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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
Matthew 3

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-11

Justification: The Kingdom is Inaugurated through the Presentation and Justification of Jesus Christ ( Matthew 3:1 to Matthew 4:11) - The narrative material recorded in Matthew 3:1 to Matthew 4:11 shows us how Jesus' was ordained, or inaugurated, into His ministry in fulfillment of God's standard of righteousness through three testimonies. Matthew uses the testimonies of John the Baptist ( Matthew 3:1-12), of God the Father ( Matthew 3:13-17), and of Jesus Christ Himself ( Matthew 4:1-11) to verify the fact that mankind is sinful ( Matthew 3:1-12), that Jesus Christ is well-pleasing unto God ( Matthew 3:13-17), and that Jesus is without sin in fulfillment of the Mosaic Law ( Matthew 4:1-11). (The Gospel of Matthew will include the testimony of Jesus' miracles in later narratives, but He has yet to begin His public ministry.) Within this passage we have material to support the fulfillment of one Old Testament Scripture found in Isaiah 40:3, which testifies of the ministry of John the Baptist, who was sent ahead of the Messiah in order to prepare the way for the presentation of the King to the Jewish people through a water baptism signifying their repentance from sins ( Matthew 3:1-12) and through the audible testiomony of God the Father at the baptism of Jesus Christ ( Matthew 3:13-17). Immediately after His water baptism Jesus is driven into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil in order to testify of His sinless character ( Matthew 4:1-11). In other words, this passage of Scripture testifies of man's sinful nature and God's impending judgment through the testimony of John the Baptist ( Matthew 3:1-12), of God the Father's testimony justifying His Son Jesus Christ as the appointed Messiah ( Matthew 3:13-17), and of Jesus testifying of His sinless character as His justification to fulfill the office of the Messiah ( Matthew 4:1-11). Thus, we understand that the three stories recorded in Matthew 3:1 to Matthew 4:11 support the testimony of the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3 in which John the Baptist was sent ahead to show the Messiah to the Jewish people, and to reveal to them that repentance from the heart is God's standard of true righteousness, as seen in the sinless character of Jesus Christ. The baptism of Jesus is the ceremony that God used to present Him to the people of Israel. Jesus demonstrated true righteousness before the people by receiving baptism Himself and having God the Father's audible voice justify His Son. Jesus was then led into the wilderness to demonstrate true love and devotion to His Father as the purest expression of righteousness before God.

The Old Testament prophecy that was fulfilled within these events is Isaiah 40:3, and is quoted in Matthew 3:3.

Isaiah 40:3, "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God."

Matthew 3:3, "For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."

Outline: Here is a proposed outline:

1. John's Testimony of Jesus' Righteousness — Matthew 3:1-12

2. God the Father's Testimony of Jesus' Righteousness — Matthew 3:13-17

3. Jesus' Testimony of His Righteousness — Matthew 4:1-11

The Motif of Righteousness in the Narrative Material Preceding the Sermon on the Mount- In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew uses the Greek word δικαιοσύ νη five times ( Matthew 5:6; Matthew 5:10; Matthew 5:20; Matthew 6:1; Matthew 6:33). Matthew uses this Greek word only on two other occasions in the rest of his Gospel ( Matthew 3:15; Matthew 21:32). The first use is found in the narrative material preceding the first discourse ( Matthew 3:15) in which Jesus demonstrates true righteousness prior to teaching on the topic in the Sermon on the Mount. Thus, the motif of righteousness is embedded within the first discourse, in which Jesus teaches on God's true standard of righteousness for mankind. This is what Jesus meant by saying, "For thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness."

Exodus 1-15 versus the Baptism of Jesus the King - The second part of our spiritual journey is our justification through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. We call this our salvation experience in which God delivers us from our sins and from the bondages of this world. We see a type and figure of this part of our journey in the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt as these people were "baptized unto Moses" ( 1 Corinthians 10:2).

