Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Matthew 3:11

"As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
New American Standard Version
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American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Baptism with the Holy Ghost and with Fire;   Fire;   Sandals;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Baptism;   Baptism with the spirit;   Day of the lord;   Kingdom of god;   Prophecy, prophet;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Baptism of Fire;   Baptism of the Holy Spirit;   Church, the;   Fire;   Forgiveness;   Holy Spirit;   John the Baptist;   Messiah;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Baptism ;   Baptism Metaphorical;   Holy Ghost;   Hutchinsonians;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Baptism, Christian;   Fire;   John the Baptist;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Baptism;   Edom;   Fire;   John the Baptist;   Salt;   Sandal;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Baptism;   Baptism of Fire;   Baptism of the Holy Spirit;   John;   Matthew, the Gospel of;   Ordinances;   Prophecy, Prophets;   Trinity;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Church;   Dress;   John the Baptist;   Jordan;   Mss;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Asceticism (2);   Atonement (2);   Baptism;   Benedictus;   Doctrines;   Dress (2);   Enthusiasm;   Fire ;   Gentleness (2);   Herod ;   Holy Spirit (2);   Impotence;   John the Baptist;   Logia;   Marks Stigmata;   Old Testament (Ii. Christ as Student and Interpreter of).;   Organization (2);   Pentecost ;   Pre-Eminence ;   Redemption (2);   Regeneration;   Righteous, Righteousness;   Shoe Sandal;   Tares ;   Water ;   Water (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Baptism of the Holy Spirit;   Fire;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Baptism;   Fire;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Baptism;   Kingdom of christ of heaven;   Kingdom of god;   Kingdom of heaven;   Levi;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Sandal;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Baptism;   Burn;   Shoe;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Baptism;   Fire;  
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Adam Clarke Commentary

But he that cometh after me - Or, I coming after me, who is now on his way, and will shortly make his appearance. Jesus Christ began his ministry when he was thirty years of age, Luke 3:23, which was the age appointed by the law, Numbers 4:3. John the Baptist was born about six months before Christ; and, as he began his public ministry when thirty years of age, then this coming after refers to six months after the commencement of John's public preaching, at which time Christ entered upon his.

Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear - This saying is expressive of the most profound humility and reverence. To put on, take off, and carry the shoes of their masters, was, not only among the Jews, but also among the Greeks and Romans, the work of the vilest slaves. This is amply proved by Kypke, from Arrian, Plutarch, and the Babylonian Talmud.

With the Holy Ghost, and with fire - That the influences of the Spirit of God are here designed, needs but little proof. Christ's religion was to be a spiritual religion, and was to have its seat in the heart. Outward precepts, however well they might describe, could not produce inward spirituality. This was the province of the Spirit of God, and of it alone; therefore he is represented here under the similitude of fire, because he was to illuminate and invigorate the soul, penetrate every part, and assimilate the whole to the image of the God of glory. See on John 3:5; (note).

With fire - Και πυρι . This is wanting in E. S. (two MSS. one of the ninth, the other of the tenth century) eight others, and many Evangelistaria, and in some versions and printed editions; but it is found in the parallel place, Luke 3:16, and in the most authentic MSS. and versions. It was probably the different interpretations given of it by the fathers that caused some transcribers to leave it out of their copies.

The baptism of fire has been differently understood among the primitive fathers. Some say, it means the tribulations, crosses, and afflictions, which believers in Christ are called to pass through. Hence the author of the Opus Imperfectum, on Matthew, says, that there are three sorts of baptism,

  1. that of water;
  • that of the Holy Ghost; and,
  • that of tribulations and afflictions, represented under the notion of fire.
  • He observes farther, that our blessed Lord went through these three baptisms:
    1. That of water, he received from the hands of John.
  • That of the Holy Spirit he received from the Father. And,
  • That of fire, he had in his contest with Satan in the desert.
  • St. Chrysostom says; it means the superabundant graces of the Spirit. Basil and Theophilus explain it of the fire of hell. Cyril, Jerome, and others, understand by it the descent of the Holy Spirit, on the day of pentecost.

    Hilary says, it means a fire that the righteous must pass through in the day of judgment, to purify them from such defilements as necessarily cleaved to them here, and with which they could not be admitted into glory.

    Ambrose says, this baptism shall be administered at the gate of paradise, by John Baptist; and he thinks that this is what is meant by the flaming sword, Genesis 3:24.

    Origen and Lactantius conceive it to be a river of fire, at the gate of heaven, something similar to the Phlegethon of the heathens; but they observe, that when the righteous come to pass over, the liquid flames shall divide, and give them a free passage: that Christ shall stand on the brink of it, and receive through the flames all those, and none but those, who have received in this world the baptism of water in his name: and that this baptism is for those who, having received the faith of Christ, have not, in every respect, lived conformably to it; for, though they laid the good foundation, yet they built hay, straw, and stubble upon it, and this work of theirs must be tried, and destroyed by this fire. This, they think, is St. Paul's meaning, 1 Corinthians 3:13-15. If any man build on this foundation (viz. Jesus Christ) gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. - If any man's work be burnt, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as By Fire. From this fire, understood in this way, the fathers of the following ages, and the schoolmen, formed the famous and lucrative doctrine of Purgatory. Some in the primitive Church thought that fire should be, in some way or other, joined to the water in baptism; and it is supposed that they administered it by causing the person to pass between two fires, or to leap through the flame; or by having a torch, or lighted candle, present. Thus have those called Doctors of the Church trifled. The exposition which I have given, I believe to be the only genuine one.

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    Bibliographical Information
    Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

    Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

    Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear - The word translated here as “shoes” has a signification different from what it has in our language. At first, in order to keep the feet from the sharp stones or the burning sand, small pieces of wood were fastened to the soles of the feet, called “sandals.” Leather, or skins of beasts dressed, afterward were used. The foot was not covered at all, but the sandal, or piece of leather or wood, was bound by thongs. The people put off these when they enter a house, and put them on when they leave it. To unloose and bind on sandals, on such occasions, was formerly the business of the lowest servants. The expression in this place, therefore, denotes great humility, and John says that he was nor worthy to be the servant of him who should come after him.

    Shall baptize you - Shall send upon you the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is frequently represented as being poured out upon his people, Proverbs 1:23; Isaiah 44:3; Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-18. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the same, therefore, as the sending of his influences to convert, purify, and guide the soul.

    The Holy Ghost - The third person of the adorable Trinity, whose office it is to enlighten, renew, sanctify, and comfort the soul He was promised by the Saviour to convince of sin, John 16:8; to enlighten or teach the disciples, John 14:26; John 16:13; to comfort them in the absence of the Savior, John 14:18; John 16:7; to change the heart. Titus 3:5. To be baptized with the Holy Spirit means that the Messiah would send upon the world a far more powerful and mighty influence than had attended the preaching of John. Many more would be converted. A mighty change would take place. His ministry would not affect the external life only, but the heart. the motives, the soul; and would produce rapid and permanent changes in the lives of people. See Acts 2:17-18.

    With fire - This expression has been variously understood. Some have supposed that John refers to the afflictions and persecutions with which men would be tried under the Gospel; others, that the word “fire” means judgment or wrath. According to this latter interpretation, the meaning is that he would baptize a portion of mankind - those who were willing to be his followers - with the Holy Spirit, but the rest of mankind - the wicked - with fire; that is, with judgment and wrath. Fire is a symbol of vengeance. See Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 61:2; Isaiah 66:24. If this is the meaning, as seems to be probable, then John says that the ministry of the Messiah would be far more powerful than his was. It would be more searching and testing; and they who were not suited to abide the test would be cast into eternal fire. Others have supposed, however, that by fire, here, John intends to express the idea that the preaching of the Messiah would be refining, powerful, purifying, as fire is sometimes an emblem of purity, Malachi 3:2. It is difficult to ascertain the precise meaning further than that his ministry would be very trying, purifying, searching. Multitudes would be converted; and those who were not true penitents would not be able to abide the trial, and would be driven away.

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    Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

    The Biblical Illustrator

    Matthew 3:11

    And with fire.

    The fiery baptism

    I. The Holy Ghost is fire. Baptism with the Holy Ghost is not one thing and baptism with fire another, but the former is the reality of which the latter is the symbol.

    II. Christ plunges us into this fire. What a grand ideals conveyed by the metaphor of the completeness of the contact with the Spirit of God into which we are brought! How it represents all our being as flooded into that transforming power. Christ’s personal agency in effecting this saturating of man’s coldness with the fire from God.

    III. The fiery baptism quickens and cleanses.

    1. Fire gives warmth. It comes to kindle in men’s souls a blaze of enthusiastic Divine love, melting all the icy hardness of the heart, etc. For a Christian to be cold is sin. Marked absence of this “ spirit of burning” in the Christian Church.

    2. This baptism gives cleansing by warmth. Fire purifies. The Spirit produces holiness in heart and character. All other cleansing is superficial. The alternative for every man is to be baptized in fire or to be consumed by it. (Dr. MacLaren.)

    The Baptism of the Spirit

    I. The nature of the promised baptism. John’s baptism was introductory and transitory-Christ’s was to be spiritual, quickening, searching. Analogy between water in the natural world and the Spirit’s influence in the moral world. The baptism of the spirit includes all other blessings (Luke 11:13, with Matthew 7:11).

    II. The plenitude of the promise. A baptism, repletion, falness, etc. Like torrents of rain poured on the thirsty earth (Ezekiel 34:26; Joel 2:28; Hosea 14:5; Malachi 3:10). On the day of Pentecost there was the baptism of the Holy Ghost. What abundant communications of Divine influence we should expect!

    III. The need of the promised baptism.

    1. In the time of John.

    2. In our time-now. The low and languid piety of many. The comparatively small success of the various agencies for the conversion of sinners. Church agencies can only be spiritually useful as they are charged with Divine force. Have you received this baptism? “Ye must be born again.” (A. Tucker.)

    Baptism with the Holy Ghost and with fire.

    John’s baptism was outward washing merely, significant, but no inward grace. It was only a symbol. Christ’s would be the same in outward appearance, as water was employed, but there shall be an inward reality, a living, glorious, inward grace in His baptism. “When was the Baptist’s prediction fulfilled? Though Christ never baptized with His own hands, yet it is He who baptizeth when His authorized ministers baptize. Theirs are the hands, but His the grace. Like Elijah, they pour the water on the sacrifice, but He gives the fire. It refers to Pentecost, cloven tongues. It is important to realize the double aspects in the gifts of God. The Holy Ghost would be in every heart a Spirit of fire-fire for death or life, to purify or to destroy. God’s presence in man’s heart is His greatest gift; how truly it may be called a fire l It separates good from evil. It purifies. It tests. Our duty in life is to cherish and obey this awful fiery Spirit. To burn in the spirit, to have a glowing zeal for God. The spark is blown into a flame by prayer. (G. Moberly, D. C. L.)

    The influence of fire

    The Holy Spirit is a Comforter through

    I. The nature and importance of this baptism.

    II. The character and dignity of the person who baptizes. Not a mere man-the Son of God. He dispenses this blessing as the fruit of His mediation.

    III. The persons who may partake of this baptism (Luke 3:1-38.).

    IV. On what tenets, or in what way they may have it conferred. Repentance towards God. Faith in Christ.

    1. Consider the necessity of this baptism, etc.

    2. If you have received it, “Quench not the Spirit,” etc. (Joseph Benson.)

    The fiery baptism continuous

    To all, sooner or later, Christ comes to baptize them with fire. But do not think that the baptism of fire comes once for all to a man in some terrible affliction, some one awful conviction of his own sinfulness and nothingness. No; with many-and those, perhaps, the best people-it goes on month after month, and year after year. By secret trials, chastenings which none but they and God can understand, the Lord is cleansing them from their secret faults, and making them to understand wisdom secretly; burning out of them the chaff of self-will and self-conceit and vanity, and leaving only the pure gold of righteousness. (Charles Kingsley.)

