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BIBLE STUDY on the Gospel of Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The third chapter of Matthew’s is the first chapter dealing with the ministry of Jesus. The events taking place take place some 30 years after the close of the “infancy” story in the previous two chapters. This chapter will focus on John the Baptist and baptism of Jesus.
There are clear links with Matthew and the Gospel of Mark. Many scholars are certain a good part of this chapter is a re-doing of chapter 1 of Mark. The chapter also parallels the third chapter of Luke, which some also believe to be based on Mark 1. But, there are some Passages shared by Luke and Matthew, that are not found in Mark.
Chapter 3 opens giving us a characterization of John the Baptist. It describes his preaching, his clothing and his diet. It presents him as a preacher in the wilderness prophesying about the "wrath to come." The chapter then moves to an angry and brutal tirade against the Pharisees and Sadducees in which he warns them to repent. This includes the famous "generation of vipers" line in Matthew 3:7 (Lk.3:7), which we will hear more on these same words from our Lord Jesus later on (Mat.12:34; 23:33). Our Lord Jesus then arrives from Galilee to be baptized. The chapter closes with the Baptism of Jesus, the voice of the Father, and the appearance of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.
Ministry Of John The Baptist (Matthew 3:1-6)
Matthew 3:1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, (KJV)
In those days came John the Baptist . . . we have a vrey patchy and imperfect account of John in the Gospels. His father, Zacharias, was a priest of the course of Abia (1 Chron.24:10), and his mother, Elisabeth was of the priestly family (Lk.1:5), and a cousin to Mary (Lk.1:36). His birth, which took place six months before Jesus, was foretold by an angel. Zacharias, lost of the power of speech as a reproof of his own unbelief about the birth of his son, but his speech was restored to him on the day of John’s circumcision (Lk.1:64). Nothing more is recorded about him for 30 years than what is mentioned in Luke 1:80. John was a Nazarite from his birth (Lk.1:15; Num.6:1-12). He spent his early years in the mountainous area of Judah lying between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.
When he came forth into public life, great multitudes from "every quarter" were attracted to him. The sum of his preaching was the necessity of repentance. He denounced the Sadducees and Pharisees as a "generation of vipers," and warned them of the folly of trusting to external privileges (Lk.3:8). As a preacher, John was very practical and discriminating. Self-love and covetousness were the common sins of the people at large. On them, he encouraged charity and consideration for others, the publicans he cautioned against extortion, the soldiers against crime and plunder. His doctrine and manner of life stirred the entire south of Palestine, and people from all parts flocked to where he was, on the banks of the Jordan. There he baptized thousands unto repentance.
Matthew has given us an account of the genealogy and birth of Christ Jesus, the coming of the wise men from the east to Him, His being preserved from Herod's murderous plan against Him when all the infants at Bethlehem were slain, the flight of Joseph with the Child and Mary into Egypt, of their return to Nazareth from there, where Jesus lived until near the time of His baptism and His entering His public ministry, which was about 30 years. Matthew gives a brief description of John, the herald and forerunner of Christ, and the administrator of baptism to him. John is described by his work and office as a preacher, he "came" or "was preaching" the doctrines of repentance and baptism. He spread abroad and declared that the kingdom of the Messiah was at hand, and that He would soon be revealed. John the Baptist encouraged and warned the people to believe on Christ Jesus, which should come after him (Jn.1:15,27,30). The place where John preached is mentioned as . . .
In the wilderness of Judea . . . this does not mean that John preached to the trees and wild beasts of the desert, for the wilderness of Judea was a place that had many cities, towns and villages. It is here where we must assume that John preached, to people from there. In Joshua's time, there were six cities in this wilderness. Joshua 15:61-62 In the wilderness, Betharabah, Middin, and Secacah, 62 And Nibshan, and the city of Salt, and Engedi; six cities with their villages. (KJV) . . . Mention is made in the Talmud, of this wilderness of Judea, as separate from the land of Israel. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14923-wilderness
Some say that the part of the wilderness which John chose for his ministry was a desert plain, along the western bank of the Jordan, between Jericho and the Dead Sea.
