21 September 2021

Nathan A. Hughes, Esq.

Soli Deo Gloria

Gospel Thoughts: Matthew 3

7 min read
1  In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2  And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3  For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4  And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 5  Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6  And were baptised of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. 7  But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8  Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 9  And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10  And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 11  I indeed baptise you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12  Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. 13  Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptised of him. 14  But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptised of thee, and comest thou to me? 15  And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. 16  And Jesus, when he was baptised, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17  And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Repent, the Messiah has come.

In chapter 3 we meet for the first time John the Baptist. His message was one of repentance. Turing from a life of sin to God in faith. Rejecting the way of sin for a new life of righteousness. John the Baptist was a simple man who wore camel’s hair and a leather belt. His diet was simple also, he ate wild honey and locust. John was an uncompromising man who honoured the promises of God. John is a prime example of a faithful man of God. 

Standing for truth is worthy, above all things. The truth of God is not just worthy of living for but is worth dying for. John is a distant relative of Jesus, the pair were cousins. John preached in the wilderness most likely this was in the West Bank of Jordan between Jericho and the Dead Sea. His style of declaiming the message of repentance was not shy nor quiet, but bold and clear. He cried out the messages of turning from sin to God. Proclaiming the truth like a herald was necessary for John’s day and is much needed in the nations today. 

Changing your mind and heart regarding sin is only possible through the gift of God. No-one can enter the Kingdom of God without true repentance. Those who have not repented will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Throughout the Bible, the ‘Kingdom of God’ and the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ are used interchangeably. 

Almost 30 years passed between the first and second chapters of St. Matthew’s Gospel. 

Proclamation of the coming Messiah 

He that was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah and the other prophets has finally come. Isa. 40:3 declares, “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” The arrival of the Messiah was not how the people of Israel anticipated. They were hoping for a military or political leader that would free them from the bondage and control of Roman rule. Instead, Christ came to free sinners from the bondage of sin and the control of sin.  An acknowledgement and confession of sin are necessary for forgiveness and salvation.

The gift of forgiveness is not free. Christ purchased sinners with his blood. Christ paid the price of sin and took the punishment that our sins rightfully deserve. As a result of Christ’s blood sacrifice, men and women can be redeemed. This is a gift of God’s grace. The sinner does not earn salvation, nor work or contribute towards it. The giver of the gift, Jesus Christ grants this unmerited and unique reconciliation between God and man.

The Pharisees and Sadducees 

In verse 7 we meet the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees were strict men who believed in the separation of Jews and Pagans. This key attribute is where the name Pharisee comes from. They believed in the resurrection of the dead and a future state of rewards and punishments. They believed in angels and spirits. They behaved as if their religious deeds and conduct was enough to justify themselves before God. This led them to the piety of hypocrisy. They appeared good and holy on the outward but inwardly were full of sin and all manner of evil. The Pharisees are a good example of someone who behaves holy in public, but in private indulge and enjoy sinfulness. 

The Sadducees, on the other hand, rejected much of what the Pharisees professed. The word Sadducee means ‘partly of righteousness.’ They depend much on logic and the wisdom of man, rather than faith and trust in God. They did not believe that all of the Old Testament was the Word of God and rejected an affirmation of a bodily resurrection and eternal life. A rejection of demands and angels was also part of being a Sadducee. The Sadducees often attributed their values and beliefs to profit themselves. They were more concerned about their position than the truth of God. Comprising for earthy gain is what the Sadducees are best known for. Truth was not important to them, their position within society was much more important to them. 

John warns the religious elite to flee from the coming judgment and righteous wrath of God. John’s message has not changed and is important for the modern reader, just as it was when the message was firstly announced. 

The Christian life is more than mere head knowledge of doctrine, facts, Scripture and history. Words, deeds and rituals do not make us Christians. Repentance is at the heart of the Gospel and repentance from the heart is the foundation of the Gospel. Do not think for a single moment that the family you were born to, the country you were born in and the faith of your parents have anything to do with justifying yourself in the sight of God. None of these profits you, pardon you nor pronounce eternal life. The only way to enter the privilege of God’s eternal paradise is through the Lord Jesus Christ’s shed blood on Calvary’s cruel cross. Salvation is very personal indeed, personal repentance, personal holiness and a personal Saviour of sin. 

The Fruitless Cast Down

John teaches that a sinner is baptised unto repentance by Christ, not with water, but the Holy Spirit. John’s baptism is a sign that a sinner has asked for God’s forgiveness of sin. It is a public picture of the new life in Christ. The Holy Spirit has now come to dwell in the believer as a result of God’s grace and mercy to convict of sin and change the countenance of the redeemed. John baptises upon a profession of faith. John thought himself unworthy to baptise Christ, this was a great honour in the service of Christ. 

The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. In the Bible, a dove is used as a symbol of love, peace and a messenger. The first reference to a dove is found in Gen. 8:11. The sacrament of baptism was ordained by Christ. The mention of ‘with fire’ may refer to the Day of Pentecost when the spirit empowered the apostles with tongues of fire. 

Those who are outside of God’s Kingdom will end in eternal torment with unquenchable fire. In verse 12 a fan is a type of pitchfork. The wheat is the useful part of the plant and the chaff is the useless part. Due to the uselessness of the chaff is cast into the fire and burnt. The picture here is of repentance. Those who have repented will be with God in His Kingdom. Those who have not turned to God will not be saved nor used for the good of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

The closing verses of Matthew 3 is an example of the Godhead working together. The trinity always works in perfect harmony. God, the Father speaks, God, the Son is baptised and God, the Holy Spirit descends.

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