Saturday, October 20, 2007

Matthew 3:7-9 John’s Rebuke Pt. 1

John the Baptist is one of my favorite Bible characters. Here was someone who was totally sold out for God and was willing to call it as he saw it. Actually, he was willing to call it as God saw it. Some people try to be diplomatic and not ruffle too many feathers. And as my friend Corey pointed out in his comment to my last post on Matthew, we should never be abrasive simply to be abrasive. Certainly, that is true. What we see in John the Baptist is a godly example of confrontation not just in these verses but elsewhere in Matthew. He stood for what was right without thought or care for his safety or comfort. His stinging rebuke of these religious leaders is an encouraging example of how he stood up for God.

In verse 7, we have seen how John rebuked the Pharisees for their purpose in coming out to his baptism. He asked them who had warned them to “flee from the wrath to come.” In fact, we find as we read the comparison passage in Luke chapter 3 that he said this to those who had come to him to be baptized. What it seems like happened was he addressed everyone the same way. Those who came out to him with a repentant heart responded by confessing their sins publically and specifically before being baptized. However, the Pharisees did not confess their sins because they did not believe they had sins. Their answer to his question would have been “No one warned us to flee”. God did not inspire the gospel writers to reveal the motivation of these men. However, it was not the same as the motivation of the crowd. Their purpose was not to prepare themselves spiritually for the coming of the Messiah. In fact, we know that they were actually enemies of our Lord.

John continued his rebuke of these godless hypocrites by pointing out that they had no proof of spiritual life within them. Oh, they were very religious. Outwardly, they looked righteous. However, inwardly they were spiritually dead. They could and did fool men but they could not fool God. John admonished them to “bear fruits worthy of repentance”. As I mentioned in my exposition of Psalms 1 verse 3, fruit trees bear fruit because they are fruit trees. It is a result of them being fruit trees assuming they have what they need to live (water, sunlight, etc.). They don’t strain or groan. I have never heard a fruit tree even once grunt with effort trying to produce fruit. They produce fruit in season. Also, they don’t get a choice as to what kind of fruit they produce. A green apple tree does not one day wake up and say “You know, I think today I’m going to produce some red apples just to shake things up a bit.” They produce fruit according to the kind of tree they are. Therefore, since these Pharisees were not good trees they did not produce the good fruits that would demonstrate that they had truly repented. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

Finally, John rebuked them because of their pride. Ultimately, that is the root cause of all sin. When Satan rebelled against God, he said “I will ascend” and “I will be like the Most High”. Pride leads to spiritual downfall. Why? Because you cannot get help before you acknowledge there is a problem. These men assumed their spiritual condition was righteous and that they were right with God due to their biology. They believed that because they had descended from Abraham that they were spiritually secure. According to John MacArthur in his commentary on Romans, Abraham actually stood at the door to hell to make sure no Jew accidentally went there after death. However, John tells them not to rely on their relation to Abraham because it did them no spiritual good. In fact, he said that God could “raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” Talk about being replaceable. I mean, the thing that they thought made them so special suddenly was exposed by John to be meaningless. Today, we might say they had no job security. When we depend on anything other than the righteousness of Christ to make us right with God and empower us to live the Christian life, we are taking the same prideful attitude as the Pharisees.

As we see John reveal the hypocrisy of these men, we should be encouraged ourselves to stand up for the truth and to faithfully proclaim God’s word. God’s word is the means that we have to rebuke sin and call sinners to repentance. Let us ask God for the boldness to do just that.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Matthew 3:7 “You can fool some of the people some of the time…..”

As we read verse 6 of this chapter in Matthew, we saw a glorious picture of people coming to repentance as a result of the call of the Holy Spirit working through the preaching of John the Baptist. The true repentance of these people was evidenced by the public and specific confession of their sins. However, while their motives were pure, there were people who would come to the Jordan whose motives were not so godly. As we see John’s reaction, we are reminded that religious hypocrites still exist and we must be on guard for them even today.

Matthew records that while John was baptizing the truly repentant, “…he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism…” We should mention something about these two groups. As John MacArthur notes in his study bible “The Pharisees were traditionalists, the Sadducees were liberals. The Pharisees were separatists, the Sadducees were compromising opportunists.” Also, as noted elsewhere in scripture, the Sadducees rejected all scripture other than the 5 books of Moses and totally rejected anything supernatural. Furthermore, they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Basically, they lived life for the “now” and were probably what we would think of as theologically liberal. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were conservative to the point of being legalistic. They viewed law and tradition as a means to attain righteousness and strived to live a life separated from sin. However, as we will see over the coming months of studying this wonderful gospel, their blindness to the truth of God’s purpose in the law led them to the greatest sin off all-the rejection of Jesus Christ. Needless to say, it was highly unlikely that these men came to the baptism of John with truly repentant hearts.

John was able to recognize their true motivations. I love John’s address to them here. We have a man in John who was willing to call an ace an ace and a spade a spade. Sometimes, tact and diplomacy is required in dealing with a situation. Dealing with a false teacher or religious leader is not one of those times. John begins his rebuke of them by calling them a “Brood of vipers”. Certainly, this was not the kind of response these men were used to. Because John lived in the wilderness, he was probably used to seeing broods of snakes that lived their in the desert. He knew that, while they may look small and harmless, that they are full of deadly poison. By addressing them as such, John insulted them and rebuked them for their religious hypocrisy. The people respected these leaders and it would probably have been somewhat shocking to hear them rebuked so strongly.

However, John didn’t stop there with his rebuke. The main point of his proclamation was to reveal the hypocritical motivations behind their arrival. He asked them “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” The answer, of course, was “No one.” They were not out there because they wanted to prepare themselves for the arrival of the Messiah. To them, it was a show. Perhaps they came because they were curious. Perhaps they came because they wanted the people to see them take part in the baptism so that they would still be seen as the head religious leaders. Whatever their reason, they did not come with right motivations. To them, it was just another religious activity-something to add to their resume. Very likely, John’s rebuke was quite stinging.

As we will notice in the coming weeks, John did not baptize them. I think sometimes in churches, we are too ready to accept someone into our local congregation without making sure they realize the seriousness of the commitment or making sure they are actually saved. Of course, you can’t be 100% sure because anyone can fool people. However, the church is not a social club for networking opportunities, but a holy congregation of saints who worship and serve the Lord together. People can come, just as the Pharisees and Sadducees did, for selfish purposes. Like John, we should not accept those kinds of people in our congregation but we should faithfully proclaim the word of the Lord to them and everyone who has not professed saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Well, well, what do we have here?


I've been posting on this blog for several months now. If you've been here before, welcome back. If this is the first time you've visited, welcome. I thought it might be helpful if I offered a brief explanation of the format here. As the title says, I started this blog with the idea of teaching through books of the Bible verse by verse. I had been going through Matthew but have recently added Psalm 1. I also posted some teaching from Philippians because I had the opportunity to sub for my Sunday School teacher and since I was going to write the lesson out anyway, I decided to post it. Obviously, though, Philippians is not verse by verse. The teacher only asked me to sub for 3 weeks and they were not consecutive.

Anyway, you will notice on the left something called "Labels". The item Matthew 1 has all the blogs for Matthew chapter one and Matthew 2 is all the blogs from Matthew chapter two and so forth. I got to thinking while it made sense to me it might not be clear to everyone.

Also, if you stop and read something, I would be encouraged if you would leave a comment. You don't have to name yourself or even agree with me. My email is in my profile, also, if you want to contact me. I simply have comment moderation on to prevent sexually explicit comments from being posted. I know, "Why would anyone post a comment like that here?" I'd just rather be overcautious than not cautious enough.

In closing, thanks for stopping by and reading a bit. I hope you are encouraged by the truth revealed in God's holy and precious word.

in Him

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Psalm 1:3 Righteousness and success

When we look at the life of Joseph, Jacob’s son, we see a man supernaturally blessed by God. He rose from the ranks of slavery to the heights of being the 2nd in command of the nation of Egypt. Likewise, Daniel was extraordinarily successful as an administrator and adviser to the Babylonian and Medo-Persian Empire. Certainly, God allowed these men to succeed and enabled them to perform these great tasks. However, if you were to listen to most ministers on TBN, you would get the impression that success and wealth are results or even proofs of salvation. I’m afraid as much as I would like to be guaranteed success and wealth, the Bible does not promise those things to every believer as the world defines them. As we read this verse, we can get a clearer glimpse of what God does in fact promise those who have saving faith.

As we have read, persons who are true followers of Christ do not associate themselves closely with those who reject the truth. In fact, we have seen that a person who loves God also loves His word. In this verse, we see the result of this relationship. We are told this person “shall be like a tree planted”. Now, trees are completely dependant on someone else for their survival. They don’t, nor can they, work or save or exert effort to take care of themselves. Either they are taken care of by a man or by God. In much the same way, regardless of how we like to think of ourselves as self sufficient, we are totally dependant on God. God chose us before the foundation of the world. God numbered our days before we were even born. Like it or not, we are God’s property. We didn’t just happen to come into existence by chance but we were “planted”. We are where we’re supposed to be. We are tended by a loving Gardener who tirelessly provides for every need. For instance, we are not planted just anywhere. Rather, we are planted by “rivers of water”. Our loving Father wants us to be taken care of so we aren’t just planted near one stream but by “rivers” (plural). There have been times where I haven’t had everything I wanted and there have also been times where I wondered how a need was going to be met. However, my God has never once failed to provide for my or my families needs.