Matthew 3:2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (KJV)
And saying, repent ye . . . John the Baptist comes onto the pages of Scripture. If we had just Matthew's Gospel, we would ask, "Where did he come from, and what is his background?" . . . because Matthew gives us none of that, and the reason is obvious. The prophet Malachi had said that the messenger would come ahead to prepare the way for the coming of the King. Malachi 3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. (KJV) . . . This messenger was John the Baptist. For information on the background and birth of John the Baptist, read Luke chapter 1. John the Baptist made it very clear that he was ONLY the messenger, and Matthew is making that clear, too. Here he is now, preaching in the wilderness of Judea saying, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Consider these words: #1. "Repent ye" . . . "Repent" is an expression that always has been given to God's people as a warning to turn around, change your mind or go the other way. I think that repentance is for the people of God in any age. These are the ones who become cold and indifferent. That was the message to the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation 2 & 3, and it was the message of the Lord Jesus Himself. Repent: (Mat.4:17; Mk.6:12; Lk.13:3,5; Rev.2:5,16,21,22; 3:3,19). Is an unsaved person supposed to repent? The unsaved person is told that he is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved (Mk.16:16; Acts 2:21; 16:31; Rom.10:9-13). #2. The "kingdom of heaven" means the rule of the heavens over the Earth. The Lord Jesus is the King. You cannot have a kingdom without a King, and you cannot have a King without a kingdom. Just what did John the Baptist mean by "the kingdom of heaven is at hand"? He meant that the Kingdom of Heaven is present in the Person of the King. Is there really a present reality of the Kingdom of Heaven? YES, there is. The Kingdom of Heaven IS at hand, or IS present, in the Person of the King. That was the only way in which it was present. Those who believe on Him and come to Him as Saviour and Lord, and admit He is the Christ, the Messiah, the King . . . are part of the Kingdom of God’s dear Son. They belong to Him now, and they have a close, deep relationship with Him. Christ is the Bridegroom, and all TRUE believers are a part of His bride (Rev.19:7; 21:9; 22:17). As subjects in a kingdom, we are to carry out His commands. We are to obey Him because we love Him, and IF we really do love Jesus, we willingly obey Him! It is a love relationship. "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). #3. “Is at hand” . . . This is very important. The "kingdom of heaven" is the rule of the heavens over the Earth. That does NOT exist today. Christ does NOT reign over the world, quite the contrary, the old devil, “the prince of this world” is now in control (Jn.12:31; 14:30; 16:11), but NOT for always! Christ is NOT reigning in any way in the “world” today, except in the hearts of those who have believed and received Him. World: (Jam.4:4; 2 Tim.4:10; 1 Jn.2:15-17; 4:4; 5:4-5). BUT . . . He absolutely IS coming someday to establish His Kingdom on the Earth, and when He does, ALL rebellion and violence shall be put down. Count on it! He shall reign with a: Rod of iron: (Ps.2:9; Rev.2:27; 12:5; 19:15).
The doctrine thst John preached was the doctrine of repentance; which can be described as an adjustment of life and manners; for the state of the Jews was at that time very corrupt. Men had grown very wicked; and although there was a “remnant” among them (1 Ki.19:18; 2 Ki.17:18; Isa.1:9; Eze.6:8; Mic.5:7-8), who were righteous in their own eyes, and needed no repentance; yet John calls upon them all to repent. The Jews had many bad ideas. The Pharisees held with the traditions of the elders, and the doctrine of justification by the works of the law, the Sadducees denied the resurrection of the dead; and it was a general opinion of them all, that the Messiah would be a temporal king, and set up an earthly kingdom in this world. So, he warns them to change their minds, to give up this idea, assuring them, that although Christ would be a King, and would have a kingdom, and which was near at hand, it would be a heavenly kingdom, and not an earthly one for now. Daniel 2:44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. (KJV) . . . The kingdom of heaven is peculiar to Matthew, who uses it 32 times in 31 verses. He also joins with the other writers in calling it the "kingdom of God" (Mat.12:28; 19:24; 21:31,43). It is not known why he preferred the term, "kingdom of heaven".
Matthew 3:3 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. (KJV)
For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias . . . these are not the words of the Baptist himself, as in (Jn.1:23), but of Matthew, who cites and applies to John a Passage in the Prophet Isaiah (Isa.40:3), and does so very appropriately, since Isaiah 40 is a prophecy of the Messiah. The Messiah is more specifically prophesied of in Isa. 9-11, as One that should appear to the joy of His people, and "come with a strong hand", forcefully bring about His plans and faithfully perform His work. He is spoken of in the "character" of a "shepherd" Who would tenderly discharge the different parts of His office. John was to be His forerunner, going before Him, proclaiming and making people ready for His Coming.
Saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness . . . which expresses the sternness of the man, the roughness of his voice, the severity of his language, he called aloud and spoke out, openly, publicly and freely. He delivered his message with much zeal and fervency. The place where he preached was "in the wilderness" that being in Judea.
Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight . . . this was John’s doctrine! See verse 2.
Matthew 3:4 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. (KJV)
The same John. . . Matthew goes on to describe this outstanding person (Mat.11:11), the forerunner of our Lord, by his clothing. This is the same John of whom Isaiah prophesied, and who came preaching the doctrine in the place and manner before stated.
Had his raiment of camel's hair . . . this is NOT the fine hair of the camel from which elegant cloth is made, nor is it the more elegant kind, brought from the East Indies, under the name of camel's hair. John the Baptist’s clothing was the long, shaggy hair of the camel, from which a coarse, cheap cloth is made, still worn by the poorer classes in the East, not of camel's hair softened and spun to a thread, and woven to make a garment for the rich . . . but of rough "camel's wool" which was the wool of camels or the skin of a camel used by poor folk. 2 Kings 1:8 And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite. (KJV) . . . An hairy man: meaning Elijah wore a rough garment, either made of camels' hair, as that of John Baptist, or of a skin, dressed with the hair on.
