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Week:02, Season:1, 2016 Posted on Saturday by PCT

Renewing by Water

Scripture: Luke 3:15-17; 21-22

15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with[a] water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with[b] the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

The Power and the Significance of Water

We can tell from universal experiences that water is powerful.The nature of water is nurturing all lives on earth, but the power of water is fearing sometimes. Water functioned distinctively in the record of Bible. God washed away the sin of human being by water at the age of Noah. The whole world was flooded by God because human beings were too evil to be tolerant anymore. The power of flood was “destructive” while being mentioned in Genesis 9:11. (Instead “destructive”, “destroying” is used in the translated version of New Chinese Bible or Contemporary Chinese Bible.) God washed away the sin in the world by water in the power of destruction in the Old Testament. In short, God purified a sinful world by destroying and rebuilding it through water.

God only chose Noah’s family being alive in the event of flooding. Water was no longer a downright destructive power after the covenant between Him and Noah’s family as recorded in Genesis 9:15. God created a rainbow with water vapor and sunlight after rain. He placed the rainbow in between clouds. The rainbow became a sign of salvation and covenant between Him and human kinds since then. The rainbow was originated from water (rain). In the Bible, the rainbow specified how God had changed his mind from destroy to salvation through water.

The word “rainbow” was combined with two words “rain” and “bow.” As recorded in Genesis 9:13, “rainbow”—the sign of covenant, was placed in between clouds by God. When the bow was hanged upon clouds, it signified that the weapon had been stored by God. After storing a weapon of destructive power, water vapor of the rainbow became a sign of hope instead. God has interpreted a symbolic meaning of rainbow as an evidence of His grace, even though the rainbow might appeared before the floods. God has changed the symbolic meaning of water after His covenant with Noah, so does His grace.

Water and Fire in the New Testament

In Luke 3:16, John the Baptist stated that Jesus Christ will baptise people with Holy Spirit and Fire. Fire could warm us, and it could also burn out all impurities in our life. The power of fire is as destructive as water. Baptism ceremony was a sign of grace in the New Testament. In the record of Luke’s Gospel, baptism ceremony was also a sign of a renewed life.

Water, the means of water purification ceremony, always played an important role in the tradition of Jewish belief. Water washed away filth and guilt of a sinner inside out. It signified that sinners are ready to meet with God after water has removed away the dirt outside and the guilt inside of them. In Luke 3:21, Jesus Christ was baptised in the Jordan River, and this baptism made water much more significant in terms of concrete and symbolic meaning of water. John the Baptist baptised Jesus with water in the Jordan River, in which the ceremonial washing of Jewish tradition had also been done. The washing in water was a symbol of connection with Holy Spirit as recorded in Luke 3:21.

The incarnate Christ was never in need of baptism; nevertheless, the baptism of Him had been done by John the Baptist in the Jordan River has made baptism a significant progress of Christian faith. As recorded in Luke’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit descended on Him while Jesus Christ was praying in his baptism. Mark 1:10 mentioned that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus “immediately”—there was no time elapse in between the arrival of Holy Spirit and His prayer. The sequential writing of events was common in Mark’s Gospel. It expressed an important connection between events. It emphasised the urgency of the time and the relativeness of events. The connection between Water and the Holy Spirit was a firm base of baptism in the New Testament. Water not only purified one’s inner mind but also renewed one’s life with the power of the Holy Spirit, which was the most important and connotative meaning of baptism for Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

After His baptism, a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” It indicated the distinctive identity of Jesus Christ from Baptist John. The voice from heaven was an immediate testimony of Jesus Christ for all crowds gathering nearby the Jordan River. The baptism has testified His unique identity as Baptist John had stated before: “But one who is more powerful than I will come.”

Can We Sense the Power in the Presence of the Holy Spirit?

People had hope in the teaching from John the Baptist (Luke 3:15). They considered John as Christ for they did not have a full understanding of whom he is. Therefore, Jesus Christ had to reveal His distinctive identity from John the Baptist in every teaching and deed of Him, for His followers. To truly know Jesus Christ and to answer the question “Who is He?” was always a keynote of all Gospels. The question “Who is He?” had always challenged the readers of all Gospel Books for more than two thousand years.

Baptism symbolised a significant progress of faith in the life of Christians. It signified that one has confessed his/her faith in the presence of God and before the congregation. The concrete meaning of faith was revealed in Luke’s Gospel. Water was the power of renewal. Water renewed the world in the power of destruction—it destroyed the evilness of human being in the Old Testament. God created a rainbow, originated from water, and made it as His sign of grace though the destructive power of water which was as fearful as usual. Water signified His grace of salvation in the New Testament. Water renewed one’s life in the power of salvation from Jesus Christ. Pouring water down one’s head symbolised that the rain of the grace of salvation from heaven was pouring down in the Baptism. The presence of the Holy Spirit was a promise in the New Testament. It changed one’s inner mind and brought one in actions of renewing itself.

These two characteristics of water: “destruction” and “salvation” conflicted with one another but also co-existed in the real life. The promise of the presence of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled immediately; however, it took time to change and renew one’s life gradually. This Sunday is the Sunday of “the Baptism of Christ.” After reading the Bible passage today, we can reflect on the meaning of Baptism again. Baptism holding in the holiday season of Christmas was a common choice in many churches, but Baptism holding on the day of “the Baptism of Christ” is specifically meaningful. If you have attended in a church for a long time but not yet been baptised, I encourage you to take this time to reflect on the meaning of Baptism to you by reading the passage today. For those who have been baptised, I wish this passage reminds you of the importance in the connection between the Holy Spirit and your life.

For discussion:

For Discussion:
1. Please share your understanding about the meaning of baptism in your faith. Is it a must-do to follow Jesus Christ?
2. Please share your change in life after your received baptism. What are the important matters Christians should pay attention to after baptism?

Please pray for:

1. the work of baptism, in which the leader of church can lead more church goers to be baptised and provide them with a better understanding about the meaning of baptism.
2. the baptised Christians in your church, in which the baptism was never a final line but a beginning line on the track field of faith. Pray that they remember the Baptism was a starting point to know themselves and to change their lives.


Dear Lord,
Thank you for loving us and leading us to your path. You lead us to know about our faith. We pray with the power of Holy Spirit. May we grasp every opportunity to understand the true meaning of baptism to us. May the Holy Fire burns out all the unpleasant against God in our lives. Make our lives be connected with the Holy Spirit so we can bear fruits of gospels in the pleasant fragrance of Christ. Help us learn how to share the gospel with those who are in need at the perfect timing. Let us lead people to be baptised in Your presence and grace. Help our lives be connected with the Holy Spirit, and learn how to love each soul in the love of Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!

Something you can do:

1. If you have not been baptised, try to list the reasons why you are still hesitate. Try to share your thoughts with your spiritual partners and get inspirations from the Bible.
2. If you have been baptised, please write down the change in your life after baptism. Share your testimony with others in writing.