1 Corinthians 10:2, "And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;"

We see in the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in this section of Matthew's Gospel a symbol of our death, burial and resurrection in the act of salvation. This passage establishes the way a person becomes a member of the Kingdom of Heaven, through repentance as man's way of fulfilling God's standard of righteousness.


Verses 1-12

John's Testimony of Jesus' Righteousness: The Fulfillment of John the Baptist as the Herald of the Messiah ( Mark 1:1-8, Luke 3:1-18, John 1:19-28) - Matthew 3:1-12 emphasizes the role of John the Baptist in the preparation of the coming of the Messiah. This passage declares the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3, in which John the Baptist declares the coming of the Lord. In his sermon, John the Baptist declares everyone a sinner and in need of baptism as an outward sign of inward repentance for his sins. John also declares that the Christ is coming, who is worthy to judge man's sins, requiring that He Himself must be sinless.

Our hearts must be prepared in order for us to receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus" coming by preaching a message to the people of repentance from the heart. When Jesus appears in Matthew 3:13, it is within the context of the way to the hearts of the people having been prepared by John the Baptist. Those who had not received John"s message nor repented nor received water baptism could not "see" Jesus as He really was, as the Lamb of God who had come to take away their sins.

Comparison of Parallel Passages in Mark 1:1-8, Luke 3:1-18, and John 1:19-28 - When we understand the underlying themes of the four Gospels, it is easy to see each of these themes emphasized within their separate accounts of John the Baptist. Since Matthew's Gospel emphasizes the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures, he begins in Matthew 3:1-12 about how that John the Baptist is represented as the one who fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah. Mark's Gospel emphasizes the fact that John was the first to begin preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Although Mark 1:1-8 is very similar to Matthew's passage it gives more text about the proclamation of John the Baptist. Luke's Gospel emphasizes the prophetic eyewitness testimonies surrounding Jesus Christ's ministry, and reveals John as a man with a prophetic word from the Lord. Therefore, Luke 3:1-20 begins by referring to verifiable dates of the ministry of John the Baptist with his prophetic message of the coming Saviour. Finally, this parallel passage in John's Gospel emphasizes John the Baptist's testimony of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ as he declares that he was send by God to reveal the Lamb of God to the world. John 1:19-28 provides the testimony of John the Baptist as one of the five witnesses declaring the deity of Jesus Christ that make up the structure of the Gospel of John.

Matthew 3:1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,

Matthew 3:1 — "In those days" - Comments- We read in Matthew 3:1 that "in those days" John the Baptist appears preaching to the people. Thus, we jump about thirty years in Matthew's narrative material from John's and Jesus' birth to the inauguration of their ministries. Thus, the phrase "those days" encompasses the prophetic period of time when Jesus was born, lived, ministered, crucified, and resurrected for the redemption of mankind. It refers to the days when the Kingdom of God is inaugurated upon earth. These are the days that the prophets of old spoke about centuries ago when they prophesied of the sufferings of Christ and the glory to follow ( 1 Peter 1:10-12). Paul described it as the "due time when Christ died for the ungodly" ( Romans 5:6), and "the fulness of the time that had come when God sent forth his Son" ( Galatians 4:4).

1 Peter 1:10-12, "Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into."

Romans 5:6, "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly."

Galatians 4:4, "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Song of Solomon , made of a woman, made under the law,"

Matthew 3:1 — "came John the Baptist" - Word Study on "came" - Strong says the Greek word παραγίνομαι (G 3854) means, "to become near, i.e. approach (have arrived)." The Enhanced Strong says it is used 37 times in the New Testament, being translated in the KJV as, "come 35, be present 1, go 1."

Comments- We read in Matthew 3:1 that John the Baptist made his public appearance; then in Matthew 3:13 the same Greek word is used of Jesus' public appearance. The Greek word παραγίνομαι adds a prophetic tone to this narrative material in that we picture prophecy unfolding in God's divine time line. In other words, these "appearances" are being divinely orchestrated in order to fulfill prophecy.

