What is the Motivation for Evangelism?

Unfortunately, we have a nasty habit of taking a good thing and making it bad through evil motives. The perfect illustration of this is the Temple practices of Jesus’ day.  Temple worship and sacrifices were a good thing.  However, through selfish motives the leaders of Jesus’ day turned those “good things” into deplorable things. Or what about the Pharisee in Luk3 18:11 who prayed and thanked God that he was not like the tax collector.  He took a righteous act and turned it into sin because he was using his prayers to glorify himself not to glorify God. The challenge for us now, is how we avoid doing this same thing with evangelism.

There are all kinds of sinful motives for evangelism.

At one point in my life I had a Christian leader, who will remain nameless, provide us with a log book to record how many times everyone had shared the gospel with someone.  Without surprise it quickly became a competition for some individuals, and other individuals simply lied about how many people they had evangelized.  Why? Because they were motivated by pride. Pride is a wicked motivation.  When we evangelize out of pride we are no longer working to build God’s kingdom.  Instead, when we are motivated by pride, we are really working to build our own kingdom.  Really pride is as the heart of all sinful motives for evangelism, but there are several common manifestations of “evangelistic pride” that are quite common.

There is the “I’m going to grow my church through evangelism” form of evangelistic pride.  It is a good—make that great—thing to grow a church through evangelism. However, if you are sharing the gospel with someone PRIMARILY to fill seats in your building, then your motivations are driven by pride.

There is also the “I’m going to make you see how right I am” form of evangelistic pride.  We’ve all seen, and been guilty of this one before.  This is when evangelism is no longer communication with a view toward conversion.  Instead, it becomes communication with a view toward proving that you are right.  Do you see how the motive behind it makes all the difference?  In evangelism we are seeking to win people NOT arguments.  When we allow pride to sneak into our heart evangelism can quickly become nothing more than a opportunity for you to prove that not only are you right, but you are also a better person than the one you are evangelizing.  This certainly shouldn’t be the attitude of a steward who is taking care of something that was entrusted to him and it’s not the attitude of someone who understands grace.

Another common manifestation of evangelistic pride is the mentality that the “fruit of the Spirit is evangelism… just evangelism.”  This is when an individual allows his heart for evangelism and his giftedness in that area to become a source of pride.  No longer is evangelism a ministry that they excel in, instead it has become the reason why they are more serious Christians than most people—at least in their minds. If other church members are not “doing evangelism” in the same way and with the same frequency it must be because they are immature Christian.  There are several problems with this view of evangelism.

  • First, the bible never evaluates our spiritual growth based on how frequently we “do evangelism.” The bible simply commands that we do it.
  • Second, the bible clearly teaches that each believer is gifted in a different way.  This does not mean that someone with the gifts of service is off the hook with respect to evangelism. But it does mean that believers are going to live out this command in different ways according to their giftedness.
  • Third, Paul is very clear on what the fruit of the Spirit in one’s life looks like (Gal 5:22-23).  So it is not a matter of how often you evangelize or what method of evangelism you use.  The real question is, are you submitting to the Spirit as he sanctifies you? If so, then your faithfulness in evangelism will be part of that.

In the end, the real problem with this attitude of evangelism is that is has the wrong motivation, pride.

So what are the right motivations for evangelism?

To answer this question we need to look no further than Mark 12:30-31:

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Here we see not only the right motivations behind evangelism, but also the right motivations behind all of life: Love God and Love others.  We should do the work of evangelism because we love God and because we love other people.

