Together - wk 5 - Through The Chaos
Through The Chaos
Through The Chaos
Today we are going to finish up this series where we have been focused on the early church. We have been doing a fairly in depth study on the passage in chapter 2 of Acts where Luke describes the actions of the first groups of people who we would call Christians, or Christ followers. In this passage, Peter just finished preaching to a crowd of people about Jesus. Luke wrote that Peter’s words pierced their hearts and they wanted to know what was next. What was their next step? What should they do? That’s where we pick up our passage for this series…
38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” 40 Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”
We’ve been specifically focused on this next part. For the next few verses, Luke used a writing technique called inclusio. He basically uses the important point he is making as brackets for the whole thought. The brackets are the main thought, and the ideas within the brackets support, expand, and define the main thought. Here is what it looks like when we show the technique visually.
Luke is showing us that the most important thing is to bring people in so they can experience the life changing love of Jesus. In his day, people were piling in. They were being added to the church daily. He goes on to show that they weren’t just joining a new local church, temple, or synagogue, but they were becoming an active part of God’s family. They were actively participating in God’s mission to love others and that love was growing and spreading like a wildfire. He continues by listing some of the things this “church” was doing in their neighborhoods…
41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. 42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
Throughout this series we have talked about what it means to be the church. It’s more than just going to church or being a member of a church. It is an intense devotion to God and His mission to be fruitful and multiply His family. We’ve also talked a lot about how the early church did just that. What did they do? First of all, they were excited about the Good News! It completely changed their lives and inspired them to learn more about Jesus and share the Good News with their neighbors.
Second, they were inspired to participate with each other. They deeply cared for their neighbors and were an active part of their lives. I love the way John says that the Father is their source of joy, and their fellowship is with Him. Because of their fellowship with the Father, they are motivated to fellowship with others so they can experience that joy as well.
They were also devoted to breaking bread together. Last time we met we talked about the Lords Supper and how it plays an important role in engaging all of our senses as a reminder of God’s love and devotion. The role of feasts was important to the Israelites for the same reason. They often celebrated God rescuing them with feasts, and as a result they were constantly reminded of God’s powerful rescuing love.
You might smell food baking and be reminded of how God provided for you in the wilderness. You bite into supper and a taste brings you back to the passover feast reminding you of God rescuing you from slavery. Even the texture and sounds could cause you to be reminded of God and how much He loves you.
As followers of Christ, we get to take part in that same tradition with the Lords Supper. We get to be reminded of what Jesus went through because He loves us and wanted to make a way for us to be together with Him for eternity.
Today, I want to swing back up to the first part of this passage and talk about another tradition that we partake in, as followers of Christ. “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized...” Let’s talk about baptism.
After you surrender your life to Jesus and invite His saving grace into your heart, you schedule a baptism. When you are baptized, you climb into a large tub, a horse tank, a pool, a pond, a river, or even the ocean, and someone quotes Romans 6:4 as they shove you under the water. Baptism is an act that symbolizes what happens when we become Christians. To quote Paul…
4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
It’s a physical picture of your spiritual decision. A physical act depicting that spiritual miracle. Even Jesus was baptized. He said that it was proper for Him to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness. Then John the Baptist dunked Him and when He came up from the water heaven opened and the Spirit of God descended like a dove and came to rest on Him.
Baptism is also connected to the image of being immersed in God’s Spirit. Paul told the Corinthians that it doesn’t matter who you are, when we become part of the Church, the body of believers, we are baptized by one Spirit…
13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
Who knows when the first baptism was performed? Do you know who was being baptized or who did the baptism?
There are no wrong answers here because that is actually a trick question. When I think about baptism, I often think about John the Baptist, Jesus being baptized, or the disciples baptizing new believers. However, baptism is a continuation of something that God had already been doing for a very long time. In other words, the use of baptism as physical imagery of God saving people through waters is a design pattern that can be connected throughout the entire bible.
