Matthew 3:7-12

Please open your Bibles to Matthew 3:7-12

Vs. 7 – The Pharisees were the dominant religious party among the Jewish people. Their views of scripture were often distorted by the fact that they allowed religious tradition to dominate their thinking as opposed to the actual scriptures themselves (see Mark 7:3-13). They were hypocrites because they would teach one thing and then behave in the opposite way (Matthew 23:13-33). For these reasons, Jesus condemned them severely on multiple occasions.

The Sadducees were the second most dominant religious party among the Jewish people. Together, the Pharisees and the Sadducees composed the council of the Sanhedrim. The Sadducees, unlike the Pharisees, didn’t believe that man had a spiritual nature and also didn’t believe that there would be a resurrection. Jesus comes in conflict with them in Mark 12:18-27 and shows that they had grave misunderstandings regarding the resurrection and man’s future state.

In coming to John’s baptism, the Pharisees were concerned about this “preacher” that many had been discussing. They were jealous of any who they saw as a threat to their authority and sway over the Jewish people. This jealousy is reflected in John 11:48 when they said regarding Jesus, “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” Pilate well observed in Mark 15:10 that it was “for envy” that Jesus was delivered to him.

No doubt the same motives and attitudes were fostering under the surface in regard to John’s baptism. We know that they did not believe in John as a prophet for the words that they spoke to Jesus in Mark 11:31-33. We also know that they refused to be baptized of John according to Luke 7:30. In that regard, they rejected the counsel of God. So we can reasonably assume that they were up to no good in coming to see and hear John.

John also rightly deduces that they were up to no good. The initial words out of his mouth to them are not words of blessing, but rather, condemnation. He calls them a “brood of vipers.” They were a nursery for deadly serpents; they weren’t content to merely be deadly, they had to breed more.

John then asks them, “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” The question was both a positive and condemnatory in the same sentence. If they continued in their present course, they would certainly experience God’s wrath and vengeance for so mutilating and damaging His word for His people. Such is the condemnation for all who would so act. At the same time, they were given “warning” regarding their ultimate end and they were to be commended for heeding that warning and coming to the appropriate place. They would be correct in trying to “flee” from that great wrath that God has in store for all of those who refuse to know him or obey him (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). This leads us into John’s instruction for them in verse 8.

Vs. 8 – John now focuses upon what these errant leaders needed to do in order to demonstrate their sincerity in coming to John’s baptism. They needed to “bear fruits worthy of repentance.” The word “repentance” literally means to change one’s mind toward something or another. However, when looking at repentance as a Christian concept the thought goes much deeper than a mere “change of mind.” The word involves not only a change in thought and attitude, but a reformation of life as well. This is what John demanded of these religious leaders. Not that they merely say they have repented, but that they demonstrate their repentance by a reformed life. Luke gives us additional detail into what John said on this point in Luke 3:10-14. There, not only were the religious leaders addressed, but also soldiers, publicans, and everyday people. John tells each group how they were expected to behave as a result of their repentance. Paul also expected this out of converts to Christianity. He said in Acts 26:20 that when he began preaching the gospel that he “?shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” This is a good lesson for us today to note. Gospel preachers not only have the obligation to preach the word, but also to make appropriate application even to the point of instructing individuals on how and how not to behave according to God’s word.

Vs. 9 – John did not want these religious leaders to fall back upon their heritage for self justification. Just because one was of Abraham’s seed didn’t guarantee one’s salvation. Here was a dangerous presumption on the part of these religious leaders. Jesus refutes this presumptiousness in John 8:33-37 with the fact that it is the one who sins who becomes the slave to sin. Religious heritage doesn’t guarantee personal salvation.

