John the Baptist: Preparing Hearts for the Lord Jesus (Part 2)

Man’s Need to Repent

There is a need for man to repent of his sin.  Man, subconsciously know that he is sinfully depraved in mind, in heart and he is devoid of truth (cf. 1 Timothy 6:5, ESV) also he suppresses this truth of his own depravity in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).  The reason why man is depraved is because of Adam’s disobedience towards God.  As soon as Adam acted sinfully towards God by eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden, Adam’s sin and transgression was spiritually and physically passed down to all of humanity, and hereafter man has been naturally wicked (cf. Genesis 6:5).  This is evident, after the fall of mankind, sin, decay and death entered into this world and it still is reigning rampantly.  Mankind is the only creature that is rebelling against God’s commandments and nature.

You and I inherited a sin nature from Adam and we were born into sin.  When Adam sinned, we sinned; when Adam was punished, we too were punished (cf. Genesis 3:10, 17).  This is why Scripture specifically says, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12) and, we all died (1 Corinthians 15:22). We know this to be true.  As you and I can test experientially, a desire to sin comes naturally for us.  We innately choose to do what is right according to our own eyes (Judges 17:6).

When Adam was created by God, Adam did not have a sin nature until he sinned against God, now sin is part of human nature during the embryonic processes of birth; whenever a person is born their innocence is coupled with a sin that lies within them (e.g., Genesis 3:16).  Job said, “What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman that he can be righteous?” (Job 15:14). From the womb of all mothers’ people will have a sin nature before they take their first breath.  David said, “[We were] brought forth in iniquity and in sin” we were conceived (Psalm 15:5).  In Jeremiah 17:9, he said, “Our [hearts] is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (KJV).

Despite the fact that man is sinfully depraved (cf. Ephesians 2:1), that man denies God’s existence (Psalm 14:1), and have no desire to submit to its Creator (Romans 1:21-23). God still commands all men to repent of their sin and seek after his righteousness.  Throughout Scripture, God has repeatedly stated that all men must turn away from their sin. God’s declaration for all men to repent comes in the form of his commandments and warnings and exhortations.

For example, Psalm 7:12, says, “If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.” In Luke 6:32Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” In Luke 13:5Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will … perish.”  Jesus also said, In Matthew 3:2, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

 

The Purpose of John’s the Baptist’s Gospel

Calling sinners to repentance is exactly John the Baptist’s message. The reason why God preordained John to be born in this world was solely for the purpose of preaching a gospel of repentance, so that the hearts of people would be prepared for the arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 1:16-17, 76-77; 3:4b, 6).  John’s message was simple.  If John was here preaching, he would say to you and me, “God’s wrath is inevitable for those who do not repent of their sins, and they are storing up wrath for themselves (e.g., Romans 2:5) because they are seeking self-pleasure and worldly gain, and they are void of humility and righteousness. However, repent and believe in the One that comes after me (cf. Luke 3:16)”

God predestined John the Baptist to preach a gospel of baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins that prepared the hearts of men for the Lord Jesus Christ’s coming (Luke 3:3-4).  This very purpose is why God allowed John to be conceived in his mother’s womb, he was born for no other reason than to proclaim a gospel that exhorted all men to repent of their sin which helped sinners to have a humble heart for the Messiah i.e., Christ Jesus.  John the Baptist’s was called to be the “prophet of the Most High” (Luke 1:76), his gospel message was prescripted by God (cf. Isaiah 40:3-4); and the point of his message was about repentance and forgiveness of sins all for the glory of Christ Jesus.

John was in the wilderness until his public appearance in Israel (Luke 1:80; 3:3). And it was time for him to start his preaching and baptismal ministry as it is shown in Luke 3:7-21.  It was time for prepare the hearts of men; to make crooked straight.

Our scriptural text this morning is Luke 3:7-14and it is my hope that theses seven verses will demonstrate three important truths. Please write these three truths down.  (1). We must proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all men despite how unpopular it is. (2) God’s divine wrath is upon all sinners who refuses to repent of their sin.  (3). Genuine repentance must be evidential, observable and consistent according to God’s Word and nature.

