James T. Bartsch, JTB. The author / editor / publisher of WordExplain.com.
John the Baptist, more accurately, John the Immerser. The herald or forerunner of Jesus the Messiah. A word of explanation is in order. This John is typically called "John the Baptist." But the translators have been less than forthcoming in their failure to translate this word. Why did they fail to translate it? Because the Church, at some point, began improperly baptizing infants, a practice nowhere supported in the NT. Few are going to immerse infants, so to ameliorate the inherent inappropriateness of immersing infants, the church elected to disguise the meaning of the word "immerse" by simply not translating. The Greek text refers to "John the Immerser" (Matt. 3:1), where "Immerser" actually translates literally the noun baptistÍs (910), referring to one who dips or immerses or submerges. This truth can more readily be illustrated by observing the lexical entry at Mark 1:4, where John is identified as "John, the one immersing," where "immersing" is the Nominative Masculine Singular Present Active Participle of the verb baptŪdzō (907), which means, "to dip or submerge."
John is the one who, according to three gospel writers, was predicted by Isaiah the Prophet in Isa. 40:3-5. This prophecy consisted of a call to prepare the way for Messiah's advents (Isa. 40:3-5). (1) There would be a voice calling for the preparation of a highway for Yahweh in the wilderness (Isa. 40:3). (2) There would be a voice calling for the removal of impediments for Yahweh (Isa. 40:4). (3) There was a prediction of the revelation of the glory of Yahweh that would be seen by all humanity (Isa. 40:5). (This glory would be viewed in muted form in the Messiah's First Advent, but completely unveiled at His Second Advent (2 Thess. 1:9-10.) Matthew (Matt. 3:1-3), Mark (Mark 1:1-3), and Luke (Luke 3:2-6) all relate the prediction of the King's Herald to its fulfillment in John the Immerser (Matt. 3:1; Mark 1:4), though Luke does not give him that precise title.
John had a most unusual birth, predicted by the angel Gabriel. He was to be born to a barren mother, Elizabeth and a skeptical, priestly father, Zacharias. Gabriel told Zacharias his son would be "great in the sight of the Lord." He would be filled with the Spirit even while yet in his mother's womb (Luke 1:14-15). He would turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God (Luke 1:16). He would go in advance before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17). He would succeed in turning the hearts of the fathers back to the children (Luke 1:17; cf. Mal. 4:6), and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous (Luke 1:17), and to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:17).
John did just that, having come to the region bordering the Jordan River, announcing an immersion signifying a change of mind resulting in the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3). John warned the crowd not merely to go through the motions of a professed change of mind, but to perform appropriate deeds. Otherwise they were in danger of fiery judgment (Luke 3:7-9). When pressed, he gave them examples of appropriate responses (Luke 3:10-14).
The people were wondering whether or not he were the Christ (Luke 3:15). John responded, "I indeed immerse you with water. But there is one coming who is stronger than I, of whom I am not worthy to unloose the strap of his sandals. He will immerse you with the Holy Spirit and fire, whose winnowing fork is in his hand to thoroughly clean his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with inextinguishable fire" (Luke 3:16-17, author's translation).
John introduced two of his disciples to Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:35-36). In Jesus' estimation, there was no one born who was greater than John the Immerser (Matt. 11:11). Yet, the one least in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he (Matt. 11:11). What did Jesus mean? John was as great as any alive in his day. Yet the least important person to live in the still future kingdom of the heavens would be greater than he. This is true in that John did not labor and live in the kingdom of the heavens. He merely invited people to prepare for it. Even today, we in the Church Age, despite our great salvation, do not yet live in the kingdom of the heavens! It is still future. The greatness of living in that future kingdom here upon earth is unimaginable!
Thus, John served to prepare a segment of the sons of Israel for spiritual purification, permitting them, eventually, to enter the kingdom of the heavens over which Jesus would eventually be the King.
Jonah. God's greatest OT missionary to the Gentiles. Jonah, son of Amittai (Jon. 1:1), was a servant of Yahweh, the God of Israel, a prophet who hailed from the town of Gath-Hepher (2 Kings 14:25) in the territory allotted to the sons of Zebulun (Josh. 19:10-13), about fifteen miles due west of the Sea of Galilee. Jonah evidently prophesied on God's behalf to the Northern Kingdom (Samaria) during the reign of Jeroboam II (793-753 B.C.) (2 Kings 14:23-25).
Yahweh commissioned Jonah to take a message of impending judgment to Nineveh (Jon. 1:1-2), a major city of the Assyrian Empire on the east bank of the Tigris River, some 550 miles northeast of Samaria. Jonah, however fled the opposite direction, sailing for Tarshish, 2500 miles west of Joppa (Jon. 1:3). Jonah's stated reason for disobeying was that He knew God is merciful, and that the Ninevites might well repent and be spared God's judgment (Jon. 4:1-2). It is difficult for Gentile readers today to fathom Jonah's motivation. My conjecture is that, as a prophet, Jonah knew that one day Assyria was destined to conquer and destroy his own people. If Nineveh itself were destroyed, Jonah reasoned, that future disaster for his own country would be averted.
