The Ministry Of John
Verse 1- John came preaching in the wilderness and people came from the region around Judea and Jerusalem. For 30 years John and Jesus had lives in relative obscurity. Now the coming of the herald signified the coming of the King. The beginning go Johnís ministry signaled the beginning of Jesus ministry (Acts 10:37-38). Everything about John the Baptist was unique and amazing, his sudden appearance, his life-style, his message, his baptizing, his humility. He was born to a mother who was barren. He was a priest by heritage but became a prophet. After spending most of his life in the desert at the rite moment God spoke to his heart and began to announce the coming of the King.
Verse 2 - Summarizes his ministry Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repentance means to change your mind that results in a change of life. His message† is a demand for a completely different life. If there is no change of life then there has been no repentance (1 Jn 2:4; James 2:18-20).† The kingdom of heaven is the rule of heaven and the God of heaven, glorified people from all ages, and angels.
® The Jewish people were looking for the Messiah and a Messianic kingdom being established on earth. This is what John taught was at hand. To enter this kingdom one needed to repent. So what was new about Johnís message was not the Messianic expectation, nor was it his baptism, nor was it that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. What was new about his message was that repentance was required to be part of it. The fact that you had to repent to enter it showed that you were not already in it. That is what was news to the Pharisees and the Saduccees. (vs 9) they thot being sons of Abraham allowed them into heaven. But John said that was not sufficient. One needed repentance.
Verse 3 - The mission of John had long been described by Isaiah 40:3-4. John sought to clear mens hearts of the obstacles that kept them from the King. The way of the Lord is the way of repentance, turning from moral and spiritual paths that are crooked into ones that are straight. His shout was one of urgency.
Verse 4 - John must have been a startling figure to those who saw him. His dress, food and life-style communicated to people the loves and pleasures that keep them from God.
Verse 5-9 - He baptized them as they confessed their sins. John himself was dipping or immersing them in the water. Normally converts to Judaism would dip themselves in the water while the rabbi watched from the shore. Johnís baptism was different in that he did the dipping of others. He calls the Pharisees and Saduccees a bunch of snakes and asked them Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? So for John, repentance, baptism and confessions of sins was a means of fleeing from the wrath to come.
® Pharisees were the separated ones. Their loyalty was to themselves, to their traditions and to their own influence and prestige. Their strict adherence to those traditions they expected to reap great reward in heaven. Saduccees were on the other end of the spectrum--liberals. They cared little for religion, denied existence of angels, extremely wealthy. Both groups had almost nothing in common. Pharisees were strict separatists, commoners and Saduccees were compromising collaborators and aristocrats.
Verse 10 - Whole Pharisaism system was about to be removed. Everybody will be judged by their fruits. No religious system will be able to save. The idea of an individual judgment was also a new idea to the Pharisees.
Verse 11 - The coming Messiah is much greater than John who is unfit to even serve Hi, but He will dip you into (1) the Holy Spirit and (2) fire, instead of water. The Holy Spirit represents the first coming of Christ (Acts 2) and the fire represents the second coming of Christ associated with the wrath of God (vs 7, 12). But John makes no distinction between the first and second coming of Christ. He thinks they are the same.
NB: Summarizing Johnís message: (1) The Messiah is about to come. (2) John is not the Messiah but is the one predicted by Isaiah who prepares the way of the Messiah. (3) The Messiah will do two things, He will bring you to the kingdom of God and He will bring you the wrath (judgment of God). (4) The judgment of God will be based on individual evaluation of your sin and good works. (5) The entrance into the kingdom will be based on repentance (A) Which will be based on confession of sin (B) Which will be indicated by your baptism and (C) Proven by your bearing good fruit.
Verse 12 - A farmer would take a winnowing fork and throw a pile of grain into the air. The wind would blow the chaff away while the kernels, being heavier, would fall back to the floor. Eventually nothing would be left but the good and useful wheat. In a similar wa6y the Messiah will separate out everyone who belongs to Him and like a farmer He will gather His wheat into the barn where it will be forever safe and protected. The burning of the chaff is the final separation when the unsaved will go to eternal punishment (Matt 25:46).
The Baptism of Jesus
Verse 13-14 - Then Jesus arrived from Galilee and came to John to be baptized. But John tried to prevent Him. John did not understand Jesusí baptism. John said, I have need to be baptized by you. John saw baptism as repentance, confession of sin. It shows John, well into his ministry still saw himself as a sinner in need of repentance.
Verse 15 - When Jesus asked John to permit the baptism to fulfill all righteousness He was identifying Himself with Johnís message.
Verse 16-17 - Here is the complete picture of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit appears as a dove and the voice of the Father says, This is my Son. It is not clear that anyone other than John heard the voice of the Father. In whom I am well-pleased with who Jesus was, He had not yet done anything.
® Jesus took the initiative to be baptized. God the Father took the occasion to announce His pleasure about Christ. Jesusí baptism was not like Johnís in that it was an identification not a repentance. Jesus disciples baptized people for conversion (1 PT 3:21) and Jesus Himself did not baptize anyone (John 4:2).
If we want to follow Jesus what should we do?
††††††† A. We should be baptized to become a Christian.
††††††† B. We should identify with ministries which call people to repentance and ††††††† independent from groups who look to their religious heritage for their position ††††††† before God.
††††††† C. We should join ministries which attract people like John the Baptistís did ††††††† because that is where God is working.
A is correct. In the passages, Jesus received His first disciples from John the Baptist. B is incorrect because although Jesus led other disciples to Himself, His first ones were led to Him by John the Baptist. C is correct because Jesus first disciples came from Johnís local ministry, not Jesus.
(1) Our most basic message is one of repentance. It is accomplished by confessing sin and evidenced by bearing good fruit which is the same sort as the repentance. There is no such thing as a person who has repented and not bearing fruit. One is evidence of the other.
(2) The mechanical act of baptism does not as a mechanical act provide salvation or any spiritual quality, but it is a mechanical act which we can use to identify with Christ publicly because it was used significantly by Christ and the apostles.
(3) The most significant baptism of our age is to immerse people into the Holy Spirit through accepting Christ (Matthew 28:18-20) and to immerse them into the fire of 3:11 in the sense of giving them the knowledge of the judgment of God against sin this making repentance necessary.