The Outgoing and the Incoming

Updated: May 16, 2019

Peter McArthur

Many Bible commentators have often wondered why Jesus said to John the Baptizer “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” at Jesus’ baptism (Mtt 3:15).

We know from Scripture that John was the son of a priest according to the order of Abijah: (Luke 1:5). "In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth."

This made their son John, of the Aaronic lineage.

There is a lovely spiritual link here because Aaron’s wife was also named Elisabeth. “And Aaron took Elisheba [the Hebrew form of Elisabeth] daughter of Amminadab, sister of Naashon, to be his wife.” (Exo 6:23)

It’s been suggested by some that Zacharias was in line for the Aaronic order of the high priest, based on Lev 10:8-9. Whatever the case, what we do know is that in the days of Christ’s ministry, the high priesthood fluctuated between Annas and Caiaphas.

At this closing stage of Temple worship the high priest was in fact appointed by Rome, not elected by the Aaronic priesthood.

It’s extremely unlikely that those Roman political appointees were truly God’s high priest. Would God want His final earthly high priest to be one set up by Rome? Unthinkable!

So it throws us back to considering that the final human high priest (before Jesus’ anointing) would be one according to the dictates of Scripture. If such a politically appointed man was not the true high priest from God’s perspective, who was? Could it have been that John the Baptizer was in fact the last (high) priest of the true Aaronic order?

We’re told that John didn’t drink wine, and it’s conjectured so because he was a Nazarite. However, some other qualifications for being a Nazarite (not cutting the hair and not being defiled by touching a dead person) are not mentioned in passages about him.

On the other hand abstinence from wine was a command for the high priest of Aaron’s line. “Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you will not die; it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations.” (Lev 10:9)

It would make perfect sense for the true outgoing high priest of God to baptize Jesus as the incoming (and final) high priest, according to Scriptural dictates.

It would’ve been a kind of spiritual transition of the two priesthoods, and as Scripture shows, baptism (washing in water) was essential, as was the anointing that accompanied it (speaking of Jesus’ anointing by the dove of the Holy Spirit).

And you shall bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and wash them with water. And you shall put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him; that he may minister to me in the priest’s office.” (Exo 40:12-13)

And the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased." (Luk 3:22)

If this scenario be accurate it gives us a new perspective on John’s words “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jhn 3:30). It’s as if he’s saying that while his own Aaronic priesthood was decreasing, the true and final high priesthood (the order of Melchizedek – Heb 7:11) was increasing.

Be that as it may, John the Baptizer was of the Aaronic priestly line, even though he himself didn’t quite take on that whole function, particularly in the Temple. What we do know is that according to Jewish tradition it was the custom for the Outgoing high priest to baptize and purify the Incoming high priest.

Hence Jesus said “it was to fulfill all righteousness” (Mtt 3:15).

John (one priest) introduces another priest (the Great High Priest). Seems to make sense. This gives us the basis for a Scriptural principle, that of the Outgoing and the Incoming.

We find this in embryonic form in Isa 42:9. "Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you."

Now while this verse in its correct context refers to the fulfilment of certain prophecies, it does give us the foundation for a general principle – that being, only when the former things have been fulfilled, will the new be announced.

Let’s personalize this for us:

God will only open the next door for us once we’ve walked through the one He’s already opened! Or to use the imagery of pregnancy: We must carry what God’s conceived in us until the appointed delivery time!

There is always an Outgoing giving way to an Incoming. We won’t move on until we’ve obeyed what God has already spoken to us. This flies in the face of that often quoted popular platitude that preachers use: “God will opened a door for you”. This can be a form of False Comfort!

Yes it’s true that one door closes and another opens, but it’s not always the case when it comes to spiritual advancement towards maturity in Christ. There is a Voice to obey, and (tough) lessons to learn. One season must close before another comes forth. Certainly there is an overlap, particularly in the natural seasons, but we can’t always take natural analogies and transfer them to spiritual principles.

Sometimes (often!) spiritual seasons just do NOT overlap, rather they depend of the conclusion of one in order to introduce the next. You must be a SON in order to become an HEIR. We often have to be restrained in a small place before God lets us loose in a broad place.

When the Father sees that one spiritual season has been fulfilled, He declares a new one.

Isa 42:9B “Before they happen, I cause you to hear”.

This requires a hearing heart on our part, even a willingness to want to hear so we can truly hear and so obey! It’s a sequence that requires patience and faith, and often quite a bit of testing.

Have you noticed in Scripture how the building always comes before the GLORY can fall; Solomon’s Temple for instance. The principle being, that hard work, dedication and struggle usually precedes enjoying the beauty that follows.

Imagine looking at the construction site at the Temple with all its dust, rubble, noise, etc. It would take a lot to imagine what the final product would look like. The building (the Outgoing) would’ve been something you got used to during construction over many years of toil, and the completion (the Incoming) would seem somewhat strange (but beautiful) after so many years of toiling and living amid what had become “the norm”.

So we find there are some issues here for us, and it’s partly because we’ve been so used to living in the “Outgoing” that the new “Incoming” can look rather odd to us.

Here are some of the issues that might complicate our moving on: