John the Baptist (Luke 3:1-14)

 We had an awesome service at church yesterday afternoon. It was called a solemn assembly. We met together to repent of the sins of the church body and humble ourselves before God like they did in the Old Testament when Israel sinned. We repented of a covenant-breaking spirit, a spirit of rebellion, a spirit of spiritual pride and a spirit of greed. Then we had a praise service, took Holy Communion and marched outside to pray for revival. Afterwards I felt so clean inside, it was like I was first saved! I believe that Jesus is preparing His Church for the Second Coming and I want to be ready! And it was great preparation for the study on John the Baptist. His mission was to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus the first time.

Father God we rejoice before you and thank you for your great love and patience towards us. We humble ourselves under your mighty hand and will wait until you are ready to exalt us in due time. We confess that in ourselves we are powerless but in you we have dynamite power in the Spirit. We long to know more of you, spend more time with you, and please you in all things. Thank You Lord Jesus for Your love. Thank You Father for Your grace. Lord Jesus, we draw near to you with willing hearts to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. And Holy Spirit we pray the rushing mighty wind of revival will sweep our land in Jesus Name AMEN Thank You Lord for the brethren. Thank You Father for Your salvation.

satan we declare that you are a defeated foe and no weapon that you have raised against us shall prosper. We have been crucified with Christ and are no longer under your dominion or the dominion of sin. So devil we cast you out of this holy place, we bind you and rebuke you and declare all your schemes and stratagems null and void in the blessed, holy, wonderful Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Holy Spirit, be our teacher, open the eyes of our understanding, and mold us to be like Jesus. AMEN and AMEN Father, open our minds and hearts to the blessings of Your Holy Word. Father this I pray in the sweet name of Jesus, the Son of the living God, AMEN

Praise the Lord! Last time we studied "Lessons from the Carpenter's Shop": vision, planning, discernment, patience and perseverance. And then we began discussing the coming of John the Baptist and his ministry as the forerunner of the Messiah.

Luke 3:3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

John's baptism came after a person showed evidence of repentance - this is why he would not baptize the Pharisees and Sadducees. What is repentance?

Alma - recognizing and turning away from sin

prodigal son - Its a turning of the heart. To give up what is wrong and do what is right.

Right. The Greek word for repentance is Metanoia, which is more than just a mere "change of mind"; but a whole re-orientation of the personality, a conversion, "doing a 180". Repentance means turning from sin just as faith involves turning to God.

Jesus' mission was to seek and save that which was lost, and to lead them to repentance. Is saying "I'm sorry" the same as repentance?

OlePappy - if you add " I will do it no more"

Savior's Servant - no, it's trying to not sin (an action) not just words

Alma - No repentance indicates a change

prodigal son - Just saying I'm sorry doesn't mean the same thing as repentance

Right, you can be sorry that you "got caught", but not necessarily grieve over your actions and desire to change them. What was John's purpose in preaching a baptism of repentance?

prodigal son - To prepare the way for the teachings of the Messiah

Luke 3:4-6 As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, `Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation.'"

John's coming was a fulfillment of the prophecy of a forerunner who would prepare the way for the Messiah. "Prepare the way (3:4)" - In ancient times, a herald would travel ahead of a royal procession, announcing the king's coming and commanding preparations. And John was saying, "The King, the anointed one, the Christ, the Messiah, is on his way! Get ready!" Only the preparation for this king was an internal one of repentance.

When you truly repent, you grieve because you have offended God, you acknowledge God's proper place as Lord of your life, and you exalt His Name and magnify it before men. It takes a man or woman of courage to say "I was wrong. I am deeply sorrowful and full of grief. God forgive me and change me." Cowards point the finger of blame to someone else for their actions, a Christian humbles himself and admits his faults and sins.

How did John's coming prepare the people to receive Jesus?

prodigal son - by teaching about repentance.

Alma - He preached of the Lord's coming and the need for change

They realized the need for a change inside themselves, spiritually and morally; that the outward righteousness of the Pharisees was not enough. Also they needed to have many of their false ideas about Messiah corrected. They needed to be led to see their need for moral regeneration, and a radical change of heart. And the church leadership today is likewise called our world to repentance and accountability to prepare the way for the Second Coming of Jesus!

prodigal son - Is this because the people were following the examples of the religious leaders at the time?

