Matthew 3




John the Baptist Prepares the Way (3:1-12)

(Mark 1:2-8; Luke 3:3-4,16-17; John 1:23,26)

1-6 See Mark 1:2-6 and comment.

7 When John the Baptist began BAPTIZING people, many of the PHARISEES and SADDUCEES also came to be baptized. The Pharisees were a very strict party of the Jews; they prided themselves on following the Jewish law exactly. The Sadducees were the second main party of the Jews. Most of the Jewish chief priests were Sadducees. The Pharisees and Sadducees were leaders among the Jewish people. Yet John called them a brood of vipers when they came to be baptized. Why did he say that?

The reason is this: The Jewish leaders were hypocrites. They were religious outwardly, but not inwardly. They honored God with their lips, but not with their hearts (see Mark 7:6-7 and comment). They thought that by being baptized they could escape God’s wrath, that is, God’s judgment. But John knew they were not truly repentant. They did not really intend to turn from their sins. They were only being baptized to show others how religious they were.

The Pharisees and Sadducees were like a brood of vipers (Matthew 12:34; 23:33). They were crafty and deceitful. They were also poisonous. There is nothing so poisonous to the church as leaders who pretend to be religious outwardly but who inwardly are not (see Matthew 7:15 and comment).

8 John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4). REPENTANCE means not only to feel sorry for sin but also to turn from sin. The Pharisees and Sadducees said, “We repent,” but they continued sinning as before. John asked them, “Where is your repentance? Show me the proof of your repentance. Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” Just as faith must be followed by works (James 2:17), so repentance must be followed by a turning from sin. Otherwise our repentance is false.

9 The Jewish leaders were proud. They despised non-Jews, that is, Gentiles. They thought to themselves: “We are the true descendants of Abraham, the first Jew. God has promised to bless us (Genesis 12:1-3). Therefore, we are better than other people; we have found favor with God.”

But John warned them that being a descendant of Abraham according to the flesh was not important to God. Just as God created the first man out of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7), so God can create children of Abraham out of stones. What is important to God is that a man be a true Jew in his heart, not just in body. Even though the Pharisees and Sadducees were descendants of Abraham according to the flesh, they were not true Jews in God’s eyes, because they were not righteous in their hearts. A true “Jew” is one who does God’s will and who puts his faith in God’s only Son, Jesus Christ (see John 8:39; Romans 2:28-29; Galatians 3:6-9 and comments).

In the same way, those who are Christians only outwardly are not true Christians. A man is not born a Christian. A man is not a Christian simply because his father is a Christian. He is not a Christian simply because he is a member of some church. Rather, a man is a Christian only if he is a Christian inwardly; that is, a man must have true faith in Christ from his heart.

10 Then, using the example of a barren tree, John warned the Pharisees and Sadducees that God would reject them and punish them if they did not bear the good fruit of repentance and faith (see Matthew 7:17-20; John 15:1-2,5-6).

11 See Mark 1:7-8 and comment.

12 John the Baptist said, “After me will come one who is more powerful than I,” that is, Christ (verse 11). Christ will come not only as a Savior but also as a judge. He will come with a winnowing fork, which is a sign of judgment. He will separate the wheat from the chaff; that is, He will reward the truly righteous and will punish those who only appear righteous outwardly, the hypocrites. God looks at a person’s heart, not at his outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7).


The Baptism of Jesus (3:13-17)

(Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22)

13-17 See Mark 1:9-11 and comment.