The Gospel of Luke: John the Baptist: Preparing Hearts for the Lord Jesus (Part 3)

As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning john, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.  But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison (Luke 3:15-20)[1]


Have you ever had great expectation for the arrival of someone or some kind of event?  When people learn of the due date of a child’s birth, they become excited and their excitement increases once the baby is birth. Maybe you know someone who is serving in the military and they were deployed oversees for a number of years and now you are waiting for their arrival.  Some people have great expectation for a job interview, a birthday party, graduating from high or middle school, or even the release of a new movie.  People will continue to be excited about these kinds of events despite how mundane or important the event is, but their excitement would soon dissipate as time progress because the event itself will be long forgotten.

There is one event in human history that will always be remembered.  That event is the incarnation of the Son of God.  Since the beginning of time God’s has ordained the life, birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to be the most memorable event in human history.  And millions of people celebrate Jesus.

A high expectation for the coming Christ (v. 15).

In our scriptural passage we have read that the people of Israel were expecting for the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah.  They knew from the Old Testament that the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One (Jesus), was the appointed Savior of God’s people (Ps. 2:7; 110; Isaiah 52:2-12; Luke 20:42-44); and they were eagerly anticipating His appearance.  They understood the Messiah would one day be amongst them.  That the day was dawning.

After four-hundred years of prophetic silence, John the Baptist began his public ministry and he arrived upon the scene by the Jordan river near Jerusalem (Luke 3:3).  The sole purpose for John’s ministry was to prepare the hearts of people for the coming Christ.  He did this by preaching a gospel of baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  That is to say, he proclaimed to all people that they needed to repent of their sins they committed against God (cf. Ps. 51:4) and be baptized.  Repentance and baptism indicate one’s need to be cleanse not physically, but spiritually.

Many people traveled from their local towns to the wilderness where John was.  They providentially were drawn to John, so that they could hear his message of baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins.  He preached in a manner that was authoritatively convicting.  His message was: repent of your sins, if not, you will be judge by God who will send you to hell for all eternity (e.g., Luke 3:7b, 9b; Matthew 10:28).  The gospel that John preached was a gospel of repentance and judgment.

As John preached and baptized people, his ministry grew and became popular.  This caused people to be enthusiastic about John being potentially the Christ. They “were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ” (Luke 3:15), as the text states.  They understood that John was a prophet of the Most High (Luke 2:76; 20:6).  And their excitement heightened because they thought John was the one to deliver the people of Israel from the tyranny of the Roman Empire.  So, was he the Savior?  Was he the Messiah?  No, he was not.  Their perception about John, “though understandable, was misguided” and wrong.[2]  If they would have studied the scriptures carefully, they would have known that John was only the forerunner of the Christ.[3]  His sole purpose was identified that the Messiah was coming; he was the battle trumpet not the commander.

Here is an interesting fact.  From the 18thcentury to present day times there is at least forty people or more that have claimed they are Jesus Christ reincarnated.  For example, a Siberian man name is Sergey, he claims to be Jesus Christ.  There is a Filipino man, his legal name is Apollo, he claims to be Jesus Christ, and his followers refer to him as the “Appointed Son of God.”  There is an Australian man name Alan John Miller and he too claims to be Jesus Christ, and unlike the others, he is dating a woman who thinks she is Mary Magdalene reincarnated.  This would be laughable if it wasn’t true.

But our Lord has warned us that there will be false christs (Matthew 24:24).  In Matthew 24:23-24 our Lord Jesus said, “If anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”  Now until the second coming of Jesus, people will continue to be deceive by following after imposters claiming to be Him (cf. 1 John 2:18).

But not John.  He only witnessed about the true Christ, his cousin, Jesus. In fact, John never hinted or claimed that he was the Messiah. When the priests and Levites from Jerusalem ask him, “Who are you?”  He emphatically said, “I am not the Christ” (John 1:19-20; cf. 3:28).

The Christ is mightier than John (v. 16).