The location of John’s ministry was around the river of Jordan and people traveled to John to be baptized by him (Luke 3:3).  People who were there heard the proclamation of John’s gospel, therefore, they were there to confess their sins and be baptized (Matthew 3:6).  As people traveled to where John was to be baptized, his popularity increased and more people wanted to know what his message was about (Luke 7:26-27) and who he was (cf. John 1:19-23).

There were two kinds of people who visited John to be baptized by him.  The two people were the penitent and impenitent, that is, the repentant and unrepentant.  The repentant people were the remorseful and apologetic about their sins and transgression against God.  The unrepentant people were the self-righteousness, self-conceded, who believed that their ethnic lineage and religious traditions justified them before God.  They were wrong.

 

The Wrath to Come

John used strong language towards the unrepentant.  The unrepentant were the Pharisees and Sadducees (cf. Matthew 3:7).  They were the ones who rejected the grace of God by believing in their own spiritual blindness and self-righteousness and this is why John the Baptist called them “brood of vipers!” He literally characterized them as offspring of snakes. Snakes are portrayed negatively in the Bible.  The Bible portrays snakes as cunning, stealthy, venomous and dangerous creatures.  In fact, in the Garden of Eden a snake was used by Satan to deceive Adam and Eve. Furthermore, Satan himself is portrayed as the ancient serpent (Revelation 20:2).  Therefore, whenever someone is characterized as a snake, they are displaying the sinfulness of their own heart, they are acting out their sinful nature and following after the character of their father, the devil.  For example, lying, sexual adultery, fornication, drunkenness, pridefulness, impurity, jealousy, rage, division, envy, murder, idolatry (cf. Galatian 5:19) is the character of Satan himself (John 8:44). He was all these things from the beginning of time.  And all these sins come from the sin nature that lies within us and it is the same nature of Satan because he willfully contradicts God’s Word and God’s nature.  When you sin whose character are you displaying?  Is it the character of God or Satan?

Another aspect of John’s usage of strong language is that he was speaking plainly and pointedly towards the unrepentant.  He called sin for what it is: sin.  He called a spade a spade.  In today’s culture of political correctness people do not want to hear truthful words anymore.  They rather hear soothing words that makes them comfortable with the lifestyle their living. But political correctness and the proclamation of the gospel are non-mutually exclusive concepts.  For example, pastor John Macarthur said, Christianity that is inoffensive is not Christianity.1  He further said, “[As a pastor] it is my job to offend everyone.”2  It is unpopular to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ because it is offensive to tell people to repent of their sin.

To be effective proclaimers and teachers of God’s Word we must call out sin and label people according to the kind of sin they are committing against God. We have to preach and teach the Word of God truthfully, caring not about the feelings of people because our aim is not to tickle people ears (2 Timothy 4:3, 4), but to preach the Word of God despite how offensive it is to people.  Labeling people according to their sin is how Scripture communicates what kind of a sinner a person is.  If a person is lying that person is a liar (Proverbs 116:1).  If a person steals something that person is a thief.  If a person has an adultery that person is an adulterer; if a person is having sexual relations with many people outside the confines of marriage, that person is a sexual immoral whore. People may say, “It is rude to describe people according to terms like those, we shouldn’t say things like that. We must speak to people in loving terms.” It may seem impolite, brass and harsh to speak to people in this fashion, however, Scripture does not care about how people feel, it cares about declaring the sinful nature of man and how sin separated man from God.

Furthermore, this is what exactly how John the Baptist spoke to people when he called them “brood of vipers.”  At the time Herod imprisoned John, the Baptist it was due to John proclaiming to Herod that it is unlawful for him to have sexual relations with his brother’s wife and after he declared that truth according to Scripture, it costed him his life (see. Mark 6:17-20). Jesus spoke to the truth to the Pharisees and Sadducees by calling them hypocrites.  Jesus also called a woman a dog (Matthew 15:19), because salvation belongs to the Jews first, and Gentiles second.  Therefore, preaching the gospel will forever be unflattering to those who needs it  I remember talking to an older gentleman about how he was treating wife and speaking to his wife.  As I began to speak to him concerning the matter, he said to me, “Don’t start preaching to me.”  Proverbs 9:8says, “[Rebuke] a scoffer, he will hate you; [rebuke] a wise man, and he will love you” Do you understand?

We just talked about how the gospel must be proclaimed despite its unpopularity and offensiveness to people.  Now let us talk about how the gospel declares God’s divine judgment towards guilty sinners.

During my study on this passage, one commentator said, “[God’s wrath] reference the temporal judgment that would befall the [Jewish] nation in the …war of AD 66-70.  Yes, there was a temporal judgement upon the nations of Israel of which the Romans ransacked the Jewish temple, murdered thousands of Jewish people and decimated the city of Jerusalem. And Jesus prophesied about that war, according to Luke 21:6, in referenced to the Jewish temple that it would be destroyed by the Romans during the war, he said, “there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Luke 21:6).  He was speaking about God judging the nation as a whole.

However, John was not talking about God judging the nation of Israel holistically, but individually (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:14).  According to Luke three verses seven and nine, John the Baptist explicitly speaks about God’s divine wrath that is inevitably for unrepentant sinners; sinners who refuses to repent and trust in the Savior Jesus. In verse seven, John says there is a “wrath to come,” and in verse nine, he says, “an axe” will cut down all trees that doesn’t bear good fruit and thrown into the fire.  Again, he is speaking about God’s imminent judgment (cf. Malachi 4:4, 5).4   The trees that John mentioned is a picture of individuals.  In verse nine, John said, “the axe is laid.”  This mean that God’s judgement is present, it poses a will threat to unrepentant sinners and, he has cast his judgement already (cf. John 3:18).

Therefore, “Every Tree … that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”  What fire? The fire that belongs to the home of the children of the devil and demons.  The fire that is eternal and everlasting.  The fire that causes men and women to seek death of annihilation but will not find it. The fire where men and women will be acknowledged that Jesus is Lord and their Judge.  This fire is for those who chose not to believe and will suffer an eternal punishment in hell for rejecting the gospel of our Lord Jesus (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

Most preachers will preach about the love of God.  They would say, “God is love”; and this true.  But God is also holy and just and this why he must punish guilty sinners. And John the Baptist was the type of preacher that preached about the wrath of God.  One commentator says, “Whatever the message of John was, it was not a gospel.  It was not good news; it was news of terror” John did not preach the gospel; he preached a gospel of “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” so that people may have a change of mind that is in accord with God’s nature and Word.

My wife shared with me how she warned one of our kiddos three times to do what she asked him to do because bedtime was approaching.  As soon as it was time for this kid to go to bed, he asked her if he could get something to drink and call his guarding.  My wife answered, saying, “No.”  She warned him consecutively three times but he ignored her warnings and it was too late for him.

Likewise, I know that God has warned everyone of his coming judgement, he has warned all of us.  How has he warned us, you asked?  There is at least three ways that God has warned you and me to repent of our sins and place our trust in Jesus for salvation.

First warning. God has warned you and me through nature.  Nature itself testifies that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and holy. Only foolish people believe in the big bang theory (Psalm 14:1), that is, if the big bang theory is true then there must not be a Creator who created all things (however, all thing were created through the Son of God according to Colossians 1:16).  But the Bible says,

 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So, they are without excuse.

Second warning.  God has warned you and by giving you a conscience. He has given you a moral compass of knowing what is right and wrong. God’s laws are written on the hearts of all men and whenever they transgress against God’s laws, they naturally feel guilty and accountable for their actions.  The Bible says,

 

They show that the work of the law is written on the hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Third warning. God has warned you and me through the written Word of the Bible. As theWestminster Shorter Catechism answer to number three says, “The scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man” (Westminster).  And over and over again the Word of God commands us to repent of our sins, if not, God’s wrath will swiftly come upon us.  Colossians 3:5-6says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  On account of these the wrath of God is coming.”

These warnings from God is for our good and for the wellbeing for others.  God warns everyone so that they may escape his divine judgement, he is “patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  God’s wrath ought to urge us to repent so that they may escape from being eternally dammed.  Paul said “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” What was he saving people?