And a leathern girdle about his loins . . . much like the one Elijah wore, and which added to the roughness of his garment, possibly revealing that he was prepared and ready to do the work he was born to do (Lk.1:17).
And his meat was locusts and wild honey . . . John’s food was the food of the common people. The fact that John made locusts his food shows his great poverty and humble life. The Jews were allowed to eat them (Lev.11:22). In eastern countries they are very plentiful. Some species of the locust are eaten in this day in eastern countries, and are even considered a delicacy when properly cooked. They cook them, dry them and pulverize them and when other food is scarce, make bread of the meal. The Bedouins pack them with salt, which they carry in their leather sacks. Wild honey . . . this was probably the honey that he found in the rocks of the wilderness. Palestine was often called the land flowing with milk and honey (Ex.3:8,17; 13:5). Bees were kept with great care and great numbers of them abounded in the crevices of trees and the clefts of rocks. Wild honey was honey of bees, which were not kept at home, but were in the woods and fields, like that which Jonathan found, and had eaten ( 1 Sam.14:15-17).
Matthew 3:5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, (KJV)
Then went out to him Jerusalem . . . John did not rent a stadium or a church, and no committee invited him. The truth is, John did not come to town at all. The people went out to the boon-docks where he was. Without a doubt, the Spirit of God was on this man. The uncommon appearance of this person, the oddity of his dress, the strictness of his life, together with the harsh importance of his doctrine, the ordinance of baptism he administered, the people flocked to him, for the Jews had no prophet for hundreds of years, and they thought that he might be the Messiah. John quickly drew large numbers of people to him. Some versions read "all Jerusalem".
And all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan . . . “all” meaning many. From the city of Jerusalem to the farthest points of Judea the cry of this great preacher of repentance and his message of the approaching Messiah brought a multitude of penitents and eager expectants. It was not strange that there went out such a huge crowd of people to hear John the Baptist: #1. From Ezra's time till John, no prophet had appeared. Our Lord Jesus speaking of John, What went ye out for to see? A prophet? (Mat.11:8-9). This seems to hint that a prophet was very rare amongst them. #2. If we consider the severity of his life. Our Saviour saith John came neither eating nor drinking (Mat.11:18), as other men. #3. If we consider the new doctrine John brought, and his passion in the bringing it: he came to preach the Messiah, whom the Jews had long expected; to tell them His Kingdom was at hand. #4. And if we consider the new sacrament of baptizing, which he brought in, it is no wonder people flocked to see him. John baptized Jews. He was sent to baptize with water (Jn.1:33). Therefore, from this time, the institution of the sacrament of baptism must be dated, and John certainly did baptize many.
Matthew 3:6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. (KJV)
And were baptized of him . . . where did John baptize? “In Jordan.” (Mk.1:5). It was in John's time and long after a large river. The “Christians” of Christ's time are called by the Jews, in a way of contempt, apostates, that received the doctrine of baptism, and were "dipped in Jordan". The manner in which they were baptized by John was by immersion or plunging them into the water. From the place in which they were baptized, "the river Jordan"; and from John's manner of baptizing elsewhere, who chose places for this purpose, because there was there much water (Jn.1:28; 3:23). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jordan_River
Confessing their sins . . . people were called to repentance by John's ministry, and had the grace of God bestowed upon them. They were convinced of sin, and truly sorry for it, and they were ready to acknowledge and confess it to God and men. They were not only confessing their sins before baptism, which John to administered to them, but when they came up out of the water, they were so full of a sense of sin, and so ready to own it. I think later on that he refused to baptize others, because their repentance and fruits were not fit for it.
Even in baptism itself there is a unspoken confession and acknowledgment of sin, for it represents the sufferings and death of Christ which were for sin, into which persons are baptized, and profess to be dead to sin thereby; and also the resurrection of Christ for justification from sin, which obliges the baptized person to walk in newness of life (Rom.6:3-5), and too, in baptism, believers are led to the Blood of Christ, both for the cleansing and remission of their sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). This is the character given to the persons that were baptized by John the Baptist, and must definitely be considered by us. As much care as possible should be taken, that only those who have a true sense of their sin, and are brought to a humble admission and confession of it, should be baptized.
The Pharisees And Sadducees (Matthew 3:7-12)
Matthew 3:7 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? (KJV)
This is the first place where Matthew mentions the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees separated themselves from the common people as righteous persons. They certainly were a divided and disobedient persons. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12087-pharisees http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharisees
Now, consider the Sadducees. The first time they are mentioned is in connection with John the Baptist's ministry. They came out to him when on the banks of the Jordan, and he said to them, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" The next time they are spoken of they are represented as coming to our Lord tempting Him. He calls them "hypocrites" and "a wicked and adulterous generation" (Mat.16:1-4; 22:234). The only reference to them in the Gospels (Mk.12:18-27; Lk.20:27-38), is their attempting to ridicule the doctrine of the resurrection, which they denied, as they also denied the existence of angels. They are not mentioned in John's Gospel.
