1 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light (Matthew 17:1–2, NKJV).
Peter, James, and John saw a glimpse of Christ’s divine glory and majesty when His appearance changed on the mountain (2 Pet. 1:16-18). Christ had shared the glory of eternal deity with the Father from time immemorial (John 17:5). When He came to earth, He humbly emptied Himself of the appearance of divine glory and became “in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:5-8; Micah 5:2; John 1:1, 14). When His form changed on the mount, the brilliance of His countenance revealed the brightness of His divine glory. Moses the Lawgiver and Elijah the prophet appeared with Jesus, and they talked about His approaching death in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). Awakened from slumber and fearful, Peter proposed honoring Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, but his plan was silenced by the voice of the Father and the command to listen to His Son (Matt. 17:3-5). Jesus has authority over Moses and Elijah (the Law and the prophets, Matt. 5:17-18). Like the apostles, we must hear Jesus and follow all He says because He has all authority over the world (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 3:22-23; Heb. 1:2). A touch of the Master’s hand and the reassurance of His voice calmed the apostles’ fear (Matt. 17:6-8). So may we humbly and reverently listen to and obey the word of Christ day by day (Col. 3:17). When we do, Christ’s word calms our souls with the assurance of His presence and eternal life (Heb. 13:5; 1 John 5:11-13).
Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not (Luke 3:15, NKJV).
John was not the Messiah. He came to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Luke 3:4; Isa. 40:3). As the Lord’s messenger, John preached “a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins,” preparing hearts for the Lord’s coming (Mal. 3:1; Mark 1:4; Luke 1:17). He was the promised Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6; Matt. 11:7-10; 17:10-13). John’s work excited the people’s expectations of the Messiah (Luke 3:15). Sadly, those expectations were often misguided. Many looked for a military leader to deliver Israel from Rome (John 6:15, 26; Luke 24:21). Others expected Him to support the traditions they bound (Mark 7:1-13). What are your expectations of Christ? (1) Some expect faith in Christ to bring them wealth and health (the prosperity gospel); A perverted gospel (1 Cor. 4:11-13; 2 Cor. 12:7-10). Many faithful ones are impoverished (Heb. 11:37-38). (2) Some expect Christ’s grace to allow them to continue living in sin; A perverted gospel (Rom. 5:21-6:2). Grace will not abound when we continue in sin. (3) Some expect Christ to save them by faith only; A perverted gospel (Mark 16:15-16; Heb. 5:8-9). An obedient faith saves, not faith only (James 2:24). (4) Some expect Christ to save them because of their sincere conscience; A perverted gospel (Rom. 10:2). The blood of Christ washes away sins, not sincerity (Acts 23:1; 26:9; 22:16). (5) We should expect Christ to bring salvation to sinners without the doctrines of men. He does (Acts 4:12; 10:34-43; Rom. 1:16-17; Gal. 1:6-12; Col. 2:20-23). Expect Jesus to save you when you believe and follow Him (John 8:12, 31-32; Matt. 7:21-23).
16 But when Herod heard, he said, “This is John, whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead!” 17 For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her. 18 Because John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:16–18, NKJV).
Herod thought John had risen from the dead when he heard about the healing powers of Jesus. John was a fearless preacher of righteousness who lost his head, literally. Would your preacher do what John did? (1) John lost his head because he dared to condemn adultery (Mark 6:18). Because of his rebuke, Herodias was enraged and wanted to kill him (Mark 6:19-20). Today, many preachers approve or accommodate adulterous marriages with preaching that sanctions divorce for any reason and remarriage with impunity (Matt. 5:32; 19:3-6, 9). Like John, we must condemn adultery (including sinful remarriages), not comfort those practicing it (Heb. 13:4). (2) John lost his head because of a rash vow (Mark 6:21-26). Herod swore up to half of his kingdom to Herodias’s daughter, driven by fleshly pleasure when he saw her dance. John’s head was on the line. Herod was sorry, but he was too proud to recant. Tongue control still begins with heart control (Matt. 12:35-37). (3) John lost his head because of a dancing daughter (Mark 6:22). Please note, Herod did not dance, but he watched it. Modern dances still incite lustful thoughts leading to lewd conduct (Gal. 5:19; Rom. 13:13). If you don’t go into a burning house to watch the flames, then don’t go to the dance floor (or turn on the TV) just to watch it (Job 31:1-4). How many preachers today would lose their heads in Herod’s court?
