. Some commentators believe that the birds represent forces of evil, corresponding to the tares in the previous parable and to Satan’s emissaries, the birds, in the parable of the Sower. It should be remembered that these parables are not depicting the character of the Kingdom after it is established at the second coming of Christ, but its character prior to that time when it contains a mixture of good and evil.

E. The Parable of the Leaven: Matt. 13:33-35; Lk. 13:20,21. What does leaven represent in the Bible? There can be no doubt about the meaning Paul placed upon it: “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:6-8). What meaning did Christ place upon it? Jesus told His disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees,” by which He meant the unscriptural “doctrine” of these Jews (Matt. 16:6-12). In no place in Scripture is leaven used to represent truth or that which is good.

Jesus did not say that the kingdom was like leaven or evil; He said it was like leaven which a woman hid in three measures of meal until the whole was leavened. The Kingdom is likened to the whole process. Traditionally the leaven is interpreted as the Gospel, the woman as the Church, and the three measures of meal as the world. The interpretation is that the whole world will be permeated by the Gospel through the instrumentality of the Church, thus resulting in a converted world. This interpretation is diametrically opposed to the teaching of the first two parables as explained by Christ Himself. It is also opposed to experience, for the non-Christian population of the world is increasing at a much more rapid rate than that of new converts to the faith. It is also opposed to the plain, pre-millennial teaching of the Bible. It is also opposed to the a-millennial view which many Christians hold.

It should also be remembered that even the Millennial Kingdom, which apparently begins with a converted world, will end in a great rebellion when Satan is loosed from his prison in the abyss (Rev. 20:7-9). There will be no Kingdom of absolute righteousness until the creation of the new heavens and the new earth.

F. The Parable of the Hid Treasure: Matt. 13:44.

This is the first of the parables spoken privately to His disciples after He had dismissed the multitudes and gone into the house. This parable is about a treasure buried in a field which a man found, and after finding it he buried it again and went and sold all that he had and with the proceeds purchased the field. It seems evident that this parable illustrates a different aspect of the Kingdom from that which has gone before.

We believe this speaks of God’s hidden purpose to redeem Israel and in so doing to redeem the world. In the other parables the field is the world and there is no reason for changing it here. This treasure in the world must speak of people. Ps. 135:4 states: “For the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto Himself, and Israel for His peculiar treasure.” In Ex. 19:5 God says to Israel: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine.” Since Israel is God’s chosen nation, His peculiar treasure which He found in this world, there seems no reason not to inject that meaning into the parable. We would not be dogmatic on what the hiding of the treasure depicts, but we would suggest that it could refer to the fact that Israel has been dispersed and in a sense hidden among all the nations of the world.

But God’s sovereign purpose with Israel is not going to fail, although the Kingdom in its mystery form may seem to fail. Paul explains the apparent failure of God’s promises to Israel in Rom. 10, and in Rom. 11 he shows that the present fall and casting away of Israel resulted in the reconciliation of the world. “But if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness” (vs. 12-15). And so Paul concludes: “All Israel shall be saved,” even though they are enemies of the gospel at the present. “But as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sake.” There can be no doubt that the giving up of all in order to purchase the field refers to Christ’s leaving behind heaven’s riches in order that He might pay the redemption price for the world on Calvary’s cross.

G. The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price: Matt. 13:45,46.

The interpretation of this parable is much the same as that of the hidden treasure. Some interpreters claim that the pearl represents the Church as distinct from Israel. It is our belief that the truth about the Church of this dispensation was as yet a secret and not revealed until it was given to the Apostle Paul. It has been suggested that the Pearl, instead of representing Israel as a nation, represents the remnant of Israel which shall be saved before the final establishment of Israel as a nation in the Kingdom. (Rev. 7:4-8; 12:17 cf. Rom. 9:27; 11:5 and the many references to the remnant in Isa., Jer., Ezek., and Micah.) Again, Christ is the Merchant who gave up all to purchase this Pearl, this remnant which remained faithful in spite of trial and testing and great tribulation.

H. The Parable of the Dragnet: Matt. 13:47-50.

This parable reinforces the teaching of the other parables that during the interval between the two comings of Christ the good and the bad will co-exist. The net cast into the sea enclosed every kind of sea life edible and non-edible. The fishers drew the net to the shore, sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. The fulfillment of this will come at the end of the age, that is, at the end of the Tribulation when Christ returns. There is a remarkable passage in Jer. 16:13-21, where God says concerning the remnant of Israel: “Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them.” There are many Old Testament passages which speak of the regathering of Israel and the separation of the faithful from the rebels, (cf. Isa. 27:12,13; Ezek. 20:13-38). According to Matt. 24:31, God will use the angels as the fishers to gather the elect. In the symbolism of Revelation the sea represents peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues (Rev. 17:15; cf. Rev. 13:1; Dan. 7:2).

I. Parable of the Scribe and the Householder: Matt. 13:52.

This statement is not actually called a parable and is not recognized by many commentators as such. However, we have included a number of similes and will treat this one as such.

In this comparison the scribe who is instructed concerning the Kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings forth out of his treasure things old and new. A scribe in Bible times was a scholar whose business it was to study and teach the Law. But sad to say the scribes, as a body, were ignorant of the Kingdom and they rejected the teachings of Jesus. But every scribe who is instructed (literally, has been made a disciple to) the Kingdom brings forth out of his treasure things new and old, the New Testament secrets of the Kingdom as taught by Christ and the Old Testament truths concerning the Kingdom.

These scribes would be dispensationalists of that day who rightly divided the Word of Truth. They would be able to put the old and the new together in a unified whole. There is an old saying, “Whatever is new is not true, and whatever is true is not new.” The only new things in the spiritual world are revelations of truth from God. The axiom we have just quoted would not have been true in Jesus’ day, for He was revealing new truth about the Kingdom, but it is true in our day because God completed His revelation with the apostles and the canon is closed. We may find much that is new to us, but if it is true, it has been in the Scripture all along. God revealed a whole new body of truth to the Apostle Paul for members of the Church which is His Body, and it has been in the Book for two thousand years.

12. The Stilling of the Storm
References: Matt. 8:18, 23-27; Mk. 4:35-41; Lk. 8:22-25

A scene like this is a cause for wonder. Here the Lord Jesus, the Creator of heaven and earth, is asleep in the stern of a little boat on the Sea of Galilee and a sudden squall swamps the boat and threatens the lives of those abroad. And Jesus slept through it all. Was God asleep? What would happen if God went to sleep? But, “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:3). Here we are confronted again with the mystery of the Incarnation. The Man Jesus was asleep, but as God He was not asleep.

When awakened by the frantic disciples, Jesus calmly asked, “Where is your faith?” Could the ship sink with the God-man aboard? And He rebuked the wind and the raging of the water, and them was a great calm. No doubt we ourselves, who have had the advantage of studying the completed Word of God, would marvel as much as did the disciples if we were put through a similar experience. “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” The story could have many spiritual applications to the presence of Christ with us in the many storms of life we all experience.

13. The Healing of the Maniac at Gadara
References: Matt. 8:28-34; Mk. 5:1-20; Lk. 8:26-39

Usually the Gospel of Mark gives an abbreviated account of events but on this occasion it is the longest and gives more details. Some believe that the account in Matthew happened upon a different occasion, because in Matthew there were two demoniacs, and only one is mentioned in Mark and Luke. It seems rather unlikely that two events so similar would happen at the same place with the demons entering the swine and the swine being destroyed by rushing over the cliff into the sea. Here is a possible explanation:

Mark and Luke only speak of one; just as they only speak of one blind man at Jericho and one colt at the entry to Jerusalem. This shows design, not discrepancy. The prophecies immediately preceding Matthew predicted the advent of Christ as King of Israel and Prince of Judah. The Holy Spirit in this first Gospel therefore, records the historic facts that there were two demoniacs, and two blind men, and two animals, for these represent Israel and Judah. No such duality was needed in the other Gospels.

Mark adds such details as when the demoniac saw Jesus “from afar” he ran and worshipped Him; that there were about 2,000 swine; and that after he was healed he began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him; whereas Luke says, “throughout the whole city.” Decapolis is not a city, but a league of ten cities, as the name means.

This story not only shows the power of Christ over the Satanic world and the fact that these spirit beings recognized and confessed who Jesus really was, but it reveals a great deal about demons.

There can be degrees of demon possession. In some cases there was only one demon, in another the one went and found seven others worse than himself and entered into the man, and in this case there must have been a thousand, for their name was Legion. This may explain the super-human strength of the man that enabled him to break the fetters and chains with which the authorities tried to bind him.

Further, these demons requested Jesus to send them into the swine, and Jesus granted the request. They knew that swine were unclean animals and therefore Jesus would be more inclined to grant their request than if they had asked to go into a herd of sheep. But why did they want to go into any creature? We know very little about the nature of demons, but they appear to be disembodied spirits who constantly seek embodiment of some kind. Some think they are the fallen sons of God in Gen. 6:4. They are characterized as being unclean. They are not like Satan who appears as an angel of light and a minister of righteousness, (2 Cor. 11:14). They are degraded and cause those they possess to engage in all kinds of filth and insane behavior.

But what a contrast between this poor soul before and after meeting Jesus. He was sitting, not raging and cutting himself; he was clothed, not naked; and in his right mind, no longer a maniac. One would have thought that the people of the area would have welcomed a healer who could perform such cures, but He had apparently damaged their illegal business, and that coupled with their superstitious fear caused them to ask Jesus to depart and He granted their request, but not before telling the healed man to tell others of his deliverance.