There were many Sadducees among the "elders" of the Sanhedrin. They seem to have been as many as the Pharisees (Acts 23:6). They showed their hatred of Jesus in taking part in condemning Him (Mat.16:21; 26:1-3,59; Mk.8:31; Lk.9:22; 22:66). They tried to stop the apostles from preaching the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:24,31,32; 4:1-2; 5:17,24-28). They were the skeptics of that age. They do not appear as a separate sect after the destruction of Jerusalem.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them . . . straight-forward John spoke to them in a very brutal and severe way, quite opposite of what they expected.
O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? . . . a viper appears very beautiful outwardly, but is full of deadly poison! It looks harmless and innocent, as if it would not do a bit of harm, but it is a most deadly creature. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14707-viper These men, although they made false pretences to religion and holiness, were full of the deadly poison of hypocrisy, inaccuracy and malice. They really wanted to be known as very religious, and boasted and trusted in their being the seed of Abraham, when they were instead, the children of the devil (1 Jn.3:10). They were the seed of the old serpent, and the offspring of the worst kind of men, in whom was demonstrated the proverb, like father like son. John asks them straight out, saying, "who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" meaning . . . who told you to come? who was it that pointed out the way for you to escape divine vengeance? The wrath to come does not mean hell fire, everlasting destruction, because baptism could not save them from that. God's "wrath" is His righteous displeasure against sin, and therefore against all in who sin is found. God’s wrath arises out of the eternal opposition of His nature to ALL moral evil. This is called "the coming wrath," not as being totally future . . . for God’s wrath is on the sinner already, and its effects, both inward and outward, are to some extent felt even now. But because the unrepentant sinner will not, until "the judgment of the great day" (Jude 1:6) trust and accept God’s only Way of salvation, they will not have sentence publicly and permanently passed upon them. So, for the unrepentant sinner, it is a wrath wholly to come, as is implied in the noticeably different form of the expression employed by the apostle Paul in (1 Thes.1:10). How striking is the word John uses, to express that step . . . flee from it . . . as of one who, seeing a deluge of fiery wrath rolling rapidly towards him, sees flight his only escape!
Matthew 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: (KJV)
Bring forth therefore fruits . . .
That is, if you are truly penitent, if you have a proper sense of sin, and true repentance for it, do such works as are suitable to it, and will show the genuineness of it; for
Fruits meet for repentance . . . are the same as "works meet for repentance" (Acts 26:20). The same as a tree is known by the fruit it bears, so too repentance is known by the good works it does. The fruits are the results of repentance, which are proofs with men of the sincerity of it. Please consider: John insisted upon repentance, showing the truth of it as necessary prerequisites to the ordinance of baptism; and so too, Peter first urged repentance; and then proposed baptism (Acts 2:38). From this, we should think it is wisely and strongly concluded, that NO one but truly repenting sinners, are to be admitted to this ordinance.
Matthew 3:9 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. (KJV)
And think not to say within yourselves . . . John knew the customary opinion they had, against which he cautions them . . . that just because they were Abraham's seed, they were safe from God’s wrath, in God’s favor and had a right to all privileges and ordinances. This is what they trusted in, and boasted of. They simply thought that since they were descended from such a holy a man as Abraham, that was all the righteousness they needed. John assured them that this was a matter of very small importance in the sight of God. Of the very stones of the Jordan he could raise up children to Abraham (Lk.3:8). The meaning seems to be that God, from these stones, could more easily raise up those who would be worthy children of Abraham, or be like him, than simply because you are descendants of Abraham make you, who are proud and hypocritical, subjects of the Messiah's kingdom.
We have Abraham for our father . . . John the Baptist was well aware how ready they would be to oppose this to him; therefore assures them this would carry no weight with him, nor give them any right to the baptism he administered. So . . . from this we must realize that it is NOT a person's being born of believing parents that entitles him to water baptism; or be a reason why it should be administered to him. John gives a reason why such a claim as this would be insufficient . . .
For I say unto you; that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham . . . to "raise up children" or to "raise up seed" is a Hebrew way of speaking, and the same as to a "name" of another (Gen.38:8; Deut.25:7; Ruth 4:10), signifying to beget children for another, who are to be called by his name. Some say that by "the stones" understand it to mean the Gentiles, compared to stones, both for the hardness of their hearts, and their idolatry in worshipping stocks and stones, and of whom God was able to raise, and HAS raised up, a spiritual seed to Abraham (Gal 3:26-29); who are of the same faith with Abraham, who walk in his steps, and whose father he is. It seems quite possible that there may have been some Gentiles present, since John calls them "these" stones. John could have been pointing to these Gentiles or he could have been pointing to some stones that were near by, and which lay upon the banks of Jordan, where he was baptizing . . . for what is it that our omnipotent God cannot do? He could just as easily make men of stones, just He made Adam out of the dust of the Earth! And then these men, spiritually, would be children of Abraham; that is, believers in Christ, and partakers of His grace; for if ye be Christ's, then are “ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal.3:29). God had NO need for these Pharisees and Sadducees to boast of their natural descent from Abraham; since this is a spiritual matter, and of things relating to the Gospel dispensation, so their heritage would be no advantage to them. It is what is in a person’s heart that counts.
