corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.20.11.26
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Matthew 3

 

 


Other Authors
Verses 1-17

CHAPTER 4

MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST BY MATTHEW, MARK, AND LUKE

Luke 3:1-2. “In the fifteenth year of the dominion of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Iturea and the Trachonitis country, and Lysanias being tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.” Luke gives us important specifications, stating that Tiberius was emperor of the Roman world; Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea; Herod — i.e., Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, who was on the throne of Judea when our Savior was born, and slew the infants — was tetrarch of Galilee. His jurisdiction also included Perea, east of the Jordan. As both of these countries were traversed by our Savior, it is important that they appear in this introductory. The Philip here mentioned, the brother of Herod, and governor of Iturea and Trachonitis, was not the one whose wife, Herodias, Herod Antipas took; but she was the wife of another Philip, who was a half brother to Herod. Abilene, the tetrarchy of Lysanias, was a region of country in Anti-Lebanon, between Damascus and Heliopolis. We have Annas and Caiaphas here, both spoken of as high priests; and we see, in our Lord’s arraignment, He was brought before each one of them. The solution of the matter seems to be that the Roman authorities favored the high-priesthood of Annas, and the Jewish that of Caiaphas. After Zacharias and Elizabeth fled away from Jutta, near Bethlehem, into the wilderness of Judea, to protect their child from the cruelties of Herod, they returned no more during the minority of John. Consequently, upon reaching the age of thirty, he entered at once upon his ministry there in the desert (Matthew 3:1-2), “preaching in the desert of Judea, and saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Mark 1:4, “John came baptizing in the desert, and preaching the baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins.” I here use the word “desert,” in lieu of “wilderness,” because the latter is utterly illusory to the American reader. By wilderness, in this country, we understand a wild region of Country, overgrown with briers, brambles, and brush, as well as forest trees. That is not the Bible meaning of the word eremos, which means a region of country either destitute of water, because the rains do not fall on it, or at least partially destitute, because of insufficiency of rains. Four times have I traveled through the wilderness of Judea, where John the Baptist was brought up and did his first preaching. It is a desert, dry and unproductive, seldom seeing a green leaf, because of insufficient rains. Mosses, ferns, and nettles grow there, fed on by the goats, donkeys, and camels. In the deserts there are oases, like islands in the ocean, where springs of water so irrigate as to produce some sustenance for man and beast, and these are the places of habitation. John was brought up in that poor, wild, sterile desert of Judea, lying between Jerusalem and Bethlehem on the west, and the Dead Sea on the east.

Here we see that the burden of John’s Gospel is repentance unto the remission of sins. When man truly repents, God always forgives. John cried, with stentorian voice, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven is at hand;” i.e., Christ the King is at hand, who, of course, brings the kingdom with Him. Matthew 3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4. “The voice of one roaring in the desert, Prepare ye the way of the Lord: make His paths straight.” “Crying,” E.V. is “boontos,” from “boo,” the noise an ox makes when he lows. Hence it means roaring like an ox. We see from these facts that John had a stalwart, robust constitution, having been brought up in the rough and tumble life of the desert, and now, thirty years old — i.e., a grown young man — in his vigor, filled and flooded with the Holy Ghost, he throws his great mouth wide open, and roars, like an ox bawling. His message was simple and brief. He had but one theme, and that was repentance unto the remission of their sins, confirming their covenant by water baptism. His stentorian voice, and the burning truth, which leaped like forked lightnings from his lips, stir the people terrifically, as he assures them that the King of heaven is already on the earth, and the most important enterprise of life is to prepare to meet Him, which they can only do by repenting of all their sins, unto a conscious experimental remission, which he proposed to confirm by water baptism. A true repentance is accompanied by restitution, which undoes all the bad work of the former life, making all wrongs right so far as possible, God taking the will for the deed in case of impossibility. If you would get saved, the Lord must come into your heart. He will not travel over a crooked road. Hence you must make his paths straight — i.e., make straight ways for the Lord to come into thy heart; i.e., you must straighten out all of your own crooked ways — otherwise the Lord will never come into your heart, and you would better never have been born. John gave the trumpet no uncertain sound. He had both the thunder and the lightning — the former, to call attention and terrify; and the latter, to kill. O how the Lord needs such preachers now, to arouse a slumbering world and a dead Church from the lethargy of swift damnation!

