Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Luke 3:8

Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Baptism;   Minister, Christian;   Reproof;   Sadducees;   Salvation;   Wicked (People);   Scofield Reference Index - Repentance;   Thompson Chain Reference - Ability;   Awakenings and Religious Reforms;   Awakenings, Religious;   Divine;   God;   Humility-Pride;   Jewish;   Power;   Pride;   Weakness-Power;   The Topic Concordance - Bearing Fruit;   Deeds;   Hell;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Genealogy;   Mary;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Baptism;   Luke, gospel of;   Race;   Repentance;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Fruit;   John the Baptist;   Righteousness;   Easton Bible Dictionary - John the Baptist;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Gospels;   Lazarus;   Luke, the Gospel According to;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Luke, Gospel of;   Ordinances;   Pride;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Holy Spirit;   John the Baptist;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Abraham;   Asceticism (2);   Baptism;   Benedictus;   Doctrines;   Elect, Election ;   Eternal Punishment;   Fathers;   Gentiles (2);   Indolence;   Jacob;   John the Baptist;   Paronomasia ;   King James Dictionary - Raise;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Baptism;   Herod, Family of;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Fruit;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - John the Baptist;   Luke, the Gospel of;   Raise;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Baptism;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Christianity in Its Relation to Judaism;  

The Biblical Illustrator

Luke 3:8

Fruits worthy of repentance


Every living fruit-tree is in some measure fruitful; though some bring forth more fruit, some less, yet all bring forth some.
All living Christians are thriving and bearing fruit; though some are more eminent for growth and proficiency in grace, yet all bring forth “fruits meet for repentance.” The hypocrite, like a dead stake in a hedge, continues at a stay, is without good fruit, nay, grows more rotten every month; but the true saint, like the living tree, the longer he continues rooted in Christ the more abundant he is in the work of the Lord
. (George Swinnock.)

Fruit-bearing the test of life

When we see the effigy or portraiture of any king stand still without motion, exquisitely graven in metal or painted out in lively colours, we know that, for all the eyes and mouth and nose it has, there is no life in it. So, when we see professors of religion without the powerful practice of godliness, and supreme officers of state without the administration of justice, we can safely conclude that the life of God is not in them; that they are not actuated by any Divine principle within, but are mere idols and images of vanity. (C. Leslie.)

Deceptive appearances

Those persons who practise devotion, and who fail to do works of faith and charity, are like trees in blossom. You think there will be as much fruit as flower, but there is a great difference. (Vianney.)

The life must accord with the profession

His religion is in vain whose profession brings not letters testimonial from a holy life. Sacrifice without obedience is sacrilege. (W. Gurnall.)

Thou callest thyself Christian; but we question whether thou hast a right to the title; thy conduct is too contrary to that sacred name, which is too holy to be written on a rotten post. (W. Gurnall.)

Repentance results in change of action

Just as the whole ship turns in obedience to the helm, so the change of mind produces a change of life. Here comes in the well-known story of the storekeeper who could not recollect the sermon; she only knew that after it she went straight home and destroyed all her light weights. A Hindu candidate for Christian baptism was asked what evidence he had to offer of his conversion. “Formerly,” he said, “I was proud, and delighted in evil, but since I heard the words of Jesus, I delight in these things no more.” (Sunday School Times.)

Repentance shows itself

The real thing always shows itself. Whether it is love, or friendship, or generosity, or gratitude, or trust, or repentance, it will evidence its genuineness in something more than profession. There are shams and there are realities in all these spheres, and the differences between them will stand out in the long run. There is a great deal of sorrow over sin and over sinning that is not repentance. The guilty prisoner is sorry that he got caught. The guilty man who has not got caught is sorry that so much of evil and trouble comes of his wrong doing. There is sorrow because of the results of sin, in every sinner’s soul. But that is not repentance, Repentance is the turning away of the soul from sin as sin; it is the turning toward something better than sin. This state of mind will show itself in conduct that gives proof of sincerity. Sinful courses will be abandoned. Reparation will be made. A new course of living will be adopted. In word and in action there will be fruits worthy of the name of true repentance. (H. C. Trumbull.)