2 And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” 4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (Matthew 11:2–6, NKJV).
A necessary inference is an unavoidable, inescapable conclusion drawn from the information given. It is not merely a reasonable inference or a conclusion that may appear so (John 21:21-23; 7:24). It is the only legitimate conclusion the information given will allow. Notice in today’s passage the things Jesus said and did were (and still are) sufficient evidence for John and his followers to draw the necessary conclusion that He is the Christ. Instead of answering, “Yes, I am the Christ,” Jesus directed John’s disciples to His words and works as evidence from which they should conclude that the Father sent Him (John 5:36). The prophets had foretold of the works He did (Isa. 35:5-7; 61:1-2). Yes, He is the Coming One. Necessary inferences from the testimony of God’s word build our faith and direct our conduct. To suggest they are an artificial approach to understanding the Scriptures denies Christ who used them to establish faith in Himself as the Son of God.
3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:3–5, NKJV).
Paul asked these disciples of John a simple, probing, and informative question: “Into what then were you baptized?” Their answer (“into John’s baptism”) gave Paul the opening to explain the prerequisite and outcome of John’s baptism and help them become Christ’s disciples. First, repentance was necessary to receive John’s baptism, without which his baptism “for the remission of sins” was useless (Luke 3:3, 7-8; Matt. 3:5-8). Second, John’s preaching and baptism prepared people to believe on the Messiah (whom Paul tells them is Christ Jesus, Acts 19:4; Luke 3:3-6). John’s baptism served its purpose and ran its course. Convinced that Jesus is the Christ (in whom John prepared them to put their faith), John’s disciples became disciples of Jesus by being “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (by His authority, Acts 19:5). They were not disciples of Jesus before and until they were baptized in His name. Christ’s baptism remains how believers become disciples of Jesus. Faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, prepares the sinner to repent and be baptized in His name to be saved and become His disciple (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:36-41; 10:48; Gal. 3:26-27).
9 Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant (Mark 9:9–10, NKJV).
Peter, James, and John had just witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus, seen Moses and Elijah talking with Him, and heard the Father’s voice say, “This is my beloved Son. Hear Him” (Mark 9:1-7). Why did Jesus tell them to tell no one what they had seen until “the Son of Man had risen from the dead?” Here are a couple of reasons. First, several were already bearing testimony that Jesus is the Son of God: (1) John the Baptist, the Elijah of prophecy (Mark 10:11-13; Matt. 11:14; John 5:33-35); (2) The Father Himself by the miracles of Jesus (John 5:36-37); and (3) The Scriptures (John 5:38-39). Second, the apostles were not yet prepared to tell others what they had seen. That was not their job at this moment. They still had much to learn from the Master. Only now did they understand John was the prophesied Elijah (Matt. 17:12-13). They did not know Jesus would rise from the dead (Mark 9:10). They did not yet grasp the redemptive work of Christ (Peter even rebuked Jesus for saying He would suffer, be killed, and rise after three days, Matt. 16:21-23). Rest assured, the apostles would tell others about the transfiguration when Christ commissioned them to preach the gospel to the world (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; see 2 Pet. 1:16-18). What can we learn from this? (1) Teachers must first be students of God’s word (1 Tim. 4:13, 15-16). (2) Teach what you know while maturing in your knowledge of God’s word (2 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 5:11-6:3). (3) Zeal without knowledge can be dangerous (Rom. 10:2-3).
29 And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him. (Luke 7:29–30, NKJV)
Scripture says, “John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mk. 1:4). Sinners justified God when John baptized them. Their submission to baptism showed God to be just (righteous) in demanding their repentance and baptism to remove their sins. By contrast, the Pharisees and lawyers “rejected the will of God for themselves” and were not baptized by John. Like those unbelievers, refusing to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus is a rejection of the will of God (Acts 10:48; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). John’s baptism required repentance as its prerequisite and prepared the people to believe in Christ Jesus who came after John (Jno. 3:22-36; Acts 19:4). God linked John’s baptism to remission of sins (Mk. 1:4). God also links Christ’s baptism to our remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Refusing baptism for the remission of sins is rejecting the will of God. Have you “justified God” by being baptized into Christ to be saved? Or, do you consider God unjust by commanding repentance and baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38)?
Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. (Acts 8:4, NKJV)
Acts 8 is a chapter about preaching the gospel. Those who preached in this chapter were the persecuted, scattered saints (8:4), Philip the evangelist (8:5, 35, 40), and the apostles Peter and John (8:25). The message they preached was “the word” (8:4), “Christ” (8:5), things concerning the kingdom, the name of Jesus Christ, and baptism (8:12), “the word of the Lord” (8:25), “the gospel” (8:25), and “Jesus” (8:35). The result of their preaching was the conversion and salvation of souls. People believed and were baptized, and by doing so, they “received the word of God” (8:12-14). A sinning Christian learned from hearing the apostle’s teaching that he needed to repent and pray for God’s forgiveness (8:18-24). A lost Ethiopian came to believe in Jesus Christ and was baptized, resulting in great joy (8:35-39). One cannot read Acts 8 without being impressed with gospel preaching’s central role in saving sinners. The Samaritans, Simon, and the Ethiopian eunuch were brought to faith, obedience, and salvation from sins through preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sinners cannot hear the word of God, believe it, call on the name of the Lord, and be saved without gospel preaching (Rom. 10:13-17). Why and what are you preaching, preacher? What kind of preaching do you want, Christian? Gospel preaching is not entertainment. It is not a psychology session. It is not the pleasing pabulum of positive platitudes. It is not a sharing session of opinions. It is the proclamation of the gospel, God’s power to save the lost (Rom. 1:16; Gal. 1:6-12; 2 Tim. 4:1-5). We need more gospel preaching, not less.
1 The Elder, To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth: 2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 1–2, NKJV)
John, now the aged apostle, expressed a three-fold love of Gaius, which was no doubt prompted by the disciple’s faithful walk in the truth (3 John 3-4). John’s love for Gaius prompted prayer for his health and prosperity “in all things” as his soul prospered. Is this proof of the “prosperity gospel” that many preach? Hardly. The word “prosper” contains the idea of progress, of “help on the road,” and thereby to successfully reach one’s destination (Strong, G2137). Gaius’ spiritual life was progressing – he was on a spiritual journey. (So are we, 1 Peter 2:11.) John prayed that his health and all things would progress well, too. Christ did not mandate material abundance as evidence of spiritual fullness. Indeed, the Son of Man did not have a place to lay His head (Matt. 8:20). Far from covetous enrichment for selfish pursuits, the gospel teaches material wealth is a blessing that gives opportunities and the spiritual responsibility to be “rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,” and to do so thankfully (1 Tim. 6:17-19). Gaius was undoubtedly doing these very things when he hospitably supported faithful workers for the truth (3 John 5-8). May our souls faithfully progress on our pilgrimage with the health and the means to do the work our hands find to do “while it is day,” for “the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).
16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16–17, NKJV)
This dramatic event at the baptism of Jesus capsulizes the identity and the nature of the Godhead. Seen by Jesus and John, the Spirit of God descended and rested upon Jesus as a heavenly attestation of approval. The presence of the Spirit of God was miraculous confirmation to John that Jesus is the “Son of God” (Jno. 1:32-34). At this seminal event, God the Father declared by word and by the presence of His Spirit the identity of Jesus and His pleasure toward Him (Isa. 42:1; Acts 10:38). Jesus is the Son of God, an expression denoting sameness or equality of nature (Jno. 5:17-18; 10:30-36). In other words, Jesus is Deity, God with us (Jno. 1:1-3, 14; Matt. 1:23). Three distinct individuals (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) comprising One God. The Godhead is a united One – complete and undivided in nature, purpose, and will (Deut. 6:4; Jno. 10:30). Doctrines of God that deviate from this profound truth concerning the Godhead (and, there are many) advance false gods. (For more on the Godhead, go to http://www.bibleanswer.com/godhead.htm.)