Sadly, there are many today who hold to a form of this same doctrine. They believe that once they have “accepted Jesus into their heart” that they are saved and that nothing they do will in any way affect a change in their salvation. Those who hold this doctrine of “once saved always saved” in essence make the same argument as the Pharisees and Saducees. They claim that because they have a religious heritage they are personally secure. Jesus’ words rebuke them as much as he does these religious leaders. It is personal sin which will cause us to be condemned on the day of judgment. There is forgiveness in Christ, but that forgiveness is contingent upon repentance and obedience to Christ’s will. Those who willfully sin have no sacrifice on their behalf (Hebrews 10:26).

John calls these religious leaders to sobriety when he states that God is able to change stones into Abraham’s seed. It was no reason to boast that they were of the lineage of Abraham. That carries no weight in the eyes of God; He can make descendents of Abraham from rocks, stones, or even dust. God is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11). God sees all such boasting as foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:19, 2 Corinthians 11:22,23). What matters today is not whether we are of the physical lineage of Abraham, but whether we are of his spiritual lineage. Those who belong to Christ are Abraham’s seed today and heirs of the promise (Galatians 3:29).

Vs. 10 – John prophesies regarding the termination of the old economy. Judaism was not to last much longer as an authorized religious entity. Hence, the axe was at the root of the tree, indicating that it was about to be used to cut down that tree. Judaism was limited in its scope (it was originally intended only for the nation of Israel, see Deuteronomy 5:1-3) and hence, religiously, it could not serve God’s purposes in extending salvation to the entire world. Thus, it had to be brought to an end in order for God’s purposes for all men to go forward. Jesus brought this economy to an end when he died and nailed the law to the cross along with our sins (Colossians 2:14). Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:15 that Jesus abolished the law. Jesus himself said that the law wouldn’t be destroyed until all things were fulfilled (Matthew 5:17,18), and they were fulfilled. Jesus also told numerous parables regarding the cessation of the Jewish economy and the inauguration of the kingdom (see Matthew 21:28-46 and 22:1-14). No longer did the Jewish nation bear “good fruit” and hence it was only fitting for it to be “cast into the fire.” Jesus said in Matthew 15:13 “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.” This is exactly what happened to the Jewish nation as it had been corrupted by Rabbinical Judaism.

Vs. 11 – John makes reference to the element which he used to baptize, namely, water. The purpose of John’s baptism was “for repentance.” Hence, John sought to bring the wayward Jew back to a state of favor with God. John’s baptism was thus limited in that it could only cleanse the Jew who repented and obeyed God’s counsel in being baptized. This is one reason why Paul did not accept those who were baptized with John’s baptism after the cross (see Acts 19:1-7). John’s baptism was thus limited to the time prior to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Hence, belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus was subsequently required. John’s baptism didn’t require such and could no longer be valid for the Christian era.

John prophesies that One is coming who will administer a different baptism. John says this One would be mightier than he. In what sense? Mightier in scope of message; mightier in authority; mightier in power over the elements; mightier in personal purity, mightier in lasting results of His work; the list could go on and on. Because of these facts, John was not worthy to be such a One’s sandal valet. In this culture, it was customary for the servant of the house to handle the footwear of the house guests. John’s statement shows reverence and humility. He did not even consider himself worthy to be His servant. And such ought to be the attitude of all who have been redeemed by the love, grace, and mercy of God through Christ (Luke 17:10).

The nature of this Mighty One’s baptism was to be with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Many have been confused regarding this pronouncement. Some have considered that the fire and the Holy Spirit are the same baptism. But the immediate context (vs.12) forbids such a thought because being baptized with fire is obviously not desirable.

Some have also misapplied the scope of the baptism of the Holy Spirit saying that all Christian baptism is Holy Spirit baptism. Such ignores John’s statement that it would be Jesus himself who would administer such baptism. It is clear from the New Testament that many of Jesus disciples were involved in administering baptism, but these baptisms were not Holy Spirit baptisms! Hence, we must come to the conclusion that Holy Spirit baptism was an affair limited only to those whom Jesus personally chose to be baptized in such a way. John no where says that everyone would be baptized in the Holy Spirit; he simply states that Jesus would administer such and Jesus did as recorded for us in Acts 2:1-4 and Acts 10:44-46 as explained in Acts 11:16. No other time in the New Testament do we read of Jesus’ administering Holy Spirit baptism than these two times. Men have tried to suggest such, but there is no reason to conclude that simply because a passage mentions baptism that it is of necessity Holy Spirit baptism. And those who believe such do so without any contextual evidence. The most common administration of baptism in the New Testament was water baptism and such ought to be the assumed regarding any passage that mentions baptism unless there are contextual reasons to believe otherwise.