Matthew 3:10 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. (KJV)
And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees . . . these words contain a reason why they might expect future wrath. "The axe is now laid" . . . laying the axe at the root of a tree means that the tree is to be cut down. It was not just to be trimmed, or pruned (Jn.15:2), but to be cut down. John was bringing a searching, trying kind of preaching. A kingdom of justice is to be set, up. Principles and conduct are to be examined. No cleverness, no deception, no hypocrisy would be successful. People are to be tried by their lives, NOT by their ancestry or profession. All who are not found to stand up to this test, are to be rejected. The very root shall feel the blow, and the fruitless tree shall fall. This is a very striking figure of speech, and a very direct threat of future wrath.
Therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire . . .
John considered them as making a fair and promising profession, as trees do in blossom, but he told them that they must bear fruit as well as flowers. Just their professions of repentance were not enough. They must show, by a good and righteous life, that their profession was real (Jn.15:6). This goes for us today as well.
Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize 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 baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: (KJV)
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance . . . John says that he is not the Christ (Mk.1:8; Lk.3:15-16; Jn.1:15,26). John was just the messenger and forerunner of the Messiah, the Christ, sent before Him to baptize men with the baptism of water, as a testimony of their repentance. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, not one of salvation.
But he that cometh after me is mightier than I . . . John was born before Jesus, and began his ministry before he did; he was His harbinger, His forerunner. Jesus would now come to John to Jordan from Galilee, to be baptized by him. After this He would then start His public ministry. But, because Christ came after John, does NOT in any way mean that He was beneath John, but above FAR him in every way. Is mightier than I . . . John stated that there is one immediately coming after me, who is infinitely to be preferred before me, so much John says, that he was not worthy to carry his shoes, or unloose his shoe latchet (Mk.1:7; Lk.3:16).
Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear. . . shoes, has a meaning different from what it has in our language. To keep the feet from the sharp stones, or the hot sand, small pieces of wood were fastened to the soles of the feet, called sandals. Leather, or animal skins, were then used. The sandal, or piece of leather and/or wood, was bound on th foot by thongs. John said that there is One immediately coming after him, who is infinitely to be preferred before him, so much, that he was not worthy to carry his shoes, or unloose his shoe latchet. He shall baptize men with another kind of baptism, the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire.
He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost . . . the baptism of Christ would be the inward washing away their sins with His Blood (1 Pet.1:18-19), and sanctifying their hearts (1 Pet.1:2), purging out their lusts and corruptions, warming and arousing their hearts with the sense of his love, and kindling in them all spiritual habits. Shall baptize you . . . shall send upon you the Holy Spirit (Jn.14:16,26). The Spirit of God is often represented as being poured out upon His people (Pro.1:23; Isa.44:3; Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-18). The Holy Ghost . . . is the Third Person of the Trinity, whose job it is to enlighten, renew, sanctify and comfort the soul. He was promised by the Saviour to convince of sin (Jn.16:8), to enlighten or teach the disciples (Jn.14:26; 16:13), to comfort them in the absence of the Saviour (Jn.14:18; 16:7), to change the heart (Tit.3:5). To be baptized with the Holy Ghost means that the Messiah would send to the world a far more powerful and mighty influence than the preaching and baptism of John. Many would be converted. Jesus’ ministry would not affect just the external life only, but the heart, the motives, the soul, and bring permanent changes in the lives of people. With fire . . . this term has been understood in many different ways. Some say that it refers to the afflictions and persecutions with which men would be tried under the Gospel while others are adamant that it means judgment or wrath. Some think that by fire, he means that Jesus’ ministry would be refining, powerful and purifying, for fire is sometimes an symbol of purity (Mal.3:2). John says that a part of Jesus’ hearers He would baptize with the Holy Ghost, but the wicked with fire and vengeance. Fire is a symbol of vengeance (Isa.5:24; 61:2; 66:24). If this is the meaning, as seems very likely to me, then John says that the ministry of the Messiah would be far more powerful than his was. It would be more searching and trying; and all who were not able to stand the test, would be cast into eternal fire. It is hard to determine the specific meaning, except that Jesus’ ministry would be very trying, purifying and searching. Multitudes would be converted, and those who were not TRUE penitents would not be able to tolerate the trial, and would be driven away.