Change of mind involves change of practice

The fruits worthy of repentance are the renunciation of formerly indulged sins, and the performance of formerly neglected duties. We, ourselves, would not give credit to a man who said he was sorry for having offended us, but who still went on repeating the same offence: as little need we suppose we are penitents if we persevere in our disobedience to God. Repentance begins, and chiefly consists in a change of mind; but that change must evidence itself, and if it be real it will evidence itself in outward reformation and in an exemplary life. John called on his hearers to let it be seen, by their subsequent conduct, that they were converts indeed. (James Foote, M. A.)

Motives to repentance

Motives to repentance are found in,

1. Divine precepts.

2. Penalty.

3. Promises.

4. The danger of delay.

Time may fail. The Spirit’s aid may be refused (John 3:27). Habits are formed (Jeremiah 13:23). The will is inefficient (John 6:44). The flower of existence spent in sin; blind and lame, a mere wreck brought at last to God. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)

Repentance is more than penance-doing

One of Luther’s happiest moments was when, reading in his Greek Testament, he found that repentance meant a change of mind rather than penance-doing. A captain at sea discovers that by some mistake the steersman is steering the ship directly for the rocks. How is the danger to be avoided? By scrubbing the decks or setting the men to the pumps? No I these things are good enough in their own time, but if the ship is to be saved, one thing must be done--her course must be changed. So the captain utters a few quick words, and the ship turns and speeds away from the hanger. John’s preaching was in like manner. A call to men to turn from the dangerous rocks of sin, and to make for the only safe haven. (Sunday School Times.)

Fruits meet for repentance

A coal merchant in one of our American cities was approached by a minister in regard to the salvation of his soul.

The merchant declared it an impossibility for him ever to become a Christian. He gave as a reason his mode of business. For a long term of years, he had, according to a too general custom, given short weight. He had thus grown rich, and now felt the inconsistency of seeking religion without restitution. This was impossible: many of his customers were dead, others beyond his knowledge. The thought of the poor who had paid for coal they never received rested heavily on him. He asked the minister if he thought the substitution of a gift to the poor would be acceptable to God. The minister advised him to try it. A large donation, more than equal in amount of his unjust gains, was accordingly made, and the merchant sought God in earnest. He was happily converted, and is to-day a prominent member of the Church.

Proof of turning from sin

One of two infidel companions was converted to God. He went to tell his sceptical friend, who was surprised, and sneered at him. “Well,” said the Christian, “I have a duty to do to you, and I have scarcely slept two nights for thinking of it. I have got four sheep in my flock that belong to you. They came into my field six years ago, and I marked them with my mark. They are in my field with the increase of them. I have laid awake, groaned over it, and I have come to get rid of it. I will do what you will, go to prison, pay the money, or restore the property.” The infidel began to tremble. “If you have got them sheep you are welcome to them; I don’t want nothing of you, if you will go away; something must have got hold of you I don’t understand I You may keep the sheep if you will only go away.” “No,” said the Christian, “I must settle this up.” He counted out the value of the four sheep, 6 per cent interest, and then put double the amount down. This was turning from sin. (G. Bowden.)

The necessity of penitence

I. PENITENCE IS NECESSARY FOR THE SINNER, in order to be reconciled to God.

1. According to the written Word of God (Luke 13:5; John 3:5).No excuse. No grace in case of negligence.

2. According to the example of all the saints. David. Magdalen. Peter.

3. Reason teaches its necessity.


1. No one is sure of justification.

2. Every one offends daily in little things, and for every sin satisfaction must be made.

3. After the remission of guilt and eternal punishment, there remains yet temporal punishment to expiate. Call to mind the rigour of the ancient Church, of her penitential canons, etc.

4. Every one is liable to fall, while he lives. “Fruits worthy of repentance” are like a hedge of thorns around the paradise of virtues. (Valke.)