To me, this is fascinating. We can look through the Old Testament and see stories of God saving people through waters, and it will lead us to the stories of Jesus’ baptism and the development of baptism in the early believers. We can go all the way to page one in the bible to see God doing His amazing work and bringing life through a cosmic baptism! How cool is that?
In the very beginning we see the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters. The earth was uninhabitable. In Hebrew it is described as “tohu va vohu” which means wild and waste. Then God begins separating the light from the darkness, the waters above from the waters below, and the seas from the dry land. The dry land and even Eden emerge from the chaotic waters. God raises up new life.
Soon after God creates this new life, humanity unleashes chaos back into the world and so we see God continually use this pattern with the water to rescue humanity. Let’s look at a few stories where this pattern shows up.
Noah - Genesis 6-8
Noah - Genesis 6-8
When talking about the pattern of baptism, water, and salvation, probably one of the most glaringly obvious stories in the Old Testament is the story of the flood and Noah. You can read the whole story in chapters 6-8 of Genesis. The flood is presented as a reversal of creation. The springs of the cosmic deep water split and the windows of the heavens are opened, completely undoing Days two and three of creation.
Every being is wiped from the face of the earth, undoing God’s work from days five and six of creation. The earth is submerged in water, washing away the old, corrupted, and unclean, then raised to begin a new creation. God remembers Noah and He rescues him and his family THROUGH the chaotic waters and onto dry land. God rescues humanity by passing them through the water.
Moses - Exodus 2, 14
Moses - Exodus 2, 14
Another story we see God’s salvation through water is in Exodus with Moses. From the very start of Moses’ life, we see him introduced as someone who is delivered through the waters of death in an ark and into the house of Pharaoh. The same word for ark is even used in this story. God told Noah to get in a tēḇâ (tay-vah), an ark, and Moses’ mother also put him in a tēḇâ (tay-vah), an ark.
Later, God called Moses to deliver Israel out of slavery in Egypt. How did God save them? He lead them THROUGH the waters of the Red Sea and onto dry land, washing away the old and beginning new life.
Joshua - Joshua 3
Joshua - Joshua 3
Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt, however it was Joshua who lead them into the promised land. Even though they weren’t necessarily in danger, we can see this salvation pattern repeated as they prepare to enter the promised land. The wilderness is a picture of the wild and waste from the creation story. Before we find Jesus and He brings us into His fold, we are lost in the wilderness. The Israelites are living out this pattern by wondering in the wilderness looking for the promised land.
In chapter 3 of Joshua, the priests are to carry the ark of the covenant across the Jordan River to the place that God has prepared for them. Similar to Moses experience, when they stepped into the Jordan River, the waters “stood up in a single heap,” and the Israelites crossed the river on dry ground.
Isaiah - Isaiah 11
Isaiah - Isaiah 11
The prophet Isaiah uses this imagery to tell of a future rescue from a messianic king. He speaks of God “reaching out His hand,” as He did in the Exodus story to rescue Israel. Isaiah uses the word “remnant” to describe the Israelites in exile, just as Noah and his family were a rescued remnant. He lists nations where the Israelites are exiled as if they are floating on chaos waters.
God will raise a banner, His savior to the nations, and He will rescue the remnant by passing THROUGH the waters. Just as Israel passed through the waters on dry ground, they will travel a highway through the waters on dry ground…
11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. 12 He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.
15 The Lord will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian sea; with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand over the Euphrates River. He will break it up into seven streams so that anyone can cross over in sandals. 16 There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria, as there was for Israel when they came up from Egypt.
Isaiah used this pattern to tell people of the coming messiah. He also told of someone else who would participate in using the theme of salvation through water. As we have already discussed briefly, this pattern continues in the New Testament with John the Baptist…
John the Baptist - Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, John 1
John the Baptist - Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, John 1
John fulfills Isaiah’s prophetic announcement of a man shouting in the wilderness. I love how the visualization we are given of John connects all of these elements to continue this theme of salvation through water. Before God’s salvation, we are wondering in the wilderness and living in chaos. The description of John makes him sound like Grizzly Adams. He is the embodiment of the wilderness. His clothes were made from coarse camel hair, not just camel hair, COURSE camel hair. He wore a leather belt. I doubt he got it from Walmart, it probably came from something he fought a couple months earlier. He ate bugs and honey.