Luke 5, 6. “Every valley shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low.” True repentance brings the king, the queen, the nobleman, the great man, the hon tons of society, down low in the dust at the feet of Jesus, where they can get religion, and be humble enough to black their own shoes, cook, and wash dishes, delighted to wait on themselves and their friends, and live the life of the meek and lowly; while the wonderful redeeming grace of God lifts up beggars, drunkards, and harlots, and transforms the very “filth and offscourmg of the world” into mighty men and saintly women, whose seraphic voices hold multitudes spellbound, and whose mighty works will glorify God in the day of eternity. “Crooked things shall be straight, and rough places shall become the smooth Ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” These wonderful transformations of redeeming grace and sanctifying power, transforming the roughest reprobates into the most amiable saints, and the most stupid simpletons into fire-baptized witnesses for Jesus, the blackest debauchees into bloodwashed pilgrims for glory bound, tells the wonderful secret of the world’s evangelization. There is no other way to bring about this summum desideratum, for which every true heart sighs night and day. Hence it devolves on the holiness people of all lands to verify the Commission, and “preach the gospel to every Creature.” O what a glorious privilege, to be numbered with the Sacramental Army, going forth to conquer the world for Christ!

JOHN’S LIVING

The great reason why we can’t evangelize the world is, the puzzling problem of ministerial support. The Bible answers all questions and sweeps away all difficulties. Here we have John the Baptist, the greatest’ preacher the world saw in four thousand years, and a paragon for all others to imitate. See this wonderful prophet of the desert, with a huge stone for a pulpit, and an audience of ten thousand, standing on the burning sand, listening hour after hour, so utterly spellbound that the sun goes down before they are aware. The preacher has nothing on his body by way of apparel but the coarse, shaggy, camel’s-hair mantle, worn by the poorest people, and tied around his loins with a strap of rawhide; i.e., actually clothed like a beggar. Now what about boarding the greatest preacher the world had ever seen? It is an unequivocal truth that he lived on the locusts, sweetened with the wild honey gathered from the rocks in the mountains, as the “wilderness [desert] of Judea” is one continuous bed of rugged, precipitous, cavernous, barren mountains, where very little rain falls in the winter, and none in the summer, producing very scanty vegetation but a short period in the year. I am aware that great efforts have been made to explain away the idea that John really ate the locusts. There is a tree in the Holy Land called the carob or horn tree, bearing fruit eaten by poor people, much resembling the American honey-locust. Many have claimed that this was the food of John the Baptist. Even my Arab guide pointed it out to me as the food which John ate. I must state here, once for all, that the theory is utterly untenable. The fruit of that tree is called keration. (Luke 15:16.) The prodigal son actually ate it, along with the hogs, which are very fond of it; while the word translated locusts, and specifying the food of John the Baptist, is akris, and has no meaning except the animal locust. Hence there is no dodging the issue without flatly contradicting the Word of God. So set it down as a matter of fact that John lived on locusts. This clear revelation of God’s Word is abundantly corroborated by all the collateral facts and circumstances appertaining to the case.

(a) This day the locusts abound in the very country where John lived thirty years and entered upon his wonderful ministry.

I have seen them, in quantities so great that I could have filled a bushel basket in a diameter of a single rod.

(b) It is a well-known fact that the Bedouins, living in the desert now, eat the locusts, not simply in case of emergency, but they are very fond of them, regarding them as a luxury, and devouring them voraciously, preferring them cooked, with salt, but eating them unhesitatingly raw, with salt if they have it, and without it if they have it not. They traverse the desert, hunting them; fill great sacks with them; carry them on camels and donkeys to their tents, and feast like kings so long as the locusts last.

(c) The poor people in the desert, with whom John was brought up, habitually eat the locusts.

Of course they invited their preacher to eat with them, giving him such as they had; i.e., locusts sweetened with wild honey. My Arab guide, accompanying me when I saw the locusts in the “wilderness of Judea,” and dismounted so as to enjoy a good look at them, as they manifested no disposition to get out of my way, told me that they taste much like fish, and are quite palatable. I took his word, and was satisfied without testing the matter. The locusts which I saw were very fine looking, and several times so large as the grasshoppers in the American deserts, of which the Indians are so fond.

