Luke 3:7–18 NRSV – John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” 15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.”
Summary – John the Baptist challenges the crowds and especially the leadership of Israel to “bear fruits worthy of repentance.” They are not to rely on their ancestry for God’s approval, rather they are to show themselves to be God’s people by faithful living. John also teaches that he is not the Messiah, but the Messiah is coming. John baptizes with water be He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Insight – Do you know anyone whose ancestors are famous? Are you especially proud of your parents or grandparents? Israel had a strong pride in their unique relationship to Abraham. They proudly wore their badge of membership in the covenant, but this connection can be abused and this abuse is what John addressed. 1) Being in a covenant family is not enough (vv 3-9). We may enter into a covenant relationship by birth (graciously), but we must “bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (3:8). There should be no presumption in nor rejection of the covenant. 2) Acting in our best interest is not enough (vv 10-14). We must act like a renewed people in generosity (v 11). This requires ceasing from corruptions, like theft and lying (v 12-14). We must be “content” rather than use our positions in self-serving ways. 3) Receiving sign is not enough (15-18). Israel (including the leadership) should have heard John’s voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way. They should have received the sign of John’s baptism (Lk. 7:30). But accepting the preparation is insufficient if it does not lead to the One (Christ) (Acts 19:5). John would “baptize you with water; but One is coming who” “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (v 16). In the same way our participation in Church “actions,” from baptism to worship to communion are insufficient if they are not realized in faith in Christ by the power of the Spirit.
Catechism – How does Jesus baptize? With the Holy Spirit and fire.
Discussion – The Jews at that time said, “We have Abraham as our ancestor.” Are there similar appeals used by Christians today?
Prayer – Father we praise you that in your wisdom and grace you have not limited salvation to one nation but through Christ you have provided salvation to all nations and by your Spirit you give living faith which produces repentance and good works in those who trust in Jesus. Grant that we may live out our faith in Christ as your renewed people. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.