Yahweh impeded Jonah's flight, and he was hurled into the raging sea to save the mariners (Jon. 1:4-15). The immediately becalmed sea resulted in the salvation of the mariners (Jon. 1:16). Meanwhile Yahweh had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah, saving him from drowning (Jon. 1:17). In a psalm of prayer composed inside the fish's belly, Jonah described his near demise and prayer of repentance, and vowed to obey (Jon. 2:1-9). At this, the fish disgorged Jonah onto dry land (Jon. 2:10). True to his vow, Jonah delivered the message of impending judgment to the Ninevites. They miraculously repented, and God spared them from disastrous judgment (Jon. 3). Jonah was greatly displeased with Yahweh for sparing the lives of the Ninevites, and requested to die (Jon. 4:1-3). Jonah stationed himself outside the city to see what would happen. God prepared a plant that shaded Jonah, a blessing for which he was grateful. But God also appointed a worm that killed the gourd, and Jonah lost his shade, once again requesting death. God asked Jonah if he was justified in feeling angry about the plant. Jonah said he had good reason to be angry about the loss of the plant. Then Yahweh pointed out Jonah's compassion for a mere plant that he had neither made nor caused to grow. If Jonah was justified in his compassion for the plant, was not Yahweh justified in having compassion on 120,000 children and even the animals of Nineveh (Jon. 4:4-11)?
Jonah never answered Yahweh's question. But he he evidently internalized the message. He wrote the book.
Cynical critics question the historicity of the book and the authorship of Jonah. Jesus did not, stating that Jonah's three days in the belly of the fish was a sign of His own impending death and resurrection (Matt. 12:38-41; 16:4; Luke 11:29-32). See the Condensed Outline of Jonah, the Outline of Jonah, and the Annotated Outline of Jonah.
Jordan River. The river extending from above Lake Huleh southward to the Dead Sea. It "begins at the junction of four streams (the Bareighit, the Hasbany, the Leddan, and the Banias), in the upper part of the plain of Lake Huleh." Lake Huleh is but seven feet above sea level, while the Dead Sea is presently 1385 feet below sea level, the lowest place on earth. "The Jordan Valley is an element of a great rift which extends from Syria to the Red Sea and continues through a large portion of Eastern Africa." After Israel's conquest of the land promised her by God, the Jordan separated the 9 1/2 tribes on the west from the 2 1/2 tribes on the east side of the river, also termed "Transjordan." The Hashemite kingdom of Jordan now occupies the eastern side of the Jordan while the western side belongs to Israel. In the future Israel will control the east side of the Jordan (Zeph. 2:9-10).
Naaman, a general in the Syrian Army, dipped seven times in the waters of the Jordan and was healed of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-19). The Sea of Galilee, in the Jordan Valley, was frequented by Jesus during His lifetime (Matt. 4:18, 23). John the Baptist, the Herald of King Jesus, baptized in the Jordan (Mark 1:4-5). Jesus himself was baptized by John there (Mark 1:9).
JTB. James T. Bartsch, the author / editor / publisher of WordExplain.com.
Judgment Seat of Christ. The judgment of all Church Age believers (Rom. 14:10-12). Salvation is not an issue here, for these believers possess eternal life (John 3:16), having been born into God’s family (John 1:12), and they do not enter into judgment or condemnation (John 3:18; 3:36; 5:24; Rom. 8:1). Performance and motive is the issue. How well have these believers invested their lives for Jesus (Col. 3:17, 23-25)? Every Christian is building on the foundation that has been laid. He is building with materials that survive the fire of Christ’s judgment or that do not (1 Cor. 3:12-15). If the Christian has done his work for the Lord, it will survive, and he will be rewarded. If not, his work will not survive, yet he himself will (1 Cor. 3:15). Faithful investing of one’s life for the Lord will, I believe, result in greater opportunity to serve Him later (Luke 19:11-19). This judgment will either take place with each believer when he meets the Lord (1 John 3:2-3) and / or else after the entire Church is raptured prior to the start of the Tribulation period. By the time Christ returns to Earth (Rev. 19:11-21), the Church has been completely purified and is ready to return with Him as His spotless bride (Rev. 19:7-9). See a more extensive discussion of the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Justification. The act of God whereby He declares the one who trusts in Jesus Christ to be righteous. The whole question of salvation impinges upon many areas, not the least of which is the integrity of God. How can a holy God, who cannot sin, bring to eternal salvation depraved sinners who are not righteous (Rom. 3:10), who do not seek God (Rom. 3:11), who do no good (Rom. 3:12), and who do not fear God (Rom. 3:18)? How can man become righteous when, by keeping the Law, he can never be justified (declared righteous, dikaioō, 1344) in God's sight (Rom. 3:20)?