In the beginning of John’s ministry, it is most likely he could not identify who the Messiah was (cf. John 1:33), but he knew that he himself was not the Messiah and his sole purpose was to prepare and point people to Christ Jesus. And he did just that. How?  Well, he quickly dispelled the unwanted perceptions that people had held because they thought that he was the Messiah.  He simply told them that the Messiah was mightier than him.  In verse sixteen, John said, “he,” that is, Jesus “who is mightier than I is coming.”  Jesus was mightier than John in every aspect and in every imaginable way. John was the son of earthy parents, Jesus was the Son of God (cf. Luke 3:23, 37); John was a created person, Jesus was and is the Creator (Col. 1:16); John was from below, Jesus came from heaven (John 3:32).  John was a sinful individual, Jesus was and is sinless (Hebrews 4:15); He is the spotless Lamb of God (John 1:29).  John baptized people with with water, Jesus baptizes people with the power of the Holy Spirit and fire.

John not only mentioned that he was lesser than the Christ, but also, he stated that he is unworthy to be the Christ’s slave.  The word slave is not mentioned in this passage but John hinted towards the meaning of the word by saying, “He who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”  One theologian stated, “It was customary for students to follow their teachers.  They generally did not pay tuition [fees], but they did show their devotion by performing [a lot of] menial acts of service.”  “A disciple is not above his teacher” (Luke 6:40). “A great teacher hardly had to lift a finger.  His students did everything for him—everything, that is, except unlace his sandals.”[4]  A Jewish rabbi said, “every service which a slave performs for his master shall a disciple do for their teacher except the loosing of his [sandals].”

If one of you notice my shoelaces are untied, what would you instruct me to do?  To tie my shoelaces.  If my shoes are untied and I ask you to tie my shoelaces, what would you say to me?  Your natural response towards me would be puzzling, because you and I both know tying an able body adult shoelace are beneath you. You do not mind tying a two-year old child’s shoelace but not a capable adult.

Jesus recognized John as the greatest man who was ever born (Matthew 11:11) but John did not think of himself in those terms. Again, John said, I am not worthy to untie Jesus sandals.  Remember a slave’s job was to untie the sandals of their master, but John felt that he was beneath a slave; he was not even worthy to be considered as a slave. This demonstrates John’s humility and his desire to give due exaltation and praise to Jesus.  Most preachers praise themselves and they love receiving praises from men, but John did not.  John is an example of how we ought to worship, praise, glorify, honor, and proclaim Jesus, and he also demonstrate that we should do this with humble hearts.[5]

Also, the words of John sheds light on Jesus’ humility.  Scripture tells us that Jesus was “in the form of God, [but] did not count equality with God” (Philippians 2:6).  In John 13:8, is a story about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.  (I have wonderful looking feet.  But if I ask my wife to rub my feet, she would look at me as if I am crazy.) In book of John, Peter said to Jesus, “You will never wash my feet” (John 13:8). But Jesus insisted, he knelt down, and grab a towel and washed the twelve disciples’ feet (John 13:5).  John the Baptist said, I am unworthy to untie Jesus sandals, nonetheless, Jesus conducted himself as a slave by washing the feet of his disciples, although, he himself was their master.  We are the ones who should wash Jesus’ feet, we are the ones who should be kissing Jesus feet like the woman with the alabaster ointment (Luke 7:37-38, 45) because he deserves our adoration.  We too should think of ourselves the same way that John thought of himself which is, we are unworthy people who do not deserve the grace of God.

John’s baptism vs. The baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire (v. 16b)

The last three messages which includes today’s sermon, I have been preaching about John the Baptism of which he was commissioned to usher in the new covenant of God and prepare peoples’ hearts for the arrival of the Messiah.  And he did this by pleading with people to repent of their sins and trust in the grace of God that only be found in Jesus.  His message was repent and be baptize for the remission of sins.

