3:16 – The Rest of the Story – God’s Fulfillment of His Plan 4: Matthew

A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate

  • the Human Condition
  • God’s Revelation of His Plan
  • God’s Fulfillment of His Plan (Current location of study)
  • Our Response

“And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;” – Matthew 3:16

The last two weeks we’ve seen how John the Baptist was called by God to prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry to begin. In Matthew 3:11-12 John the Baptist declares, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Notice that John’s message includes all three elements of doctrine of the Trinity:

  • he who is coming… whose sandals I am not worthy to carry – this implies that the one to whom he refers (the promised Messiah) is a human, one element of the Trinity (God the Son)
  • He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit – The promised one will dispense the Holy Spirit to His followers. This is the second element of the Trinity (God the Holy Spirit)
  • Winnowing fork… threshing floor… wheat… chaff… unquenchable fire – These elements of final judgment are typical depictions of the right of judgment reserved for the final element of the Trinity (God the Father)

Matthew now transitions from John’s ministry to the start of Jesus’ ministry. He says, “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented.

Jesus directed John to perform his baptism to “fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus did not need to repent (he was free of sin), but, as Paul told the Corinthians (2 Cor. 5:21), “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus’ baptism signified that he identified himself with the sinful people that he had come to save.

Matthew continues with this week’s 3:16 verses (and the one after it):

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’ – Matthew 3:16-17

Notice the confirmation of the presence and existence of the Trinity in these two verses. Jesus (the Son) is visited by a visible representation of the Spirit, followed by the vocal pronouncement from the Father.

Matthew finishes his gospel account (Matthew 28:19-20) with the following words from Jesus: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus, in his Great Commission to his disciples, invoked the Trinity as a critical part of the spread of his gospel.

The doctrine of the Trinity is fundamental to the continuity of the message of the Bible from beginning to end. God’s plan from the beginning was the saving work of the Son at the instigation of the Father and through the validation of the Spirit. In Genesis 1:1-2, all three are present: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’” God the Father created, in the presence of the Spirit, and through the spoken Word (Jesus – cf. John 1:1). From the beginning, through the ministry of Jesus, and on into today and all eternity, the integrated parts of the Trinity are instrumental in carrying out and fulfilling the marvelous plan that God instituted “in the beginning”!

Next week we’ll look at an overview of Jesus’ ministry as provided by Paul in 1 Timothy 3:16.

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