(d) Good Lord, deliver us from criticizing Thy Word, and give us grace unhesitatingly to take the Bible as it says, and save us from all efforts to explain it away! John the Baptist had no money, and needed none.

We do not conclude from this that we should not give the preachers money, or anything else we have and they need. But we do conclude that the person who waits for money is out of God’s order. John had none, and was not in a place to get any. Myriads are now called by the Holy Ghost under similar circumstances. O how they grieve the Spirit when they wait, year after year, for money to defray traveling expenses, pay board, and purchase clothing and books, while millions are dropping into hell! I find men and women everywhere who confess that they are called by the Spirit, and are not in the work. An awful responsibility awaits them at the judgment bar. They should go, like John the Baptist, waiting for nothing. “The Lord will provide.”

It may not be my way, It may not be thy way; Yet, in His own way, The Lord will provide.”

If I could be a thousand men, I have open doors enough for them all to enter. What about the support? That is already settled with a draft on heaven’s bank.

Can we not have the faith of Sister Amelia Andrew, the wife of the sainted bishop? The Confederate War has swept over the country, a deluge of blood and fire, disorganizing Churches and revolutionizing society. General Lee has surrendered, and the war is over. Bishop Andrew, though now an octogenarian, is much concerned for the work in Texas, which has received no attention during the dark quadrennium.

He says to his sanctified Amelia, “O, how I‘d like to go to Texas, and look after the interest of God’s kingdom in the great ‘Lone Star State!’”

“My dear, why do you not go?” “No money.”

“I can send you to the boat-landing on Tombighee River, in my carriage, without any money.”

“But what can I do when I get there, with no money to defray my traveling expenses?”

“The Lord will provide,” responded the sanctified wife.

The venerable bishop acquiesces, and goes away by faith alone, without a cent of money. On arrival at the boat-landing, he meets a steamboat captain, a dear old friend, who kindly invites him to accept a free ride to New Orleans. On arrival at New Orleans, he meets a sea captain, a precious old friend, so glad to see him, who invites him to enjoy a free ride on his ship to Galveston, Texas. O how the Texans are delighted to receive him! God blesses his ministry. He stays long, sees the glory of God, and returns to his Alabama home with money in his pocket.

But this was a good run of luck. O no! It was the good providence of God.

I have seen it all my life. The difficulty of ministerial support is the devil’s trump-card, in the game he is playing with the Church for the damnation of the world. The argument in the case of John the Baptist is unanswerable, covering all the ground, and applicable under all circumstances.


Verse 2

CHAPTER 5

THE BAPTISM WHICH JESUS GIVES CONTRASTED WITH THAT OF JOHN

Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16. “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but the One coming after me is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am unworthy to carry; He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire.” John and all other authentic preachers of the gospel administer the symbolic baptism with water, not only in this way sealing the covenant of repentance, but beautifully typifying the real baptism which Jesus gives with the Holy Ghost. Whereas, Matthew and Mark give us here the statement en hudati, the dative of instrumentality, showing up the fact that John used the water in an instrumental way, Luke simply says men hudati baptizo humas i.e., “I indeed baptize you with water” — omitting the preposition en, as you see, confirming the fact that hudati is the dative of instrumentality, clearly and unequivocally involving the conclusion that John handled the water instead of the people. This preposition en in this passage — used by Matthew and Mark and omitted by Luke — has several meanings, among which “in” and “with” are most prominent. God forbid that any one should think I want to encourage controversy in a matter so small and unessential as the quantity of water and the manner of its application! You read the Word of the Lord, and be sure you satisfy your conscience. (1 Peter 3:21.) We also have, in certain localities, a controversy involving the fire phase of our Savior’s baptism. Here, with the inspired Greek under my eye, I see that Matthew and Luke give us, “He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire,” while Mark omits the fire altogether, simply stating, “He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost,” clearly involving the conclusion that the fire normally inheres in the Holy Spirit — i.e., is inseparable from Him: “God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:18.) You know the Holy Ghost is none other than very and eternal God; therefore, when you receive the Holy Ghost, you receive the baptism of fire:

“For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap.” (Malachi 3:2.)

