Let us try to summarise where we are at this stage of our study. We will attempt to see sin and its consequences on one hand and God’s great provision on the other.
|Sin and its consequences.||God’s provision in Christ.|
|Being under the judgement of God.||Justification and forgiveness.|
|Being separated from God.||Reconciliation.|
|Being spiritually dead.||Regeneration.|
|Being powerless.||The Holy Spirit.|
|Being in the Old Covenant.||The New Covenant.|
Let’s begin with the immediate build up to the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ.
At the beginning of the New Testament we are introduced to a strange, charismatic, preacher called John; as he baptised his converts, he was referred to as John Baptist, or John the Baptist. He described himself as the voice preparing the way for the coming and long-expected Messiah.
His baptism was a baptism of repentance. He ruthlessly exposed sin, especially of the religious leaders of the day. He castigated them for their hypocrisy.
His message was a dual one:
Firstly, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” in Matthew 3:2, with a prophetic word that the ax was laid to the root of the trees in Luke 3:9 and Matthew 3:10.
Secondly, the promise that the One coming of whom he spoke would not baptise his followers in water, but he would baptise them with the Holy Spirit, Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33 and Acts 1:5. This reference to Spirit baptism in the beginning of all three synoptic gospels and quoted in the early verses of the Acts of the Apostles is highly significant. We plan to explore this great subject of the baptism with the Holy Spirit at a later date in Food for Thought.
So, the picture of the ax resting against a tree is an image of the work that Christ would do to slay the principle and power of sin in everyone who repents, and submits themselves to the baptism with the Spirit that was to come. There are also other images depicted of the same powerful work of grace, like fire, and a winnowing fan, that burns up sin, and cleanses the heart.
In addition, we read in John1:29-34 two wonderful promises of the work of Christ as told by John Baptist. He says “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!….this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit”.
Here is established at the very beginning of the gospel the link between the sacrificial lamb, the taking away of sin and the baptism with the Holy Spirit. This was John’s great calling to be Christ’s forerunner announcing the greater ministry that was to come.