Comments- The Greek word for "baptism" is derived from a root word βάπτω (G 911) that means, "to cover wholly with a fluid" (Strong), and thus, "immersed." It came to be used by the Jews to refer to ceremonial cleansing, such as the washing of hands and utensils. Note:

Mark 7:4, "And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables."

Mark 7:8, "For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do."

Luke 11:38, "And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner."

Hebrews 9:10, "Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation."

Thus, the name "John the Baptist" means, "John the Washer," or "John the One who Cleanses." This show us that John took a Jewish tradition that all of the people understood and applied it figuratively in his sermons to a person's spiritual need of cleansing. This was something that everyone could easily understand because they understood the meaning of ceremonial washings. They understood that John the Baptist was calling them to a true cleansing from the heart. The act of water baptism was the way that God led John to test the hearts of the children of Israel by giving them a "ceremonial" cleansing for their sins.

Matthew 3:2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 3:2 — "for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" - Comments - The Kingdom of Heaven is God's institution of divine order upon earth which was lost when man fell in the Garden of Eden. The Jews were looking for an earthly kingdom ruled by the Messiah. Thus, they understood that the descendent of the royal lineage of the Son of David was about to appear. The rest of the Gospel of Matthew built around revealing this Kingdom, its order, its doctrine, its purpose and of course, it's King.

It is interesting to note that neither John the Baptist nor Jesus Christ announced the return of the kingdom of Israel, since the new kingdom was all-inclusive of both Jews and Gentiles. This concept of a universal kingdom was difficult for the early Jewish believers to grasp, noting that they asked Jesus Christ as His ascension if He were about to restore the kingdom of Israel upon the earth ( Acts 1:6). Jesus did not respond by denying the restoration of the nation of Israel, which would indeed take place in the course of redemptive history. However, the age of the Church and the salvation of the Gentiles was now instituted until the fullness of the Times of the Gentiles ( Luke 21:24). Afterwards, the nation of Israel will be restored and Jesus Christ will return a second time to rule and reign over the earth from Jerusalem.

Acts 1:6, "When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?"

Luke 21:24, "And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."

Matthew 3:1-2Comments - "Repent!" - The first word preached by John the Baptist is "Repent!" This is the first word of the preaching of the Kingdom of God. We see from Mark 1:2; Mark 1:14-15 that Jesus and John the Baptist preached a two-fold message of repentance coupled with a declaration of the inauguration of the Kingdom of God upon earth.

Mark 1:14-15, "Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel."

The message that Jesus Christ preached was two-fold: repent and believe. We find John the Baptist preaching the same two-fold message. He preached a baptism of repentance of sins ( Mark 1:4) and he asked the people to believe upon Him who was coming after him ( Mark 1:7-8). It is important to note that this two-fold message is reflective of the first two foundational doctrines of the New Testament, which is (1) repentance from dead works, and (2) faith towards God.

Hebrews 6:1, "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,"

Matthew 3:3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

Matthew 3:3Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament - Matthew 3:3 is a quote from Isaiah 40:3.

Isaiah 40:1-5, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD"S hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it."

Luke quotes this same passage, but at more length:

Luke 3:3-6, "And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God."

Matthew 3:3Comments (1) - Preparing the way of the Lord, making His paths straight, involves repentance. No church has ever had revival except there has been a preparation period. The Lord once spoke to me saying, "This is My house. There will be revival in My house when the sins of the flesh are destroyed." (1989)

Illustration- The sons of Israel at Mt. Sinai prepared themselves with three days of sanctification before God's glory came down.

Matthew 3:3Comments (2) - The major theme of this Gospel is the presentation of Jesus as the Messiah, the King, who has come to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus, Matthew 3:3 refers to the preparations that people often made in those days for a royal visit from a king.

