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"Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7)


Sep 19, 2019

In this episode, brother Jonathan continues going through the gospel of Matthew.


Matthew 3:7-10


Remnant Bible Fellowship


  1. “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? "Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. "The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Mat 3:7-10)
  2. “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Mat 3:7)
    1. It’s important to understand who these two groups are because they are mentioned regularly in the gospels. These two groups arose after the time of Ezra. The Pharisees came from the scribes and the Sadducees came from the priests. After the corruption of the Maccabees the Pharisees gained controlling influence of the nation even though the High Priests were of the Sadducees.
      1. The Pharisees
        1. Name means “separatists”
        2. They accepted the oral tradition as authoritative.
        3. They held to a balanced view between free will and God’s sovereignty.
        4. They believed in the immortality of the soul.
        5. They believed in reward and punishment after death.
      2. The Sadducees
        1. They didn’t believe that the oral law was authoritative or binding.
        2. They were more literal in their interpretation of the Mosaic law than the Pharisees.
        3. They were very exacting in Levitical purity.
        4. They attributed all to free will.
        5. They didn’t believe in either a resurrection or of immortality of the soul.
        6. They denied the existence of angels, demons, or the existence of a spiritual world.
      3. “brood of vipers” is meaning that they were the offspring of vipers. “Brood” is translated sometimes as “generation”. Vipers were a particularly offensive thing to call someone at the time. To call someone the offspring of vipers was to be extra offensive.
      4. “who warned you to flee from the wrath to come” – You see that in John’s preaching about the coming Messiah and the coming Kingdom there was understood that Judgment was coming also. Implied in John’s pronouncing of the coming Messiah was all the statements made by God through the prophets of the Day of the Lord and how the righteous would be rewarded and the wicked would be punished. Keep in mind though the timing that we had talked about with the Already but not yet of the Kingdom of God.
  • “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;”
    1. “Therefore” shows that John is continuing his remarks to the Pharisees and Sadducees and whether or not they were intending to change also. They were coming to partake of his baptism and he was addressing the true purpose of this baptism which was repentance. So his remarks can be taken as saying to them “If you really want to flee from the wrath to come sincerely then do this…”
    2. “bear fruit” – John and Jesus both use the illustration of a tree and its fruit to symbolize a change in a person’s actions or outward deeds that show whether or not someone has truly turned to following God. This idea is consistent with the rest of the New Testament:
      1. “"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. "The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.” (Mat 12:33-35)
      2. “Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;” (1Jn 3:7)
  • “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.” (1Jn 3:10)
  1. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7-8)
  1. “in keeping with repentance” – A change in one’s life, or how one lives and does things, is the result of true repentance. The Jewish understanding of repentance is not simply a “change of mind” like some people have falsely concluded based on an incorrect understanding of the Greek word ‘metanoia’. It is the OT idea of “turning” or “returning” to God. You can see this idea very clearly in how Christ refers to the repentance of the Ninevites:
    1. “"The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” (Mat 12:41)
  2. Now if you compare what the book of Jonah says that the Ninevites did when they heard Jonah’s preaching you see what God means by repentance.
    1. “Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. He issued a proclamation and it said, "In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. "But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. "Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish." When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.” (Jon 3:4-10)
  3. You see it says that “when God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented…” God considers repentance to involve a true turning from wicked ways. This change in how you live is the fruit that you ought to bear when there is legitimate repentance. That’s why John instructs that if they are truly minded to escape the wrath of God that is coming they ought to bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
  1. “and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.”
    1. John now attacks an idea that surely some of the prideful Jewish religious leaders were leaning on: the idea that as the people of God the Jews didn’t need to have that same change as the Gentiles did. Remember that John’s very call for the Jews to be baptized just as the Gentiles was a call to them that they were just as impure and unclean in the sight of God as the Gentiles who they considered to be dogs. They needed the same kind of change in them that the Gentiles needed. This certainly upset them.
    2. In fact, Jesus hammered this same point to the Jews by pointing out that even in the OT God did miracles for certain Gentiles and ignored the Jews at times. This of course led to them trying to kill Him.
      1. “And He said, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. "But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. "And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way.” (Luk 4:24-30)
    3. The Jews were very prideful about the idea that they were the people of God. The gospel offended them the same way that it offends people today. Church people are some of the hardest people to reach. They go to church, they learn morality, and they believe that they are good people for doing so. My wife was just chewed out the other day by a church person for this very reason. Nevertheless, just as Christ said about the Laodiceans they are poor, wretched, miserable, and blind. They will not seek God because of pride.
    4. The idea of stones being brought up by John has intrigued me for years. It’s like he is contrasting their high view of themselves because they believe themselves special because they physically descend from Abraham, and John’s like, “That’s nothing, because God could turn even this simple rocks into children of Abraham!” Meaning that their being “chosen” is nothing hard for God to do. It also always encouraged me that if God could turn stones into children of Abraham then he can certainly make me into one.
  2. “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
    1. There are several times in the OT where the imagery of a tree for a person or nation is used:
      1. “'The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged-- it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth.” (Dan 4:20-22)
      2. “O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech You; Look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine, Even the shoot which Your right hand has planted, And on the son whom You have strengthened for Yourself. It is burned with fire, it is cut down; They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance.” (Psa 80:14-16)
  • “The LORD called your name, "A green olive tree, beautiful in fruit and form"; With the noise of a great tumult He has kindled fire on it, And its branches are worthless. The LORD of hosts, who planted you, has pronounced evil against you because of the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done to provoke Me by offering up sacrifices to Baal.” (Jer 11:16-17)
  1. And even later by the Apostle Paul the image of a tree is used to describe Israel:
    1. “If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree,” (Rom 11:16-17)
  2. The unbelieving branches were broken off, and new, believing ones, were graft in to the olive tree—symbolizing Israel. It’s important to note in this passage that there was no new tree made. It’s the same tree. There is no such thing as replacement theology in God’s mind. The Church has not replaced Israel. The Church is another name FOR Israel, the Israel of God. We as Gentiles are let IN to the people of God by our conversion, but the unbelieving Jews are broken off. The same operation happening to the same body of people: the family of God, a holy nation, and a peculiar people.
  3. But what John says about the axe being laid at the root of the tree is again consistent with Christ’s own teachings. EVERY professing believer who does not actually bring forth the fruits of repentance, and continue in them, is broken off and cast into the fire.
    1. “"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” (Joh 15:1-6)
    2. Jesus compares his disciples, Christians, to branches that are growing out of Him, the true Vine. If we refuse to bring forth fruit then he breaks us off and casts us into the fire. The same branches that are referred to as his disciples are the same ones that are cast into the fire if they do not continue to remain in Him.
  • This passage alone fixes so many false ideas about salvation and the Christian life if you take the time to understand it and take it in its proper context. The only way to teach Calvinism or eternal security, or a number of other false teachings, is to ignore or reinterpret what Christ Himself taught here.
  1. Conclusion
    1. I’m going to stop there for now and we’ll pick up in verses 11 and 12 next time. I will be doing another episode on water baptism to focus on some other issues with that, and then, Lord willing, I’ll finally be doing an episode or two talking about the issue of the baptism of the Spirit. There is a lot of confusion and controversy about it. Is there such a thing as a second work of grace? Is there something subsequent to salvation? This teaching confuses and disillusions a lot of people so I’ve wanted to address it for some time, and like usual I’m sure I will disappoint some people.