Pure Evangelism reveals a heart that loves God in several ways:

  • If you love God you will love His word (Ps 119:41-42)
  • If you love God you will obey His command to evangelize (1 John 5:3)
  • If you love God you will love God’s people, and want to see more of them (1 Thess 4:9)
  • If you love God you will love to tell the world about the glorious deeds God has done (Psalm 96:1-3).
  • If you love God you will love the glory He receives when a soul is saved (Lk 15:10)
  • And certainly we could think of more…

Pure Evangelism reveals a heart that loves others as well:

  • If you love others you will want Christian fellowship with them (1 Jn 1:3)
  • If you love others you will agonize over their salvation (Rom 9:1-3)
  • If you love others you will want to do good to them (Gal 6:10)
  • If you love others you will treat them as you treat yourselves. (Mark 12:31)
  • If you love others you will speak the truth to them. (Eph 4:15)

It is easy to be motivated by fear and not share the gospel with someone.  But, if we truly love someone we will share the gospel with them.


What is Evangelism?

Evangelism is…

No really think about! When you think of evangelism what do you think of?

There are probably all kinds of thoughts in your mind about what evangelism is.  If you’re anything like me, you probably have past experiences of evangelism flooding into your brain.  Maybe a door-to-door campaign; handing out tracts; street evangelism; or a series of revival meetings. These are certainly our common experiences of evangelism in the church, but is this how we would define evangelism?  Better yet, is this how the bible would define evangelism?

Over the next couple of days we are going to look at this topic of evangelism by asking the following questions:

  • What is the work of evangelism?
  • What is the message of evangelism?
  • Why do we do the work of evangelism?
  • How do we do the work of evangelism?

First of all, what is evangelism


  • An act of communication with a view toward conversion (J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God).
  • Preaching or proclaiming the Gospel in relation to man’s fallen need.

A few word pictures for evangelism in the NT will help us to better grasp what the bible teaches about evangelism.

Picture 1: We are heralds of a message

  • κηρυξ &  κερυγμα are common Greek word in the NT for preachers and preaching.  These words could also be rendered a Herald & Heralding.
  • This means that Evangelism is an act of communicating, not simply how we live.
  • Our action may detract from our opportunities to evangelize, but by themselves they are never enough to be called evangelism.

Picture 2: We are stewards of a message

  • 1 Cor 4:1-7
  • A steward takes care of and preserves something.
  • As stewards we must make sure that the Gospel message, which is intended to be delivered to all, remains protected from outside influences.
  • We are kind of like a Museum curator whose job it is to allow children learn from history, while at the same time protecting important artifacts.  We must allow all to hear the Gospel, but as stewards we must also protect it.
  • We must never become expedition in our evangelism. That’s not what stewards do, and its not what evangelism is.

Picture 3: We are ambassadors for the King

  • 2 Cor 5:18-20

    All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

  • An ambassador does not have legislative or executive power.  He doesn’t make or enforce policy. Similarly, in Evangelism we simply represent God and the ultimate results are up to him.
  • This means that Evangelism is not defined by the effects achieved.  The question is NOT “where souls saved?’  The question IS “were we faithful to the task God gave us?” “Did we faithfully represent the King?”
  • Furthermore, as ambassador we represent the King at every moment.  When you are at work… when you are disciplining you kids… when you are talking with customer service on the phone… you get the idea.

Evangelism is not an event. It’s not a rally.  It’s not a church program.  Evangelism is communicating the Gospel with a view toward conversion.

The Inaguaration of the Messiah (pt. 2)

I. Jesus Publicly Submits to His Ministry as a Substitute for Sin (v. 9)

II. Jesus is Publicly Confirmed for His Ministry as the One Sent by God (vv. 10-11)

a. The anointing of the Spirit

In verse 9 Jesus publicly accepted his ministry as a representative for man.  Now, in verses 10-11, Mark makes sure to point out that Jesus was also publicly confirmed by the Father for this ministry.  This public confirmation of Jesus’ ministry can be seen in two different events found in verses 10-11.  First, Jesus was publicly confirmed for this His ministry as the Messiah when He was publicly equipped for this ministry through the anointing of the Spirit.  Mark tells us that “when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.”