Illustration- I have hosted a number of VIP's who were visiting the nation of Uganda. A great deal of effort is made in preparation for such visits. In fact, their entire itinerary is planned down to the last detail. The VIP has sent his most important staff members into the country ahead of him to make sure everything is ready. The guest is met on the runway as he disembarks from the airplane with a delegate representing the nation that is receiving him. He bypasses the usual entry through airport customs and is escorted to the VIP lounge. He often meets the press in the lounge before being escorted to a large limousine. Choirs often meet him with songs to welcome his arrival. He is driven to his meetings with a convoy escorting his vehicle. His staff has prepared water, food and other conveniences, which are placed at each destination. His staff have checked him into the hotel in advance and prepared his room with plenty of resources. The entire journey is made ready and goes smoothly because of the status of VIP.

Such was my experience when being part of a team who meet Bishop T.D. Jakes in Entebbe Airport on January 18, 2004. Seven ministers were chosen to greet him on the runway and escort him to the VIP lounge. His personal secretary, personal security guard, and the head of his video department had already arrived in the country ahead of his arrival to prepare things. It was the smoothest and most organized event I had ever been a part of. From the time his private jet landed in Uganda until its departure his way was prepared for him.

In such a way, God sent His greatest prophet before Jesus to prepare His way for His first coming. This was a preparation in the hearts of men in order to receive this guest of honor.

Matthew 3:4 And the same John had his raiment of camel"s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.

Matthew 3:5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,

Matthew 3:6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

Matthew 3:6"And were baptized of him" - Word Study on "baptized" - Strong says the Greek word βαπτί ζω (G 907) means, "to make overwhelmed (i.e. fully wet)." In classical Greek literature it was used to describe the sinking of a ship at sea. 344] However, in the New Testament this word appears to have become a common term used for ceremonial "washings" before eating as prescribed by the Pharisees' interpretations of the Mosaic Law. There are a number of verses that indicate this New Testament usage.

344] Jack MacGorman, "Class Notes," in New Testament Greek, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, 1981-82.

Mark 7:4, "And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables."

Mark 7:8, "For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do."

Luke 11:38, "And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner."

Hebrews 9:10, "Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation."

Therefore, when the term "the one who baptizes" was attached to John's name, it implied that John was giving the children of Israel the proper "ceremonial" cleansing for their sins. Water baptism was the perfect example of "inner cleansing" in such a culture already familiar with this term. The Lord must have revealed to John or spoken to him that a call to water baptism was the way in which a truly repentant person would demonstrate their genuineness publicly. In fact, it was used as an indicator to God of who was repenting of their sins and who was not repentant.

Matthew 3:6 — "in Jordan" - Comments- The Jordan River is referred to one hundred eighty-one (181) times in the Old Testament and eighteen times in the New Testament. This river begins at the foot of Mount Hermon near Hasbeiya, which Isaiah 1 ,700 feet above sea level, and this river ends at the mouth of the Dead Sea, 1 ,290 feet below sea level. Thus, it is a fast moving river as it makes it steep descent and the very name "Jordan" means "to go down." At Mount Hermon water from several underground springs comes together to begin the Jordan River. It flows twenty-five miles into the Sea of Galilee and then it flows out of the Sea of Galilee about seventy miles and ends at the mouth of the Dead Sea. Because of the way the Jordan river meanders, its actual flows equals two hundred (200) miles. 345]

345] George Frederick Wright, "Jordan," in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, c 1915, 1939), in The Sword Project, v 1511 [CD-ROM] (Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008); R. F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison, and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson"s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, rev. ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), "Jordan."

It is easy to see how this river symbolizes the healing stream that flows from the throne of God. It is here that the Lord inspired John the Baptist to call the nation to repentance by washing their sins away in an act of obedience call water baptism.

Matthew 3:7 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?

Matthew 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

Matthew 3:9 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.

Matthew 3:9"God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham" - Comments- This is simple child-like faith, to know and believe that God can do anything, no matter how out-of-the-ordinary it seems.

Matthew 19:26, "But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."

Matthew 3:10 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.

Matthew 3:10Comments- Some suggest that these trees are symbolic of the nation of Israel which God is about cut down and leave a remnant.

