Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 3

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

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Verse 1


V. 1-12

1) "In those days came John the Baptist," (en de tais hemerias ekeinais paragenetai loannes ho Baptistes) "Then in those days arrived (on the scene) John the Baptist;" "Those days" refer to the time Jesus yet dwelt in Nazareth of Galilee, where He had been brought up. John the Baptist "a man sent from God", a cousin to Jesus in the flesh, began his prophesied preaching ministry in Judea, John 1:6; John 1:28; Mr 1:3-8; Luke 1:36-40; Luke 3:2-7.

2) "Preaching in the wilderness of Judea," (kerusson en te eremo tes loudaias) "Preaching or proclaiming in the wilderness of Judea," in the uninhabited or desert area of Judea. To avoid political incitement or involvement neither he nor Jesus preached in the streets of the cities, Matthew 12:19; Mr 1:4,5; Luke 3:2-4. He began preaching in Judea about six months before the baptism and beginning of the personal ministry of Jesus and the establishment of His church in Galilee.

Verse 2

1) "And saying, Repent ye:" (legon metanoelte) "Repeatedly saying you all repent;" This was the initial preparatory message of both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ to lost men. No responsible person could or can either become a child of God or a member of His new Covenant church without repentance toward God and faith or trust in Jesus Christ, Luke 13:3; Luke 13:5; Acts 19:4; Luke 3:3; Luke 3:8.

2) "For the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (engiken gar he Basileia ton ouranon) "Because the kingdom of the heavens is near," the kingdom (organized) government of the heavens, (authorized and originating out of and from the heavens) is at hand, nearby or is imminent." This is the first direct New Testament reference or allusion to the coming establishment of the New Testament or New Covenant church that Jesus was soon to institute, establish, or originate. This Jesus did when He called out a people (chose a people) from among the Gentiles, for His name’s sake, to mandate, to bear His message to the world. Acts 10:37; Acts 15:13-14; Matthew 4:12-22; John 15:16-17. The phrase "kingdom of heaven", used by Matthew only is a restrictive and definitive term referring always and only to the church.

Verse 3

1) "For this is he that was spoken of," (hutos gar estin ho hretheis) "Because this is (exists as) the one who is spoken of;" This means spoken of at length, and in a special way, in a way that he might be identified and recognized upon his coming.

2) "By the prophet Esaias, saying," (dia Esaiou tou prophetou legontos) "Through Isaiah the prophet saying," explaining, and predicting through prophetic utterance, Isaiah 40:3.

3) "The voice of one crying in the wilderness," (phone Bontis eb te eremo) "There (will be) a voice of one crying aloud (bellowing like an ox) in the wilderness," proclaiming, heralding an heaven directed message, John 1:6; John 1:23; John 1:33; Luke 3:3-4.

4) "Prepare ye the way of the Lord," (hetoimasate ten hodon kuriou) "You all prepare or make ready the way or path-way of the Lord; "John was a way-fixer or preparer for the coming of Jesus and establishment of His church, Mr 1:1, 2; John 15:16; John 15:27; Acts 1:21-22; Acts 10:37; Acts 15:13-14. Royal persons were preceded by security persons or emissaries who cleared and prepared for their coming.

5) "Make his paths straight." (eutheias poieite tas tribous autou) "You all make straight his paths," the way He leads or shall soon lead; lay the foundation, or prepare the material that needs be used by Him upon His arrival. This John did in preaching, baptizing, and informing men of the eminent (soon) coming of Jesus as Savior and founder of His church, alluded to restrictedly, definitively, and exclusively as "The kingdom of heaven," by Matthew, repeatedly.

Verse 4

1) "And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair," (autos de ho loannes eichen to enduma autou apo trichom jamelou) "Now John himself had his raiment made from or of hair of camel." His clothes were made of woven camel hair, which they shed every year. This type of clothing was known as prophetic garb, a rough, coarse garment.

2) "And a leathern girdle about his loins;" (kai zonen dermatinen peri ten osphen autou) "And a wide belt of leather around his loins". As John the Baptist was the Elias of prophecy so he wore garments similar to those Elias wore, 2 Kings 1:8; Matthew 11:8-9; Matthew 11:14; Luke 1:7.

