Matthew 3.7-12 – John the Baptist’s warning
Posted: 21 February 2011 in Matthew

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

It is common to contrast the God of wrath in the Old Testament with the God of love in the New Testament, but here John the Baptist is warning the religious elite of his day that there is only one God, and that he never changes. God’s wrath awaits those who try to rely on their own self righteousness, refuse to repent in the face of God’s absolute righteousness, and who then disdain the means of salvation which he is about to proffer.

Even in this most Jewish of the four Gospels, John also tells his hearers that they cannot rely upon their status as God’s chosen people, and that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. Elsewhere in the New Testament Paul tells his readers that God will be calling the Gentiles to fulfill his will, and to be grafted into the vine which was old Israel (to use Paul’s metaphor from Romans 11.16ff).

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