 

Abraham

I would like to for you to turn your attention to verse eight.  According to verse eight, he said, “And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children from Abraham” (Luke 3:8b).  After John the Baptist warned them of God’s eminent wrath upon those who reject the gospel of repentance and salvation of our Lord Jesus (2 Thess. 1:7-10), he then express the common belief people had. Jewish people of that day believed they were justified before God because they descended from Abraham. They believed their heritage, bloodline, traditions, and religion is what saved them since Abraham was their forefather.  They believed that Abraham granted them the right to inherit the kingdom of God (MacArthur, 221). But that belief is far from the truth, because John told them that God was able to make stones to be the children of Abraham.  In other words, those stones represented them because they had stony hearts (MacArthur 220).  As I explained earlier, their father wasn’t Abraham but the devil; they were the offspring of Satan, not Abraham.

Turn to John 8:39.  During Jesus ministry, the Jewish people touted their ethnic heritage towards Jesus, saying, “We are the offspring of Abraham,” and “Abraham is our father” (John 8:33, 39).  In responds to their claim, Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did” (John 8:39b).  That is to say, if they were faithful and believed in God of the Bible just like Abraham did (Romans 4:3), they would be considered as children of Abraham.  If they were truly children of Abraham they would repent of their sins and have a change of heart like Abraham (Galatians 3:7, 29).  For example, in the beginning of Abraham’s life, he was a liar, an adulterer, faithless and a cowardice individual, but after God transformed him into a new creation (Galatians 6:15) he became a man of righteousness.

Scripture reminds us that we should not boast of the flesh which was exactly what the Jewish people were doing (cf. Jeremiah 9:23; 2 Corinthians 10:17).  Two years ago, I recalled talking to an individual name Maurice.  Him and I talked about how one may be saved.  I asked him, how do you know you will go to heaven?  He informed to me that he is a Muslim.  He said, “I know I am going to heaven because I am Maurice.  I am Maurice.”  What I learned from that experience with Maurice is that he boasted within himself believing that would accept him on the basis of his own merits.  This is precisely what the Jewish people were doing.

However, Your nationality and ethnicity cannot save you from God’s eternal wrath.  Every white, black, Hispanic, Asian, and African person will face God’s judgement if they do not repent of their sins and place their trust in the righteousness of Christ Jesus.  Please do not depend on your corrupted goodness if you have not been made right with God because you

Bearing Fruit.

What does bearing fruit looks like? We see in our scriptural text, according to verse eight, that John said “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and in verse nine, he said, “Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”  John simply is telling us that our repentance must noticeable outwardly.

So, I hope you understand the need of repentance and why God’s wrath is upon those who do not repent of their sins.  Now I want you to understand the meaning of repentance and understand what repentance is?  Repentance means to turn away from your destructive ways, be sorrowful about your sin, “accompanied with sincere endeavors, in reliance on the grace and aid of God’s Holy Spirit, to live in humble and holy obedience to God’s divine commands and will.”7 Simply put, repentance means to have a change of heart.  Whenever you repent, you are making a conscience decision to do what is right according to God’s laws.

Furthermore, saints, repentance is not just a matter of speech but it is also a matter of conformity; if you repent, you must conform too.  Your words must match your actions.  There must be evidence showing that you repented of your sin.  You cannot continue to say that you repented of your sin and go on sinning.  If you acting in this manner, you are deceiving yourself (cf. 1 John 1:6).  Scripture says, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9).

Do you remember the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree?   Jesus was hungry and he went to a fig tree for food, but he could not find any fruit on, nothing but leaves.  And he cursed the fig tree and it withered away because it not bear any fruit (Mark 11:12-14).  And what Jesus did to that fig tree is the same thing that God will do to those who do not genuinely repent of their sins and bear fruit.  This is why John told the tax collectors to stop embezzling people out of their money.  And soldiers to stop extorting people out their money.  “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands” (Ephesians 4:28).

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Works Cited

Assembly, Westminster. The Westminster Confession of Faith: Edinburgh Edition.Philadelphia : William S. Young, 1851.

Barclay, William.The Gospel of Luke. The New Daily Study Bible.Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.

MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Luke 1-5.Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 2009.

Ryle, J. C. Expository Thoughts on Luke. Vol. 1. .New York: Robert Carter & Brothers , 1879.

Shepherd, Thomas J. The Westminster Bible Dictionary.Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication , 1880.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Verision.Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2016.

Valdés, Alberto S. “The Gospel according to Luke.” In The Grace New Testament Commentary,.Denton: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010.

 

 

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