Matthew 3:12 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. (KJV)
Whose fan is in his hand . . . the fan is a well-known farming instrument which was used by the Jews, even to the present day, to separate grain from the chaff. The usual method was to throw the grain in the air with a large shovel, allowing the wind to blow the worthless chaff away (Isa.30:24). The "fan" here is meant, either the Gospel which Christ was just ready to make known; by which He would be able to call His chosen people among the Jews (the wheat), and to distinguish and separate them from others, as well as purify and cleanse them . . . or instead the awful judgment of God, which Christ was ready to execute on the unbelieving and impenitent Jews (the chaff). The fan is said to be "in his hand" . . . being put there by His Father, who "hath committed all judgment to the Son" (Jn.5:22). It seems the meaning of the "Baptist" is evident, since "fanning" is always, when symbolically taken, used for judgments (Isa.41:16; Jer.4:11-12; 15:7; 51:2; Ps.1:4).
And he will throughly purge his floor . . . the threshing-floor was an open area in the field, usually on a high part of the land. It had no covering or walls. It was about 30-40 paces in diameter, made hard and smooth by rolling or treading on it. The grain was usually trampled out by oxen, sometimes it was beaten with flails, and sometimes with a sharp threshing instrument, made to roll over the grain, and to cut the straw at the same time (Isa.41:15-16). After being threshed it was winnowed. The grain was then separated from the dirt and coarse chaff by a shovel and fan. This method is still practiced in some eastern nations. “His floor" means the land of Israel, where he was born, brought up and lived. Shall purge . . . cleanse or purify by removing the chaff and dirt.
And gather his wheat into the garner . . . the garner is a barn, granary or place to store the wheat (Ps.144:13; Joel 1:17; Mat.3:12; 13:30; Lk.3:17). By "His wheat" is meant the people of God, the elect among the Jews, the chosen of God, so called because of their faithfulness, purity and steadfastness. These He will gather into a place of protection, where He would keep them in safety from that wrath, ruin and destruction; that is sure to come one day.
But he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire . . . unquenchable fire is fire that cannot be put out. The wheat is the people of God. The chaff is the wicked. They are often represented as being driven away like chaff before the wind (Job 21:18; Ps.1:4; Isa.17:13; Mal.4:1). They are also represented as chaff which the fire consumes (Isa.5:24).
Jesus Is Baptized Of John (Matthew 3:13-17)
Matthew 3:13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. (KJV)
Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John . . . (Mk.1:9; 3:21). John had been a while preaching the doctrine of repentance and administering the ordinance of baptism. He went into all the country around Jordan, and preached unto the people, and baptized great numbers, some think it might be six months from when he started his ministry; since there was this difference in John’s age and Jesus’ age (Lk.1:26), and so might be in their baptism and preaching. Then cometh Jesus from Galilee . . . where He had lived in great obscurity, in obedience to God and in subjection to His earthly parents. He came to the Jordan to John, who was baptizing there. This reveals the great humility of Christ, who comes to John. He could have sent for him, for John was His servant, and Jesus was his Lord and Master. He cheerfully and voluntarily subjected to the ordinance of baptism. He took this long and tiring journey; for it seems that Nazareth was possibly three days journey from Jordan where John was.
To be baptized of him . . . a question: "Why was Jesus baptized?" There could be several answers, but the main reason is stated: "For thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness" (verse 15). Jesus identifies Himself completely with sinful mankind. Isaiah prophesied that He would be numbered with the transgressors (Isa.53:12). Some thing very unusual! A King identifies Himself with His subjects! One commentator says that baptism means identification, and identification was the major reason for Jesus being baptized. I think Jesus was baptized not only to set an example for us, but as a guide for us to follow. Christ was holy and pure, He was sin free (Isa.53:9; Mat.27:19,23-24; Jn.8:46; Lk.23:41,47; 2 Cor.5:21; Heb.4:15; 7:26-27; 1 Pet.2;22; 1 Jn.3:5) . . . He had NO need of repentance. Whereas we, you and I, DO need to repent. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, but He was baptized to totally identify Himself with humanity.
Another reason Jesus was baptized, was that water baptism is a symbol of death (Rom.6:3-5). The Lord Jesus’ death was a baptism. Matthew 20:22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. (KJV)
A third reason Jesus was baptized was that at this time He was set apart for His office of Priest. The Holy Spirit came upon Him for this priestly ministry. Everything that Jesus did, His every act, His every word, was done by the power of the Holy Spirit. 2 Cor. 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (KJV) . . . There was MUCH sin placed ON Him, that being the sin of the whole world (Jn.1:29; Gal.1:4; Heb.9:26; 1 Jn.2:2). BUT . . . there was absolutely NO sin IN Him. This is a very crucial difference. Because of Jesus, we are saved by being identified with Him, because He identified Himself with us in baptism. And too, Peter tells us that we are saved by baptism. 1 Peter 3:21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: (KJV) . . . What does he mean? In what way are we saved? By being identified with the Lord Jesus Christ. To be saved is to be in Christ. HOW do we get in Christ? We are placed “in Christ” when we are baptized by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor.12:13). I think that in water baptism we declare that we are identified with Christ. John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. (KJV) . . . We must be identified with Christ, and that is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. Our water baptism is a testimony to this.
