Sunday, November 14, 2021
7-10 When John realized that a lot of Pharisees and Sadducees were showing up for a baptismal experience because it was becoming the popular thing to do, he exploded: “Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to make any difference? It’s your life that must change, not your skin! And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as the father. Being a descendant of Abraham is neither here nor there. Descendants of Abraham are a dime a dozen. What counts is your life. Is it green and flourishing? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.
11-12 “I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I’m a mere stagehand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.”
-Matthew 3:7-12 The Message
Verse 7: But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Verse 7 study: The Jewish religious leaders were divided into several groups. Two of the most prominent groups were the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees separated themselves from any non-Jewish stuff and followed the Old Testament laws and oral traditions for centuries as it was handed down. The Sadducees believed the Pentateuch (Genesis – Deuteronomy) to be God’s word. Mainly they were descended from priestly nobility, while the Pharisees came from all classes of people. Both groups disliked each other, and both groups opposed Jesus. John the Baptist did criticize the Pharisees for being legalistic and hypocritical when they were following the letter of the law and ignoring its true intent. He denounced the Sadducees for using religion to advance their political position.
Verse 8: Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance;
Verse 9: and do not assume that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you that God is able, from these stones, to raise up children for Abraham.
Verse 8 study: John the Baptist used more than words and rituals’ he told people to change their behavior. Bear fruit in keeping with repentance meant that God looks beyond our words and religious activities to see if our conduct backs us up in what we say. Also, it judges our words by the actions that accompany them. Think about your words. Do it match your actions?
Verse 10: And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore, every tree that does not bear good fruit is being cut down and thrown into the fire.
Verses 9-10 studies: You expect it to grow, especially fruit trees, when you think of trees. You expect the fruit to grow when you nourish the tree. So it goes for us as well. We nourish ourselves with the word; we are expected to grow. God can’t use you if you say you are of Christ, but don’t show it. Many people in John’s day were God’s people in name only; they were of no value if we are Christians in name only. If others can’t see your faith in how you treat them, we may not be God’s people at all.
Verse 10 study: God’s message has not changed since the Old Testament. People will be judged for their unproductive lives. God calls us to be active in our obedience. John draws a comparison between those who claim they believe in God and those who don’t live for God as the unproductive trees that will be cut down. To be productive for God, we must obey his teachings, resist temptation, actively serve and help others, and share our faith. Examine how you are active. Do you see yourself as productive for God?
Verse 11: “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Verse 11 study: John baptized people as a sign that they had asked God to forgive their sins and decided to live as he wanted them to live. Baptism is an outward sign of commitment. To be effective, it had to come with an inward change of attitude to lead a changed life, which is the Holy Spirit. John said that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. This look ahead to the Pentecost (Acts 2), when the Holy Spirit would be sent by Jesus in the form of tongues of fire, empowering his followers to preach the gospel. John’s statement symbolized the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing God’s judgment to those who refuse to repent. Everyone will one day be baptized, either now by God’s Holy Spirit or later by the fire of his judgment.
Verse 12: His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Verse 12 study: A winnowing fork is a pitchfork used to toss wheat in the air to separate the wheat from the chaff. The grain is part of the plant that is useful, and chaff is the worthless outer shell. It’s useless, so it’s burned, but it is still gathered. Winnowing is used as a picture of God’s judgment. Unrepentant people will be judged and discarded because they are useless in doing God’s work; those who repent and believe will be saved and used by God.
Father, we go into repentance more with John the Baptist. I don’t know who needs to hear this today other than me, but I pray that this will deepen into our minds as we progress through the day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.