    The kindling, warmth, and effect of the fiery influence

    The manner in which the Holy Spirit enters the heart resembles the manner in which fire is kindled. This manner is not always uniform. Sometimes a spark lies smothered for a while, and only after a long interval bursts out and begins to burn. So with the Holy Spirit. The spark may have reached the heart, and may remain theres hut the deceitfulness of worldly cares or pleasures, or the remains of unsubdued sin, stifle it, till at length some providential circumstance occurs which fans the spark into a flame. Another effect of fire is, to communicate its warmth to all that come within its reach. And such is also, the effect of the Holy Spirit upon the soul. The heart of man is by nature cold-cold towards God, and cold towards his fellow-creatures. Not so the man whose heart has been touched by the Holy Spirit. I shall only carry this comparison one step further. We all understand the effect of fire in restoring comfort to the body. We approach closer to it when we have been made uneasy through the chilling influence of cold, and the genial feelings of health and warmth revive within us. So, likewise, the Holy Spirit cheers the heart and re-animates the languid feelings; gives new life to the zeal and piety, which, without it, would sicken and decay. (J. B. Sumner, M. A.)

    The fiery influence sometimes gentle

    But there is also a fire that, like the genial heat in some greenhouse, makes even the barren tree glow with blossom, and bends its branches with precious fruit. (Dr. Maclaren.)

    The fiery influence purifying.

    Did you ever see a blast-furnace? How long would it take a man, think you, with hammer and chisel, or by chemical means, to get the bits of ore out from the stony matrix? But fling them into the great cylinder, and pile the fire, and let the strong draught roar through the burning mass, and by evening you can run off a glowing stream of pure and fluid metal, from which all the dross and rubbish is parted, which has been charmed out of all its sullen hardness, and will take the shape of any mould into which you like to run it. The fire has conquered, has melted, has purified. So with us. Love “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us,” love that answers to Christ’s, love that is fixed upon Him who is pure and separate from sinners, will purify us and sever us from our sins. Nothing else will. All other cleansing is superficial, like the water of John’s baptism. Moralities and the externals of religion will wash away the foulness which lies on the surface, but stains that have sunk deep into the very substance of the soul, and have dyed every thread in warp and woof to its centre, are not to be got rid of so. (Dr. Maclaren.)

    The analogy between these two baptisms

    1. They are both sudden. Whitefield was once preaching on Blackheath, and a man and his wife coming from market saw the crowd, and went up to hear. Whitefield was saying something about what happened eighteen hundred years ago, and the man said to his wife: “Come, Mary, we will not stop any longer. He is talking about something that took place more than eighteen hundred years ago. What’s that to us?” But they were fascinated. The truth of God came to their hearts. When they were home, they took down the Bible and said: “Is it possible that these old truths have been here so long, and we have not known it?” Ah! it was in the flash of God’s Spirit on Blackheath that they were saved-the Spirit coming mightily, and suddenly, and overwhelmingly upon them. So it was that God’s Spirit came to Andrew Fuller, and James Harvey, and the Earl of Rochester, and Bishop Latimer-suddenly.

    2. They were both irresistible. Notwithstanding all our boasted machinery and organization for putting out fires, the efforts that were made did not repulse the flames last December one single instant. There was a great sound of fire-trumpets, and brave men walking on hot walls; but the flames were baulked not an instant. So it has been with the Holy Spirit moving through the hearts of this people. There have been men here who have sworn that the religion of Jesus Christ should never come into their households; they and their children kneel now at the same altar.

    3. They are both consuming. Did you ever see any more thorough work than was done by that fire last December? The strongest beams turned to ashes. The iron cracked, curled up, destroyed. So the Holy Ghost has been a consuming fire amid the sins and habits of those who despise God.