Matthew 3:11 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:

Matthew 3:11 — "but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear"- Comments- Matthew 3:11 indicates that John the Baptist had experienced an encounter with God in all of His fullness and glory. For only in God's presence do we see ourselves as frail humanity before the majesty of Almighty God. It was probably in such an encounter that John the Baptist received his commission to baptize and to proclaim the coming of the Messiah, and even to recognize Him when Jesus did arrive.

Matthew 3:11 — "he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire" - Comments- There are at least three views of what the phrase "baptize…with fire" means in Matthew 3:11.

1. An Infilling of the Holy Spirit with Tongues as in Acts 2 - The phrase "he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire" probably refers to the two baptisms that believers are to receive. They first receive the Holy Spirit who comes and indwells them at the moment of salvation. Then there is an second baptism that we receive, which is called "being filled with the Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues," in which the Holy Spirit comes upon us to empower us for the work of the ministry. This passage in Matthew would call the salvation experience as being baptized with the "Holy Ghost," and this second experience would be called the "baptism with fire."

Or, it is possible that the entire phrase "baptized with the Holy Ghost, and with fire" may simply be used as a double expression of the same experience, so that the phrase refers to all of the experiences collectively of being indwelt and anointed with the Holy Spirit, with no distinction being made between each of the two phrases. This is what I think is meant here. Note these words from Sadhu Sundar Singh:

"Take a piece of charcoal, and however much you may wash it its blackness will not disappear, but let the fire enter into it and its dark colour vanishes. So also when the sinner receives the Holy Spirit (who is from the Father and Myself, for the Father and I are one), which is the baptism of fire, all the blackness of sin is driven away, and he is made a light to the world (Matt. iii 11, v 14). As the fire in the charcoal, so I abide in My children and they in Me, and through them I make Myself manifest to the world." 346]

346] Sadhu Sundar Singh, At the Master's Feet, translated by Arthur Parker (London: Fleming H. Revell Co, 1922) [on-line]; accessed 26 October 2008; available from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/singh/feet.html; Internet, "I The Manifestation of God's Presence," section 1, part 9.

2. A Baptism of a Greater Anointing - A few people in Pentecostal circles preach that the baptism "with fire" is a greater anointing above and beyond the experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. Perhaps the Scriptural support for this view comes from the two experiences in the book of Acts when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Church ( Acts 2:1-4; Acts 4:31). There is obviously a greater anointing upon the Church after the second outpouring than the first. After the day of Pentecost, eight thousand souls were saved, and one lame man was healed; but after the second outpouring "great power" came upon the apostles. Peter judged Ananias and Sapphira so that they died ( Matthew 5:1-11), many signs and wonders were performed by the hands of the apostles ( Matthew 5:12), and the shadow of Peter healed the sick ( Matthew 5:15), and multitudes were added to the Church ( Matthew 5:14). There was clearly a greater anointing manifesting after the second outpouring.

Acts 4:31, "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness."

Also, I do believe in some men of God receiving a "mantle," just as John the Baptist received the same mantle, or anointing, that Elijah walked in. However, only a few people ever press into God and receive such great mantles, or anointings after a Pentecostal experience. The phrase "baptized with the Holy Ghost, and with fire" may refer to these two distinct levels of anointings. The Holy Spirit empowered the Church, and the fire judged the Church so that the fear of God fell upon the Jews.

3. A Baptism of Judgment- A third view by some regarding the phrase "baptism with fire" is to understand it as a form of divine judgment for those who reject Jesus Christ, in contrast to the phrase "baptism with the Holy Ghost" being the blessing and promise for those who accept Jesus as their Saviour. The only place in the Holy Scriptures where a "baptism of fire" is mentioned is here in this passage in Matthew (as well as its parallel passage in Luke 3:16). This phrase is never mentioned anywhere else in the Scriptures. Almost everywhere in the Holy Bible where "fire" is mentioned, it is always in reference to judgment. However, there is one place in the book of Jeremiah where the word "fire" is referring to something other than judgment when he said that there was a "fire shut up in my bones."