Can you imagine this scene?  Immediately after being baptized Jesus came up out of the water and the first thing that He saw was the heavens being torn open.  I am not real sure what this would have looked like, however there are several other passages that might help us to understand this scene a little better.  In Mark 15:38 this same word translated as “torn” is used to describe the “the curtain of the temple [that] was torn in two.”  You can almost imagine the sky being torn open like a curtain being torn in two.  It is almost “as if God were coming in from outside of earth’s sphere and invading its space.”[1]    This is a significant point not just because it demonstrates the power of God over nature, but also because it is an allusion to Isaiah 64:1.  There the prophet Isaiah is praying for God to come down and deliver his people.  In Mark 1:10 we see the answer to this prayer.

The heavens being torn open was not the only thing that Jesus saw.  Mark tells us that Jesus also saw the Holy Spirit coming down on himself out of the sky like a dove.  Mark does not tell us how the Holy Spirit was like a dove, and so there are many theories on exactly what Mark meant (did he look like a dove? move like a dove? is the dove just an analogy from Jewish literature? etc.).  However, I think that we can safely say that when Mark tesll us that the Holy Spirit came down like a dove he means that the Holy Spirit manifested Himself as a dove.  Remember, in His normal state the Holy Spirit does not have a body like we do.  However, it says that Jesus saw the Spirit descending.  This means that Spirit appeared in a form that was different from His normal form so that He would be visible to the eye.  In all likelihood the Spirit had taken the form of a dove when He descended down on Jesus.  This leads to two questions.

First, if Jesus was God then why did He need the Holy Spirit to come upon Him?  Jesus needed the Holy Spirit because He had become a man.  He willingly gave up His place at the right hand of the Father in order to take on all the limitations of being a man.  Because He gave up His right to exercise many of His divine attributes He needed the aid of the Holy Spirit in order to perform His ministry.  Isaiah 11:1-2 predicts this very thing when it says:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

In this prophecy we see that the Holy Spirit would come to energize and aid the Messiah in His task.  This point is so important that soon after beginning His ministry Jesus went His hometown of Nazareth and read this from Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

After reading this Jesus told the people that “Today the Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  Bruce Ware, commenting on this verse, points out that “it is astonishing that Jesus not only knew that he was the Spirit-anointed Messiah, but he knew that the fact of his being Spirit-anointed was so crucial that he selected this text to read—and announced its fulfillment.”[2]

Keep in mind that just because we read on the Holy Spirit coming upon Jesus does not mean that He did not posses the Spirit before this event.  This passage is recording for us a special and public anointing of the Spirit.  This anointing of the Spirit signifies that He is being equipped for His task, and it is confirmation that He is the Messiah. An anointing such as this is not unusual in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament.  For example, in 1 Samuel 16:13-14 Daniel was anointed and the Spirit came upon him in order to equip him to be the King.  At the same time the “Sprit of the Lord departed from Saul.”

The second question that arises from this passage is how did the people present know that this was the Holy Spirit if He looked like a dove?  Couldn’t it have just been an average run-of-the-mill dove?  The answer to this question is found in verse 11.


b. The affirmation of the Father


In verse 11 Mark tells us that “a voice came from heaven.”  And this voice said: “you are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.”  This is clearly the voice of God the Father, and He is affirming the fact that Jesus is His Son with who he is well pleased.  Additionally, this is confirmation that Jesus is the chosen Messiah.  In Isaiah 42:1 the Lord spoke through Isaiah and described the coming Messiah in this way:

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

This is very similar language to what we find in Mark. In fact, the second half of this verse goes onto say:

I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.

From this we see that the Father will be pleased with the Messiah, and will put His Spirit upon Him.  This is exactly what we find in Mark, and confirms that Jesus is the Messiah and that the dove was the Holy Spirit.  Because of the significance of this statement it deserves a closer look.