In addition to providing for my needs, He also provides for my growth. A person whom God has planted will, according to this Psalm, “bring forth [his] fruit in season”. Now, the last time I was around a fruit tree was the Bradford pair tree in my mother-in-law’s yard. I have never once heard that tree, or any fruit tree, strain with effort to bring forth fruit. They bear fruit because they are fruit trees. It is a result of their existence. We, as Christians, bear spiritual fruit. As Jesus said in Matthew 7 “No good tree bears bad fruit and no bad tree bears good fruit”. God may at times have to prune us to make us more fruitful, but the fact is that fruit trees bear fruit based on the kind of tree they are. Of course, none of us are on the same level of maturity spiritually. Therefore, we bring forth our fruit “in season” in keeping with the will of the Master Gardener.

Now, some people could read this Psalm and say “Hey, look at these next two verses. See. There’s proof that all Christians will have success.” However, let’s think about what these next two phrases and remember that this is talking about someone who has a right relationship with God. I live in Tennessee and here it is turning fall. Just barely but the leaves are turning none the less. I believe this is my favorite time of year because of the beauty of the falling leaves and the dead grass (I hate cutting grass). When I read this verse, I wasn’t exactly sure what it would mean that the subject of this Psalm had leaves that “shall not whither”. However, when I reflect on the fact that the leaves that are falling have died I remember that I will live forever in heaven with God and my Christian brothers and sisters. I’m going to die (or be raptured) physically but I will never die as far as eternity is concerned. Likewise, I may suffer loss and misfortune in this world. In fact, I have. Some things were due to my stupidity and some were not my fault. However, they were all in the providence of Almighty God. Even though I have had success and failure here in this world, ultimately “whatever [I do] shall proper” because I will eventually shed this mortal body and leave this sinful world for a perfect home in heaven. No matter how ugly things get here, I know that ultimately I will have true joy beyond anything I could ask or imagine when I come to live forever in heaven with Him who “planted” me in His garden not because of my worth but because of His grace and mercy.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Matthew 3:5-6 The Baptism of John-A Baptism of Repentance

For years as a Christian, I floundered. I didn’t grow or produce spiritual fruit because I wasn’t studying the word of God. I don’t think I’m the only Christian that could say that was the case in their lives. That is why I am convicted as a teacher of God’s word that the Bible must be taught from cover to cover. I am totally sold out for God’s word because of the power that it had to change my life. True Biblical preaching produces change in the lives of people who are willing to submit to it. We see this is the case as we study these verses today.

First of all, we must remember the context of these verses. John had, for some time, been preaching in the wilderness of Judea that because of the advent of the Christ people needed to repent. He proclaimed that they needed to prepare themselves spiritually for the arrival of Jesus. We find that his preaching had an effect on some of the hearers. Matthew records that “Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan” responded to his message. Now, as we read that, we recognize that Matthew couldn’t have possibly meant every single person came in response. The picture the evangelist paints here for the reader is that of a large, diverse crowd coming in response to this message. They came from the city, from the county and from the boondocks. The message of the gospel, as Paul notes in Colossians, is for the whole world. We see by the response of the people in this region that Biblical message preached by John drew people regardless of where they came from.

Not only do we observe the variety of people who came in response, but we notice the result the preaching had on their hearts by their actions. First of all, they exhibited their true repentance by agreeing to be baptized. The Greek word that is transliterated “baptized” is the word “baptizo” which means “to immerse in liquid”. As John Gill notes in his commentary, Jews had practiced baptism of Gentiles who would convert to Judaism to symbolize that they were now ceremonially clean. Therefore, when these Jews participated in this baptism, they were making the startling profession that they had, in fact, been Gentiles all along spiritually speaking. They were recognizing their need of a savior and the inability of their form of religion to produce the righteousness that God would require.

They also come to be by the one who exhorted them to prepare spiritually. They came to John in response to his preaching. The message of repentance had pierced their dead hearts and they came to John in the same spirit of the jailer who fell at Paul’s feet asking “What must I do to be saved?” Some of these people may have had money or power. It is easy to imagine that most of them were better off than John was because, after all, he lived in the woods. Coming out to this man was an act of humility for these people and speaks to the genuineness of their motivations.

Notice also the exclamation of the people. They came to John “confessing their sins”. The Greek word “exomologio” and it can mean “to acknowledge or agree fully.” In confessing their sins, they were agreeing with God that their sin was wrong. This confession was probably public, with people lining the shores of the Jordan while the person was being baptized. It was probably specific. I can’t imagine anyone confessing their “sins” (plural) and not listing the specifically.

This awesome sight of truly repentant people demonstrates the power of God’s word to change lives. This man of God faithfully proclaimed his message. He sowed the seed of the word. Of course, God was faithful, as he always is, to produce of harvest of truly repentant people who would bring glory to His name by allowing people to see His love and mercy in forgiving them of their sins.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.