3) "And his meat was locusts and wild honey." (he de trophe en autou akrides kai meli agrion) "Now the food of him (of John the Baptist) was (existed of) locusts and wild honey." These long, winged grasshoppers, (locusts) were approved for food under the law, Mr 1:6; Leviticus 11:21-22. These creeping and leaping things are high in protein and still eaten in the far east as a food of delicacy, especially in India. Bees also once abounded in Palestine and surrounding countries hiding in the heat of the day in crevices of rocks and hollows of trees, where they stored their honey, Exodus 3:8.

Verse 5

1) "Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea," (tote eksporeueto pros auton lerosoluma kai pasa he loudaia) "Then (at that point) went out to (hear) him Jerusalem and all Judea;" The masses from these areas flocked out into the open countryside called the desert or wilderness to hear his heaven-mandated message, Mr 1:5; Luke 3:7. This is the prophet with the message foretold Malachi 4:5-6.

2) "And all the region round about Jordan," (kai pasa he perichomos tou lordanou) "And from all the neighborhood of the Jordan area;" This refers to both the Jordan River and the Valley through which it flows. The Valley extends sixty (60) miles in length from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. The masses followed -John, some to receive his message from the Lord and obey it and some out of curiosity, Matthew 11:7-14.

Verse 6

1) "And were baptized of him in Jordan," (kai ebaptizonto en to lordane potamo hup’ autou) "And they were baptized or immersed by him in the Jordan River;" These who heard and received John’s preaching repented of their sins, accepted the coming Messiah by faith and became proselytes from Judaism to a new form of divine worship, Acts 1:5.

2) "Confessing their sins." (eksomologoumenoi tas hamartias auton) "Confessing (thereby) their sins," Acts 19:4; Man first "believes in his heart," trusts in Jesus Christ with the center of all emotions for remission of his sins; and second he is to confess with his mouth, followed and accompanied by baptism in water, to identify himself as one who thereafter purposes to live after the moral, ethical, and spiritual order of the life of Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9-10; Romans 6:4. John baptized only such as gave testimony of an inner spiritual change in their lives, which had come by repentance and faith, Matthew 3:7-10; Acts 19:4.

Verse 7

1) "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees," (idon de pollous ton Pharisaion kai Saddoukaion) "Then observing many, of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees," the two most prominent sects of formal Judaism of that day. Pharisees were strict moral, zealous, self-righteous, destitute of a real sense for a redeemer and vehement persecutors of Jesus, Luke 7:39; Luke 18:9; Matthew 23:13-29.

2) "Coming to his baptism," (erchomenous epi to Baptisma) "Coming to the baptism or immersion," which John was administering to so many professing believers.

3) "He said unto them" (eipen autois) "He (John) said (directly) to them," to the popularity seeking Pharisees and Sadducees. The Sadducees denied the existence of angels, spirits, and miracles, and rejected the idea of a resurrection, Acts 23:8.

4) "0 generation of vipers," (gennemata echisnon) "You offspring of vipers," venomous serpents, of the old serpent the Devil himself, John 8:44; Matthew 12:34. The Devil has children. The Pharisees and Sadducees were his children at this time, 1 John 3:10.

5) "Who hath warned you to flee," (tis hupedeiksen humin phugeis) "Who warned you all to flee;" John the Baptist, a prophet sent from God, was warning these snake-hearted hypocrites of their religious sins and need to repent, as Jesus did, Luke 13:3; Luke 13:5.

.6) "From the wrath to come?" (apo tes mellouses orges) "Away from the coming wrath?" The Sadducees, denying the resurrection, also denied that there awaited for them a day of wrath and judgement, while the self­ righteous Pharisees thought themselves to be safe from it, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Matthew 5:20.

Verse 8

1) "Bring forth therefore fruits," (poiesate oun karpon) "Therefore you all (must) produce fruit," produce evidence by a change of attitude and conduct of such a nature as to prove you have had an inner-heart change, Matthew 7:17.

2) "Meet for repentance:" (aksion tes metanoias) "Worthy of (your claim of) repentance," or in harmony with and as a trust in Jesus Christ, Acts 17:30; 2 Corinthians 7:10.

Verse 9

1) "And think not to say within yourselves," (kai me diksete legein en heautois) "And you all do not think to say repeatedly among yourselves," boosting the natural, carnal pride of one another, while each and all were on the road to hell, Matthew 5:20.

