MONDAY MINUTES With Pastor Chris McCool (March 22, 2021)

In the very first verse of his Gospel, Mark writes, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. . . .” This may seem like an innocuous statement, perhaps a “given” to many Christians, but in reality it is the heart of the whole matter!

You see, if Jesus Christ is NOT the Son of God, then Mark might as well be writing a Roman fable! Without hesitation, however, Mark declares the primary proposition of the entire Bible: Jesus Christ IS the Son of God! Without apology, without equivocation, Mark delivers to us the most important tenet of the Christian faith, that there is something different about this Man.

You see, the only way Mark’s writing could ever be considered a “gospel” – i.e., “good news” – is if Jesus really is Who He claims He is. Without the divinity of Jesus, all the records of His birth and life are mere historic references. Without the divinity of Jesus, His entire life story is no more than a human tragedy: a deluded Jewish man with a “god complex” Who ultimately pays the price for His own foolishness in the most horrible way.

However, Mark assures us from the outset that Jesus’ life story is NOT a tragedy! The reason? He IS the Son of God! And Mark uses Old Testament scripture to introduce us to this God-Man: “As it is written in the prophets. . . .” Mark 1:2

Jesus’ arrival on the scene should not have surprised the religious leaders of the day. His first advent was foretold by multiple prophets, and here in this first chapter Mark references Malachi, the last inspired prophet of the Old Testament, and Isaiah, the greatest prophet of the Old Testament: “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Mark 1:2-3 (from Mal. 3:1, Isa. 40:3). He then clearly identifies this preparatory prophet as John the Baptist, who came baptizing and preaching in the wilderness.

And what was John’s message? REPENT! Notice verse 4: he did “preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” What does this mean? Does it mean that baptism remits sins? The answer is a resounding “no.”

The preposition “for” is used in another place in this chapter, in relation to Jesus’ healing of the leper. In Mark 1:44, Jesus tells the leper – whom He has already completely healed – to “offer FOR thy cleansing” the sacrifices Moses’ commanded. Was this in order for them to obtain healing? No! Mark has already told us in Mark 1:42 that “immediately the leprosy departed from him, and HE WAS CLEANSED.” They were healed long before they made it to the priest!

When Jesus said “offer for thy cleansing”, He meant for them to offer these sacrifices BECAUSE OF their cleansing. Similarly, in Mark 1:4, John was telling the people of the region to be baptized BECAUSE OF the remission of their sins. The Greek word there can mean “with respect to,” or “in reference to.” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance). John was not instructing this people to do some work in order to have their sins remitted; on the contrary, He knew that only the ones whose sins have BEEN remitted, and who have been born of the Spirit, would have a desire to repent in the first place. Thus, in order to exhibit that repentance, John told them to “be baptized.”

Have you been blessed of God to see that Jesus really is Who He said He was? The Son of God? Then you likewise should repent and be baptized. Baptism will NOT get you to heaven; if you’re going, it’s because Jesus has already paid for the remission of your sins, and the Holy Spirit has already quickened you by His sovereign grace. But if you HAVE seen these blessed truths, and understand that this great salvation applies to you, then you ought to unite through baptism with a New Testament church that preaches the truth of salvation by grace! Become an active member of the Kingdom of God, and take your place among the countless millions who have served Him in spirit and in truth throughout the centuries of time.

The gospel message is this: Jesus Christ – the Son of God Himself – HAS ALREADY saved you, now you need to act like it! NOT out of obligation in order to try to work your way to heaven, but out of gratitude for the awesome price He paid for you! May we all undertake to serve Him better as we grow in grace and knowledge of the truth.

I pray your week is blessed. In Christ,

Elder Chris McCool, Pastor