The Father first says that Jesus is His beloved Son (Psalm 2:7).  In this we find one of the clearest examples of the biblical teaching of the Trinity.  That is, there is one God who exists eternally in persons—The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.  Each member of this Trinity is God, and as such possesses the Divine nature along with all of its attributes.  Each member is equally God in every way; however each is also a distinct personal expression of that Divine nature.  So there is one God expressed in three persons.  Therefore, when the Father declares Jesus to be His son it means that Jesus is a part of this Trinity—He is God.  He existed along with the Father and the Spirit in eternity past, and all three possess the same Divine nature.  Although He is of the same nature as the Father and the Spirit, the Son is distinguished by his role (as is the case with each member of the Trinity).  Specifically, the Son role is distinguished by His submission to the Father.  In this case this submission is seen in Jesus’ willingness to take on the limitations of man in order to make salvation available.  It is because of this submission that the Father also says that He is “well pleased with the Son.”  Before the foundation of the world the Father chose the Son to be the Messiah who would come and save sinners from wrath.  The Son accepted this ministry, and publicly submitted Himself to it by being baptized.   This of course pleased the Father, and He in turn publicly anointed the Son with the Holy Spirit to confirm Jesus to be the Messiah and equip Him for His work.  This is quite an amazing passage, because in it we get to see the inner-workings of Trinity – all three persons working together for our salvation.  In light of this work it is not surprising that Paul would pen these words in Ephesians 1:3-14:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.


III. Jesus is Publicly Initiated into His Ministry as the Conqueror of Evil (vv. 12-13)

a. Sent out by the Spirit

Now that Jesus has been affirmed by the Father and equipped by the Spirit it is time for Him to begin His ministry.  In verses 12-13 Mark tells us that this is just what he does: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.”  In verse 9 we read about the Spirit coming to equip Jesus for His ministry, now here in verse 12 we see the first instance of the Spirit’s help.  Mark tells us that he “drove” Jesus out into the wilderness.  This word that mark uses is a very strong word.  In fact, if I were to use a Greek word to describe someone throwing a baseball this is the word that I would use.  It is the same word that Mark uses to describe Jesus “casting out” demons.  Mark uses it here not to imply that Jesus didn’t want to go out into the desert, but rather to demonstrate the strong sense of compulsion from the Spirit.  You see, Jesus had to go out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  He was taking upon Himself the role of a representative for man, and upon the inauguration of this ministry it is obvious that He had to be tempted.  Jesus was not the first representative for the human race.  The Bible teaches that Adam first represented mankind.  However “Adam, when tempted, failed.  So Christ ‘the last Adam’ must now be tempted, in order that by his victory over the tempter he may, for all who believe in him, undo the results of the first Adam’s failure.”[3] This is exactly what Paul meant in Romans 5:19 when he said, “For as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by one man’’ obedience the many will be made righteous.”


b. Tempted by Satan


From God’s perspective Jesus had to be tempted by the devil so that Jesus could undo the failure of the first Adam.  However, Satan had a different aim.  All the way back in Genesis 3:15 God promised to send One who would defeat Satan.  Now He had arrived, and Satan was fighting for His life.  He knew that if he could get Jesus to sin he would win, and so he pulled out all the stops.  Mark tells us that Jesus was in the desert for forty days undergoing this temptation.  This temptation was not from within, but was solely an attack from the outside by Satan.  When we are tempted it is usually because of our own sinful nature, and the conflicting thoughts that we have.  But this was not the case with Jesus because, as God, He was sinless (James 1:13). Even though He faced temptation from the outside—just like we do—He never desired to succumb to this temptations.  Consequently, He was successful in overcoming Satan’s temptation.  Jesus was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan.  The idea here is that not only did Jesus experience this temptation, but he also overcame it.  If Satan’s temptation had been successful then it would not have lasted forty days.  If I had been tempted in the wilderness it would have only lasted about one day before I would have succumbed to the temptation.  However, Jesus did not succumb.  Even though He was tempted in every way as we are, He never succumbed to this temptation.  Not in the wilderness, or ever!  What an amazing thing to have a Savior who has experienced what we have experienced, and overcome what we were not able to overcome.  Mark adds a couple of details that may seem insignificant, but they bring out this very point.  Mark says that Jesus was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to Him.  Why do you think that Mark adds this to the details of the event?  Mark adds this to emphasize the difficulty that Jesus faced.  This was an area full of boars, jackals, wolves, hyenas, and all sorts of dangerous animals.  Additionally, Mark tells us that the Angels were ministering to Him in order to point out that there was no one else there with Jesus.  Jesus was all alone while he went through this trial.   This is why Hebrews 4:15 says that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  Jesus is our representative and High Priest.  He overcame temptation, lived a perfect life, and provided a cleansing sacrifice.  Apart from His work we will never be able to overcome the effects of sin in our lives, however through Jesus we can bee freed from sin and death and made alive to Him.



