Matthew Three – 2010

Chapter 3★ v. 4Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. John was probably somewhat prejudiced against because of his lifestyle.  However, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise;”

★ v. 7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
This verse hits me in a very serious way and I think it is very much applicable to the western church of today. John perceives the self righteousness of the pharisees, and issues them a warning before they get baptized.  [Paraphrase]– ‘You know, getting baptized isn’t going to do you any good unless you are actually repentant. And don’t think that just because you go to church (we have Abraham as our father) you are good to go, you are deceiving yourselves.  And being baptized will not prove your repentance, but your fruit will! Don’t you know that it is the Almighty GOD who is in control, you can not fool him with your charade. He is able to make the most unrighteous among men righteous, and the most righteous among men foolish heathens.’

★ v. 10The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Doesn’t get much clearer than that.  Bear fruit, or burn…
✪ What I find most interesting about this verse is that it serves as a clear warning, bear fruit or burn. But is this pointing toward a salvation that is achieved by works? No! It points toward true conversion.  You see, a tree does not exhaust itself straining with all it’s will power to create it’s fruit.  An apple tree doesn’t strain to create oranges.  John is not telling the Pharisees to bear better fruit than what they were already bearing, he is asking them to bear a different kind of fruit.  Previous to repentance a person produces the fruit of sin, self righteousness maybe. After repentance brought by true conversion (regeneration),  second birth, the fruit changes because the tree changes!
What an interesting topic, and quite relevant to the question many people today are asking “How can you tell if you are really saved or not?”  I’d say that this verse is a great example of how you can tell. Is your fruit the fruit of true conversion, true repentance?

★ v. 11I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Holy Spirit AND fire!? That’s a big difference between ‘Holy Spirit of Fire, or with fire, or as fire, in fire, like fire.  There’s two things to be baptized in here.  1) Holy Spirit, 2) Fire. Time to check some other translations.  All translations have the word and between the words Holy Spirit (Ghost) and Fire (except for the Word English Bible who completely left out the fire).  Time to check commentaries.

People New Testament Commentary “And with fire. The term fire is used in Mt 3:10, and there means a destroying agency; it is used again in Mt 3:12 in the same sense; it is used in Mt 3:11, also, the intervening verse, and must be used in exactly the same sense as in the other two verses. It cannot mean a curse in Mt 3:10,12, and a blessing in Mt 3:11, without a word of explanation. It is strange, therefore, that all commentators should not agree that the baptism of fire is a baptism of trial and suffering. There were two classes before John. Some would repent and be baptized finally in the Holy Spirit; there were others who would remain impenitent, and be baptized in the awful trials that would come upon Israel. Mt 3:12 explains this. John says in it that there is the wheat and the chaff; one shall be gathered into the garner and the other burned.”

Wesley’s Notes “3:11 He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire – He shall fill you with the Holy Ghost, inflaming your hearts with that fire of love, which many waters cannot quench. And this was done, even with a visible appearance as of fire, on the day of pentecost.”

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary “and with fire-To take this as a distinct baptism from that of the Spirit-a baptism of the impenitent with hell-fire-is exceedingly unnatural. Yet this was the view of Origen among the Fathers; and among moderns, of Neander, Meyer, De Wette, and Lange. Nor is it much better to refer it to the fire of the great day, by which the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Clearly, as we think, it is but the fiery character of the Spirit’s operations upon the soul-searching, consuming, refining, sublimating-as nearly all good interpreters understand the words. And thus, in two successive clauses, the two most familiar emblems-water and fire-are employed to set forth the same purifying operations of the Holy Ghost upon the soul.”

My first impression was  influenced by the consistent use of fire in the bible as  refining tool.  Burning up the junk and cleaning out the gold as in a crucible. Mat 3:12 “But the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” .  Matt 7:19, 1 Cor 3:13. Therefore I agree with the People New Test. Commentary “It is strange, therefore, that all commentators should not agree that the baptism of fire is a baptism of trial and suffering“.

✪ Therefore, in verse 11 we are promised a baptism of two things. 1) Holy Spirit, 2) Fire.  And furthermore it is Jesus Christ, the son of God who baptizes us with these things.  This is reassuring because;

  1. If it is from Jesus Christ who so loved us that he died for us, we can be assured that both the Holy Spirit, and the fire are very good for us otherwise he would not want to baptize us in them.
  2. We know that Jesus himself was baptized in the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:22, Luke 4:1) so we are lead by example.  We also know that Jesus was baptized in fire. when he went to the cross for us, so we know we have a sympathetic Lord, who has walked through the fire and shown us that the reward is greater than the trial!

★ v. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”.  This is actually a terrifying verse. It really puts Jesus back in the throne.  It really puts God back into the true perspective that a true God should have, as infinitely glorious just and authoritative over all of his creation. We, his cherished people whom he died for are (in a moment of illustration) reduced down to the worth of wheat in the light of his understanding and worth.

★ v. 15Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. Thank you Jesus for being so clear about a potentially difficult situationYou went yourself to the river to be baptized even though you had no sin to repent of, and no dirtiness of which to be washed clean.  Even when faced with argument, you insisted because you wanted to do what was right. You did so as an example of what we should do (as there is no other reason why would need to be baptized).
For the first time I am noticing the word “us” as in “it is proper for us to do this”.  I am wondering if he is talking directly to John saying ‘You and I, John’, or does Jesus have knowledge that what was about to happen would be histories most profound illustration of the Holy Trinity of God. Therefore, he chooses the word us just as he did in Gen 1:26 “Let us make man…”.
✪ And yes, my strangely emphasized thank you to Jesus is to make clear why I am faithfully committed to baptism being a necessary decision, following true faith and repentance, to publicly announce and symbolize the inner change, and the beginnings of a commitment to live out sanctification for the rest of your life. I truly am thankful.

★ v. 16As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” The greatest illustration of the Holy Trinity of God, history has ever seen.

Continue to chapter four ➜

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