Barry Newman's Blog

March 14, 2012

Baptising in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (part XXIV)

Filed under: Baptism — barrynewman @ 2:58 am

The verbal context (continued)

Let us now turn to what has just been mentioned above and which forms the immediate verbal context following the phrase with which we are ultimately concerned. Again it is a participle phrase – “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”.  “Didasko” (teach) could quite legitimately be translated “instruct” and that seems to be its meaning here given that these disciples to be are to be instructed to “observe” or “keep” (“tereo”) all that Jesus had commanded his original disciples. Strictly speaking, the focus in this phrase is not on what the disciples to be are to be taught but on the matter of the necessity of their keeping those commands given by Jesus to the original disciples.  Of course this will require that they know what these commands are and to some extent the phrase implies that knowledge of what Jesus commanded has to be acquired.  However the thrust of the phrase is “observing” or “keeping”.

In this phrase we are also being given another reason why Jesus began the statements with “all authority has been given to me in heaven and upon earth”.  He has the authority to stipulate what these disciples of the future to be are to be instructed to do.  They are to be instructed to observe all that he had earlier commanded the disciples to whom the remarks are addressed.

What are these commands?  Do they only refer to things like, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart”. “Love your neighbour as yourself”, “Love your enemies.” “Forgive those who sin against you,” or for starters, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” – that is, strict imperatives?  Almost certainly, what Jesus intends is a reference to all that he had taught the disciples whether by way of a direct command or by way of explanation etc.  Yet Jesus could have said, “Instructing them to observe all that I have taught you.”  He did not.  Just as “observe” or “keep” focuses on the necessity to “conform” so does “command”. Jesus intends for his disciples to see that all would be disciples must bow to that authority. That is, we are almost certainly meant not only to take “command” as being broader in application than the imperatives of Jesus but also to recognise that Jesus by implication is emphasising the reality that he has the authority to command and that any disciple to be will need to bow to that authority.  Jesus will need to be seen as “the Christ who is the Lord” by the Jew and as “the Lord who is the Christ” by the Gentile.

So now we have the preceding and following verbal contexts for, “baptising”, “immersing” them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.  Like, “going”, and “instructing”, “baptizo” appears in participle form.  We must not forget that the substantial imperative was “make” – make disciples. “Going”, ‘baptising” or “immersing” and “instructing” gain their imperative force because they hang on the principal phrase, “make disciples of all nations”. It is what has to be done if disciples from all nations are to be made.

At this stage one might ask but where is the explicit reference in the instructions of Jesus to what these disciples of the future are to be taught?  A question well worth asking!


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