The Book of Luke, John the Baptist, Part IV – Lesson 26
We said last week that John the Baptist was a unique individual created by God for a particular time and a particular ministry.
He was a Nazarite, he was a man of the desert and he ate the food of the desert.
He was the last of the Old Testament prophets, and he wore the garb of Elijah the prophet.
John was a powerful preacher but John was not a miracle performing preacher.
Miracles were performed by the Lord Jesus Christ as a stamp of approval by the Father.
The miracles of Christ set him apart from all others.
The miracles were given to those who had ears to hear, This is my beloved son, Hear Him!
But John was also there to point to Jesus as the Messiah and to tell those who had ears to hear, Hear Him!
John was a man endowed by God with an understanding of the sinfulness of man, and man’s unreadiness to meet God.
His message to “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” is fully based on the understanding that man has no hope in himself and without God’s intervention, cannot be ready to meet God.
Repentance is simply an adoption of this understanding. I am wrong and God is right.
For man to have hope God had to provide a Savior.
But John was able to understand the depravity of man because John walked with God and the closer you walk with God the more you understand the sinfulness of man and man’s unreadiness to meet God.
That is an peculiarity. You do not study sin to know sin. You study God to know sin.
Romans 16:19, but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.
John’s ministry easily reveals that he knew what was going on in the hearts of men.
Men came to him from the country about Jordan and were met with rebuking words which flowed from his understanding of their sinfulness and their unreadiness to meet God.
John did not trim his ways to seek love and did not respect the persons of the powerful for he knew the ultimate power and that power was God.
If God be for us, who can be against us was certainly part of John’s being.
Crowds or the powerful did not impress John because he was impressed by God.
John rebuked the powerful when he rebuked Herod for taking another man’s wife as his own, and he also rebuked Him for “all the evils he had done”.
Luke 3:19, But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, 20Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.
John was able to put his finger on the specific sin most likely of the tax-gatherers, and most likely of the soldiers.
Luke 3:12-14, Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? 13And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. 14And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.
John lived what he preached and preached what he lived.
His message was not one that would “tickle the ears” of those who came to hear him, but his message was one of truth that revealed man to himself.
His preaching was not bent to appeal to fleshly motives or emotion.
He pointed out the necessary results of the message of repentance which he preached.
John preached that real repentance resulted in fruit bearing.
If there was no fruit there had been no repentance.
Repentance was not an outward act.
Years ago when we operated a bus ministry a father of several of our bus riders came to church one Sunday.
This father of a good number of children had just been though a divorce and at the end of the service, which had included a gospel message and an invitation, he came forward weeping and knelt at this altar.
Apparently he felt that his life was in shambles and emotion welled up in him and fully came forth in tears.
He bowed at the altar and wept and wept and wept.
That is something that is rare these days, to have such emotion displayed publicly.
It looked like repentance from the outward because of the weeping and their was rejoicing from those that witnessed this rare event.
But did anything come of it?
Did he and his family get right with God.
Many visits later to his house and invitations to church and attempts to pick up the children faithfully every Sunday failed.
It was apparent to me that true repentance had not taken place because no fruit was displayed.
There had been plenty of leaves displayed in the form of tears but no fruit was on the tree.
And John saw this when the multitude came forth to be baptized which was to be a stamp upon those who truly had repented.
Luke 3:7,8, Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance,
When John says “O generation of vipers” he is saying you offspring of vipers, you sons of snakes.
These are certainly not the words of a man who wishes to gather men to himself.
But John was a man who wished to gather men to God.
A man is ready and glad to gather to himself unrepentant men but God will only receive men who will bow the knee in repentance.
So when John called them sons of snakes it was, no doubt using his experience with snakes in the desert.
John knew the desert snakes and used them in his condemnation of the hypocrites coming to seek baptism without repentance.
The desert snakes were very deceptive sometimes being mistaken as a dead branch and when picked up they would strike.
When he said “who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come” he was saying “Who deceived you into thinking that it is possible to evade God and who encouraged you to try it?”
Do you think that you can get baptized without true repentance?
Are you thinking to avoid repentance and only get wet thinking that that will protect you from God’s wrath?
Which being interpreted is “Do you think that God will save you without repentance?”
Who told you that? He was implying that that kind of escape was the way that everyone took.
Certainly John knew that there was a way to escape the wrath of God and that way included repentance, but the hypocrites were trying to make their own way and their way did not include repentance.
John is saying here, that repentance, if it is genuine, must be accompanied by fruit bearing.
A merely outward confession of sin will never do.
A mere desire to be baptized, as if this rite were a wonder working charm, has no positive value.
There must be that inward change which expresses itself outwardly in God glorifying conduct.
There must be a change of heart, not a change of clothing.
We are so careful to work on the outward.
How much outward work took place before coming to church today?
Looks like a lot from my vantage point.
We primp before the mirror, we dress in our finest, we care for that which can be seen by others, but do we care for what God sees?
God does not work on the outward but God works on the heart and John fully knew this and was not interested in gaining men unto himself.
He was not interested in proping up the outward.
Proverbs 4:23, Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
And as John describes the fruit bearing results of repentance in verses 10-14 of chapter three, fruit bearing must include such items as generosity, fairness, thoughfulness, and as according to Matthew 23:23, such things as justice, mercy and faith, and uprightness.