This man who came from the wild was taking people to the water, where God is known to rescue people from the wilderness, and he was taking part in God’s rescuing process. He was literally baptizing people in the water, passing them through the water so they could emerge with God on the other side brand new. Not only that, but guess where he was doing this… The same water God lead the Israelites through as He took them to the promised land. The Jordan River!
How amazing is that! John is having the people pass THROUGH the waters to renew their commitment to the God of Israel. Just as the Israelites passed through the Jordan River with one prophetic leader, they are now doing it again with another prophetic leader.
Jesus - Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, John 1
Jesus - Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, John 1
John the Baptist leads us straight into Jesus, who also continues this pattern. Let’s look at the description of Jesus’ baptism so we can see all of the elements we have talked about showing up in this one brief moment to tie the whole pattern together for this monumental occasion…
9 One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”
Obviously, we’ve got John. He is the walking image of the wilderness. He is the one prophesied to lead this charge through the chaos waters.
They are in the Jordan River. This alludes to the story in Joshua where the Israelites crossed on their way to the promised land.
Jesus came up “out of the water,” echoing back to the pattern of going through the waters.
The heavens “split apart,” referring back to God’s acts of separation in the creation story, as well as the floodgates of the skies opening in the story of Noah.
The Holy Spirit “descending on Jesus like a dove” points us back to the Spirit hovering over the waters at creation, and to Noah when he sent out a dove after the flood.
God’s words to Jesus, “You are my dearly loved Son,” echo His words to Moses in reference to the Israelites. In the Exodus story, God refers to Israel as His “firstborn son.”
This isn’t by accident. This is a pattern God has used that leads us straight to His love and salvation. It is a key theme that the biblical authors weaved throughout the biblical story and continued to develop from the beginning to the end. God announces that Jesus is His son who will rescue the world from the chaos of human evil, wild, and waste, by going through death and out the other side. Through the chaos waters of evil and death to emerge bringing new life. That is why baptism is such a big deal to followers of Jesus.
I want to share a couple more verses with you in hopes that they may be given new meaning in light of our study today. In 1 Corinthians, Paul connects the Exodus story with baptism. We are only reading the first two verses, but I would encourage you to keep reading and making connections to the baptism theme and the Exodus story next time you are looking for something to study because I think it is fascinating and God will bless you through it. It is in chapter ten of first Corinthians…
1 I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. 2 In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses.
In the last few verses of 1 Peter chapter 3, Peter wrote something worth pondering and studying when he mentioned Noah and his family being “brought safely through water,” and then connected that story to baptism…
21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Peter wrote like Amy and had about 150 commas, so to reduce confusion I went straight to the important part and skipped over the direct mention of Noah and his family. I encourage you to read the passage, but my advice is to read it when you are in a quiet place!
What is baptism? Hopefully this study has sparked some thought and broadened our understanding of it’s meaning. At it’s core, baptism means participating in the ancient biblical pattern of going through the waters of death and following Jesus out the other side and into new creation. By joining with Christ in baptism, we are actively participating in God’s amazing power of creation. The same power God used on day one, He used in you and me when He lead us through the chaos waters of death and we emerged with Him, rising to new life.
We read a portion of this scripture earlier, but it deserves more focus after what we have studied today. Let’s read in Romans chapter 6 again, but this time with more of the context…
3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. 5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 8 And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9 We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
Baptism is the picture of us dying to the power of sin, rising up out of the water separated from that past life, and alive to God through Christ living a completely new life! Our God is SO GOOD! We know we can count on Him because from day one He has been in the business of creating new life!