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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Matthew 3

 

 

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Verses 1-12

We are going to read three passages relating to John the Baptist’s testimony concerning Christ.

Matthew 3:1-4. In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 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. 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.

Everything connected with John the Baptist was in harmony with his message. He was the preacher of repentance, so the place where he preached was most suitable; it was in the wilderness, where there was nothing to distract his hearers’ attention, as there would have been in crowded cities. His dress was striking, and everything about him, even down to the food that he ate, went to show that he was the rough pioneer preacher preparing the way for his master. John did not teach the fullness of joy and peace; that was left for our Lord Jesus to proclaim; but John came to prepare the way of the Lord by preaching repentance.

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

There seems to have been, about that time, a widespread anticipation of the coming of the Messiah; so, no sooner did the news come that a prophet was preaching in the desert, than great multitudes went out to hear him.

Matthew 3:6-8. And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. 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:

Did he not speak after the style of the prophet Elijah? Yet those bold speeches of his were not at all stronger than the evils of the age required. When the self-righteous Pharisees and the skeptical Sadducees the Ritualists and the “modern thought” men of that day came to him to be baptized, he welcomed them not, but bade them “bring forth fruits meet for repentance,” evidences of a change of heart and life.

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 —

In the bed of Jordan, where he was baptizing, —

Matthew 3:9. To raise up children unto Abraham.

John bade them boast not of their descent from Abraham; yet that was the great thing in which they did glory. They despised the Gentiles as so many does outside the true fold. Note how John the Baptist really preaches the gospel to us indirectly while he is denouncing these people’s confidence in their carnal descent. Regeneration is “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

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.

Other teachers came, as it were, only to lop and prune the trees, but the time had come for the felling of those that were fruitless. John did this, and so did our Lord Jesus Christ, for his preaching dug up the very roots of sin, superstition, and evil of every kind.

Matthew 3:11-12. 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.

Now let us turn to the Gospel according to John, where we have another account of the ministry of John the Baptist.

This exposition consisted of readings from Matthew 3:1-12; John 1:15-37; John 3:22-36.


Verses 1-17

Matthew 3:1-2. In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

There is no entering the kingdom of heaven without leaving the kingdom of darkness. We must repent of sin, or we cannot receive the blessings of salvation. Of every man, whoever he may be, whether outwardly moral or openly wicked, repentance is required. It is the door of hope; there is no other way into the kingdom: “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

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

His raiment and his food were like his doctrine, rough and simple. There was no mincing of words, no making of pretty phrases with John the Baptist; his message was simply, “Repent ye: repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is coming.” We want more of this John the Baptist teaching nowadays, that men may be plainly told their faults, and warned to put away those faults that they may receive Christ Jesus as their Saviour.

Matthew 3:5-7. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and at Judaea, and out the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. 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

These were the influential people of the times; the Pharisees were the Ritualists of that age, and the Sadducees were the Pationalists of the period. Why, John, you ought to have smoothed your tongue a bit, and have said some very pleasant words to these great men; for, by so doing, perhaps you might have won some of these Pharisees, or coaxed some of these Sadducees into the kingdom! Ah, no; that is not John’s method! He is plainspoken, and he deals truthfully with his hearers, for he knows that converts made by flattery are but flattering converts that are of no real value.

Matthew 3:8-9. Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within ourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham

Pointing to the stones in the River Jordan, and all along the banks, he said to the Pharisees and Sadducees, “There is nothing, after all, in your natural descent from Abraham. God has promised that Abraham shall have a seed, but think not that he is dependent upon you for that seed. - He can fulfill his promise without you. He can turn the very pebbles of the stream into children for Abraham. God is not short of men to save. If some of you will not have him, do not think that he shall have to come a-begging to you. There are others who will have him, and his rich sovereign grace will find them out. Beware, ye that are proud and think much of yourselves, for God will not humble himself to you. He hath regard to the humble and the lowly, but the proud he knoweth afar off.”

Matthew 3:10-12. 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 shalt 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 wilt burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

The Christ is the minister of mercy, but there is about his doctrine a-searching and a trying power. Only the sincere in heart can endure Christ’s winnowing fan. As for the insincere, they are blown away like the chaff on the threshing-floor, and their end is destruction. God gave us to be numbered amongst the wheat that Christ shall gather into his heavenly garner!

Matthew 3:13-14. Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbid him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

It seemed very strange that John, the servant, should be required to baptize Jesus, the Master.

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

That is to say the Teacher must himself obey the laws, which he is about to lay down; and inasmuch as he is going to bid others to be baptized, he will set the example, and be himself baptized. I think also that the baptism of Christ was the picture, the type, the symbol of the work, which he afterwards accomplished. He was immersed in suffering; he died, and was buried in the tomb; he rose again from the grave; and all that is set forth in the outward symbol of his baptism in the River Jordan.

Matthew 3:16-17. 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: and to a voice from heaven, saying, This in my beloved son, in whom I am well leased.

And we are well pleased with him.

This exposition consisted of readings from Psalms 2, and Matthew 3.


Verses 13-17

Matthew 3:13-14. Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

Who among us would not have felt as John did? Shall the servant baptize the Master, and such a Master, even his Lord and Saviour? But merely the condescension of our blessed Lord. He would do everything that he wished his people afterwards to do; and therefore he would be baptized, and set the example that he would have them all follow.

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

We are never to be so modest as to become disobedient to Christ’s commands. We have known some who have allowed their humility to grow alone in the garden of their heart without the other sweet flowers that should have sprung up side by side with it, and thus their very humility has developed into a kind of pride. John was easily persuaded to do what his feelings at first seemed to forbid: “Then he suffered him.”

Matthew 3:16-17. 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: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

It has also happened unto the servants of Christ, as well as to their Master, that in keeping the commandments of God there has been a sweet attestation borne by the Holy Spirit. I trust that we, too, according to our measure of sonship, have heard in our hearts the voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved son,” and that we have experienced the descending of the dove-like Spirit, bringing us peace of mind and gentleness of nature.

This exposition consisted of readings from Matthew 3:13-17; and Matthew 4:1-11.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Matthew 3:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/matthew-3.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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