Thus, fire and soap being the great purifiers, are here associated, denotative of that wonderful purification which the Holy Spirit always executes when you receive Him into your hearts. The teaching of a fiery baptism, separate and distinct from that of the Holy Spirit, antagonizes Ephesians 4:3, where Paul certifies that there is one, and only one, baptism in the gracious economy, the fire not being a separate and distinct baptism, but a concomitant of the Spirit; while the ordinance with water is not intrinsically a baptism, but symbolically typifies the real baptism of the Holy Spirit administered by our Savior. In connection with these facts, it is pertinent to consider 2 Timothy 1:6 :

“On account of which cause, I remind thee to revive and refire the gracious gift of God which is in thee for the laying on of my hands.”

The English word here, “stir up,” is anazopurein, which is a compound from ana, re; zao, life; pur, fire. Hence you see that the plain meaning of this triple Greek compound is “revive” and “refire.” We receive spiritual life in regeneration, but frequently need reviving, and will till this mortal puts on immortality.

We receive the fire of the Holy Ghost in sanctification, which should be revived and renewed, ever and anon, throughout our pilgrimage. You take food to revive your physical life, as otherwise it would evanesce, and you would die. You frequently put on fuel, stir up, and renew the fire, as otherwise it would go out, and you would freeze out in the North-pole atmosphere of this wintry world. Let us not get wise above what is written; but take the plain Word of the Lord in every Case, and you will keep out of these tangles, in which Satan is so fond of perplexing the people of God. There is no danger of getting too much life and too much fire if you get it from God. Man has fox-fire, the devil has hell-fire, and God has heavenly-fire. The Holy Ghost is God. If you seek a baptismal fire separate from the Spirit, you open the door for men and devils to deceive you with their “strange fire,” for which Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, fell dead when they offered it to the Lord. So beware, lest you offer strange fire to the Lord, and fall dead spiritually, as we seriously fear some are doing. If you seek any blessing separate from God, you run headlong into fanaticism. Feel perfectly free to get revived and fired all you possibly can, but get it all from God, remembering, amid all that God says, there is but one baptism. (Ephesians 5:4.)


Verse 7-8

JOHN REJECTS THE HON TONS OF THE CHURCH

Matthew 3:7-8; Luke 3:7-8. Among the teeming myriads, here came the Pharisees, with their boasted orthodoxy; and the Sadducees, with their “higher criticism,” cutting up God’s Word to suit their carnal natures, — both feeling sure that John will be glad to get them, and have their influence; as the Pharisees rule by their official power, and the Sadducees by their money. The trouble with great people is, they are too high for the graces of God, which, like water — their symbol — always flows down. John had the spiritual gift which we all need, and it is our privilege to have; i.e., discernment of spirits. He saw they did not repent — and good reason: they thought they were all right. That is the way Satan fills up hell with the great people of the Church. They will not repent, because they think they are Christians. While Satan has his arms round them, dragging them into hell, they think he is an angel of light, lifting them up to heaven. God is no respecter of persons. The king has to be saved just like the crank, and the proud society woman must get low down in the dust, and cry to God like the poor harlot, whose heart the lightning of conviction has torn all to pieces.


Verses 8-10

THE ABRAHAMIC PATERNITY

Matthew 3:8-10, and Luke 3:8-10. O the withering denunciations which leaped from the eloquent lips of John, like lightning from the skirts of the clouds! “Ye generations of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of repentance; and do not think to say among yourselves, We have father Abraham: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