Multitudes submit to water baptism, who do NOT repent of their sin . . . but NO person is baptized by the Holy Spirit if they are not sincere in their pledge to Christ Jesus! In my opinion, water baptism should be considered as our standing for Christ.
Matthew 3:14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? (KJV)
But John forbad him . . . John really attempted to hinder Him.
Saying, I have need to be baptized of thee . . . how John recognized Him, when he says he knew Him not (Jn.1:33), is not told to us. John seems appalled, that the King of the Jews came to him to be baptized, when John thought it should be the other way around. He felt that as he was a sinner, he was unworthy to administer this baptism to the Messiah.
And comest thou to me? . . shall the Master come for baptism from the servant? The sinless Saviour coming to a sinner? Since John was preaching repentance, and John regarded Jesus as needing NO repentance or purification but instead was qualified to impart these things to those who did. What a glorious testimony to Christ by John the Baptist! Can you see the wonderful spirit in which it was borne? John is saying: "Lord, must I baptize Thee? How can I do such a thing?" . . . Doesn’t this remind us of Peter's howl at the supper table, "Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?" (Jn.13:6,8).
Even though John was a holy man, and was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb (Lk.1:15), and had such large measures of grace (Lk.1:76-80), and lived an exemplary lifestyle (Lk.1:15) . . . but with all this, John was far from thinking that he was perfect and righteous in himself, but stood in dire and desperaste need of Christ, and desired more grace from Him. John knew that he was a sinner. We can learn much from John the Baptist. It is not wise to think you are more than you are, and foolish to toot your own horn (Pro.27:2). It is far wiser to be humble in the sight of God (Jam.4:10).
Matthew 3:15 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. (KJV)
And Jesus answering, said unto him . . . the Lord Jesus answers John.
Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness . . . Jesus tells John, “Give Me have my request; do not object, but fulfill with My desire.”
Then he suffered him . . . with true humility, John yielded to a higher authority than his own impression of correctness. John baptized Jesus in the water, as He had requested. I believe that the baptism took place in the river Jordan, and was by immersion.
Matthew 3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, 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: (KJV)
And Jesus, when he was baptized . . . (Mk.1:9; Lk.3:21) Christ was baptized by John in the Jordan River, the place where John was baptizing.
Went up straightway out of the water . . . (Mk.1:10) consider, since it is said, that He came up out of the water, He must have first have gone DOWN into the water. I truly think this tells us Jesus was baptized by immersion. IF Jesus would have gone down into the river, to the ankles, or up to the knees, so that John could sprinkle water on his face, or pour it on his head, as is ridiculously represented in the certain paintings . . . this does NOT make any sense! For this, Jesus would not have to go down into the water, He could have stood on the shore. Consider what follows . . .
And lo the heavens were opened unto him . . . during the sacred ordinance of baptism, Jesus was praying (Lk.3:21). How many people “pray” when they are baptized? NOT many, very few (Mat.7:13-14). The ordinances of religion will be fruitless without prayer . . . but, if in those ordinances we look to God in prayer, we may be confident that He will bless us. The heavens will be opened to us, allowing light to shine on our path, and we shall have the approval of God. The "heavens were opened," means that the heavens appear to open, or give way. Something like this most likely appeared to John at this time, similar to what took place at Stephen's death (Acts 7:56). I think it means that he was permitted to see far into the heavens beyond what the natural vision would allow. “To him” . . . some thinks this means Jesus, others say it was John. It seems to me it means John (Jn.1:33), for this was a proof given to John that this was the Messiah.
And he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him . . . the Spirit of God (Mat.3:11), is the Third Person of the Trinity, descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove (Lk.3:22). The dove, among the Jews, was the symbol of purity or harmlessness (Mat.10:16), and of fleetness (Ps.55:6). The form chosen here is no doubt a symbol of the innocence, meekness and tenderness of the Saviour. The Gift of the Holy Spirit, in this manner, was the public approval of Jesus (Jn.1:33), and a sign of His being set apart to the office of the Messiah. We must not think that there was any change whatsoever brought about in the moral character of Jesus, this was only that He was publicly set apart for His work, and seriously and sincerely approved by God in the office to which He was appointed. Spirit of God: (Isa.11:2; 42:1; 61:1, Jn.3:34).
Matthew 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (KJV)
And lo, a voice from heaven, saying . . . at the same time the heavens were opened, and the Spirit of God descended as a dove, and lighted on Christ, and while it abode upon Him, and an astonishing Voice was heard. This was the voice of God, the Father! It was probably heard by all who were present. This voice was repeated on the mount of transfiguration (Mat.17:5; Lk.9:35-36; 2 Pet.1:17), and was also heard just before Jesus was crucified (Jn.12:28-30), and was then supposed by many to be thunder. It was a public declaration that Jesus WAS the Messiah. Christ always was, and forever will be considered, both in His Person as the Son of God, and in His office as Mediator, the object of God’s love and delight; wherefore He adds. . .
