Thursday, December 10, 2015

Luke 3:7-18 Forgiveness is Means, not End

KEY TEXT: Luke 3:15-19 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, "I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.

KEY THOT: John’s baptism was a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. It was an initiatory process to prepare people for entry into God’s kingdom. John’s baptism is focused on forgiveness of sins, but forgiveness of sins is not all there is in the good news. If it was, John would not have said: “I baptize you with water but he who is mightier than I is coming...”. Apparently, he was aware that his part of the “good news” is partial; it awaits Jesus’ coming to complete it. And what is the other half of the “good news”? It is this: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (v.16). Many churches teach the forgiveness of sins as the end-goal of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However great the blessing of forgiveness of sins is, it is but a means to an even greater end--the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

Listen to how Peter proclaims the good news on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:38-39, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." What “promise” was Peter referring to? It was the “promise of the Father” Jesus told them to wait for: “And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’

Forgiveness of sins, wonderful as it is, is not the end-goal of salvation, but only the means. If we read Peter's exhortation in Acts 2:38 carefully, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that he understands the end goal of the gospel as not just forgiveness of sins but the "promise" of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, there are still churches who are uncomfortable with any teaching about the Holy Spirit because they believe it will distract from Jesus. But the truth is without the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Jesus will be minimized, not glorified, because “He will glorify Me” (John 16:14). 

So we may summarize the conversion process as follows: Repentance --> Forgiveness of sins --> Gift of the Holy Spirit --> Jesus glorified and worshiped in our midst.

We need to emphasize the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church if we want to see Jesus glorified and exalted in the church. The kingdom of God and the Spirit of God are synonymous: people will not know the power of the kingdom apart from the Spirit, for without Him, we wouldn’t know Jesus and His ministry among us. If we want revival in our churches, we must preach the whole gospel of the kingdom, which includes the gift of the Spirit, and not limit ourselves to the forgiveness of sins.

Father, open our eyes to discern means from ends. Thank You for the forgiveness of sins that enables us to receive the gift of Your Spirit. Amen.

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