 As we look back on the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry it is clear that He is the Messiah who came to save us by becoming a perfect sacrifice.  He submitted to this ministry by being baptized, He received confirmation of His ministry from the Father, and He was initiated into His ministry by being tempted in the wilderness.  This is the person that we must put our faith in.  We must trust Him with our lives because He can identify with us in our times of trouble and more importantly because he can save us from our sins.

[1] Darrel Bock, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: The Gospel of Mark (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.  Carol Stream, ILL: 2005), pg. 407.

[2] Bruce Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, roles, and relevance (Crossway Books, Wheaton, ILL: 2005), pg. 90.

[3] Hendriksen, 45.

Weekend Review (2.27.12)

Here’s what I did at Grace Community Church this weekend…

Sunday Morning Sermon: The Inauguration of the Messiah – Mark 1:9-13 (pt. 2)

Continuing in our series on the Gospel of Mark we examined Mark 1:9-13.  Here is the outline:

I. Jesus Publicly Submits to His Ministry as a Substitute for Man (v. 9)

a. The first step toward substitutionary atonement: Jesus arrives.
b. The second step toward substitutionary atonement: Baptism.

II. Jesus is Publicly Confirmed for His Ministry as One Sent by God (vv. 10-11)

a. The anointing of the Spirit
b. The affirmation of the Father

III.  Jesus is Publicly Initiated into His Ministry as the Conqueror of Evil (vv.12-13)

a. Sent out by the Spirit
b. Tempted by Satan

Sermon Audio

Sunday Evening Sermon: The Means of the Mission: Evangelism

On Sunday night we are continuing to talk about our mission as a church and how we can accomplish that mission.  Clearly that means that we MUST be a an evangelizing church. To help with this we looked at the following questions:

  • What is the work of evangelism?
  • What is the message of evangelism?
  • Why do we do the work of evangelism?
  • How do we do the work of evangelism?

Sermon Audio

Sunday Night Pizza & Preaching Questions

  • Why was Jesus baptized?
  • Why did Jesus need to be anointed by the Spirit?
  • What was significant about the Father’s affirmation of the Son?
  • Why did Jesus have to be tempted by Satan?
  • What is Evangelism?
  • How are you doing in the area of Evangelism?

GCC Children’s Ministry

Children’ Sunday School

Genesis 11:27-12:9 – God Makes a Promise to Abram

Grace Kids

Q 1: Who made you?    God.
Q 2. What else did God make?    God made all things.

Trusting God… Not the Weatherman… or the Weather App

Here are some thoughts on how we as Christians ought to think through God’s control over our physical circumstances.

God’s Control of Our Physical Circumstances Demonstrated from the Bible

I. God Controls Nature

  • When the weather is good

Matthew 5:45: …for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

  • When the weather is bad

Isaiah 45:7

The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.

II. God Controls Physical Afflictions

  • Our Physical Limitations

Exodus 4:11: The LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?

  • Our Physical Maladies

John 9:2–3: And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Our Response to God’s Control

I. An Attitude of Trust NOT a Victim Mentality

As Christians we must recognize and accept the fact that we are not victims of our situation. The circumstances we face, no matter how tragic, are ultimately from the Lord.  We are not victims of an impersonal tragedy.  We are participants of divine Providence.  Among other things, this means that we can’t blame our circumstances for our sins.  James 1:13-18 puts it this way,

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

II. An Attitude of Thanksgiving NOT Complaining

When we understand that God is in control of the circumstances of our lives that means when we complain about those circumstances we are ultimately complaining about God.  If God weren’t in control then Philippians 2:14 wouldn’t make any sense at all:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing

Rather than complaining we must be thankful to God for the circumstances we face, even when they are trials, because they are a part of the good plan that God has for our lives.