2) "We have Abraham to our father:" (patera echomen ton Abraam) "We have, hold, or possess Abraham as a father," of us. They thought that being descendants of him their salvation was secure. It was a grave mis­conception, because each person, whether Jew or Gentile, must repent of his own sins and trust in Jesus for himself. Salvation is not hereditary, can not be inherited, Luke 13:3; Luke 13:5; John 8:24; Romans 14:11-12.

3) "For I say unto you, that God is able of these stones," (lego gar humin hot! dunatai ho theos ek ton lithon touton) "Because I tell you all directly, or very clearly, that God is able out of (from the source of) these stones," Luke 3:8; John 8:33; John 8:39; Romans 2:28-29; Romans 4:16. The idea of the "stone", figure of speech, is that God could raise up spiritual children to the honor and faith of Abraham, from among the heathen, Romans 2:4-5.

4) "To raise up children unto Abraham." (egeiraitekna to Abraam) "To raise children to or toward Abraham," toward the faith of Abraham, to honor the faith that Abraham had while an heathen in the Ur of Chaldees, by which he was saved, became thereby a father-example of all who should ever be saved thereafter, Galatians 3:8-9; Romans 4:21-25.

John simply said, don’t flatter yourself with the delusion that God stands in need of you in your rebellion and impenitence to preserve Abraham’s seed. He can save men from among the heathen and commit to them His program of work and worship, Acts 15:13-14; which He did in establishing the church by Jesus Christ soon thereafter, Matthew 21:43; Romans 11:20; Romans 11:30.

Verse 10

1) "And now also the axe," (ede de he aksine) "And already (at this moment) the axe." an instrument of wrath and destruction is at hand.

2) "Is laid unto the root of the trees:" (pros ten hrizan ton dendron keitai) "Is laid at, to, or toward the root (stump-root) of the trees," of all the trees and every tree that is unfruitful, that bears no fruit. This is the doom of every barren tree, every non-productive tree that cumbers the ground, like a leech or a sucker, as the barren fig that Jesus cursed, Luke 13:7.

3) "Therefore every tree," (pan oun dendron) "Therefore each and every tree,"

4 "Which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down," (me poioun karpon kalon ekkoptetai) "That does not produce good fruit is cut down," as a sound principle of a fruit grower. It is wisely used as mere fire-wood for a little value or if what fruit it bears is tainted, blighted, or rotten fruit, Matthew 7:16-20. When he found no fruit he set down the basket and took up the axe.

5) "And cast into the fire." (kai eis pur balletai) "And cast (as refuse) into a fire," so that it may give warmth in a time of cold, cook food, heat water, or simply not sap the earth of moisture and food. The tree (unfruitful tree) may represent both Israel in her rejection of the Messiah and God’s wrath of judgement in cutting her off and the unfruitful, impenitent, unbelieving individual Pharisee and Sadducee who also personally rejected Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, John 1:11-12; John 8:24; Matthew 5:20.

Verse 11

1) "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance:" (ego men humas Baptizo en hudati eis metanoian) "I surely (certainly) immerse you all in water with reference to repentance," your confession of your sins, or claim to have done such. John taught men the need of inward purification, which baptism typified, but could not convey. Neither baptism, nor faith in baptism, cleanses from sin, or ever did. Inward cleansing is effected by repentance to God and faith in Jesus Christ, by faith in His blood, Acts 20:20-21; Romans 3:25; Romans 3:28.

2) "But he that cometh after me," (ho de opiso mou erchomenos ischuroteros mou estin) "But the one coming of his own accord, after me, exists stronger than I," in knowledge, character, and all matters, Mr 1:7.

3) "Is mightier than I," (ischuroteros mou estin) "(In comparison with me) is stronger," Luke 3:16. John wanted no one to entertain the thought that he was the Messiah. He did want them to understand that he had a Divine mission to tell them that the coming of the Savior was at hand and they should prepare for His coming.

4) "Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear" (hou ouk eimi hikanos ta hupodemata Bastasai) "Whose sandals I am not worthy to bear," either to wear or to carry, as an expression of John’s humility and inferior state in comparison with Jesus, John 1:26-27; Mr 1:7,8.

5) "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:" (autos humas Baptisei en pneumati hagio kai puri) "He will immerse you in Holy Spirit and (in) fire," some in one and some in the other. Note John does not himself claim to give salvation, which only Christ can do, but to give knowledge of it, in harmony with the former prophetic statement of Zacharias, Luke 1:76-77. To immerse with the Holy Spirit meant to quicken or cleanse with the Holy Spirit such as believed from among the Pharisees, as Joseph of Aramithea and Nicodemus, and to immerse with fire meant to submerge those in flames of hell fire who rejected Him, John 3:1-2; John 7:50; John 19:39; Luke 16:23-24.

Verse 12

1) "Whose fan is in his hand," (hou to ptuon en te cheiri autou) "Whose fan (separating instrument) is in his hand;" The "fan" was for separating the chaff from the grain. In like manner The Word of God is the Divine Instrument of God that morally, ethically, and doctrinally separates the chaff and the grain or kernel of true religion. The Word will be the standard of separation at the hour of judgement, Revelation 20:12; Romans 2:16; 2 Timothy 4:1-2.

2) "And he will thoroughly purge his floor," (kai diakathariei ten halona autou) "And he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor," not one grain (soul) good or bad will escape the judgment of God, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Hebrews 9:26-27. The chaff will be whiffed away into a burning torment forever, where the Memorex conscience system of the unregenerate soul shall writhe in self accusing torment without rest forever, Luke 16:25; Revelation 14:10-11.

3) "And gather his wheat into the garner;" (kai sunaksei ton siton autou eis ten apotheken) "And he will gather his wheat into the barn," His place of care and preservation forever to be with the Lord, John 14:1-3. Note, not one grain of wheat, not one true child of God, will ever go to hell to be burned with the chaff, with unbelievers; Though some maybe saved "as if by fire", with little or no rewards for service, 1 Corinthians 3:15.

4). "But he will burn up the chaff," (to de achuron katakausei) "But he will consume the chaff," the refuse. For the wicked, Christ-rejecters shall all be cast into hell, Psalms 9:17; Revelation 20:13-15. This especially denoted pious empty professors of religion like Pharisees and Sadducees who rejected he Savior.

5.) "With unquenchable fire." (puri asbesto) "With fire unquenchable," in nature or kind; It takes unquenchable fire to punish those who all their life lived in disobedience to every overture of God’s love and call to Salvation and service, Matthew 25:46; Luke 3:17.


V. 13-17

Verse 13

1) "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee," (tote paraginetai ho lesous apo tes Galilaias) "At this point Jesus arrives from Galilee," into Judea, the territory where John the Baptist had been preaching and baptizing, preparing a people for Jesus. Jesus came directly from Nazareth, His hometown where He had been brought up, about 60 miles away, Mr 1:9.

2) "To Jordan unto John," (epi ton lordanen pros ton loannen tou) "To (where) John (was) upon (the bank of the) Jordan River," in the lower Jordan Valley, near Bethabara about five miles north of the Dead Sea, John 1:28.

3) "To be baptized of him." (Baptisthenai hup’ autou) "To be immersed by (authority) of him," by authority of John who had been "sent from God," John 1:6, and had been "sent to baptize," John 1:33. When God wanted a human family He created one, Adam and Eve, Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 2:21-25. Then He provided for the continuity of that family in the covenant of marriage as one. When God wanted a church to bear His message He sent a man from heaven to prepare a people out of and with whom Jesus instituted His church. John the Baptist (sent from God) John 1:6, did preach, teach, and baptize believing disciples from whom Jesus called out disciples to institute and constitute and perpetuate His church, Matthew 4:17-21; John 15:16; John 15:27; Acts 1:21-22; Acts 15:13-14; Matthew 8:18-20.

Verse 14

1) "But John forbad him, saying," (ho de diekoluen auton legon) "Then he (John) forbade (refused) him, repeatedly saying," or objecting, was attempting to hinder or prevent Him from being baptized at the close of the service that day after or "when all the people were baptized," apparently with no desire to cause any public display, Luke 3:21.

2) "I have need to be baptized of thee," (ego chrelan echo hupo sou Baptisthenai) "I have or hold a need to be immersed (baptized) by you;" It appears that John was affirming that his cousin (Jesus) was, in the flesh, a better man than he himself was, though as yet he did not know that Jesus was the very Messiah of whom he had been preaching, John 2:11; Mr 1:7,8; John 1:26-27. He did recognize that Jesus was greater than he was.

3) "And comest thou to me?" (kai su erche pros me) "And you come to me of your own will and accord?" At this point, and until after John baptized Jesus, he did not know that he was the Son of God, John 1:31-34.

Verse 15

1) "And Jesus answering said unto him," (apokritheis de ho lesous eipen autous) "Then responding Jesus said to him," replied to John the Baptist’ question.

