KNOW YOUR FAITH, LIVE YOUR FAITH,TEACH YOUR FAITH!

Why did Christ get baptized and receive the Holy Spirit?

November 14, 2018

What we will discuss today is a simplified version of a deep theological topic that answers many fundamental questions. Questions like why do I need to live a holy life? What are the effects of sin? Why was Christ baptized? Did He need baptism? Also, why did He receive the Holy Spirit? Isn’t the Son one with the Spirit? Today, we will explain, through the lens of St. Cyril the Pillar of Faith, how God renewed the creation and reunited us with Him once more. It all started with Genesis 2:7 when God created Adam, the Scripture says: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” The Sacred text wants to tell us that humanity has the characteristics of dust: it is weak, it is mortal, it is corruptible. Humanity is nothing of itself. However, God breathed into it the breath of life. What is this breath of life? Before answering, let us first understand that God can create anything out of nothing (what is called creation ex nihilo). For example, He creates the universe out of nothing. In this specific case, He creates the ground out of nothing. But when it comes to the breath of God, it is very different. Notice that He breathes into the man, implying that this breath comes from within God, which means that this breath is something that is part of His own substance. This is the Grace of God’s Spirit—the Holy Spirit. This is what St. Cyril explains, he says: “When humanity was made and brought into being by God, it did not have incorruptibility or indestructibility from its own nature. These belong essentially to God alone. It was sealed by the Spirit of life, and by its relation to the divine, it gained the good that is above its nature. ‘He breathed into his face,’ it says, ‘the breath of life; and the man became a living soul.’” Or a living being. So, humanity is essentially a combination of 2 elements. The 1st natural element that is created from nothing (or for our purpose here created from outside of God) and this element is corruptible and mortal. And the 2nd element that is from within God, the Divine Spirit characteristically incorruptible and immortal. Now, this means that corruptible and mortal humanity can be incorruptible and immortal in God by being united with Him through His Spirit. But then, through human free will, mankind turned away from God and in the process lost the Spirit of God and by the same token lost unity with God. St. Cyril says: “‘But by that ancient deception he turned to sin, and then little by little he subsequently increased it to the point where he endures the loss of the Spirit, along with the other blessings. And so he ultimately becomes not only subject to corruption but also prone to every sin.’” These are also the effects of sin in our daily lives. The more we sin, the more the Spirit within us is extinguished which results in total separation from God at our bodily death. In the process, though, as we continue sinning, we lose connection with God, if you will, which results in an unjoyful life. On the other hand, a holy life leads to true satisfaction within God through His Holy Spirit.  

 

Now, the Holy Trinity did not will that humanity should perish. So, the Son of God took flesh and at the age of 30, when He was about to start His service, the gospel says: “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’ But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he allowed Him.” Again why does Christ need to be baptized? And, what is this righteousness Christ speaks about? Also, as we know, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove on the Son of God. Why is that? St. Cyril says: “The Only Begotten, then, became human for us so that in him, first of all, good gifts might return, and, second, so that the grace of the Spirit might be rooted and preserved firmly in our whole nature.” Note how St. Cyril says that the grace of the Spirit might be rooted and preserved firmly in our whole nature. St. Athanasius continues with the same idea, he says: “… it is very plain that the Spirit’s descent on Him in [the] Jordan was a descent upon us, because of His bearing our body. And it did not take place for promotion to the Word, but again for our sanctification, that we might share His anointing, and of us it might be said, ‘Know you not that you are God’s Temple, and the Spirit of God dwells in you?’ For when the Lord, as man, was washed in [the] Jordan, it was we who were washed in Him and by Him. And when He received the Spirit, we it was who by Him were made recipients of It.” So, the Logos Himself did not need to be baptized or receive the Spirit, but He did it for our human nature. Through Christ’s baptism, our human nature is renewed by the washing away of sins. Note that Baptism and the Cross are linked but this is a subject for another time. And, through Christ’s receiving of the Holy Spirit, our human nature is now capable again to have the indwelling of the Spirit within it. Again, note that in the Old Testament, kings, prophets and priests had the Holy Spirit but it was not an indwelling of the Spirit. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was given only to certain people at certain times for a certain purpose. The Holy Spirit also left them when their purpose was no more. The most common example of this is when the Spirit left king Saul in 1 Samuel 16:14. The indwelling of the Spirit in the New Testament is very different. First, it is for all of humanity (not only certain people) and, second, the Spirit does not leave the unrepentant Christian till his bodily death. This is the indwelling of the Spirit.    

 

 

Finally in John 20, in the evening of Resurrection Sunday when Christ was with the 12 apostles, the Scripture says: “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” Here, the Son of God gives the authority of His Priesthood to the 12 for the sake of sharing the renewal of humanity with others. This renewal includes forgiveness of sins and unity with God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Note that this authority to renew others is given only to the apostles that have now received the Grace of Christ’s Priesthood. This Grace of the Priesthood can be seen throughout the book of Acts where only the Apostles were endowed with the authority to renew others by the laying on of the hands. The only exception to this was, in Acts 10, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Cornelius and those with him directly from God and this was because they were the first Gentiles to be accepted in the Church but again this is a topic for another time. Now that humanity’s nature was renewed and reunited with the Trinitarian God when Christ was baptized and received the Spirit, it is now possible for each person who wishes to be renewed to do so through the mysteries of Baptism and Chrismation. Through Baptism, each person shares in the cross of Christ. And, in Chrismation, each personally receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is also worthy to note at this point that in the Coptic rite we call the baptismal font “the Jordan” because this is where we participate in the baptism of Christ. Remember know your faith, live your faith and teach your faith and glory be to God forever, Amen.  

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