III. An Attitude of Responsibility NOT Resignation

When we understand that God is in control of the circumstances of our lives our response to a trial should be an attitude of responsibility not resignation.  A Fatalist looks at a situation and says, “I can’t change it anyway so why try.” A Christian looks at a situation and says, “God is in control and he will hold me responsible for how I respond.”  When we understand that God is in control of even bad circumstances that should give us the hope to keep being faithful, not an excuse to do nothing!  Habakkuk finally figured this out.  He didn’t understand what God was doing, but he did finally realize that God was in control.  Habakkuk 3:17-18 records his response:

Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

He took responsibility for his attitude and determined to rejoice and be joyful even though his circumstances had not changed!

Jesus Publicly Accepts His Ministry as a Substitutionary Atonement (Mark 1:9)

a. Jesus appeared

In verse 9 we read of Jesus’ public submission to His ministry.  There Mark writes, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.”  Here Mark introduces us to the main character of this entire account: Jesus.  Mark tells us that Jesus arrived on the scene “in those days.” What were these days?  These were the days of John’s ministry.  So, Jesus came into the picture at the height of John’s ministry when John was in the wilderness baptizing thousands.  From Luke’s account we learn that Jesus was about thirty years old (Luke 3:23).  Mark additionally tells us that Jesus came from “Nazareth of Galilee.”  It is interesting that Mark would make sure to add that Nazareth was in Galilee.  This would be like me telling someone that I am from Brandon, FL.   The only reason that I would add “Florida” would be because the person I was talking to did not know where Brandon is.  This is exactly why Mark adds “of Galilee.”  Nazareth was obscure little village that no one outside of the region would have known.  Mark’s Roman readers (See Introduction) surely wouldn’t have known anything about Nazareth.  In fact, Nazareth isn’t even mentioned in the Old Testament.  Because of its obscurity we do not know a lot about Nazareth.  But we do know a few details about Nazareth.  It was located approximately 70 miles north of Jerusalem in the hills west of the Sea of Galilee.  Due in part to this remote location Nazareth was just an insignificant agricultural village with a meager population during Jesus’ time.  Nazareth is first mentioned in the Bible as the home of Mary and Joseph (Luke 1:26-27).  Jesus was born in Bethlehem rather than Nazareth because of the census.  However, Jesus’ family eventually returned home to Nazareth where Jesus grew up.

The fact that Jesus came from such a small town should be striking to us.  Remember, this appearance may seem to be a bit anticlimactic, but Mark is introducing us to the one “who is mightier.”  In vv. 7-8 John vividly portrayed this one “who is mightier” and His divine ministry.  Everyone who heard John would have been waiting for this “One,” and now Mark tells us that He has arrived.  And it is more than just a little conspicuous that He came from such a small town.    The people would have probably been very confused about this.  How could the Messiah come from Nazareth?  When Philip told Nathanael, who would become one of Jesus’ own disciples, that Jesus was from Nazareth Nathanael asked if “anything good can come out of Nazareth?”  (John 1:46)  So what is the significance of Jesus being from Nazareth?  In Matthew’s account of the Gospel we are told that Jesus “lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: ‘he shall be called a Nazarene.’” (Matthew 2:23) If you are paying attention then you might be wondering how this could be if Nazareth was never mentioned in the Old Testament.  Well, Matthew is not necessarily referring to just Jesus’ home town.  You see, Nazareth was sort of like the “low rent” district.  Nazareth was the place that everyone made fun of (insert the section of your home town that everyone makes fun of here).  Therefore, when Matthew says that it is a fulfillment of prophecy that Jesus was called a Nazarene he has in mind the fact that Jesus would be mocked and detested.  This would fulfill the words of Isaiah in Isaiah 53:3.

This aspect of Jesus’ ministry was often overlooked by the people of his day.  When John said that a mightier one was coming they thought that this mightier one would come in great splendor, overtake the Romans, and establish His earthly kingdom in Jerusalem.  They did not understand that before Jesus could return and set up his earthly kingdom He had to come as a Nazarene and die as a sacrifice for sinners.  This will be an important theme as we continue in the book of Mark.


b. Jesus was baptized by John

From Mark’s description of Jesus we start to get a glimpse of what Jesus’ ministry would be all about.  He would be mocked and hated.  He would bee the despised One of Isaiah 53:3.  But despite this, Mark makes it clear to his readers that Jesus willingly accepted this ministry.  In verse 9 Jesus publicly submits to this ministry by being baptized by John in the Jordan River.  You may be thinking “wait a minute where do you get that from?  Jesus never says anything like that!”  Let me see if I can explain it by first posing a question.  Why was Jesus baptized?  John was “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” but surely Jesus did not need to repent.  Jesus had never sinned. This is why the apostle Paul said that Jesus “knew no sin.”  (2 Corinthians 5:21).  He was perfect in very way. He had no sins to confess; He was “the Holy and Righteous One.” (Acts 3:14)  So why was he baptized by John?  This is the very same question that John asked.

In Matthew 3:14 we see John’s reaction to Jesus coming to be baptized.  It says:

John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

In the next verse (3:15) Jesus answers John and reveals to us why he needed to be baptized:

But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Jesus told John to “Let it be so now” even though John was the sinner and Jesus was sinless so that they would “fulfill all righteousness.”  When Jesus speaks of “all righteousness” he is talking about God’s plan and purpose for Jesus’ life and ministry.  Thus, Jesus was not being baptized as a sign of repentance, but instead was being baptized in order to submit Himself to His God-appointed ministry.  Specifically, Jesus was submitting to His role as a sacrifice for sinners.  He came to take the place of sinners, to be their representative in order that He might redeem them.[1]  And it all started with His baptism.  By His baptism He was identifying Himself with sinners.

By publicly being baptized by John Jesus was accepting his role as a representative for the human race.  In the Old Testament Isaiah spoke of this role in Isaiah 53:11:

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Here Jesus is the righteous one; God’s servant.  Through His ministry many will be accounted righteous because he will bear their iniquities.  In the New Testament Peter spoke of this same thing in 1 Peter 3:18:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit…

Jesus came to suffer for sins. He was the righteous sacrifice for the unrighteous.

You may be wondering “why do we need someone to make a sacrifice for us?”  The answer to this is that we need someone to make a sacrifice for us because we have all sinned (Romans 3:23).  Not only that, but we have sinned against an infinitely good God.  The result of this sin is punishment; specifically death (Romans 6:23).  This death includes physical death (our bodies die), spiritual death (we are separated from God), and eternal death (we are punished in hell for all eternity).

In order to avoid this three-fold death our relationship with God must be reconciled.  Because God is a just God he cannot just ignore our sins.  They must be punished.  This is where Jesus’ sacrifice comes in.  He came to provide the needed infinitely good sacrifice for those whom He was representing.   By being put to death he made the payment that we owed for sin.  Additionally, his infinite righteousness was credited to our account so that we can now have a relationship with an infinitely righteous God.  Through this work alone we can be reconciled to God.  This is why Jesus had to identify himself with sinners, and his baptism was the first step in this identification.  It was the first step in a ministry that He knew would ultimately lead to His death.  And yet he willingly accepted this ministry.  He gave up his place at the right hand of the Father.  He accepted the limitations of a human being.  He subjected Himself to the scorn of being a “Nazarene.”  And ultimately, He submitted Himself to dying the death of a criminal on the cross.  This is what Jesus was publicly accepting, and submitting Himself to when He was baptized by John in the Jordan.