2) "Suffer it to be so now:" (aphes art!) "Permit it to be so right now, at this moment," without hesitation or delay. In the spirit of Mary later "whatsoever he saith unto you do it," John 2:5.

3) "For thus it becometh us," (houtos gar peron estin hemin) "Because thus (in doing this) it is fitting or proper to us," to the forerunner of Jesus and for Jesus to have their righteous ministries to merge as Jesus’ increased and John’s decreased, John 3:27-30.

4) "To fulfill all righteousness." (plerosai pasan dikaiosunen) "To fulfill all righteousness;" John the Baptist could not fulfill his righteous mission and mandate from God until he had baptized Jesus. And Jesus could not begin His righteous gospel ministry until He was baptized by John.

5) "Then he suffered him." (tote aphiesin auton) "At that point, or at that moment, he permitted (permits him): "John proceeded to baptize Jesus, at which time, for the first time he knew for a certainty who Jesus was, John 1:31-34.

Verse 16

1) "And Jesus, when he was baptized," (Baptistheis de ho leous) "And Jesus when he had been immersed," or been baptized, submerged in the waters of the Jordan River, by John the Baptist, who was sent from God, John 1:6, to baptize Jesus, as well as others, John 1:31-34.

2) "Went up straightway out of the water" (euthus anebe apo tou hudatos) "Went up immediately out of (and) away from the water of the Jordan River;" Nothing short of the waters of immersion, or a burial beneath the surface of the waters of the Jordan River, accurately portrays how Jesus was baptized. He went up praying, Luke 3:21-22.

3) "And, lo, the heavens were opened unto him," (kai idou eneochthesan hoi ouranoi) "And behold the heavens were opened," unto or with reference to Jesus and John’s baptizing Him. The heavens disclosed, made visible to John, the Holy Spirit descending to rest upon Jesus to give sanction to His identity and message, Ezekiel 1:1; Acts 7:56; Acts 10:11; Revelation 19:11.

4) "And he saw the Spirit of God," (kai eiden pneuma theou) "And he (John the Baptist) saw (the) Spirit of God," visually, in a physical form of -manifestation, appearing to both Jesus and John, John 1:32.

5) "Descending like a dove," (karabainon hosei peristeran) "Coming down as or similar to a dove," in body for a symbol of purity, beauty, peace and harmless­ness, to identify him as the Redeemer, Isaiah 11:2; The dove form was bodily seen by Jesus and John the Baptist, Luke 3:22; Matthew 10:16.

6) "And lighting upon him:" (erchomenon ep’ auton) "Being come down upon him:" upon Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. By this, John’s understanding of who Jesus was, was confirmed and a promise of God was fulfilled to him, John 1:32-34. This Holy Spirit descent on Jesus was a permanent one for the rest of His life, Isaiah 11:2.

Verse 17

1) "And lo a voice from heaven, saying," (kai idou phone ek ton ouranon legousa) "And behold a voice (came) out of the heavens saying," announcing an affirming. This same voice of God the Father instructed His disciples, "Hear ye him," Matthew 17:5.

2) "This is my beloved Son," (houtos es on ho huios mou ho agapetos) "This (one) is (exists as) my beloved heir--Son;" Herein may be seen and witnessed the tri-nature or trinity of the Godhead. The Father of Jesus who was in heaven sent down upon His head the Holy Spirit in dove form appearance as the Father from heaven spoke in audible voice the words of this passage, as affirmed also Matthew 28:18-20; 1 John 5:7.

3) "In whom I am well pleased." (en ho eudokesa) "in whose being (whom) I was (and am) well pleased," or in whom I take delight, as described prophetically Isaiah 42:1-7.

Three things are evident in this Baptismal manifestation of Jesus Christ.

1) First, Jesus voluntarily sought baptism from the only individual God ever sent (mandated) from heaven to baptize, John 1:6; John 1:33.

2) Second, Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit for His official work on earth among men, John 3:34; Luke 4:18.

3) Third, God the Father acknowledged Him as His own Son, "in whom" He was well pleased, as His Son pursued this baptismal identity and revelation of Himself and His coming work in Israel and a lost world.

John 1:31-34 at His baptism Jesus passed from a private to a public life, having arrived at a legal age for a public teacher, which was 30 years of age.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Matthew 3". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/matthew-3.html. 1985.
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