This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased . . . My beloved Son. My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: (Ps.2:7; Lk.9:35; Eph.1:6; 2 Pet.1:17). This is the title which God Himself gave to Jesus. It reveals the nearness of His relationship to God, and the love of God for Him (Heb.1:2). It implies that Jesus was equal with God the Father (Heb.1:5-8; Jn.9:29-33; 19:7). The term Son expresses the love, the closeness of His relation to God the Father, and of His dignity and equality with God the Father. You CANNOT have One without the Other! Father AND the Son: (Jn.1:18; 6:44-46; 8:19,55; 10:25-30; 15:21,23; 16:3; 17:3,25; Lk.10:22).
Am well pleased . . . God the Father is continually and eternally delighted with the Son, and this is what is implied by God’s Voice from Heaven in this public manner. He expressed His 100% approval of Jesus as the Redeemer of the world. The baptism of Jesus is considered a remarkable manifestation of the doctrine of the Trinity, clearly showing all Three Persons in our awesome Triune God.
#1. There is the Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, baptized in the Jordan, where elsewhere He declared to be equal with God (Jn.10:30).
#2. The Holy Spirit, descending in a bodily form upon the Saviour. The Holy Spirit is also equal with the Father, for He is also God (Acts 5:3-4).
#3. The Father, addressing the Son, and declaring that He was well pleased with Him. There is NO other way to explain this Baptism matter in any other way. All three Divine Persons are mentioned ever so clearly! Also see: Trinity: (Mat.28:19; Jn.14:26; 15:26; 2 Cor.13:14; 1 Pet.1:2; 1 Jn.5:7).
John the Baptist, is presented as a wonderful example of a faithful minister of God. Dignity, pride, power or wealth deterred him from boldly declaring the Truth about the nature of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He called things as he saw them. He did not apologize for their sin. He set it squarely before them, and condemned it with the correct curse. So too, should all ministers of the Gospel. Rank, riches and/or power, should have NOTHING to do with staying with the Truth of the Bible. ALL the Truths of the Gospel must be spoken, whether it is accepted by the hearers or not, or great woe will pursue the ambassador of Christ. Truth must be spoken in today’s evil world.
John the Baptist also gives us a tremendous example of humility. He was blessed with great success; attended by the great and noble of Israel, with nothing but basic honor and humility to keep him from turning his success to his advantage. He could have become a wealthy man, as many preachers in today’s world do, but instead he stayed out of view, and pointed to a far, far greater One who was to soon come. So too, in today’s world should every servant of Christ Jesus be, no matter how successful they are, keeping the Son of God in perfect view at all times. We all must be willing to serve our Master and rejoice in doing so. We must be willing to lay any and all success and honors at His precious Feet, for without Him, we could do nothing (Phil.4:13).
The Father took infinite delight and pleasure in Jesus as His own Son, who lay in His bosom before all worlds (Jn.1:18); and was well pleased with Him and delighted in Him as His Servant (Isa.42:1). He was pleased with His assuming human nature; with His total obedience to the law; and with His bearing the penalty and curse of it, in the place of His people. He was well pleased with Him for His righteousness, His Sacrifice and the atonement made possible by Him, whereby His law was fulfilled (Mat.5:17), and His justice satisfied. God is not only well pleased in, and with His Son, but with all His people who have believed and accepted God’s one and only Plan of salvation, Jesus (Jn.14:6; Acts 4:12).
The Pharisees and Sadducees
The Pharisees and Sadducees were the two major religious groups in Israel at the time of Christ. The Pharisees were more religiously minded, while the Sadducees were more politically minded. Although these groups hated and did not trust each other, they were allies in their common hatred of Jesus.
The Pharisees were dedicated to obey all God's commands. They were admired by the common people for their clear piousness. They believed in a bodily resurrection and eternal life, and they believed in angels and demons. They behaved as though their own religious rules were just as important as God's rules for living (Mat.15:9). Their godliness was most often hypocritical, and they tried to force others to try to live up to standards they themselves could not live up to. They believed that salvation came from perfect obedience to the law and was NOT based on forgiveness of sins, such as the Gospel teaches. They became so obsessed with obeying THEIR legal interpretations in every detail, that they completely ignored God's message of mercy and grace. They were much more concerned with appearing to be good, rather than obeying God. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12087-pharisees
The Sadducees believed strongly in the law of Moses and in Levitical purity. They were more practically minded than the Pharisees. They relied on common sense while placing very little importance on faith. They did NOT believe all the Old Testament was God's Word. They did not believe in a bodily resurrection or eternal life, nor did they believe in angels or demons. They were often willing to compromise their values with the Romans and others in order to maintain their status and influential positions. Sounds like today’s politicians!
Gospel of Matthew
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