Jeremiah 20:9, "Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay."

In the Parable of the Ten Virgins ( Matthew 25:1-13), the fire from the lamps with the oil may represent our testimonies. But, in the context of this passage in Matthew 3:7-12, John the Baptist was telling the people to receive both repentance and the Holy Spirit, or to face the judgment of God with fire (note verse 10, "and cast into the fire"). Mark"s parallel passage ( Mark 1:1-8) is more brief and does not emphasize judgment, so it just mentions the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but not the word "fire":

Mark 1:8, "I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost."

In John"s parallel passage ( John 1:19-36), he is not speaking to rebuke the Pharisees when he mentions this baptism, so he only mentions the baptism of the Holy Ghost:

John 1:33, "And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost."

In the context of this passage, John the Baptist was preaching and contrasting between those who do repent and those who do not repent, between those who received the Holy Spirit and those who face the judgment and fire of Hell. John calls some trees bearing good fruit while those trees not bearing fruit will be cast into the fire. John also compares people to being either wheat or chaff that will be cast into the fire.

Therefore, some believe that the entire context of this passage reveals that everyone will either be baptized with the Holy Spirit or be immersed into the lake of fire. This immersion would be called a "baptism" in fire, which is the literal meaning of baptism. William MacDonald also believes that the baptism of fire is a baptism of judgment. He says, "When only believers were present, John said, "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" ( Mark 1:8; John 1:33). When there was a mixed multitude, especially including Pharisees, he said, "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (a baptism of judgment) ( Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16)." 347]

347] William MacDonald, The Gospel According to Matthew , in Believer's Bible Commentary, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Pub, 1995), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), comments on Matthew 3:11.

Matthew 3:12 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.


Verses 13-17

God the Father's Testimony of Jesus' Righteousness: The Baptism of Jesus ( Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:29-34) - Matthew 3:13-17 records the water baptism of Jesus Christ which presented Him to the world as the Messiah. At this baptism, God the Father speaks from Heaven declaring Jesus as His beloved Son in whom He is pleased. No man had ever fully pleased God by his own merits. The Jews spent their lives under the Mosaic Law trying to please God by obeying its statues and later associated traditions. However, their own consciences told them that they had come short of pleasing God. Now God speaks from Heaven to declare Jesus Christ justified in His sight as sinless, perfectly pleasing God in every aspect of His life.

Matthew 3:13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John , to be baptized of him.

Matthew 3:13Word Study on "cometh" - Strong says the Greek word παραγίνομαι (G 3854) means, "to become near, i.e. approach (have arrived)." The Enhanced Strong says it is used 37 times in the New Testament, being translated in the KJV as, "come 35, be present 1, go 1."

Comments- We read in Matthew 3:1 that John the Baptist made his public appearance; then in Matthew 3:13 the same Greek word is used of Jesus' public appearance. The Greek word παραγίνομαι adds a prophetic tone to this narrative material in that we picture prophecy unfolding in God's divine time line. In other words, these "appearances" are being divinely orchestrated in order to fulfill prophecy.

Matthew 3:13Comments- Scholars locate the place of Jesus" baptism near Joshua's crossing of the Jordan. John 3:26 tells us that Jesus was baptized by John "beyond Jordan."

John 1:28, "These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing."

John 3:23, "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized."

John 3:26, "And they came unto John , and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him."

John 10:40, "And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode."

The Greek preposition πέραν, translated "beyond" in the KJV, can also be translated "on the other side of," or "across," as in John 6:1, "And Jesus went away to the other side of the lake…" Perhaps the phrase "beyond Jordan" in describing the place where John was baptizing was referring to a territory on the other side of the Jordan River, i.e, Peraea. For example, this same phrase "beyond Jordan" is used in Matthew 4:25 and Mark 3:8 to refer to a specific region, which according to Josephus, was the region of Perea (Wars 1294, 2204).

Matthew 4:25, "And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan."

Mark 3:8, "And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him."