Right, PS, the Pharisees preached an OUTWARD righteousness of picky rules and regulations that made being godly a burden even they couldn't keep up with, much less the common man who had to struggle for existence.

Luke 3:7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?

Now if you were a preacher, would you call those who came to hear you a bunch of poisonous snakes? "John's greeting to those who came out to hear him indicated that he had not read How to Win Friends and Influence People. To call them a "brood of vipers" was hardly the most tactful way to welcome them.

Alma - Yes, I would think he didn't want them to come.

Today it seems that many churches are more concerned with numbers than holiness, and don't preach the true gospel for fear of offending someone or not being "politically correct"? Yet the coarse language of this rough prophet did not alienate them. It seemed to attract them all the more. No doubt many came out of curiosity to hear this unusual preacher in the wilderness. It was to those especially that John's strong language was aimed. In that age as in this, there were shallow curiosity seekers who had little real interest in religion. Only shocking language could jar them out of their worldly concerns."

Jesus himself called the scribes and Pharisees vipers and spoke to them harshly. Hypocrites not only fail to enter the kingdom themselves, because they don't really "practice what they preach", but they keep multitudes from following God also. Jesus said they were like the blind leading the blind, whitewashed tombs full of dead men's bones.

Luke 3:7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?

What do you think John meant by the expression "the coming wrath"?

prodigal son - The coming of Christ and judgement day

What do you say to those who don't attend church or serve God because of "all of the hypocrites there"?

prodigal son - Because some one is a hypocrite does not mean that you should shortchange yourself from the word of God and worshiping him

Savior's Servant - OT-that not all the people are hypocrites and only Jesus knows the heart, and the Holy Spirit is the true teacher

Hieremias - My grandpa just said that to me yesterday. He's not a believer. I asked him if that was the true reason he wasn't a Christian, or if that was an excuse. He didn't answer.

OlePappy - well you work with them...or you go to the grocer with them.

H, you hit the nail on the head with that one. It IS an excuse not to be responsible to God for your own sins. Right OP and I'd rather go to church with them than go to hell with them, to be blunt.

OlePappy - come to church with them and maybe YOU can help the Lord change them!

Yeah, OP, if your excuse is the "hypocrite factor", come on in and show us how it's done - walk it out yourself! "The coming wrath" may have referred either to the coming destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD or to God's Judgement Day, or both. At any rate, each person meets their own day of reckoning when they die - either in Christ to eternal life, or not - to eternal wrath.

Luke 3:8 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.

Anybody can say "I'm sorry", anybody can SAY they're saved, but the real test is - is their life producing fruit of repentance? What are some "fruits or results of repentance" in a person's life?

prodigal son - Peace in their heart that God has forgiven them their sins and will be with him in the end

Hieremias - Exactly. Jesus said very clearly that NOT ALL who say "Lord, Lord" will enter in Heaven.

prodigal son - Blessings from God for being a good and faithful servant

Hieremias - James 1:21 spells out the fruits of repentance. Essentially, he says that pure religion is helping those in need, and keeping one's self from sin. Such a pity that the latter is so overlooked by those who are certain that the first will get them to heaven.

How about restitution of you've harmed someone? How about simply NOT doing those works of unrighteousness any longer? How about forgiving offenses, even if the offender isn't sorry? How about loving your enemies and praying for those who despitefully use you?

What does this mean? 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.

Hieremias - He meant that putting a name to one's self (i.e. Children of Abraham) doesn't mean squat.

prodigal son - Just because Abraham was your father does not mean that you will be saved

Good points. The Pharisees, Sadducees and other Jews were depending on the fact that Abraham was their ancestor to be saved. They would not escape by depending on their Jewish ancestry alone. they must produce "fruit in keeping with repentance." "John's response to this kind of thinking was just as pointed as was his greeting. God, if He so chose; could create physical children of Abraham from the rocks that littered the riverbank.

Boy, I bet that took them down a notch or two! LOL It was God's calling that made Abraham special, and they would have to heed that call in their personal lives as well to be saved from the coming wrath.

Hieremias - They figured that since they were Jews, and God's chosen people, they were saved. Yet God has NEVER changed the plan of salvation for ANYBODY. We are saved through faith in Him. That has and always will remain constant, throughout the old and New Testament.

Imac - They were tied up in their old law and were not willing to accept Jesus and his teachings

AMEN! John's call was for them to become true spiritual descendants of that great patriarch. "God does not judge a person on the basis of who his father or his grandfather was. He judges, instead, on the commitments one makes for his own life."

And some churches and Christians today are just as "tradition bound". They are not ready or willing for a fresh anointing and move of the Holy Spirit because "that's not how we do it here". There is a difference between man's traditions, laws, rules, and ideas and what the Word says. If traditions, no matter how old or honored, contradict or impede the move and Word of God, throw them out.

See the Oral Law that the Pharisees lived by was an addition to the "Law of Moses" contained in the Old Testament, and these traditions were about 700 years old by Jesus' Day. John continues his sermon:

Luke 3:9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

The Bible says in Hebrews that, Now is the accepted time, and today is the day of salvation. There was urgency in John's message - the ax was at the root of the tree, ready now to cut it down if it didn't begin to produce fruit.

In Palestine; trees that produced fruit were very valuable. But it was so much work to water, trim, and fertilize a tree that an unproductive one was quickly cut down to save precious water and other resources. Since fuel was in short supply, such a tree was quickly consigned to the flames. John's hearers had no trouble catching the point he was making.

Why do you think that John spoke with such wrath in these two verses?

Alma - to wake them up

prodigal son - To get their attention and fear god .. It would work on me

Imac - Because they were under a false belief

Right! He wanted to shake them out of their complacency; to bring their hypocrisy to light.

Isaiah 40:6-8 A voice says, "Cry out." And I said, "What shall I cry?" "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever."

John was trying to get them to see how utterly insignificant their lives and concerns were in contrast to the Word of God which "stands forever". You know, that's exactly how it is today. People get caught up in who they are, who they know, what they have, and need a "wake up call" to show them how precarious their position really is.

Luke 3:10 "What should we do then?" the crowd asked.

When the gospel is presented, and people repent, they will be moved to action. They see the futility of their lives and long to be what God wants them to be. They realize that in themselves they lack what it takes to please God.

What is magic?

prodigal son - Trickery

Imac - Tricks by the slight of hand

Savior's Servant - OT-slight of hand or witchcraft

Hieremias - magic? As in, sorcery and all that? Not good, that's for sure.

Magic is something appearing out of thin air - a few "magic words" - Abracadabra - and behold! It's there! Magic is the attempt of a person to manipulate natural and spiritual power to his own ends, to fulfill his own lusts, and usually to obtain money and power over people. How is this different from faith?

Imac - Faith is a belief, real, magic is not

Alma - Faith in the lord enables you to put others first

prodigal son - because we are doing what God wants us to do we are not trying to get God to do what we want

Sherry - What draws people so much to this magic OldTimer?

I think a desire for control, Sherry. People want to be in control and think magic will give it to them, but it only brings them under the control and curse of demonic powers.

Hieremias - Faith is believing in God to do what HE will, not what we want. Magic, by your definition, is trying to use one's own powers (or whatever) to obtain personal gain.

Many really see faith this way. If you say the right prayer in the right way - behold! What you want will appear out of thin air! If you want to be skinny for example, you believe that you will get that way without any regard for what you put in your mouth. Or if you need finances; you just sit back and believe, but don't try to get a job (assuming of course that you are able to work).

So what is wrong with that? 'Faith without works is dead; being alone". (James 2:17). Faith and works are a "power team". One without the other cannot get the job done. Sure, God can work miracles without us doing anything and sometimes He does, but the nitty gritty everyday walk of faith takes work. "Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).

This was John's point - if you have truly repented, it will show up in your daily life. According to Hebrews 11:1, Faith is the evidence of things hoped for; so what is the physical, outward evidence that we have faith?

Hieremias - *smile* "Faith without works is dead" are, probably the most misunderstood words in the bible. The idea is so clear, however. One verse later, James says "You show me your faith without your works, and I'll show you my faith BY my works." Works are the evidence of faith. Not the other way around.

Imac - The way we walk daily with God.

EXACTLY James 2:18: "I will show thee my faith by my works." NIV: But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

Alma - The outward evidence of faith is doing God's will - loving one another.

Hieremias - There you are, hit the nail on the head! If you have truly repented it will show up in your daily life.

We have been guilty in these modern times of preaching an "easy believe-ism", that you can somehow believe in Jesus and be saved and that's all there is to it! But here John was saying, "IF you have faith in God, show me the evidence of a godly life!" God is calling this nation, and the world, to repentance! It's time to quit "playing church" and time to start obeying God!

How does faith express itself? Galatians 5:6 - " For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." And love involves action - "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (I John 3:18)

prodigal son - Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.......

Suppose Jesus had prayed: "God, I believe Your kingdom is among us. Do miracles and bring forth Your Kingdom." And then suppose He retired to a quiet place, folded His hands, closed His eyes, and waited. What would have happened?

prodigal son - Nothing because he would not be demonstrating faith

Hieremias - Salvation is absolutely free, in that it comes by FAITH, not your own efforts. But accepting that gift brings its own cost; you must be willing to forsake all and to be forsaken, to be despised and persecuted. In fact, it'll cost you everything you have. Romans 12:1-2 says it's our REASONABLE SERVICE--it's the least we can do!--to give our lives to Him. That last point is the one that's overlooked, but it's talked about SO MUCH in the bible. Look at the apostles. Every one of them was killed for their faith (except John, who was exiled).

Jesus said. "I must work the works of Him that sent me; while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work." (John 9:4 KJV).

Alma - He would not have lived and died for us as was his fathers plan

Even at age of 12, Jesus was conscious of the need to work: "Know ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2:49 KJV). If there's one thing that the Gospels are full of, it is Jesus' activity. He may go to a lonely place to pray; but then He's right back in motion: moving, healing, teaching, walking, and loving. When Jesus spoke of His mission, quoting from Isaiah in Luke 3:18-19, notice the action verbs: to preach, to heal, to set at liberty.

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Now we know that works alone cannot save us. We are saved by faith in the Gospel, trusting in Jesus righteousness and substitutionary death on the Cross. Substitutionary means that He took our place, He died for us.

Romans 1:16-17 - I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous [just] will live by faith."

We're talking about faith and works as related to John's sermon. He basically is saying, "If you're saved, if you've truly repented, prove it!" And this is the theme of the whole Bible really, if God has changed your heart, if you have truly trusted and put your faith in Jesus, your life will show it.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV) - "For it is by grace you are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, lest any man should boast."

It is God's grace - free and unearned favor - that saves us. But after we are saved, what then? "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." (John 15:8).

When we bear the "fruits of repentance", when our lives reflect obedience and love of God AND our neighbor, we glorify - bring honor, praise, and exaltation to God.

This brings up another point. The Pharisees devotion to their rules was "to be seen and heard of men" according to Jesus. Their REAL motive was to glorify and bring honor and recognition to themselves and not God!

Here in Luke 3:10-14, John is admonishing the people to "produce fruit in keeping with repentance. What are some of the things he says?

Luke 3:11 John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."

When the people said, "What shall we do?" John said, share food and clothing with those who have none. A tunic was like a long undershirt. Since one could not wear two such garments at a time, the second should be given to someone who has none. Likewise, food was perishable, and if you kept more than you needed, it would spoil. So John said to share it. Plus many just had barely enough to eat, so to share would be a sign of sacrificial love, unselfishness that truly shows a changed heart. How does this apply today?

Hieremias - We preach a "saved by faith alone" gospel, which is absolutely true! But I think we stress SO MUCH that we aren't saved by works (again, true!), that we neglect the importance of a godly life. Same with baptism. I was taught again and again and again when I was a new believer that we aren't saved by dipping ourselves in water. baptism is NOT part of salvation. Very true! But unfortunately that made me undermine the importance of baptism for quite some time. Let us not undermine the importance of living a godly life!

Do you hoard food or share it? Is your closet full of stuff you don't wear and don't need, but you can't seem to let go of it?

Isaiah 58:6-7 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"

People in Jesus day and earlier in Isaiah's day made a big to do about fasting. They went about mournfully, didn't wash, smeared ashes on their face, and made a show of it. But that OUTWARD show didn't please God. The Word says if you truly repent, then share with the hungry and homeless.

Luke 3:12-13 Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?" "Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them.

John told tax collectors: don't collect more than you are required to. Tax collectors were despised because they were Jewish agents of the Roman government and often defrauded the people. Who do we fear more than the IRS today?

Micah 2:1-2 Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning's light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance.

Malachi 3:5 "So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me," says the LORD Almighty.

How would this apply to us today? People who are "cons", who cheat, defraud, embezzle, etc. don't think they'll get caught, do they? And they somehow think that God is not watching them!

Savior's Servant - We should fear God in a respectful manner

Luke 3:14 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."

John told the soldiers - Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely -- be content with your pay. Soldiers, both Roman and Jewish (such as temple guards) had enormous power in the society of that day. Not only did they have authority to act for the government, they had the weapons to back it up. The pay of soldiers was low and they often resorted to extortion and bribery to make a little extra. How does this apply today? "be content with your pay". OUCH, doesn't that go against the "American Dream"? You know, "more, more, more, more of what you've been lookin' for"!

I Timothy 6:6-8 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

Contentment. Wow, what a goal! Be happy with what you have. Be godly. This is GREAT gain. Did you ever stop to think that "our possessions POSSESS us"? That everything we own has to be cared for, watched after, washed, dried, folded, cooked, cleaned, guarded, etc? Simplify your life. Contentment with godliness is great gain. What a verse to meditate on!

I Timothy 6:9-10 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Do you love money or do you love God? This is the question we all must ask ourselves before God. Toughie. Christianity is a very practical religion. If YOUR Christianity does not produce the fruit of repentance in your life, examine your heart.

peanut - OT don't you Christians teach-- contentment comes when you are willing to give up everything for your god don't y'all believe that then you are truly free to rest in peace and security that your god offers...i think that is somewhere in luke 14.... by the way just asking-hoe ya don't mind

Yes peanut, but it's hard in a material world to come to that place of contentment and godliness and stay there.

peanut - but do you mean that contentment is not dependent on wealth nor does it have to be stifled by poverty.. wealth by itself is neutral isn't it neither good nor bad right - shouldn't y'all be thankful what ya have and use your time and resources to please your god

prodigal son - peanut. contentment is knowing that God will provide for me and I don't have to worry about anything.

Savior's Servant - I think true contentment comes when we love Jesus with all our heart, mind, and soul and love our neighbor as ourselves

Johnny -- A blind girl was told that the reason she was still blind was because she had no faith ... I had some similar instances with people telling me that I needed more faith...

K - ALSO REALLY knowing believing that God is in control

Wealth is neutral, but the desire to achieve wealth is a symptom of the love of money and not of God. But if you do have wealth, you must realize that you a just a steward of it and are acting as God's servant and are responsible to Him for how you handle it. Poverty can be very demeaning without a consciousness of God's love and grace, and faith that He will meet your needs and that He is your source.

K - didn't JESUS say that it is easier for a poor man to get to heaven than a rich man (paraphrased)

Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the kingdom. In Jerusalem they had a tiny gate called the Needle's Eye. For a camel to get through it, the camel had to get down on his knees and crawl. Almost impossible. A rich man has to get on his knees before God and not trust in "uncertain riches" for his salvation.

Repentance is a beautiful and cleansing thing. It is an honor to humble yourself before God and a joy to be set free of bondage!

Father God, we desire above all things to please you. God show us the things in our life not pleasing to you. Purge us of uncleanness, wrong desires, wrong motives, and most of all, wrong actions. Bring forth in us the fruits of repentance. Make us godly and help us to learn to be content with such things as we have. And above all, let our faith in you be productive, and let the evidence of it - LOVE - be profound and abundant in our lives. In Jesus Name. AMEN and AMEN. May God's richest blessings flow to you, and through you to a lost and dying world. In Jesus Name AMEN

Remember, whenever God gives us a revelation, the devil tries to steal it from us. Guard your hearts and meditate on what you've learned!
And put it into practice!

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*Picture Sources:

Unger, Merrill F. The New Unger's Bible Handbook. Revised by Gary N Larson. Moody Press, Chicago, 1966: 1984.

The Family Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. by Pat Alexander.  Chancelor Press, London, 1988.

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Original Lesson 8/3/98
Revised: May 02, 2001.