However, comparing John’s message of baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins to Jesus’ message of baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire, it is obvious that the latter is greater than the former.  John said, “I baptize you with water, … [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). Why would John distinguish the baptism he performed from the baptism Jesus performs currently?  Because John understood that he could only instruct people to repent of their sins and immerse them in water as a public declaration, that is, the person who was baptize have asked God to forgive them. But John also knew that his baptism of repentance could not cleanse a person of their sins, it had no power to regenerate a person unto life in Christ Jesus, and it could not justify an individual before God (cf. Acts 10:15-16).[6]

In practical terms, countless of people have claimed that they had repented of their sins and was baptize but their lifestyle shows no evidence that they are genuinely save.  I am sure you have heard people say, “Oh, yes, I was baptized when I was a teenager,” and whatnot.  Or, you may have heard someone say, “I do sin, but I repent by asking for God’s forgiveness.”  These are commendable acts a person ought to do but these acts cannot save anyone.  Do you understand?

John the Baptist could only immerse people in water. Only God the Holy Spirit can cleanse a person of their sins.  John the Baptist could only tell people to repent. Only God the Holy Spirit can justify them guiltless in Christ Jesus.  There is a story in Acts 19:1-6 about the apostle Paul asking the disciples of John have they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  They answered and said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”  “It is quite obvious that these disciples were not full-fledged Christian believers when Paul first met them, since they had not even heard that the Holy Spirit had been given to the church.”[7]  After the apostle Paul informed them that they were not save because they failed to believe in Jesus who John preached about; they repented and believe and then the Holy Spirit fell upon them (Acts 19:4).  John preached to people to repent of their sins and be baptize which was all for preparing the hearts for the one to come, Jesus.  But only Jesus can change them inwardly in the power of the Holy Spirit[8]and prepare them for the Father (cf. John 18:9).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit(v. 16b).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit does not mean an individual must show the evidence of speaking in tongues. As a young boy, I remember attending a charismatic church under the leadership of a prosperity teacher named Creflo Dollar.  When I was there, he asks people have they receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the evidence of speaking in tongues and he would then invite people to come down and stand in front of the pulpit.  The people who walked down, including myself, followed the ushers into a separate room.  In that room they would ask people to start speaking in tongues.  The notion is that if a person can demonstrate that they can speak in another tongue then they are filled with the Holy Spirit.  That notion is incorrect and misleading.  Retrospectively speaking, that was truly a buzzard experience. Any adult person can babble like a baby; however, babbling is the no evidence at all that you have were baptized or filled with the Holy Spirit.[9]

I know that your Bible translations says, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit,” but it should read, “He will baptize you [in] the Holy Spirit.”  The Greek word for with actually means in; that is into.[10]  This is why we submerse people into water when they are baptize.  This is important to know because if you were baptized in the Holy Spirit it means that you are born again, that is, regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5); it means that you are justified and now sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30); it means you are set apart to walk in holiness (1 Corinthians 6:11; 1:2).  That is, if you were baptize in the Holy Spirit it means that you are in Christ Jesus and God’s Spirit dwells in you.  Scripture says,

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  You however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:6-11).

On author defined baptism in the Spirit as follow: “Spirit-baptism [mean] here described as identical with regeneration—with the sovereign act of God whereby we are made one with Christ, incorporated into the body of Christ. You don’t need to seek a Spirit-baptism as a post-conversion experience… if you are in Christ, you have already been Spirit-baptized.”[11]

If you have not being born again, or you do not understand the meaning of being born again, please see me after service because it is likely that you have not being baptized in the Holy Spirit and therefore, you are not in Christ and you are still dead in your sins.  Listen to me. This is very important. If this is you, your eternity is at stake, do not walk out of these doors without placing your faith in the righteousness of Jesus and asking God the Father to forgive you of your sins in Christ.

The Christ will judge all people with unquenchable fire(v. 17)

According to verse 17, John said, “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  John was speaking in farming terms.  In John’s time, farmers would take a pitch fork to handle wheat and they would throw the wheat into the air, the wheat would fall to the ground because it is heavier than chaff, but the wind would separate the chaff by carrying away from the wheat because of its lightness.  And later the famers would burn the chaff.

