God’s Beloved Son

MEMORY VERSE: “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” —II Corinthians 1:22

MATTHEW 3:13-17; JOHN 1:32-36

THE prophecy of Malachi had foretold the coming of John the Baptist to be the Lord’s messenger in announcing the presence of a still greater messenger, even “the messenger of the covenant.” (Mal. 3:1) When it was the due time for Jesus to embark upon his ministry he properly presented himself to John to be baptized. John’s baptism was a symbol of the remission, or washing away, of sin, and was employed by him on behalf of Jews who had transgressed God’s Law and who had repented of their sins. John knew that Jesus was not in this category so he “forbad” him, saying, “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?”

Jesus’ reply was, “Suffer [permit] it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus did not explain to John that his water immersion had a different meaning, that it was a symbol, not of the remission of sin, but of the burial of his will into the will of his Heavenly Father. And this, indeed, is the true meaning of water immersion in the case of all who have dedicated themselves to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

The record states that Jesus, after being baptized, “went up straightway out of the water.” This leaves no doubt that Jesus had been down in the water, and that the form of his symbolic baptism was immersion. And that it was merely a picture of his real baptism into the will of his Heavenly Father is indicated by a statement which he made later, saying, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!”—Luke 12:50

We are told that when Jesus did come out of the water, “the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.” Here we have a symbolic statement—the opening of the heavens. This seems to suggest the receiving of special spiritual vision, an understanding of the hitherto important aspect of his Father’s will which had been kept hidden.

It had been prophetically written of Jesus, “Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” (Ps. 40:7,8) At Jordan Jesus had presented himself in consecration to do his Father’s will as it had been expressed “in the volume of the book”—the Old Testament Scriptures—and upon the basis of this dedication he was given a vision as to the meaning of the things which had been written concerning him.

The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus “like” a dove. The likeness referred to here is the descent. It does not indicate that the Holy Spirit looks like a dove. All we definitely know is that Jesus and John were given some visible evidence that the Holy Spirit came down from God and rested upon, or within the Master.

A “voice” accompanied the descent of the Holy Spirit, saying to Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” What a wonderful assurance this was of the Father’s love and acceptance.

As we have noted, John also saw the demonstration, the “descent” of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus. Seemingly John also heard the voice which proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God. He says, “I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.” John needed to be assured of this in order effectively to announce the presence of Jesus.

The very next day after Jesus’ baptism and the wonderful display of divine power which accompanied it, John spoke to two of his disciples, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

Our memory verse reminds us that as followers of Jesus we also can rejoice in the assurance given to us through the Holy Spirit that we are the children of God. (Rom. 8:16) Paul speaks of this blessing as an “earnest” or down payment of our inheritance. To us, however, no outward demonstration of the Holy Spirit is given. We receive this assurance through the written Word of God, which is itself a product of God’s power, his Holy Spirit.


Explain the nature of Jesus’ baptism, and its significance.

What is meant by the heavens being opened to Jesus, and what assurance was he given?

Dawn Bible Students Association
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