The ministry of John Baptist

1. Moral, not theological, in its aim.

2. Faithful, not temporizing in its appeal.

3. Symbolic, not superstitious, in its ritual.

4. Humble, not haughty in its spirit. (Dr. Thomas.)

A father brought to repentance

It pleased God to visit one of the daughters of a wicked father with mortal sickness; but before her death she was instrumental in exciting the attention of her parent to the concerns of his soul. “Father,” inquired the dying child, can you spell “repentance”? The artless question, through the blessing of God, was effectual to awaken concern. “Spell repentance!” repeated the astonished father; “why, what is repentance?” Thus he became desirous of knowing, and ultimately was taught its sacred meaning; and discovered that he had been a stranger to it, both in theory and experience. He also discovered that he needed repentance; that he was a guilty condemned sinner, deserving God’s wrath and everlasting misery; and repentance unto life was granted to him. He spelled out his Divine import; and obtained an acquaintance with that Saviour whom God has exalted to give repentance and remission of sins; and by bringing forth the fruits of righteousness, he in afterlife supported and adorned his Christian profession.

A call for John the Baptist

John had a word and a sign. The word was--Repent; and the sign was-Baptism. Word and sign were intimatelyrelated. His was the baptism of repentance. The word commanded. The sign accepted. A great moral and religious impulse swept wave-like over the people. The baptism of repentance became the order of the day. But, unfortunately, in the degree that the baptism became a fashion it also became a form. John’s soul was too upright to be blinded by what looked like success. His language, its directness, and the form with which he clothed his ideas, all showed how radical was the thing he aimed at. The axe, winnowing, uprooting, fire-cleansing, were the symbols that naturally expressed his violent and stormy thoughts and intents. What would John the Baptist say, if he were now to come into our churches and pulpits? He would fiercely denounce all shows and shams in religion. He would scathe and scatter with the lightnings of his indignation all moral delusions. He would demand the putting away of all unholiness. He would say, “ Let us have soundness and solidness, sincerity and spiritual mindedness, or nothing at all.” No doubt there would be a sensation. Well-bred people would be scandalized. Prudent men would say, “You must use milder language, sir, or we shall have the church empty.” And the prophet would reply, “Exactly; that is what I have come for. I have come to drive either the sinners or their sins out of the churches.” The great truth to be carried home is, that genuine repentance must always precede the kingdom of God. There is a repentance that is easy and cheap, and is worth as much as it costs or a little less. Repentance is--

The call to repent is a call to action. It means, change your mind about wrong-doing; change your whole course of moral thought, feeling, conduct. It must be personal and spring from a personal source. The kingdom of heaven is at hand, and it is as full of promise as of judgment. (W. Hubbard.)


The word is often used for the compunction with which one may reflect on a particular sin. Whether such compunction procures the forgiveness of the sin, seems to me a question which it is rather too bold to ask, but which is quite unimportant to have answered, unless forgiveness of sins were the same thing as forgiveness of sin. They are entirely different, and there is an equal and exactly corresponding difference between repentance in the sense just mentioned, and in that signified by the word which in the New Testament expresses the condition to which forgiveness of sin is attached. The Greek word denotes a change of mind, heart, or disposition, which is equivalent to the cessation of sin as a habit or state. Sins may be repented of without any such annihilation of sin. And without such annihilation I venture to doubt whether God Himself could forgive sin, any more than He could make two contrary propositions identical, or the same thing to be and not to be at the same time. (Bishop Thirlwall.)

The ministry of John

An awful ministry truly! The gospel concludes with benediction but it invariably begins with sword and fire. One of the first things that a true minister has to do is to destroy false hopes. It is thus that John did when he broke in thus rudely upon the traditional hopes of those who heard him. They were living securely in the facts that Abraham was their father, and their reasoning was that if Abraham was their father they themselves were necessarily good, and their moral position was invincible. John takes the roof off this house of refuge, and pours the Divine storm upon their heads. He throws down the walls within which they had enclosed themselves, and sends the floods of Divine judgment along the courses of their foundations. But there is a word of hope even in this storm of vengeance. John declares the possibility of repentance even on the part of a generation of vipers. The Christian teacher ought not to content himself with mere denunciation. Let him be faithful in describing the real character of those who hear him; but when he has done so, let him see that they do not die of despair, for want of the hopeful word of repentance. A severe thing this to say about Abraham was it not? The meaning is that hereditary piety is of no use; that we are not good simply because we have a good ancestry; and that as for mere history, God is able to make it out of the very stones under our feet. (J. Parker, D. D.)