14. The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter
References: Matt. 9:1,18-26; Mk. 5:21-43; Lk. 8:40-56

Again in this incident Mark gives us details omitted by Matthew and Luke. Mark and Luke give the name of the ruler, Jairus. Mark and Luke mention the daughter was near death when Jairus first spoke to Jesus and that as they were on the way to the house the message came that the daughter was dead. Matthew begins with the Ruler saying, My daughter is dead. Mark and Luke both mention the age of the child, twelve years; Matthew doesn’t.

All three mention that the woman with an issue of blood who intercepted Him on the way, had been afflicted twelve years. Twelve is the number of Israel. The physical diseases of the people healed are representative of the moral and spiritual condition of Israel. In just this one chapter 9 of Matthew we see illustrated man’s condition by nature as paralyzed (vs. 2), dead (vs. 18), diseased (vs. 20), blind (vs. 27), and dumb (vs. 32).

Mark also gives details of the woman’s illness and experience with the physicians, having spent all she had without any improvement, but rather had worsened. Mark also tells us that when Jesus said, “Who touched me?” the disciples said, “Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?” Only one in that pushing, shoving crowd really touched Jesus. The woman was fearful and timid but she had strong faith.
Mark and Luke also tell us that Jesus took Peter, James, and John into the house with the parents, after He had expelled the mourners, to raise the child. And Mark alone tells us that Jesus said, “Talitha cumi,” which is Aramaic for “Damsel, arise.” After raising the child He prescribed a good meal. Having been restored by Jesus the child was now in the best of health. When Jesus healed, He restored to perfect and complete health.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)

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0 Dispensationalism



2. The Temptation of Jesus

(References: Matt. 4:1-11; Mk. 1:12,13; Lk. 4:1-13)

A. The Temptation Spirit Directed. All three Evangelists emphasize this fact. Matthew states He was led of the Spirit; Mark that the Spirit driveth Him forth; and Luke, He, full of the Holy Spirit, was led by the Spirit. This may at first seem very strange that the Holy Spirit, who is one of the Persons of the Godhead, should fill and lead the Son, another Person of the Godhead. However, we must not lose sight of the humanity of Christ in considering this problem. Christ as a man, grew in wisdom and knowledge; as a man He hungered and thirsted. And it was as a Man He was filled with the Spirit and was led by the Spirit.

B. Circumstances Surrounding the Temptation. He was led into the wilderness of Judea. His baptism had taken place at the Jordan River somewhere between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. John 1:28 states that these things were done at Bethabara, east of the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The location of Bethabara is uncertain. Some place it near the Dead Sea and others a few miles south of the Sea of Galilee. The region around the Dead Sea is a wilderness indeed, as anyone can testify who has visited the region. Mark adds the detail that He was with the wild beasts and the angels ministered unto Him. The first Adam was tempted in a beautiful garden filled with food: Jesus in a barren wilderness without food.

C. The Length of the Temptation. We know He was in the wilderness for forty days and that He ate nothing during that time. It is not clear whether Satan came with his temptations during the forty days, or at the end of the period. It would appear that the temptation came at the end of the forty days when Jesus hungered. Humanly speaking, a fast of more than forty days would probably prove fatal. When Mark tells us that angels came and ministered to Him, this was probably after Satan’s temptation, since Mark does not give any details of the temptations.

D. The Order of the Temptations. Matthew gives the following order of the temptations: 1. Command the stones to become bread. 2. Jump from the pinnacle of the Temple. 3. Worship Satan and receive all the kingdoms of the earth. Luke, on the other hand, gives this order: 1. Command the stones to become bread. 2. Worship Satan and receive all the kingdoms of the earth. 3. Jump from the pinnacle of the Temple. This difference in order might not even be noticed by the average reader, but for some it presents a real problem. Some would say that either Matthew or Luke was mistaken and therefore there is an error in the Bible. Others believe there was a divine design in changing the order. Williams, for example, states:

The order of the temptations here (in Matthew} is historical; in Luke it is dispensational. There is therefore an inner harmony, for Matthew presents Him as the Messiah coming to His temple, and then as the Son of man reigning over the earth. But the Spirit in Luke places His relation to the earth in the foreground, and His connection with Israel in the background.

We may not be able to explain to the satisfaction of all the difference in the order, but we believe if all of the surrounding facts were known there would be no contradiction or mistake. If Matthew or Luke could be in error here, every writer of the Bible could be in error any place and we could have no assurance that anything in the Bible is true.

E. The Nature of the Temptation. The question arises, was the purpose of the temptation to see if Jesus would sin, or to prove that He could not sin? To say yes to the first proposition is to say that Jesus was capable of sinning. Those who hold this view claim that the temptation would have been a farce if Jesus was incapable of sinning. We have spoken before of the many mysteries surrounding the nature of the God-man, or more correctly of the two natures of the one Person. Jesus Christ is not two persons. He was a person before His incarnation and He was one and the same person after His incarnation. To say that it was possible for Jesus to sin is to say it was possible for the Son of God to sin. But it is impossible for God to lie (Heb. 6:18). Therefore we conclude that the purpose of the temptation was to prove that Jesus Christ was sinless and therefore able to become the Savior of sinners.