    4. They were both melting. If you examined the bars, and bolts, and plumbing work of the Tabernacle, after it went down, you know it was a melting process. The things that seemed to have no relation to each other adjoined-flowed together. So it has been with the Spirit of God, melting down all asperities and unbrotherliness. Heart has flowed out towards heart.

    5. The fiery influence qualifying for work.

    If God baptized us with fire, it is because He means to fit us for hot and, tremendous work. (Dr. Talmage.)

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    Bibliographical Information
    Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 3:11". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

    Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

    I indeed baptize you in 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 in the Holy Spirit and in fire.

    Seven baptisms are mentioned in the New Testament, three of which are mentioned in this verse. They are:

    1. The baptism unto Moses (1 Corinthians 10:2).

    2. The baptism of sufferings (Mark 10:38,39).

    3. The baptism for the dead (1 Corinthians 15:29).

    4. The baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11, see above).

    5. The baptism of fire (Matthew 3:11, see above).

    6. The baptism of John the Baptist (Acts 19:3).

    7. The baptism of the Great Commission (Mark 16:15,16; Matthew 28:18-20).SIZE>

    In spite of the fact that all these baptisms find mention in the New Testament, there is, nevertheless, but ONE baptism in force. See Ephesians 4:4. To determine which baptism is in force, or which one is IT, one only needs to observe these facts: No. 1, above, applied only to Jews. No. 2 is altogether figurative, being in no sense a ceremony. No. 3 was a practice of non-Christians as witnessed by the third person pronouns and was never connected in any way with the Christian religion. Nos. 4,5 are both promises of what God will do and cannot be obeyed in any sense. No. 6, John's baptism, was clearly and categorically set aside by the baptism of him that is greater than John, even Christ. See Acts 19:3. Thus, the ONE baptism of Ephesians can be none other than the baptism of the Great Commission.

    In the Holy Spirit and in fire ... is seen as a reference to two baptisms, rather than merely one, because John emphatically divided his hearers into two classes, reinforcing the point with a double metaphor, first of the unfruitful tree, and again of the threshing floor. Both at Pentecost and at the household of Cornelius was the baptism of the Spirit received (Acts 1:5; 2:4; 11:15,16). It is significant that both Jews and Gentiles are represented in these two groups and that there are no other examples of this baptism in the New Testament. It is also possible to construe "baptism in the Spirit" as a reference to the overwhelming guidance and direction of God's people through the office of the Holy Comforter. In this sense, it applies to all believers.

    In fire ... likely refers to the overwhelming of the wicked at last in hell. This is based on the fact that the term "fire" is the same as that used for the unfruitful tree and for the chaff in John's great metaphors. McGarvey said, "It is clearly the wicked who are to be baptized in fire, and the fulfillment of the prediction will be realized when they are cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 21:8).[5]


    [5] J. W .McGarvey, op. cit., p. 39.

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    Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
    Bibliographical Information
    Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

    John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

    I indeed baptize you with water,.... These words, at first view, look as if they were a continuation of John's discourse with the Pharisees and Sadducees, and as though he had baptized them; whereas by comparing them with what the other Evangelists relate, see Mark 1:5 they are spoken to the people, who, confessing their sins, had been baptized by him; to whom he gives an account of the ordinance of water baptism, of which he was the administrator, in what manner, and on what account he performed it:

    I indeed baptize you; or, as Mark says, "I have baptized you"; I have authority from God so to do; my commission reaches thus far, and no farther; I can administer, and have administered the outward ordinance to you; but the inward grace and increase of it, together with the ordinary and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, I cannot confer. I can, and do baptize, upon a profession of repentance, and I can threaten impenitent sinners with divine vengeance; but I cannot bestow the grace of repentance on any, nor punish for impenitence, either here or hereafter; these things are out of my power, and belong to another person hereafter named: all that I do, and pretend to do, is to baptize

    with water, or rather in water, as εν υδατι should be rendered. Our version seems to be calculated in favour of pouring, or sprinkling water upon, or application of it to the person baptized, in opposition to immersion in it; whereas the "preposition" is not instrumental, but local, and denotes the place, the river Jordan, and the element of water there, in which John was baptizing: and this he did

    unto repentance, or "at", or upon "repentance": for so εις may be rendered, as it is in Matthew 12:41 for the meaning is not that John baptized them, in order to bring them to repentance; since he required repentance and fruits meet for it, previous to baptism; but that he had baptized them upon the foot of their repentance; and so the learned Grotius observes, that the phrase may be very aptly explained thus: "I baptize you upon the `profession' of repentance which ye make." John gives a hint of the person whose forerunner he was, and of his superior excellency to him: he indeed first speaks of him as one behind him, not in nature or dignity, but in order of time as man;

    but he that comes after me. John was born before Jesus, and began his ministry before he did; he was his harbinger; Jesus was now coming after him to Jordan from Galilee, to be baptized by him, and then enter on his public ministry: but though he came after him in this sense, he was not beneath, but above him in character; which he freely declares, saying,

    is mightier than I; not only as he is the mighty God, and so infinitely mightier than he; but in his office and ministry, which was exercised with greater power and authority, and attended with mighty works and miracles, and was followed with the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit. Not to mention the mighty work of redemption performed by him; the resurrection of his own body from the dead; and his exaltation in human nature, above all power, might, and dominion. The Baptist was so sensible of the inequality between them, and of his unworthiness to be mentioned with him, that he seems at a loss almost to express his distance from him; and therefore signifies it by his being unfit to perform one of the most servile offices to him,

    whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; or as the other Evangelists relate it, "whose shoelatchet I am not worthy to unloose"; which amounts to the same sense, since shoes are unloosed in order to be taken from, or carried before, or after a person; which to do was the work of servants among the Jews. In the TalmudF5T. Hieros. Kiddushin, fol. 59. 4. Maimon. & T. Bartenora in Misu. Kiddushin, c. 1. sect. 3. it is asked,

    "What is the manner of possessing of servants? or what is their service? He buckles his (master's) shoes; he "unlooses his shoes", and "carries them before him to the bath."'

    Or, as is elsewhereF6T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 22. 2. Maimon. Hilch. Mechirah, c. 2. sect. 2. said,

    "he unlooses his shoes, or carries after him his vessels (whatever he wants) to the bath; he unclothes him, he washes him, he anoints him, he rubs him, he clothes him, he buckles his shoes, and lifts him up.'

    This was such a servile work, that it was thought too mean for a scholar or a disciple to do; for it isF7T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 96. 1. Maimon. Talmud Torn, c. 5. sect. 8. said,

    "all services which a servant does for his master, a disciple does for his master, חוץ מהתרת לו מנעל, "except unloosing his shoes".'

    The gloss on it says, "he that sees it, will say, he is a "Canaanitish servant":'

    for only a Canaanitish, not an Hebrew servantF8Maimon. Hilch. Abadim, c. 1. sect. 7. , might be employed in, or obliged to such work; for it was reckoned not only, mean and servile, but even base and reproachful. It is one of theirF9Moses Kotzensis Mitzvot Torah, precept. neg. 176. canons;

    "if thy brother is become poor, and is sold unto thee, thou shalt not make him do the work of a servant; that is, נגאי עבורת של, any reproachful work; such as to buckle his shoes, or unloose them, or carry his instruments (or necessaries) after him to the bath.'