Matthew 3:14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

Matthew 3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

Matthew 3:15Comments- Why did Jesus have a need to be baptized, since He had no sin in His life of which to repent? John G. Lake said, "Jesus committed Himself publicly at His baptism…before all the world..." 348] Thus, one reason for His baptism would be as a public testimony that He was entering into His earthly ministry.

348] John G. Lake, John G. Lake: His Life, His Sermons, His Boldness of Faith (Fort Worth, Texas: Kenneth Copeland Publications, 1994), 6.

A further insight into the meaning of Jesus' statement, "For thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness," can be seen when looking at this passage within the context of the outline of Matthew's Gospel. Matthew 3:1 to Matthew 4:11 contains three testimonies that Jesus Christ stood sinless, and thus righteous, before God. The testimonies of John the Baptist, God the Father speaking from Heaven, and Jesus while being tempted in the wilderness, all verify Jesus' righteousness, for He was without sin. Jesus' water baptism by John serves as one of three important testimonies to us that Jesus stood righteousness before God. Jesus performed His water baptism in order to offer this testimony of righteousness to mankind so that all can believe in Him and be saved. He was baptized in order to fulfill these testimonies so that all might have the opportunity to believe in Him and be justified before God. This is what Jesus meant by saying, "For thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness."

Jesus' baptism also serves as our example of how to be obedience to God when we put our faith in Him for salvation; for we too are commanded to be water baptized when we repent and place our faith in the redemptive work of Christ Jesus on Calvary as a public testimony of our faith. Thus, this act of water baptism served to demonstrate how every believer is also to follow in obedience in order to stand justified before God.

When comparing this passage with the parallel passages in the other three Gospels, Matthew is the only one that records the statement by Jesus Christ in Matthew 3:15. This is because Matthew places emphasis upon the fulfillment of Scriptures as they testify that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. His baptism was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah in the sense that he spoke of the coming of John the Baptist and his ministry of water baptism ( Isaiah 40:3, Matthew 3:3).

Matthew 3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

Matthew 3:16Comments- Note that the anointing of the Holy Ghost follows water baptism, as in Acts 2:38.

Acts 2:38, "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."

What would be the significance of the Spirit of God descending upon Jesus Christ at the time of His water baptism in the manifested form of a dove for others to see? We do know that this was the time when Jesus Christ was fully anointed for the ministry in which He was embarking. In addition, we know that the Jewish concept of the Spirit of God hovering over something or someone goes back to the Story of Creation in Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3 in which the Spirit of God hovered over the earth. We see this concept again in the Old Testament when the cloud and the fire hovered over the Tabernacle. We will later see how the Spirit manifested Himself over the 120 disciples in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost in the form of cloven tongues ( Acts 2:1-4). Thus, the Jews who witnessed the baptism of Jesus Christ would easily identify the Spirit of God descending in the form of a dove as a sign that God was with Him and had anointed Him as a Prophet to the people. Thus, the visible manifestation was probably as a sign for the people to believe in Him and not for the sake of Jesus Christ alone.

Matthew 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Song of Solomon , in whom I am well pleased.

Matthew 3:17Comments - The voice of God the Father spoke from Heaven to mankind on a number of occasions. God spoke to King Nebuchadnezzar when he took his mind from him for a season ( Daniel 4:31). God spoke from Heaven at the water baptism of His Son Jesus Christ ( Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22). God spoke to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration ( Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:35-36, 2 Peter 1:17-18). God spoke to Jesus when He rode into Jerusalem before His Passion ( John 12:28-29). Jesus spoke to Paul from Heaven on the road to Damascus ( Acts 9:3-7).

Matthew 3:15-17Comments- The Meaning of Jesus' Baptism- Jesus was buried to His past life as a carpenter (representing us being buried to past life of works of the flesh) and Jesus was raised to walk by God's Holy Spirit and His anointing (representing us being raised to walk in the newness of life).

 


Copyright Statement
These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Matthew 3:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/matthew-3.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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