Vs. 12 – A winnowing fork is an instrument designed to toss grain mixed with hulls into the air so that the wind may catch the hull and drop the grain. In this manner the hull was separated from the grain. The hulls (chaff) then drifted off in the direction of the wind and were eventually burned. The grain was then collected and gathered into the barn where it could serve its good purpose.

John explains Jesus’ work to be similar in nature. Jesus teaching separated those who would believe and obey the Lord from those who would not. The wheat (believers) would be gathered into the barn (presumably heaven). The chaff (unbelievers), on the other hand, would be burned with unquenchable fire (hell). There are only two eternal destinies for man. Man may either choose to live a holy life in harmony with God’s will and be forever in fellowship with God in heaven, or he may so choose to live in rebellion to God and spend eternity in hell. Moses spoke of the way of life and the way of death (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). Jesus spoke of these two ways as well in Matthew 7:13,14. Jesus also spoke of the sheep being separated from the goats for all eternity in Matthew 25:31-46. Where will we spent our eternal destiny? The choice is up to each of us.

Kevin Cauley

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Job 3:1-10

Please open your Bibles to Job 3:1-10.

Job chapter one (three?) continues to be introductory in nature. Job is now in the midst of his sufferings. He and his friends have been silent for a period of seven days. But now Job gives voice to his sufferings. After Job’s friends question why Job would do such, Job pleads that it is as natural for a man in his situation to give voice to his grief as it is for a donkey to bray when he doesn’t have grass or an ox to low when he doesn’t have fodder (Job 6:1-6). These remarks of Job in chapter three deal primarily with Job’s desire for his life to end so that his suffering will cease. The key verse to understanding this chapter, however, is verse twenty. “Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul”. Why do the righteous suffer? That is the question that will burden Job as well as Job’s three friends throughout the dialogues. Through the asking of this question, Job will teach us how to minister to those who are suffering. He will also teach us that sometimes it is simply God’s will that the righteous be allowed to suffer. In all of these things, the most important lesson that we will learn from Job is that regardless of what happens, God is always to be considered blameless for temptation to do evil.

Vs. 1-2 – Job begins speaking after enduring such awful sufferings. Job “curses” his day. The word “curse” is used here to indicate Job’s disdain for his existence in its current situation. Had Job not been under such adverse circumstances there would have been no reason to so disdain his “day.” The “day” that Job disdains is the day of his birth. This is made clear in verse three. So Job speaks.

Vs. 3-5 – Job doesn’t merely state that he wishes he had never been born, but rather, that the day and night of his birth itself would never have existed. He speaks of the day in verse four and five and then he speaks of the night in verses six through nine.

Of the day, he states that his desire was that 1) it had perished, 2) it had been darkness, 3) God had not regarded it, 4) the light had not shined on it and 5) it had been stained by death. Verse four’s comments in essence state that Job wished that the day had never existed. Verse five’s comments in essence state that Job wish death had controlled that day, particularly in regard to his own life.

In verse four, Job expresses his desire that the day had never existed by stating that he wished it had been a day of darkness. This is in essence equivalent to saying that he didn’t want that day to have existed. There is no such thing as a “dark” day. To state that he desired it to be darkness meant he didn’t want it to be. He then states the same thing when he says that he wished God had not regarded it. The implication here is that if God doesn’t acknowledge something, then it doesn’t exist. The third description is that the light would not shine on it. Again, the definition of a day is that the light shines. If the light doesn’t shine, then it’s not a day.

In verse five, Job expresses his wish that death (for him) had been present on that day. It’s almost as if he acknowledges the impossibility of the day existing and so now he turns to something more remotely possible, namely, that he had died instead of been born alive. In verse five, “darkness” refers more to the idea of the sorrow that surrounds death as opposed to verse four’s use of it to refer to non-existence. The expression “shadow of death” is a familiar one in the scriptures, used some sixteen times (compare Psalm 23:4, Isaiah 9:2, Matthew 4:16, and Luke 1:79 for its use in other contexts). The phrase simply refers to all things that are attendant surrounding death; it is death and all of its influence.

Job expresses his desire that death hold that day by talking about a “cloud” overshadowing it. We use the word “cloud” in the same sense today. We often say he has a “black cloud” over his head indicating that someone is in a melancholy mood. Such would have been the atmosphere on the day in which a dead child was born. Job also expresses the same thing when he speaks about the “blackness of the day.” Here, the blackness of the day is death. In Job’s time death was a mystery and as such it was time for sorrow and mourning. Under the Christian era, the veil of death has been taken away and the mystery of death revealed to us; the Christian has no reason to sorrow as if he had no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Job, however, didn’t have this information; death was still “black” to him.

We ought to pause to note that the book of Job was written before the time of Christ who gave hope to all men for eternal life (Titus 3:6,7). Generally speaking, Job doesn’t seem to have such hope. Job’s sole hope in the book appears to be that God will justify him before his friends. Other than that, Job’s desire is merely to be allowed to die. That Job didn’t know about the hope of eternal life may be because God had not revealed that information to Job. Such is not out of harmony with the scriptures which teach that the gospel was a “mystery” in the old times which was kept silent (Romans 16:25) and also that many of the prophets themselves did not understand that about which they were writing (1 Peter 1:10-12).

For the “blackness of the day” to “terrify” the day meant that Job desired that his own death had come on the day of his birth.

Vs. 6-9 – In these verses, Job curses the night of his birth. It wasn’t enough for Job simply to curse the day; he had to curse the night as well. This is poetry. It expresses a thing in the fullest way possible. If the day is cursed, then so must the night be cursed also. Verse six expresses Job’s desire for the night never to have existed. This parallel’s his desire for the day to never have existed. How could darkness seize the night? Isn’t it already dark? Darkness could seize upon the night in the sense that none of the nightly luminaries would shine upon it. It is the same as saying he didn’t want it to exist. That he didn’t want it joined to the days or the months of the year also is an expression of wishing that that particular day had never existed. In effect he says, “Don’t even let that night exist on the calendar!”

In verse seven the KJV has the word “solitary.” The ESV says “barren.” In other words, let it be barren of childbirth. To wish that no joyful cry had entered it, of course, refers to the joy of receiving a child. This is another way of wishing he had not been born.

In verse eight Job calls for all others have a death wish, to curse the night of his birth. Those who “curse the day” are those who desire death, as Job has already illustrated. A further description of these is that they are ready to raise up leviathan. The KJV says “mourning” but the ASV and ESV both have “leviathan.” This was a frightful sea creature that was great in size and power (see Job 41:1-10, Psalm 104:26). Those who were ready to “raise him up” were looking for their own deaths. They had a “death wish.”

In verse nine Job states what he implied in verse seven, namely, that the night’s luminaries wouldn’t shine. It is a reiteration of his desire that that night had not existed. To not let it see the dawning of the day is yet another expression indicating this as all nights eventually see the dawn.

Vs. 10 – Why did Job not want this day and night to exist? Because that was when his mother gave birth to him. That day didn’t close his mother’s womb so that he would be prevented from being born. But the second half of verse 10 is the key to this whole section. It was the sorrow that Job was presently experiencing that made him desire these things.

We need not think from these verses that Job literally didn’t want that day on the calendar, whatever it was, not to exist, but rather, that it didn’t exist from the standpoint that it was the day of his birth. In this regard, Job’s desires here are subjective due to his suffering. The day that he came into the world is what now offends him because that ultimately lead to these days of intense suffering and agony.

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Matthew 3:1-6

Please open your Bibles to Matthew 3:1-6

Having testified concerning Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecy in his birth, Matthew now moves on to Jesus years of ministry. Matthew begins at this point in the history of Jesus life because the critical years of Jesus life were from the time of his baptism to the time of his ascension. It was these years that the apostles required one to witness in order for Judas successor to be named (Acts 1:22). These were the years in which Jesus ministry began, in which he taught the gospel, and in which he gave his life to redeem the sins of man. Jesus’ teaching and actions in those years were the things the apostles were to pass on to others in their work and ministry.

In chapter two, Matthew introduces us to the herald of the King and the coming kingdom. Matthew then shows that the herald recognized his King and that God also testified that Jesus was the King upon the occasion of Jesus’ baptism.

Vs. 1 – What are “those days?” Likely the days in which Jesus was still living in the city of Nazareth. Matthew fast forwards through time here in order to bring us past the intervening years of Jesus’ life to begin discussion of Jesus’ ministry. We have no reason to believe that beyond the events that surrounded his birth that Jesus had a childhood unlike any other, saving that he committed no sin.

John the Baptizer is more accurate than John the Baptist. John was not a “Baptist” or a member of any other denomination for that matter. He was described as “a baptizer” because that is what he did. He baptized. Modern day Baptists (the denomination) gain no credibility by pointing to John’s description here and claiming it as their title. The church that belongs to Christ ought to have that right and proper name by which her Lord and Savior would be honored (Matthew 16:18, Romans 16:16, Ephesians 5:23) and so ought her members to carry the name of Christ, Christian (Acts 11:26).

Luke tells us that John was Jesus’ cousin by birth of Mary’s sister, Elizabeth. John’s father, Zacharias, was a priest and John’s birth was surrounded by unusual events as was Jesus’. One may read Luke 1 to learn of those things. John was approximately six months older than Jesus, at least, in human age.

Matthew tells us that John “came preaching.” The word for “preaching” here is from the Greek word kerusso and signifies ringing out a message so that all may hear. John was the first to herald forth the message that God’s kingdom was soon coming.

John preached this message in the desert area of Judea somewhere near where the Jordan comes into the Dead Sea. This area, while not completely devoid of human life, was, and is fairly barren. That’s not to say that it was a desert of sand, but a wilderness of scrub brush, boulders, and wild animals (Mark 1:13).

Vs. 2 – Here is the message that John preached. Repentance is a change of mind that results in reformation of life. Repentance is not a mere acknowledgment of sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:9,10), but a willingness to make permanent change in one’s life. John’s message was that the Jewish people needed to change from their sinful ways because the kingdom of heaven was coming. The kingdom of heaven does not admit those who revel in sin (Galatians 5:19-21). One must repent of sin and be forgiven before becoming one of its citizens (Acts 2:38).

Vs. 3 -The Jewish people knew of John and his ministry. They all went out to hear him (Matthew 3:5). The Jewish leaders recognized that the people believed John to be a prophet (Matthew 11:32). However, there was some confusion as to what John’s purpose as a prophet was among them. Some even went so far as to confuse him with Jesus (Matthew 16:14). Here, Matthew makes it plain that John was Jesus herald as predicted by Isaiah. The prophecy is found in Isaiah 40:3-5. Not only then did John’s ministry bear record of his divine approval, but also the prophetic record.

In Matthew’s day and age, a herald was one who would go ahead of the king to whatever city or town the king was about to enter and proclaim that the king was coming and for the city to make everything ready for his arrival. The herald would also ensure that appropriate engineering was accomplished to level the hills and fill in the ditches so that the king would have a smooth and easy journey to conduct his business. In parallel, then, this was John’s great work; to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus as Messiah; to tear down the hills of impenitence and disobedience, to fill in the valleys of indifference and apathy, to call the people back to considering the right ways of the Lord. And so John did indeed prepare and when the Lord appeared, he testified as to His presence. The King is here!

Vs. 4 – John wore a coat of crude camel’s hair, but not the fine hairs used in today’s manufacture. He wore a leathern girdle. The same was said of Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). This was fitting for the one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17). He ate locusts which were more similar to our modern day grasshoppers than to what we in the United States style as locusts. Honey also was his food. He gleaned it from wild bees.

John wore only the essential things that he needed to wear; no fancy fineries of which the Sanhedrin afforded themselves (Matthew 23:5). He ate only what he needed to sustain his life. What privations John endured to serve his God! His sacrifice reminds us of those great heroes of faith discussed in Hebrews 11:32-40. Here is a great lesson to us all regarding self-sacrifice for the sake of God’s kingdom.

Vs. 5-6 – Certainly thousands, perhaps millions, came to hear John preach, even publicans (Luke 3:12) soldiers (Luke 3:14) and the religious leaders of the day (Matthew 3:7). Even so, we should regard these verses as an example of hyperbole because not all of these were baptized of John. The Pharisees were not (Luke 7:30). Verses five and six comprise one sentence the subject of which is Jerusalem, Judea, and the region. Additionally, this is a compound sentence with two predicates. The subject of the first sentence acts as both the subject of the first and second predicate. Hence, since we know that not everyone was baptized of John, we ought not to interpret these verses literally, but as an example of hyperbole. Luke 7:29 tells us what category of listeners were obedient to John’s message of baptism, namely, the common people. John’s words were God’s counsel (Luke 7:30). Rejection of God’s counsel only served to condemn one’s self. Would the situation be any different today in regard to Christian baptism?

The apostle John tells us that John baptized in the river Jordan because there was “much water” (John 3:23). The Greek word baptizo means to dip or to plunge. The verb is in the imperfect tense here indicating repetition of the act among all of the numerous people who came. “Confessing” is also in the imperfect tense indicating the near simultaneous occurrence of these two actions. They would confess and be baptized, confess and be baptized, confess and be baptized, one after the other.

This was no mere sprinkling or pouring of water upon the heads of those who came. They were submerged beneath the Jordan and subsequently came up “out of the water” (Matthew 3:16). They confessed their sins because it was a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Luke 3:3). Thus, it required fruits that were suitable for repentance (Luke 3:8). Hence John required them to confess their sins prior to their being baptized to show their repentance and make them proper candidates for baptism. John’s baptism is similar to Christian baptism in this regard, but not the same in that it looked forward to the coming Messiah. Christian baptism looks back. See Acts 19:1-7.

This is the second time we have come across the word “sin” in our study. The first was in Matthew 1:21 in reference to Jesus’ mission. Here we find it in reference to confession and the act of baptism. It is no coincidence. Both the shedding of Christ blood (Matthew 26:28) and baptism (Acts 2:38) are said to be “for the remission of sins.” It is appropriate that Matthew so associate the two early in his account.

Sin is the problem with which Jesus dealt. It is here represented as prohibiting those who have it in their lives from entering the coming kingdom (Matthew 3:2). Jesus solves the problem of man’s sin through forgiveness and instruction. Jesus purchased the opportunity for all men to be forgiven when he gave his blood on the cross (Matthew 26:28). Forgiveness is then offered to the sinner based upon the sinner’s repentance and obedience (Acts 5:31,32). Instruction then takes over in the life of the Christian in an effort to prevent him from continuing in a life of sin (Romans 6:1,12,13). This is not to say that the Christian won’t ever sin (1 John 1:8-10). It is, however, to say that God intends to reduce the amount of sin a Christian may commit through teaching him not to sin and to warn the Christian regarding the dangers of deliberately committed sin (Hebrews 10:26). Why is sin so terrible? Because it is that which separates man from God (Isaiah 59:2) and which will ultimately condemn man to a Devil’s hell (Romans 6:23). How fortunate we are to have a High Priest who has been touched with the feeling of our infirmities, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15)! He has thus architected our salvation, but not without our own obedience (Hebrews 5:9).

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