A parable of the fig-trees

What fruits arc meet for repentance? To that question let me reply with a parable. You remember that as our Lord went from Bethany to Jerusalem He saw a fig-tree by the wayside, full of leaves, and came to it that He might eat of its fruit. But when He reached it, He found nothing but leaves on it. The conscious tree withered beneath His rebuke. This story is familiar to you all: but perhaps you did not know that three other fig-trees were growing hard by, near enough to hear what passed between Christ and the fruitless tree, and to mark how it withered beneath His curse. Yet there were such trees, or we shall assume that there were. And being observant and reflective trees they were very much alarmed to see that “the axe was laid to the roots of the trees,” and that “ every tree which brought not forth good fruit would be hewn down and cast into the fire.” They said among themselves: “We, indeed, have some fruits; but, oh, how fowl We will do better next year, lest we should likewise perish.” The seasons passed; the winds blew, the rains fell, the sun shone; and now, at last, “the time of figs” has come round again. We take the road to Bethany, to see how these three trees have kept their purpose of amendment.

1. We approach the first tree; and looking at it attentively, we are surprised and grieved to find that, though it is thick with broad tender leaves, it has but little fruit, and that but poor. We say, “How is this?” And the tree replies, “I waited day after day, month after month, and no prophet passed this way. Why should I trouble myself? I have done more than last year. I have some fruits to show, and many leaves. Why should I not be content? No prophet will ever pass this way again; or if a prophet should come, I have done enough to save myself from his curse.” This tree has not brought forth fruits meet for repentance; for it has done nothing from love, and very little from fear.

2. We advance to the second tree; and on this also we find only a few figs: but they are very large and good. We do not for a moment mistake it for a cumberer of the ground; its few but large fruits show plainly through the leaves. Yet the tree wears an aspect of sadness, and waits with some apprehension to hear what we have to say to it. Noting its aspect of settled grief, we do not ask, “Why are your fruits so few when your purpose was so earnest? “ We say, “Be not sad and discouraged O tree, because you have borne but little fruit; rather be glad that your fruit is so fine and sweet. You will do more and better next year, if you hold fast to your purpose of amendment, and soon your fruit will be as abundant as it is good.” This tree has brought forth fruits meet for repentance; for it has done well, and is sorry that it has not done better.

3. We pass on to the third tree; and on this we find much fruit indeed, but its fruit is exceedingly various in quality; some of the figs are large and sweet, but some are so small and rude that there is little chance of their being brought to perfection. In haste to prevent us from giving it more than its due, it says, “It grieves me that my fruit, which is so abundant, is yet so poor. I have discovered in myself, since I resolved to amend, both a power that I knew not of, and an impotence which I did not suspect. I did not know I could do so much as I have done; but I did think that what I could do, that I should do well. Power is mine; alas, that I should so have wasted it! but, alas, weakness is also mine; and though I can do much, I do it but to little purpose!” This third tree, like the second, has brought forth fruits meet for repentance; for it has done much and would fain have done better: and, therefore, we bid it be of good heart, and leave it with good hope that, as it has already borne much fruit, so, in due time, all its fruit will become perfect.

4. But here some humble soul may cry out, “Alas, sir, I am no fruit-tree! I am but as a thorn or a brier. Have you no word of comfort, or promise for me?” Surely I have. “Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree,” &c. In the kingdom and garden of Christ strange transformations take place. However wild and barren your nature may be, if you crave comfort and promise, that is, if you honestly desire to amend, there is a power in Christ capable of making you better. You are repenting of the past; and He will show you how, in the future, even you may “ bring forth fruits meet for repentance.” (T. T. Lynch.)

