John the Baptist’s Message and Practical Guidance

Posted by admin on 20 March 2022 in Luke, Matthew |

Luke 3:7-14

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptised by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe has been laid to the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.’

10 ‘What should we do then?’ the crowd asked.

11 John answered, ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.’

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptised. ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘what should we do?’

13 ‘Don’t collect any more than you are required to,’ he told them.

14 Then some soldiers asked him, ‘And what should we do?’

He replied, ‘Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.’

Today, let us study Luke 3:7-14.

Luke 3:7-9 is parallel to Matthew 3:7-10. But Luke 3:7-9 was spoken to the crowds and Matthew 3:7-10 to the Pharisees and Sadducees.

The subsequent verses (Luke 3:10-14) are written only in Luke and give practical guidance for true repentance.

I. John’s Message (Luke 3:7-9)

"You brood of vipers.—Γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν denotes persons at once deceitful and malicious." [2]

brood: offspring

viper: (dictionary)

  1. a venomous snake with large hinged fangs, typically having a broad head and stout (=fat) body, with dark patterns on a lighter background
  2. a spiteful (=showing malice) or treacherous person.

"By calling them 'vipers,' John refers to their shrewdness and to the danger they pose to others. Possibly an indirect allusion to the evil caused by the original serpent (Gen 3) appears as well." [4]

"John addresses his audience in words that are sharper than those of any Old Testament prophet.” [3]

"The employment of such a figure of speech is almost without parallel, although the group of pious Jews who withdrew to the desert did refer to the ‘dragon’s venom and viper’s poison’ of unfaithful Israelites. According to the Old Testament and Israelite popular thought, the snake is the most cunning of all beasts, a demonic creature who leads people astray (Gen 3:1; Job 20:16; Psa 58:4; 140:3; Sirach 39:30).” [3]

Produce fruit:

"Verse 8 provides the key to one of Matthew’s crucial themes—righteousness by good deeds. But Matthew does not contradict Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith. Rather, true faith or repentance will produce a lifestyle and behaviour that demonstrate the reality of a changed heart." [4]

"The Jews assumed they were “hereditarily holy”; that is, that their identification by blood with Abraham automatically brought them under the safety of God’s covenant (8). John pointed out that mere Jewishness or nationality was not enough to make a person a true follower of God. In fact, he claimed that they had no more in common with God’s people than a rock does." [5]

"In v. 8 John again reminds his listeners that they dare not trust in their ancestral credentials or believe that they alone are legitimate candidates for inclusion in the people of God. The messianic age brings new people into God’s kingdom and excludes others who thought themselves secure. The Messiah is the true Son of Abraham (1:1–2); apart from him there is no salvation." [4]

"John continued to use the language of imminent judgment in Luke 3:9. The ax of judgment was ready to cut them off. He was warning them that the danger facing them was a very present danger, but that they were blind to it. John also returned to the imagery of fruit. He had already accused them of being fruitless, implying the insincerity of their repentance. He warned that their fruitlessness was an indication of their impending judgment (a judgment Jesus will discuss in Matthew 23:31–38 as well as Matthew 24–25)." [5]

"A 'fruitless' Christian is no Christian at all (cf. James 2:14–26). Christians of every age must heed John’s warning to the Pharisees and Sadducees. Too often in the history of the church, people have trusted in living in a “Christian” country, being raised in a Christian family, holding membership or even office in a local church, and even in verbal claims to have repented and to have trusted in Christ. Yet without the evidence of a changed life and perseverance in belief, all such grounds of trust prove futile. One cannot determine the number of truly saved people in any given church by simply counting those who have responded to altar calls, received baptism, or become church members." [4]

"As at the end of v.7, v.9 again predicts imminent judgment for those who reject John’s call to repentance. The fire, as v. 17 makes clear, stands for eternal punishment. One must not think of any lesser judgment as in view." [4]

II. John’s Practical Guidance (Luke 3:10-14)

In response to John's message in Luke 3:7-9, the crowd filled with uncertainty asked. See Luke 3:10.

‘What should we do then?’ the crowd asked.

They were asking

"What to do to produce fruit in keeping with repentance?"

"What to do to produce good fruit?"

What is John's answer? See Luke 3:11.

John answered, ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.’

He required them to follow neither his particular "desert lifestyle" nor the monastic lifestyle of the Qumran* community [6]. Rather their life is to be lived out in the world [6].

WHAT JOHN ADVISED WAS 'ETHICAL ACTION'

He didn't ask them to do something penitential, ecclesiastical, or devotional but ethical [7]. "He asked them to change how they treated their fellow human beings." [7]

Here, the shirt or tunic is the inner and less necessary garment worn under outer garments. In cool weather, several shirts were often put on. The outer indispensable garment is not mentioned [8]. No indiscriminate giving is advocated by John or by Jesus but a giving that relieves real human need [9]. Any proper faith must involve a social concern for the poor and unfortunate, and of all the Evangelists, Luke particularly sought to stress this point (Luke 6:30; 12:33; 14:12–14; 16:9; 18:22) [6].

See Luke 3:12-13

"‘tax-collector’, usually an underling, employed, by Roman tax officers or Jewish tax farmers to do the actual collecting, despised because of this direct or indirect connexion with the Roman government and his reputation of enriching himself at the expense of the people." [10]

WHAT JOHN ADVISED WAS 'HONESTY'

"Tax collectors were not required to resign but to become honest. John’s statement confirms the view that most tax collectors tended to be dishonest." [6]

See Luke 3:14

WHAT JOHN ADVISED WERE NO VIOLENT INTIMIDATION, NO FALSE ACCUSATION, AND TO BE CONTENT WITH WAGES

"These soldiers probably were not Romans but Jews whom Herod Antipas employed perhaps to assist tax collectors in their duties. Soldiers were also not required to resign but to avoid the sins of their profession, i.e., violent intimidation (“extort”), robbing by false accusation, and dissatisfaction with “wages” (or perhaps “rations”)." [6]

*Qumran: Ancient Jewish religious community near Qumran caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. [11,12]

References

[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Anglicised Edition, 2011), Revised and updated edition. (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2011), Mt 3:7.

[2] John Peter Lange and Philip Schaff, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Matthew (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 71.

[3] Barclay Moon Newman and Philip C. Stine, A Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1992), 64.

[4] Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 77–78.

[5] Stuart K. Weber, Matthew, vol. 1, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 37.

[6] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 133-134.

[7] Kent Hughes, Luke: That You May Know the Truth, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 113.

[8] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), Lk 3:11

[9] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), 194.

[10] J. Reiling and J. L. Swellengrebel, A Handbook on the Gospel of Luke, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1993), 169.

[11] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Qumran,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1808.

[12] Dead Sea Scrolls.  13/03/2022]; Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Sea_

Part 3_3rd

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