The question we would ask is why would He do this?  The answer is two-fold.  First, Jesus submitted Himself to this ministry out of love for His Father.  This submissive love is most clearly demonstrated in Jesus’ last time of prayer before being arrested.  This prayer is recorded for us in John 17:

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.  (vv. 1-5)

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (vv. 24ff)

The second reason why Jesus submitted to this ministry that would lead to His death is so that we might be saved!  Jesus told his disciples that he “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

In light of this incredible act on the part of Jesus let me encourage you in two ways.  First, let me encourage you to have the same submission attitude that Jesus had.  The Father gave Him a ministry that involved being lowered to the point of death on a cross, and he willingly accepted this ministry because He loved the Father and He loved other.  Similarly, God has placed you where you are in life and gifted you in specific ways so that you can bring Him glory.  You need to have the attitude of Jesus and out of love for the Father and for other accept this task from the Lord.  There is nothing mysterious about it.  There are no secrets ways to determine what task God has given you.  It is very simple.  All you need to do is get involved.  Out of love for the Father, seek His glory by serving Him.  Out of love for others, seek their good by serving them.  In everything you do have an attitude of submission, and a desire to see God glorified.  If you do this then you will be submitting to the task that you were made for.

However, before you can submit to your God-given task, you must first be reconciled to God.  So let me implore you with the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:20b-21:

We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This is why “Jesus came” and “was baptized.”  He came to provide forgiveness through His death and resurrection.  You can receive this forgiveness by identifying yourself with Jesus through faith. Repent from you current life of sin, and belief in Jesus so that you will be saved.  This is the promise of the Gospel message and this was the amazing ministry that Jesus publicly submitted to by being baptized by John in the Jordan River.

[1] Hiebert, The Gospel of Mark, pg. 32.

Here’s What I’ve Been Reading

One of the reasons that I keep this blog going is so that I can point the readers of the blog to good resources, especially books. I try to regularly provided book reviews that give some detail on why you should not read a particular book. However, I don’t always have time review the books that I read.  By that I mean that I never have time to tell you about all the books that I am excited about. For this reason I’m adding a ‘2012 Reading‘ page to the blog. You’ll see the link in the top right hand corner. On this page I’ll keep a list of the books that I have recently read along with a brief comment. I will still be reviewing certain books, but this might provide a snapshot of resources that could benefit you without being quite as time consuming. In fact, with my Book Crawler App for the Ipad all I have to do is scan the bar code of a book, e-mail the list to myself, and copy and paste it onto the page.

Here is the list so far this year:

Highly Recommended The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams
Heath Lambert
(2012) ISBN: 1-4335-2813-4
A Must Read Trusting God :
Even When Life Hurts
Jerry Bridges
(2008) ISBN: 9781600063053
I hope you won’t agree with this book. Kingdom Calling :
Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good
Amy L. Sherman
Reggie McNeal
Steven Garber
(2011) ISBN: 9780830838097
One of the best Bio’s you’ll ever read (pt. 1) David Martyn Lloyd-Jones
The First Forty Years, 1899-1939
Iain Hamish Murray
(1982) ISBN: 9780851513539
One of the best Bio’s you’ll ever read (pt. 2) David Martyn Lloyd-Jones :
The Fight of Faith, 1939-1981
Iain Hamish Murray
(1990) ISBN: 9780851515649
REVIEW Family Shepherds
Calling and Equipping Men to Lead Their Homes
Voddie Baucham
(2011) ISBN: 9781433523694
Worth some time Spurgeon :
A New Biography
Arnold A Dallimore
(1985) ISBN: 9780851514512
Highly Recommended War of Words
Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles
Paul David Tripp
(2000) ISBN: 9780875526041
REVIEW Godly Ambition
John Stott and the Evangelical Movement
Alister Chapman
(2011) ISBN: 9780199773978
A Must Read Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God
J. I. Packer
(1991) ISBN: 9780830813391