Tests of religious life

I. FALSE TESTS ARE FOUND IN THE POSSESSION OF ADVANTAGES. “We have Abraham,” &c. This may be regarded--

1. As a sentimental advantage: related to the past. Their Church not a thing of yesterday.

2. As an ecclesiastical advantage: they were related to a privileged past.

3. As a moral advantage: they were related to a worthy past--had a noble ancestry.


1. The demand of Scripture. Insisted upon by--

2. The demand of society. In relation to--

III. HOW MAY FRUITFULNESS BE GAINED? Only by union with Christ. “Abide in Me,” &c. (John 15:4-5). (W. Glyde Tarbolton.)

We have Abraham to our father

Pride of ancestry

Pride of ancestry is a common evil, and it was very prevalent among the Jews.


1. It must be admitted that it was once a privilege to have Abraham for a father. It was in consequence of the Israelites being the children of Abraham, that unto them pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises. It was, therefore, one of the first honours, to belong to the family of Abraham (Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalms 105:42; Romans 9:4).

2. It was no unusual thing for the Jews, in their most degenerate state, to boast of their descent from this eminent patriarch.

3. To be descended from pious parents is still a privilege, which we should carefully improve. A heathen philosopher blessed God that he was born at Athens; and have we not greater reason to bless Him that we were born in a Christian country, and descended from godly ancestors. David mentions the piety of his mother as a motive for devoting himself to the service of God, and as a reason of his having obtained mercy. “Oh, Lord,” says he, “truly I am Thy servant; I am Thy servant, and the son of Thy handmaid; Thou hast loosed my bonds.” And in giving a solemn charge to his son, he uses similar language, “Thou Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy father” (2 Timothy 1:5; Psalms 116:16).

4. Though it is an honour to be descended from pious ancestors, yet we are warned against trusting in it as a substitute for personal religion. “Think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father”; for so had Ishmael and Esau; and yet they were none the better for it. Do not imagine that this will be any excuse for sin, or a sufficient plea for mercy.

II. Consider THE REASONS THAT SHOULD CAUTION US AGAINST PLACING ANY DEPENDENCE ON NATURAL DESCENT, as giving us a title to eternal life, or rendering us more secure from the wrath to come.

1. The children of pious parents are defiled with original sin as well as others, and therefore have the same propensities to evil. Corruption runs in the blood, though grace does not. Though the Jews themselves were circumcised, their children were horn in uncircumcision; and were by nature children of wrath, even as others (Psalms 51:5; Ephesians 2:2-3).

2. In too many instances, the children of religious parents, like the prodigal son, have grown weary of restraint, and indulged in those criminal excesses which are common to the most abandoned characters. What were the sons of Eli, and the sons of Aaron; their conduct, and their end! Guilty of intemperance, impurity, and profaneness, they died under the visible marks of Divine displeasure. That excellent prince Josiah had four sons, and they all proved wicked. Benjamin was so called, to denote that he was the son of his father’s right hand; and yet most of the left-handed men we read of in Scripture were Benjamites, as if it were intended to show that the course of events and the formation of character are oftentimes the reverse of what we had reason to expect.

3. It is still more painful to observe, that some of the best of men have had the very worst of children, who have been a grief and a dishonour to their parents. The sweetest wine makes the sharpest vinegar, and the most promising children sometimes turn out the worst of characters. Nabal the churl was of the posterity of the noble and disinterested Caleb. Absalom who murdered Amnon, and Amnon who defiled his sister, were the sons of David, the man after God’s own heart.

4. Our being the children of pious parents merely can no more effect our salvation, than our being the children of wicked parents can effect our destruction; personal character being that alone by which our future state will be determined.

5. The futility of every plea arising from our connection with pious ancestors is also evinced in what is alleged by the sacred writer, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. He who gave Abraham a son when he was past age, and afterwards raised him up in a figure from the altar, can be at no loss to give him a spiritual seed as numerous as the stars of heaven. (B. Beddome, M. A.)