Already, indeed, the ax is lying at the root of the trees; therefore every tree, not producing good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire.” The rank and the of fallen Judaism at that day, like the Moslem millions now, as well as the unbelieving Jews, were depending upon their Abrahamic lineage to save them, pursuant to the infallible promises of Cod to that patriarch and his seed, constituting the Abrahamic Covenant. This is all a fond delusion of the devil, a greased plank, over which he has slidden countless millions into hell. Under the Mohammedan priesthood the barbaric children of Abraham, through Ishmael and Esau, this day expect heaven pursuant to the Abrahamic Covenant. Really there is no Abrahamic Covenant, but it is simply the Covenant of Redemption, which God made with His Son, before Abel died, to save all the faithful in Christ. This identical covenant God reiterated and established with Abraham. (Galatians 3:16.) Hence the Abrahamic paternity is not carnal, but spiritual, including all the saved in Christ. (Galatians 3:7.) The viper of the Old World is the congener of the rattlesnake in this country. The serpent is the progeny of Satan, having been subsidized by him in the abduction of humanity, and anathematized by the Almighty (Genesis 3:14) in his transformation into the groveling, obnoxious, poisonous progeny of the archenemy. Stones here symbolize the flinty hearts of Satan-ridden reprobates, which the Holy Ghost is abundantly competent to transform into the sanctified children of heaven, thus making them the spiritual children of Abraham. The ax symbolizes Divine retribution; the tree, every human being. The whole human race are under a dispensation of grace, whether they have ever heard the gospel trumpet sound a solitary note. A momentous crisis came to the Jews with the ministry of John and his introduction of Jesus. Hitherto they could be saved by the Excarnate Christ, under the ministry of the law and the prophets. Now that He has come in human flesh, they must receive Him, or grieve away the Holy Spirit and take the fatal plunge into reprobacy and damnation. O what a flood-tide, led by those proud Church-rulers, to whom John was preaching this awfully plain truth, did reject Christ and take the horrific plunge into irretrievable woe!


Verses 13-17

THE BAPTISM OF JESUS

Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23. “Then Jesus comes from Galilee unto Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.” Our Lord was six months younger than John, and hence He awaits the arrival of His majority — thirty years — before He will enter upon His official Messiahship. As John was sent from God to introduce Him to the world he is the man to inaugurate Him into His ministry. “John continued to decline Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou unto me?” John was no exception to the human race, born with a depraved heart, which must be sanctified with a baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire. Of course, I am satisfied that John already enjoyed the sanctified experience, like his prophetical predecessors, in advance of his dispensation. We are to understand this, as a statement of a great generic truth, that not only John, but every other human being, needs the baptism of Jesus to sanctify him for heaven. “And Jesus responding, said, Permit it now; for thus it is proper for us to fulfill all righteousness; then he permits Him.” Our Savior is Prophet, Priest, and King. The Levitical law positively required the high priest to have the anointing oil poured on his head, as Moses in the case of Aaron, before he is permitted to enter upon the duties and privileges of his office. This is the righteousness here pertinent; as our Savior never needed righteousness in the sense of justification, we are only permitted to give the word a ceremonial signification, complying with Old Testament law. “And Jesus, having been baptized, came up immediately from the water;” E.V., “out of the water,”

is corrected in R.V., rendering it “from the water,” as apo does not mean “out of,” but only “from.” “And, behold, the heavens were opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and coming upon Him.” The Holy Ghost here assumes His symbolic form of a dove, becoming visible to mortal eyes. The cooing of the dove thrills the heart with melancholy, reminding us of the Holy Spirit, grieved over the wickedness of the world, and bewailing the hardness of the human heart. It is a significant fact, as is positively affirmed, that you can not make the dove angry; but you can grieve him so he will leave you and never return. “Behold, a voice from heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am delighted.” O what a popular sensation is aroused when John, on tiptoe, cries aloud, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!” thus boldly notifying the multitude that the wonderful Shiloh of prophecy, Redeemer of Israel, whom he has all the time been preaching to them, is already on the ground. All eyes are turned in utter bewilderment, looking about, and many shouting, “Where is He?” The multitude spontaneously crowd together, as if moved by sacred awe, forming a long aisle, through which the Prince of glory, walking down, meets their preacher, demanding baptism at his hands. Ten thousand eyes are now centered on this wonderful scene, the Prince of glory meeting the prophet of the wilderness at the baptismal waters. Luke says, “Jesus, having been baptized, and while praying, the heaven is opened;” simultaneously the Divine voice roaring out from the blue dome of heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!” O what a stir throughout the multitude! Some say, “It is thunder, ringing down from a cloudless sky.” Others say, “That is impossible; but an angel spoke to Him.” Now, all eyes are strained and looking after Him. But He is gone, led by the Spirit away into the wilderness, to be tempted by the devil.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Matthew 3:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/matthew-3.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 26th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology