Sunday, May 23, 2010

Nephi’s vision of Christ’s baptism

2 Nephi 31 is known for these verses that missionaries use to convince people of the importance of baptism:
5 And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!
6 And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water?
7 Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments. (2 Nephi 31:5-7)
Underlying these verses though, are indications that this knowledge came in a miraculous way—through a vision and through the voices of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ speaking to him. It is easy to miss, but if we slow down, we’ll see it as we notice the prevalence of the word “show” (and all its forms) and how many times dialogue is presented.

…remember that I have spoken unto you concerning that prophet which the Lord showed unto me, that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world. (2 Nephi 31:4, emphasis added)
Nephi was given a vision of John the Baptist and his baptism of Christ.
Wherefore, after [Christ] was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove. (2 Nephi 31:8)
The fascinating thing about this verse is that it was written before Christ was baptized, yet it is written in past tense. This strongly suggests that Nephi had seen a vision, and because of it, he thought of Christ’s baptism as an accomplished fact rather than an event yet to happen.
9 And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.
10 And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father? (2 Nephi 31:9-10)
This tells us that in Nephi’s vision he had seen Christ teach people to follow His example. (And again, it is interesting that Nephi speaks to his people of following Christ even though Christ’s baptism would not occur until many hundred years after they lived.)
And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son. (2 Nephi 31:11)
Nephi sees that Heavenly Father became a second witness to the principles of repentance and baptism. When Heavenly Father speaks to witness of something, you know it is of utmost importance.

Divine commentary

After this, Nephi hears the voices of both Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father giving commentary on the vision that Nephi had seen.
And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do. (2 Nephi 31:12, emphasis added)
(Notice also that Christ points out that Nephi has seen Christ be baptized (and probably much more).)
14 But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.
15 And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. (2 Nephi 31:14-15, emphasis added)
Both the Father and the Son explained to Nephi the importance of following Christ’s example to be baptized and the importance of enduring to the end. Wow. Then Nephi adds his testimony:
And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved. (2 Nephi 31:16)
Nephi also tells why this great witness has been given to him.
Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. (2 Nephi 31:17, emphasis added)
The fact that Nephi’s knowledge of the importance of baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end came through a vision and through the voices of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ makes this one of the most powerful scriptural witnesses of these principles. What greater witness can we have than from God?


Chas Hathaway said...

I love that chapter. I found a cool Ensign article that mentions the Hebrew prophetic "perfect" tense, which is (as I understand it), the tense prophets use for prophesy. It's more like past tense than future tense, even though it hasn't happened yet.

I hope that beefy-long link works. You have to scroll down a little to see the part that talks about it, but it's kind of cool.

Good post, thanks!


Michaela Stephens said...

Thanks for that link, Chas!