I. Now with regard to these stones. I shall pass Joshua by with his stones, and the heathen soldiers also, and give you a Scriptural proof that ruined sinners with stony hearts are the persons really meant--sinners that are like stones--and I will give you a passage of Scripture that confirms this statement without the possibility of contradiction, because it is God’s own. If you turn to the seventh chapter of the Prophet Zechariah you will find what God says about them, “They refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder and stopped their ears that they should not hear, yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone.” Why, they are as incapable of feeling as stones--they are as helpless as stones. But mark a little further, for I want you to have a right and an humbling view of the Fall, he is worse than a stone; find a stone where you will, it has got no enmity in it. I grant it is hard and helpless, and immoveable, but it has got no enmity in it. Now, my Bible tells me expressly that, “the carnal mind is enmity against God.”

II. But I am very anxious, having said thus much in as concise terms as I could, to lead on your attention to the almighty grace put forth, “God is able.” How does He manage to raise up children? Does He do as a mason would, hew out the stones and carve them, and shape them, and cut them? That is the way men make Christians. I know they get hold of these rough stones, and they say they are very rude and very ignorant, perhaps very licentious, perhaps very immoral, perhaps very unjust and dishonest, very ugly rough forbidding stones, such as one hardly likes to have in one’s sight; but forth comes one of these skilful masons, and cuts them, and carves them, and polishes them very nicely with the tools of education and superstition. Take your stone, and carve it as handsomely as you can, and work it into a statue as tall as any of you, and give the handsomest features that any of you possess, and throw the most graceful robes around it that can be worn, and paint it what colour you please, it is a stone after all--and that is a striking emblem of thousands who pass for Christians. But when God works, He puts the Spirit of life from God into a poor sinner’s heart; it is another and a new principle; a holy life that cannot sin. And observe here, that He invariably exercises His own absolute sovereignty. But just mark further. This new life which God Himself imparts and bestows, this quickening by the power of the Holy Ghost according to the sovereignty of His own will, is nourished and trained up by Him. I should like to detain you a moment longer here to mark, that when Jehovah thus exercises His absolute sovereignty, and quickens sinners to newness of life, He excludes all vain boasting, all creature pretensions.

III. Now let us, for a moment or two, glance at the nature thus bestowed. Peradventure you will say, “You have surely taken up this all along.” Well, I must say a little more about it. And, first of all, it is relative, and claims relationship with Abraham--“children unto Abraham.” Well, why not unto some Gentile parent? Why not relationship to some among the heathens that surrounded John while he was thus speaking? Why, beloved, if you will consult the statement of the Holy Ghost by the apostle, you will find what is really descriptive of all the children of Abraham, whether Jews or Gentiles. “So then,” he says, after a lengthened argument, “they that are of faith are the children of faithful Abraham.” Now this is the relationship that is bestowed upon them. Come a little closer into apprehension of it. Abraham’s faith “talked with God as a man talketh with his friend”; more than that,--Abraham’s faith pleaded with God, and even proposed terms and conditions for the saving of Sodom, because his brother Lot was there. Abraham’s faith was such as constituted him “the father of the faithful”; consequently, the sons must be something like him--they must be partakers of like precious faith.” (J. Irons.)

False reasoning

The Pharisees taught that no child of Abraham could perish. His name was thus used as a shield to turn aside the arrows of truth. But we must remember that ties of blood, ancestral piety, or rites of the Church, cannot save. Abraham’s blood, without Abraham’s faith, will avail only to condemn. The Church of saints and martyrs can give the unrenewed no passport to heaven. Paul in the pulpit would perish, if Paul were not in Christ. It is a terribly perilous doctrine among the Romanists, that a wicked “ Catholic” (so-called) is more certain of reaching heaven than the best Protestant who ever lived. (Various.)

False reliance

It was not that the Jews were to disown their descent from Abraham, but that they were not to rely on that descent as their means of salvation. There is a great deal of this looking to one’s stock or to one’s surroundings as a hope of heaven. One thinks that his mother’s prayers will save him. Another, that his Church-membership is a fair ground of confidence. Another, that his being included in a good congregation will sweep him over danger. Every expectation of this sort is even more foolish than the confidence of the Jews in their earthly parentage. Begin not to say anything of the kind in your heart as a source of hope; and if you have begun to say it, quit it forthwith, and find something to rest in that will stand the test to which your faith must finally be subjected. (H. C. Trubull.)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Luke 3:8". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin 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.

The usual response to any demand that the Israelites of that day should repent was to the effect that they did not need to repent, since they were sons of Abraham. The fact that all the promises were not to Abraham's fleshly descendants, but to his spiritual seed (the people who were of the character and faith of Abraham), was unknown to the Israel of that generation. Paul spelled it out in Romans; but here, the nigh impossible task of enlightenment fell on John the Baptist. He succeeded in such instances as John the apostle, and others who became followers of Jesus; but the majority of fleshly Israel only scoffed at the truth.

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Luke 3:8". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance,.... Or "meet" for it, such as will show it to be true and genuine: "and begin not to say within yourselves": in one of Beza's copies, and in another of Stephens's, it was read, "think not", as in Matthew 3:9. the sense is the same. The Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions, leave out the phrase, "within yourselves": what they are forbid to say follows,

we have Abraham to our father, for I say unto you, God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham; which need not be thought strange, when the creation of Adam out of the earth, and the production of such a numerous offspring, as the Israelites were, from Abraham and Sarah, when past all hope of children, and are signified by the rock and pit in Isaiah 51:1 are considered; See Gill on Matthew 3:9.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Luke 3:8". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

John Lightfoot's Commentary on the Gospels

8. Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin 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.

[Of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.] We do not say the Baptist played with the sound of those two words banaia and abanaia: he does certainly, with great scorn, deride the vain confidence and glorying of that nation (amongst whom nothing was more ready and usual in their mouths than to boast that they were the children of Abraham), when he tells them, That they were such children of Abraham, that God could raise as good as they from those very stones.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Lightfoot, John. "Commentary on Luke 3:8". "John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels". 1675.

Vincent's Word Studies

Fruits ( καρποὺς )

Matthew has the singular number, καρπὸν ,fruit.

Repentance ( τῆς μετανοίας )

Note the article: the repentance which you profess in coming to my baptism. Rev., in margin, “your repentance.” See on Matthew 3:2.


With the first accusing of your conscience. “He anticipates even attempt at excuse” (Bengel). Matthew has think not, indicating a delusive fancy.


The word stands first in the sentence, “We have Abraham to our father,” and is therefore emphatic, and with reason; for it was on their descent that the answer of these Jews to John's rebuke turned: “Our father is Abraham.”

These stones

See on Matthew 3:9.

Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Luke 3:8". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin 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.

Say not within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father — That is, trust not in your being members of the visible Church, or in any external privileges whatsoever: for God now requires a change of heart; and that without delay.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Luke 3:8". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance1, and begin not to say within yourselves2, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

  1. Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, etc. See .

  2. And begin not to say within yourselves, etc. See .

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Luke 3:8". "The Fourfold Gospel". Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin 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.

Ver. 8. {See Trapp on "Matthew 3:8"} {See Trapp on "Matthew 3:9"}

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Luke 3:8". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Luke 3:8. ΄ὴ ἄρξησθε λέγειν, do not begin to say) He cuts off by anticipation every even attempt at self-excuse.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Luke 3:8". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

See Poole on "Luke 3:4"

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Luke 3:8". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

камней Ср. 19:4). Возможно, эта образность вторит таким ветхозаветным стихам, как Иез. 11:19; 36:26. Бог может полновластно обратить каменное сердце в верующее сердце. Он может воздвигнуть детей Аврааму из неодушевленных предметов, если захочет, или даже из жестокосердных язычников (ср. Гал. 3:29).

детей Аврааму Истинные дети Авраама – это не просто физические потомки, а те люди, которые следуют его вере, доверяя Слову Божьему, как доверял он (Рим. 4:11-16; 9:8; Гал. 3:7). Полагаться на свое физическое происхождение – значит переместить центр веры с Самого Бога на себя, а это является духовной смертью (ср. Ин. 8:39-44).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Luke 3:8". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Not to say-We have Abraham to our father; rely no more for salvation on your outward relation to Abraham.