The main point of verse 17 is that John is making a distinction between people who are truly saved and people are not saved in Christ.  In other words, Jesus is the famer, the wheat are people who repented and placed their trust in Jesus, the chaff are people who have not repented of their sins, rebellious against God and if these people die in their sins Jesus will be their judge and he will send them to hell.  We know John is speaking about a particular judgement because he used the word fire three times.  The word fire is used in verse 9, 16 and 17.  Whenever fire is mentioned in the Bible it refers to either purification or judgment.  Christians will be judge on the basis of their work for the kingdom of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:12-16).  Unsaved, unregenerate people will be judge base on if they have placed their faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

If you are not in Christ and you die in your sins today, you will be judge by God and He will send you to hell for all eternity.  God knows if you are one of his children or if you are a child of Satan.  There are two people in this world those who are in Adam and those who belong in Christ.  Those who are wheat and those who are chaff.  Those who are unregenerate and those who were regenerated by the Holy Spirit.  Those who will die in their sins and eternally be judge by the Creator and those who was liberated from their sins.  Those who belong to the church and are the people of God and to those who are in the church but the belong to Satan.

You can be religious, you can pretend to be saved, you can come to church, you talk and look like a Christian, but God knows if you are a child of his or if you belong to Satan.  God knows if you are wheat or chaff, holy or unholy, a sheep or a goat.  You need to stop playing church because you are deceiving yourself.  There will be a day when the Lord Jesus will separate people who belong to him from the people who does not belong to him.  He will purify his church.  In a parable of the weeds, Jesus said, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles

A faithful servant of Christ will incur persecutions if they are faithful to the gospel and God (v. 18-20).

Lastly, we learn, from verses 18-20, that Herod imprisoned John because of his preached good news to the people and to Herod.  But Herod did not consider John’s message to be good news because Herod was having an incestuous and adulterous relationship with his brother’s wife.  (Herod was caught cheating with his brother’s wife. This scenario is similar to an episode on TV show Jerry Springer.) was wrong. What John said to Herod can be found in Leviticus 20:21 which says, “If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is impurity. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.”  It is and still morally wrong to have emotional or sexual relations with someone’s spouse (Mark 6:18).  Because John admonished Herod to do what was right, he locked John up in prison.  And we all know what happened to John during his imprisonment—Herod chopped off his head because John preached the truth to him.

John was only in ministry for three years until Jesus started his ministry in AD 30.  And John death was foreseen by God, he knew that John would suffer.  But this illustrates that preaching, trusting in the righteousness of Christ, and walking in holiness comes with a cost.  We all will suffer and face persecution if we preaching Christ and instructing people to repent and submit to God’s laws.  Paul said, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people … will go on from bad to worse” (2 Timothy 3:12).  If you are living a godly life, you too will say, “[Jesus] must increase, but I muse decrease” (John 3:30).


Today is the day of salvation; God’s kingdom of God is at hand today. The only way you can be saved from God’s eternal judgement is by placing faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, who rose from the grave on the third day, and He is seated at the right hand of the Father.  Will you repent of your sins to today and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation? Are you will to love Jesus as your Savior?  Please do not take the chance of dying and facing Jesus as your judge.


Work Cited 

[1]Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2]John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Luke 1-5, pg. 222.

[3]Philip Graham Ryken, Luke, ed. Richard D. Phillips, Philip Graham Ryken, and Daniel M. Doriani, vol. 1, Reformed Expository Commentary, Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2009), 126.

[4]Ryken, 129.


[6]Ibid., 130. Ryken brings this point out with clarity by saying, “We can share the gospel, preach the Word, and reach out in practical deeds of mercy. We can even baptize people with water. We can do all the outward things, but only God can do the inward things, like change a sinner’s heart. He does this by the Spirit of Christ, which shows how great Christ is.”

[7]Anthony A. Hoekema, Holy Spirit Baptism(Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), 41.

[8]God uses the preaching of the gospel as a mechanism to soften people’s hearts, but preaching alone cannot save anyone, nor the mode of baptism can save. God the Holy Spirit must quicken and individual from the deadness of that person’s unregenerate spiritual state, and give them the spiritual ability to believe in Christ Jesus.

[9]Galatians 5:22-24 are marks of a Spirit-filled Christian.

[10]Hoekema, 22

[11]Ibid., 21.

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