When a manufacturer puts his product to a public test, he does not do so to see if it will break down, but to prove that it will not. As noted earlier, the first man was tested in innocency. His test was in a beautiful garden where God had provided for his every need. There was just one restriction. Surely no more ideal a situation could be conceived to make it easy for man to pass the test. But Jesus was placed in a desert wilderness where there was no food, surrounded by wild beasts. After forty days His body was weakened, His body craved food. He had the power to create food to satisfy His appetite. Under other circumstances there would have been nothing wrong in turning the stones into bread, even as on two occasions He multiplied the loaves and fishes. But in this circumstance He would have violated God’s will in yielding to Satan’s temptation to satisfy His own appetite. If Jesus could pass the test under such adverse conditions, surely He proved His absolute holiness.

If Jesus could not sin, can we really call this a temptation? The word peirazo, according to Thayer’s Lexicon means: “to try whether a thing can be done, to try, make trial of, ‘test, to test one maliciously, to try or test one’s faith.” If students are given a test and one student knows perfectly all of the answers, it is still a test. Jesus was tested in all points like as we are, yet apart from sin (Heb. 4:15).

The practical result of His temptation, aside from proving Him fit for the office of Savior, was to fit Him to become a faithful and merciful High priest who could be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Since He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted (Heb. 2:18).

The Scripture is the best shield from temptation. On all three occasions Christ responded, “It is written.” Someone has said of the Bible: “This book will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from this book.”

Note that the first temptation was quite subtle: you are hungry. You may even die. You have the power, why don’t you turn the stones into bread and save yourself?. But Christ had come to minister to others, not to minister to Himself. He never used His divine power for selfish purposes. He could have called for twelve legions of angels when He hung on the cross, but He didn’t. To cast Himself off the pinnacle of the temple and then call upon the angels to catch Him was not quite so subtle. It would have involved a public display and would have brought the angels in subjection to Satan’s will.

The third temptation abandoned all disguise and called for Jesus to fall down and worship Satan. Satan claimed to own all the kingdoms of the world, and Christ did not dispute this fact. Would it not be much easier to become King over all these nations simply by giving allegiance to Satan, rather than follow the Father’s will which involved the suffering of the Cross? How many a man has succumbed to Satan’s temptation for worldly power and fame and has ended up in his trap. Thank God, the Lord Jesus proved Himself true to the Father’s will and went all the way to the Cross and will someday return to take His rightful place as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Many Christians either do not know or do not believe that Jesus Christ will actually come back to earth to reign as King over the nations of the earth, but Satan knew it. There would have been no basis for a temptation had it not been in the purpose of God for Christ to so reign.

3. John’s Testimony of Jesus

(References: Matt. 3:11,12; Mk. 1:7,8; Lk. 3: 16,17; John 1:15-34)

A. John’s Witness to Christ’s Pre-existence. “John bare witness of him, and cried saying, This was he of whom I spake, he that cometh after me is preferred before me, for he was before me” (John 1: 15). John was born six months before Jesus was, but Jesus was before John. John must have known of the Incarnation and that Jesus did not come into being at His birth but existed as a person before His birth.

B. John’s Witness to Christ’s Pre-eminence. “He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear” (Matt. 3:11). John was the greatest of the prophets, but Jesus was far more worthy. John lowers himself as far as possible by saying that, lower than the most menial servant in comparison, he was not even worthy to carry Jesus’ shoes or to fasten them on His feet.

C. The Apostle John’s Witness. The Apostle John often interrupts the words of Jesus by his own comments, and it is sometimes difficult to know whether it is John’s words or the words in this case of John the Baptist. We believe John the Apostle is speaking in John 1:16-18. John wrote these words some 25 years after Paul’s death. He tells us that we have received of His fulness, and grace for grace, or grace upon grace (cf. the manifold grace of God, 1 Pet. 4:10). The law was given by Moses and Christ lived under the law, but He brought the law to an end in His death, so now we read, “But grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” These words must have been said after Jesus’ death.

D. John the Baptist’s Witness About Himself. The Jews sent priests and Levites to John to ask: “‘Who art thou?” He answered: “I am not the Messiah.” They asked him further, “Art thou Elias? Art thou that prophet?” and he answered, “No, I am not.” Again they asked, “Who art thou, that we may give answer to those who sent us?” He then answered: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias” (cf. Isa. 40:3).

It may seem strange that John would deny being Elijah, since Christ said that he would have been Elijah had Israel received Him. God had promised in Mal. 4:5, “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.” John did come in the spirit of Elijah as we have seen. The Jews apparently were looking for Elijah to come back down from heaven, even as he had been taken up into heaven in a whirlwind many years before from almost the same area of the wilderness (2 Kings 2:1-11).

We read that John was in the desert until the day of his showing unto Israel (Lk.1:80). He was thus isolated from society and was a stranger to the religious leaders. When these leaders began to hear reports about John and how his ministry was similar to that of Elijah, they sent messengers to find out who he was. His sudden appearance made it seem that he had come down from heaven. Could this be the very same Elijah who had been taken to heaven without dying? If this was their question, we can understand why John answered, “No, I am not.”

E. John’s Recognition of Jesus as the Lamb of God. The next day after the Jews had questioned him John saw Jesus coming unto him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not, but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water” (John 1:29-31). Twice in this context John says that he did not know Jesus before this incident took place. This could surely not mean that he had never met Jesus, for he was a close relative and no doubt he had learned as a child the strange events which surrounded both his birth and that of Jesus.

Since John had lived all his adult life in the desert it is possible that he did not recognize Jesus when he first saw Him. Or as some think, he did not know that Jesus was the Messiah until after His baptism when he saw the Spirit of God descending upon Him. It is evident that John must have had communion with God and that God had spoken directly to him, for in vs. 33 he says: “he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.” Thus John could have been acquainted with Jesus but he did not know Him as the Messiah until God revealed it to him.

The name Jesus means Savior, and the fact that He would save His people from their sins had been made known even before His birth. Just how Jesus would save His people from their sins had not been dearly revealed, but John here introduces Him as the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Although not clearly stated, the Lamb suggests sacrifice., It is not until we come into the Pauline epistles that we find the full exposition of the meaning of the sacrificial death. We no doubt have an intimation of it here, however.

In this passage John also gives us another reason for his practice of water baptism. It was not only a baptism of repentence for the remission of sins, but it was for the purpose of introducing Jesus to Israel as their Messiah. In practicing water baptism Christians should ask whether or not they are carrying out this two-fold purpose: receiving remission of sins and introducing Jesus to Israel as Messiah.

John concludes his witness to Jesus in this section: “And I saw, bare record that this is the Son of God.” Thus, John witnesses to fact that Jesus Pre-existed, that He is Preeminent, that He is the Lamb of God, that He is the Son of God. And whether it was the Apostle or the Baptist who said it, Grace and truth, in contrast to the came by this Jesus Christ.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)


0 Dispensationalism



The Inaugural Period begins with the ministry of John the Baptist in calling the people of Israel to repentance, and includes the Baptism of Jesus by John, the Temptation of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness, John’s Testimony concerning Jesus, the Calling of the first disciples, and the first Miracle of Jesus at Cana in Galilee.

Next to Jesus Christ, and perhaps to Peter, John the Baptist is the most important person in the Gospels. While the name of Jesus appears some 615 times in the Gospels, Peter occurs about 94 times, and John 85 times. But since John was beheaded early in the Gospel records, and Peter is found throughout, John actually has the numerical superiority. Numbers are not necessarily a criterion of importance, but at least Christ spoke very highly of John’s importance: “But what went ye out to see? A prophet? Yea, and I say unto you much more than a prophet. This is he, of whom it is written, Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” (Lk. 7: 26-28).

Jesus left Nazareth and went to Bethabara to be baptized by John. This was His inauguration into His public ministry. Immediately after this He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He was tempted by the Devil for forty days, Matthew has Him going immediately to Galilee to Nazareth and Capernaum, as does Mark. Luke has Him going to Galilee and preaching in the synagogue at Nazareth. The gospel of John does not mention either the Baptism of Jesus or the Temptation, but he has Him in Galilee finding some of His first disciples, performing the first of His miracles at the wedding in Cana, and then going for a brief stay in Capernaum with His mother and brothers.


1. The Ministry of John the Baptist Including the Baptism of Jesus

(References: Matt. 3:1-17;Mk. 1:1-11; Lk. 3:1-23)

A. The Person of John. We have seen who John was from his birth and parentage. What further does Scripture say about him? The angel told Zacharias he would come in the spirit and power of Elijah. When the disciples came down from the mount of transfiguration, where Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus, the disciples asked why the scribes say that Elijah must first come and restore all things. Jesus replied, “Elijah truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, the Elijah is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist” (Matt. 17:10-13). Also in Matt. 11:14 Jesus said of John: “And if ye will receive it, this is Elijah, which was for to come.” Thus, if Israel had received John the Baptist, he would have been the Elijah who was to come. But they did not receive him or Christ, and it appears that there must be one in the future who will fulfill this office to Israel. Many suppose that one of the two witnesses of Rev. 11:3 will be Elijah, although neither of these witnesses is received by Israel, nor do they restore all things.

B. The Baptism of John. John came preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Some suppose, because the word baptism first occurs in our English Bibles in connection with John, that John was the first to practice baptism. However, Heb. 9:10 informs us that Judaism had its standing in meats, and drinks, and divers or various baptisms. The Mosaic ceremonial had many baptism rites which had been practiced for 1500 years before John came on the scene. The people did not ask John what baptism meant, but why he was baptizing if he wasn’t the Messiah. But John was a priest and the priests were the ones empowered to practice baptism.

John’s baptism was for the remission or forgiveness of sins. A great deal of confusion arises when water baptism or even the forgiveness of sins is equated with personal salvation. What most students fail to recognize is that Israel as a nation was in covenant relationship with God, a relationship shared by no other nation in history. The covenant made them near to God, whereas the Gentiles were far off. This fact is clearly stated by Paul in Eph. 2:17. Now that Israel has fallen and has been set aside for the duration of this dispensation, there are no people who can claim a nearness to God by nature. All are far off and can only be brought near through the merits of the blood of Christ. But when John came preaching the baptism of repentance Christ had not yet shed His blood and there was a nation that could claim nearness to God. This covenant people had transgressed the covenant and John came to call them back to a place of fellowship with God within the covenant.

Today when we preach the Gospel of salvation, we do not ask people to become readjusted to the covenant by baptism and repentance. We tell people that they are lost, without hope, and without God, and that God has provided a way through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ to justify them before God and give them eternal life. This salvation is given as a gift of grace and received through faith apart from our own good works. After we accept this message of salvation our personal lives may still fall short of the standard God has set for us and there is then need for us to repent and to change our mind about our life and to confess our sins to God and receive forgiveness from our Father. This is not an experience of getting saved all over again, but simply a renewal of one who is already saved. Thus there is a vast difference between an unregenerate sinner coming to God by faith and receiving remission of the eternal penalty of sin, and the coming of one who is already saved and keeping his manner of life adjusted to the will of God by admitting his shortcomings and being restored to a place of fellowship and blessing. John’s message of repentance to Israel was in many ways similar to the latter experience. He was not making them God’s people: they were already that by the covenant but was calling them back to fellowship and blessing.

C. The Mode of John’s Baptism. Nothing is said of the actual mode, which could have been sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. That was not the important thing. The important thing is that baptism was for cleansing. All of the many baptisms of the Old Testament were for cleansing. When John was baptizing at Aenon we read that a question arose about purifying or cleansing (John 3:25). Why a question about purifying? Simply because that was the purpose of baptism, to cleanse at the time. What did the Lord tell Saul to do when he was converted?

“Arise, and be baptized, washing away thy sins” (Acts 22:16). What were the Jews supposedly doing when they baptized their couches, their pots and pans (Mk. 7:4)? The meaning is so evident that the translators used the word “wash” to translate baptism. There is a mistaken idea, based on Rom. 6:3,4 that baptism represents a burial. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In Romans Paul is talking about the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit that identifies the believer with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.

D. The Baptism of Jesus. The question John asked, and the question anyone would ask is, “If baptism represents a cleansing from sin, why would Jesus present Himself as a candidate for baptism?” Matthew alone voices tiffs objection by John. John recognized that he was a sinner and needed rather to be baptized by Christ. But Jesus answered him: “Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” What does this mean? Jesus was here being inducted into His office of Prophet, Priest, and King. Under the law when a priest was inducted into office he was first washed with water and then anointed (Ex. 29:4-7). Here Jesus submits to John’s washing and that was followed by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, which descended upon Him as a dove, with the accompanying voice from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The name “Christ” means the anointed One. Christ thus identified Himself with His sinful people in view of that final identification upon the cross, where He took the sinner’s place and thus righteously satisfied the penalty of the law. He was reckoned among the transgressors. He was made sin for us, although He was sinless, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Jesus Christ is the only person who could have thus fulfilled all righteousness. When people say they are following Jesus in baptism, they may be sincere, but they are sincerely wrong. They might as well speak of following Christ in His death on the Cross. Only He could do this work.

E. The Baptism with the Holy Spirit and Fire. John predicted that the Messiah, who would take up where he left off, would baptize the people, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit and fire. We know that Christ did baptize His Jewish believers with the Holy Spirit at the first Pentecost in the Book of Acts. Luke calls this baptism an “enduement with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49). This baptism was manifested by outward signs, tongues of fire, speaking with other tongues, the sound as of a mighty rushing wind. We believe that this baptism which Christ performed at Pentecost is an entirely different work from that described by Paul in 1 Cor. 12:13, where the Holy Spirit is said to baptize the believer into the one Body of Christ.

The baptism with fire has not yet taken place. Notice that immediately following the statement about baptizing with fire, John says: “but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable” (Lk. 3:16,17). Therefore we believe the baptism with fire will occur at the second coming of Christ, when He comes in flaming fire, taking vengeance upon them that know not God (2 Th. 1:8). Some believe that the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire is just one baptism and that the fire refers to the tongues of fire that appeared at Pentecost.