The answer is that God Himself has revealed a different kind of righteousness (Rom. 3:21). (1) It is a "without law" righteousness that comes from God (Rom. 3:21). (2) It is a righteousness that is attested both in the Law and in the Prophets (Rom. 3:21). (3) It is a righteousness that comes, without distinction, to every person who trusts in Jesus the Messiah (Rom. 3:22). (4) It is a righteousness that is granted without distinction to all who believe because all, without distinction, have sinned and have fallen short of God's glory, the standard of His goodness (Rom. 3:23). (5) It is a righteousness which God assigns to people as a gift, on the basis not of merit, but of grace (Rom. 3:24). (6) It is a righteousness made possible because Jesus the Messiah, through His sacrifice on the cross, has paid the full purchase price to rescue man from the clutches of Satan and from death, the consequence of sin (Rom. 3:24). (7) It is a righteousness in which the full penalty has been paid for all the sins of all the people in the world who believe. (8) It is a righteousness God secured by displaying Jesus publicly as the legal satisfaction (propitiation, hilastÍrion, 2435) for sin. Jesus paid the full penalty for sin by paying for it with His own life's blood. The payment is secured for each individual person who believes in Jesus (Rom. 3:25). In sacrificing His own Son God demonstrated His own righteousness in passing over sins committed by people from the beginning of the history of the human race (Rom. 3:25). In providing Jesus as the all-time payment for sin, God was consistent with His Divine standard that the consequences of sin -- death -- must be fully paid. In this way He Himself could remain just, and yet justify (declare to be righteous) every person who exercised faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26).
The Apostle Paul continued to discuss the doctrine of justification in the next chapter. He made several point: (1) Abraham was saved through faith, apart from any works (Rom. 4:1-5). (2) David affirmed that the man is blessed "to whom God credits righteousness apart from works" (Rom. 4:6-8). (3) Abraham's justification preceded his circumcision (Rom. 4:9-12). Thus Abraham is the father of all who believe, though uncircumcised (Rom. 4:11), and he is the father of all who, being circumcised, also believe (Rom. 4:12). (4) Abraham's justification was by faith in God's promise apart from the Law (Rom. 4:13-25).
In this paragraph, Paul highlighted the incredible benefits of justification (declared righteousness). (1) First of all, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus (Rom. 5:1). (2) We stand in the place of God's blessing (Rom. 5:2). (3) We have a proud hope for the future glory of God (Rom. 5:2). (4) We can have pride in present hardship (Rom.5:3-5), for this creates perseverance (Rom. 5:3), proven character (Rom. 5:4), and hope (Rom. 5:4-5). (5) We are recipients of God's love (Rom. 5:5-8). (6) We have more assured protection from the future wrath of God (Rom. 5:9-10). (6) We have pride in God because of reconciliation (Rom 5:11).
Paul made it clear (1) that no one can be justified (dikaioō, 1344) by virtue of his works of the Law (Rom. 3:20); (2) that God's attributed righteousness is on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:22); (3) that justification (dikaioō, 1344) is awarded as a gift by grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:24), accessed by faith (Rom. 3:25); (4) that God is just (dikaios, 1342) in justifying (dikaioō, 1344) the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26); (5) and that a man is justified (dikaioō, 1344) by faith apart from the works of the Law (Rom. 3:28). Yet, James, at least at face value, seems to contradict Paul.
Of particular concern are three statements by James: (1) He gave an example by asking a question, "Was not Abraham our father justified (dikaioō, 1344) by reason of works, having offered Isaac his son upon the altar"? (James 2:21, author's translation). (2) He concluded, "You see that by reason of works a man is being justified (dikaioō, 1344), and not by reason of faith alone" (James 2:24, author's translation). (3) He gave a second example by asking another question, "In the same way, moreover, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified (dikaioō, 1344) by reason of works, having welcomed the messengers and having sent them out by another way?" (James 2:25, author's translation).
Resolving the apparent contradiction
So how do we handle this apparent clash between the Church's greatest theologian, Paul, and the very practical James, half-brother of our Lord and trusted voice at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-35)? I don't think they are contradicting one another. I think they are looking at salvation, or at least justification, from two different, but related perspectives. First Paul is looking at "How can I become righteous?" He is saying that there is nothing I can do by trying to keep the Law or by performing a good work in order for God to declare me righteous. It is a gift, and it comes by God's grace, not by human merit. Paul put it this way, "For by grace you exist, being saved through faith, and this not from yourselves - it is a gift from God; not by reason of works, in order that no one should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9, author's translation). Paul used the word dikaioō (1344) as a religious technical term in the sense of God imputing righteousness to my account simply on the basis of my having placed my trust in Jesus Christ.
James, on the other hand, used the same word dikaioō (1344) in the nuance of vindicating the validity of my faith (see Friberg). They are both right. There is nothing I can do to contribute to my salvation. I simply trust in Jesus and God credits my account with righteousness as an act of grace. However, as Paul stated, "For we are His craftsmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for the purpose of good works, which God prepared beforehand in order that in them (the good works) we should conduct our lives" (Eph. 2:10, author's translation). So Paul is saying (in Eph. 2:8-10) that good works can contribute nothing to our salvation. But if we are saved, we will inevitably produce good works. James is emphasizing the second part of that equation. You prove you are saved by performing good works. Otherwise, faith without works is dead and useless (James 2:14, 17, 18, 20, 22, 26). We are justified by faith apart from any good works (Paul). That is true. But our saving faith is vindicated, or demonstrated, by our good works (James). That is also true.
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Updated January 25, 2017