Of these stones-children unto Abraham; he who formed Adam out of the dust of the earth in his own image, can of these stones raise up holy men, who shall be Abraham’s children, not by fleshly descent, but by having the character and doing the works of Abraham. Compare John 8:39; Galatians 3:7. This is a clear intimation that the time has come when Abraham’s seed shall no longer be reckoned by outward descent, but by character.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Luke 3:8". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Luke 3:8. : instead of , perhaps to answer to the various types of reform specified in the sequel.— instead of (vide on Mt.), on which Bengel’s comment is: “omnem excusationis etiam conatum praecidit”. While the words they are forbidden to say are the same in both accounts, perhaps the raising up children to Abraham has a wider range of meaning for the Pauline Lk. than for Mt.: sons from even the Pagan world.



Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Luke 3:8". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

is one thing to bring forth fruits of penance, and another to bring forth worthy fruits. We should know that the man who has committed nothing unlawful, may have a right to use the lawful things of the world, and can perform works of piety, without forsaking innocent enjoyments, unless he pleases. But, if he has fallen into great crimes, let him abstain from what is lawful, as much as he has transgressed, by yielding to guilt. Nor is equal penance required of him who has sinned little, and of him who has fallen into many crimes. And let those, whose consciences convict them, labour to lay up a treasure of good works, proportioned to the injury they have done themselves by their sins. (St. Gregory, hom. xx. in Evang.) --- It is not sufficient for penitents to forsake their sins, they must also bring forth worthy fruits, according to that of the psalmist, decline from evil, and do good. (Psalm xxxvi.) As it is not enough to extract the dart; and external application is also necessary. He says not fruit, but fruits, to shew the abundance of good works we ought to perform. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. x. on S. Matt.) --- He does not mean to say that they did not descend from Abraham, but that their descending from Abraham would avail them nothing, unless they kept up the succession of his virtues. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. xi. and xii. on S. Matt.) --- What can those be thought but stones, who have given themselves to the adoration of stones; to which, says the psalmist, they are assimilated, who place their trust in them? By this the Baptist prophesies, that faith shall be infused into the stony hearts of the Gentiles, who by faith shall become the children of Abraham. (St. Ambrose) --- Consider, says St. John Chrysostom, how St. John draws them from boasting of their pedigree, and trusting to their descent from Abraham, to place their hope of salvation in the practice of penance and a holy life. (hom. xi.) --- A lesson this for Catholics, not to expect to find mercy at the last day, for being members of the true religion, unless they live up to the maxims which it prescribes. If I should have all faith, so that I could move mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians xiii. 2.)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Luke 3:8". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

repentance = the repentance which has been demanded, and which you profess.

not. Greek. me. App-105. Not the same word as in Luke 3:16.

within = among. Greek. en. App-104.

father. Emphatic, by the Figure of speech Hyperbaton (App-6), being put in the Greek as the first word of the sentence. See John 8:33, John 8:53.

of = out of. Greek. ek. App-104. Not the same word as in Luke 3:7.

these stones. Compare Luke 19:40; Matthew 3:9. children. App-108.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Luke 3:8". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin 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.
Isaiah 1:16-18; Ezekiel 18:27-31; Acts 26:20; 2 Corinthians 7:10,11; Galatians 5:22-24; Philippians 1:11; Hebrews 6:7,8
worthy of
or, meet for. We.
13:28,29; 16:23-31; Isaiah 48:1,2; Jeremiah 7:4-10; John 8:33; Romans 4:16; 9:7
of these
19:40; Joshua 4:3-8; Matthew 8:11,12; 21:43; Galatians 3:28,29
Reciprocal: Nehemiah 5:11 - Restore;  Job 34:32 - if;  Ezekiel 33:24 - but we;  Zechariah 8:16 - are;  Malachi 2:10 - all;  Matthew 3:8 - forth;  Matthew 3:9 - think;  Matthew 21:32 - came;  Luke 3:10 - What;  Luke 7:39 - he spake;  Luke 13:16 - being;  Luke 16:24 - Father;  Luke 19:8 - Behold;  Ephesians 4:28 - steal no more

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Luke 3:8". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".