F. John’s Preaching. John insisted that the people produce works which proved they had repented. Being naturally descended from Abraham was not enough. See Rom. 9:6-13 for Paul’s discussion of relationship to Abraham. Luke gives us some of the answers John gave to different classes who asked what they should do to prove their repentance. The people were not saved by their works. Their works were the result of their repentance. Believers today are not saved by works, but they are saved unto good works (Eph. 2: 10; Tit. 3:8,14).
(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)


0 Dispensationalism

BACKGROUND (Continues)

The Design of the Gospels

Why do we have four separate records of the life of Christ instead of just one? Would it not have been better to have one complete record instead of four incomplete ones? The Old Testament sets forth the character of the promised Messiah in a four-fold fashion.

  • Matthew – One of the Old Testament titles for the Messiah is “the Branch,” meaning that which sprouts or springs forth. In Jer. 23:5 the Messiah is called, “the Branch of David.” David was the King of Israel with whom God had made a covenant concerning an everlasting King and Kingdom. Matthew introduces Jesus as the Son of David in his opening sentence, and emphasizes the truth concerning the Messianic Kingdom.
  • Mark – The Messiah is called “Jehovah’s Servant the Branch,” in Zech. 3:8Mark presents Jesus especially in this character. Unlike Matthew; who traces the genealogy of Jesus in the kingly line back to David and Abraham, Mark says nothing about His line of descent, which is of little importance for a servant. He does introduce Jesus in the first verse as the Son of God, but nothing is said about the origin of His humanity. The activity of Jesus is swift and moving in Mark. Over and over Mark used the word translated, “immediately,” “straightway,” giving the impression that Jesus was constantly serving God. Jesus was the ideal Servant of God, always doing the Father’s will, and is thus an example for all servants of God in all ages, as far as devotion and dedication are concerned. Since He was living under the Mosaic Law dispensation and was introducing the Messianic Kingdom, the type of His ministry varies in many respects from that which God has ordained for today.
  • Luke – The Messiah is also set forth as “the Man whose name is the Branch,” (Zech. 6: 12). The emphasis in Luke’s Gospel is on Jesus as the Son of man. Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam, the first man. He gives many details about the birth and childhood of Jesus which are omitted by the other writers. The favorite title of Jesus for Himself was “the Son of man.” It is not recorded that anyone else called Him by this name.
  • John – Finally, Isa. 4:2 speaks of the Messiah as “the Branch of Jehovah.” John was written to exalt Jesus especially as the Son of God. He states the purpose of his Gospel to be “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name,” (John 20:31). He establishes the Deity of Jesus Christ in the very first verse of his

John makes it evident that the Gospels contain only a partial record of all that Jesus said and did, for he states: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world could not contain the books that should be written,” (John 21:25). Each of the Gospel writers chose only those words and events which contributed to the design of his Gospel. It is as though four men were stationed on four sides of a building and each asked to write a description of the building. They would all be writing about the same building, but each would see features not apparent to the others, and in places their descriptions might vary to the extent that they were describing entirely different buildings. Thus there are differences between the four Gospels, but the differences are not contradictions or errors on the part of the writers, but rather are evidences of design.

The Synoptic Problem

The word “synoptic” means “seen together.” It is applied to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, because these three Gospels are very similar in content and order. The problem is, that we have three separate records of the life of Jesus which are so similar and yet have distinct differences.

Part of the Synoptic problem stems from defective views of inspiration. All Scripture is God-breathed and therefore inerrant. If this claim of Scripture for itself is denied or compromised, then some questions about the differences are valid. Inspiration does not exclude the use of human sources; in fact, Luke tells us that he received his information from those who were from the beginning eyewitnesses. Inspiration would not rule out the theory commonly held that one writer used an earlier written Gospel as a model. Inspiration demands that the Holy Spirit superintended what these men wrote. They were led to sources and selected such materials which would fulfill God’s purpose in having each of the four Gospels written. Not only so, but there must have been a certain amount of direct revelation of facts to them of things they could not have known otherwise. How could they have known what words were spoken between Christ and Satan in the temptation when no one else was present; or how could they have known what Christ prayed in the garden while they were asleep? Actually, Matthew and John were apostles and were personal witnesses of practically all that Jesus said and did, so that they would have had little need for outside sources of information.

There are differences in wording and in the chronological arrangement of parallel passages in the Synoptics which need to be explained. E.W. Bullinger argues that each of the Synoptics give exactly the same chronological order and that what appears to be parallel passages in the three Gospels are only similar and not identical events. He claims, for example, that instead of there having been three temptations of the Lord as commonly believed, there were six: Matthew mentions three and Luke the other three. Instead of there having been two others crucified with Jesus, there were four: two thieves and two malefactors. While it is evident that there are cases of similar sayings and events which are not identical in the Synoptics, it appears unreasonable to explain every difference on this basis.

None of the Gospel writers made mistakes, and any differences in their accounts could be reconciled if all of the facts were known. A great deal of textual criticism has proceeded on the basis that the differences are due to erroneous information the writers received from their various sources, but this approach is purely naturalistic and is opposed to Divine inspiration. Others hold the inconsistent view that the important spiritual truths are inspired but the less important historical parts are not inspired and therefore open to mistakes.

There are numerous factors which may explain the differences between the Gospels. Christ no doubt spoke to His people in Hebrew or Aramaic. We know that Paul spoke to the Jews in Hebrew (Acts 22:2), so it is reasonable to suppose that Christ did likewise. The Gospels were written in Greek. Translating from Hebrew into Greek could explain the difference in words or order of words. Pilate wrote the inscription over the Cross in three languages: Hebrew, the national language, Latin, the official language, and Greek, the common language (John 19:20). It is possible that the differences in the wording of this inscription in the four Gospels is due to translation from the Hebrew or the Latin. It is evident also that Jesus often repeated parables and other sayings, so that what may appear to be a part of the Sermon on the Mount misplaced in Mark or Luke, may in fact have been part of another discourse. An evident example of this may be seen in the parable of the candle. In Lk. 8:16 we read: “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they that enter in may see the light.” Then in the same Gospel of Luke (11:33), we read: “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.” Here in the same Gospel we find a parable repeated in slightly different words and on an entirely different occasion, with a different application. Had one of these parables been found in Matthew and the other in Luke we might have been tempted to conclude that one or the other of the writers was mistaken in his chronological arrangement of the parable, and that there was a mix-up on whether the Lord spoke of putting the candle under a vessel or a bushel, or in a secret place or under a bed. No doubt if we knew all of the circumstances surrounding the writing of these Gospel accounts, we would have no need for harmonizing them; rather we would discover that are in perfect harmony in the way God has given them to us.

The author is inclined to agree with the following statement of William Kelly:

“It is to me certain that Matthew and Luke were led to follow an exact order, one dispensational, the other moral; that they are more profoundly instructive than if one or the other, or both, had adhered to the very elementary manner of an annalist; and that it is a mere blunder therefore to characterize any resulting difference of arrangement (such as Matt. 8:28, etc., compared with Mk. 5:1, etc., and Luke 8:26, etc.) as a real discrepancy.”

The Relation of the Gospels to the Church

To set forth the relation of the Gospels to the Church we must first define what is meant by the Church. The Greek word translated church occurs 116 times in the N.T., and some 70 times in the Greek translation of the O.T. Some theologians believe God has had but one church from the beginning of time, which is composed of all of the redeemed of all ages – past, present, and future. Under this view the Gospels would be completely related to the Church. Other theologians do not recognize the existence of a church in the O.T., believing that John the Baptist and Jesus founded the Church, and therefore accordingly this view relates the Gospels completely to the Church. Another group of theologians teach that there was no church until the Day of Pentecost after the close of the Gospel records. This view makes at least part of the Gospels apply to Israel’s Kingdom teaching, and other parts to anticipate the formation of the Church.

There seems to have been some sort of an O.T. Israelitish “Church” (Acts 7:38), the existence of a “church” of believers on the day of Pentecost, and the prediction of a “Church” in the Millennial Kingdom (Heb. 2:12 cf. Ps. 22:22). God suspended His dealings with this Kingdom Church when the nation of Israel rejected the Kingdom Gospel which was preached in the early chapters of the Acts, and God began a new Church with the out calling of the Apostle Paul, which is designated “the Church which is His (Christ’s) Body” (Eph. 1:22,23). This Church and its administration is said to have been a secret never before made known to the sons of men in other ages and generations until it was revealed to Paul (Eph. 3:1-9; Col. 1:24-26).

According to this view the primary interpretation of the Gospels relates entirely to the nation of Israel and its Messianic Kingdom expectations. However, this does not mean that there is nothing in the Gospels for members of the Body of Christ, for there are many moral and spiritual truths which apply equally to Israel and the Body of Christ. Paul states that the Gentiles in this present Church age have been made partakers of Israel’s spiritual things (Rom. 15:27). Therefore, as we study the Gospels, we must carefully distinguish those truths which apply only to the people of Israel and the teaching which may apply equally to us today. It is necessary to recognize the fact that the Lord Jesus was born under and lived under the O.T. (Rom. 15:8; Gal. 4:4), and that the N.T., which was made with the house of Israel (Heb. 8:8), did not actually begin until the death of Christ at the very end of the Gospels (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:15-17).

The historic truth contained in the Gospels is foundational to the whole scheme of redemption as found in the Pauline epistles. Apart from this truth there could be no basis for the existence of the Body of Christ and of the present dispensation of the grace of God.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)