    Now John thought himself unworthy; it was too great an honour for him to do that for Christ, which was thought too mean for a disciple to do for a wise man, and too scandalous for an Hebrew servant to do for his master, to whom he was sold; which shows the great humility of John, and the high opinion he had of Christ. It has been controverted whether Christ wore shoes or not; Jerom affirmed that he did not: but it seems from hence that he did; nor were the Jews used to walk barefoot, but on certain occasions. The Baptist points at the peculiar work of this great person, in which he greatly exceeds anything done by him;

    he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire; referring, either to the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, to be bestowed on the disciples on the day of Pentecost, of which the cloven tongues, like as of fire, which appeared unto them, and sat upon them, were the symbols; which was an instance of the great power and grace of Christ, and of his exaltation at the Father's right hand. Or rather, this phrase is expressive of the awful judgments which should be inflicted by him on the Jewish nation; when he by his Spirit should "reprove" them for the sin of rejecting him; and when he should appear as a "refiner's fire", and as "fuller's soap"; when "the day of the Lord" should "burn as an oven"; when he should "purge the blood of Jerusalem", his own blood, and the blood of the Apostles and Prophets shed in it, "from the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning"; the same with "the Holy Ghost and fire" here, or the fire of the Holy Ghost, or the holy Spirit of fire; and is the same with "the wrath to come", and with what is threatened in the context: the unfruitful trees shall be cut down, and cast into the fire", and the "chaff" shall be burnt with unquenchable fire". And as this sense best agrees with the context, it may the rather be thought to be genuine; since John is speaking not to the disciples of Christ, who were not yet called, and who only on the day of Pentecost were baptized with the Holy Ghost and fire, in the other sense of this phrase; but to the people of the Jews, some of whom had been baptized by him; and others were asking him questions, others gazing upon him, and wondering what manner of person he was; and multitudes of them continued obdurate and impenitent under his ministry, whom he threatens severely in the context. Add to all this, that the phrase of dipping or baptizing in fire seems to be used in this sense by the Jewish writers. In the TalmudF11T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 39. 1. one puts the question, In what does he (God,) dip? You will say in water, as it is written, "who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand?" Another replies, בנורא טביל, "he dips in fire"; as it is written, "for behold the Lord will come with fire". What is the meaning of טבילותא בנורא, "baptism in fire?" He answers, according to the mind of Rabbah, the root of "dipping in the fire", is what is written; "all that abideth not the fire, ye shall make go" through the water. Dipping in the fire of the law, is a phrase used by the JewsF12Tzeror Hammor. fol. 104. 4. & 142. 3. & 170. 1. . The phrases of "dipping, and washing in fire", are also used by GreekF13Moschi Idyll. 1. Philostrat, Vit. Apollon, l. 3. c. 5. authors.

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    Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

    Geneva Study Bible

    5 I indeed baptize you with water unto l 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 Spirit, and [with] fire:

    (5) We may neither dwell upon the signs which God has ordained as means to lead us into our salvation, neither upon those that minister them: but we must climb up to the matter itself, that is to say, to Christ, who inwardly works that effectually, which is outwardly signified to us.

    (l) The outward sign reminds us of this, that we must change our lives and become better, assuring us as by a seal, that we are ingrafted into Christ; by which our old man dies and the new man rises up; (Romans 6:4).

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    Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

    I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance — (See on Matthew 3:6);

    but he that cometh after me is mightier than I — In Mark and Luke this is more emphatic - “But there cometh the Mightier than I” (Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16).

    whose shoes — sandals.

    I am not worthy to bear — The sandals were tied and untied, and borne about by the meanest servants.

    he shall baptize you — the emphatic “He”: “He it is,” to the exclusion of all others, “that shall baptize you.”

    with the Holy Ghost — “So far from entertaining such a thought as laying claim to the honors of Messiahship, the meanest services I can render to that ‹Mightier than I that is coming after me‘ are too high an honor for me; I am but the servant, but the Master is coming; I administer but the outward symbol of purification; His it is, as His sole prerogative, to dispense the inward reality.” Beautiful spirit, distinguishing this servant of Christ throughout!

    and with fire — To take this as a distinct baptism from that of the Spirit - a baptism of the impenitent with hell-fire - is exceedingly unnatural. Yet this was the view of Origen among the Fathers; and among moderns, of Neander, Meyer, De Wette, and Lange. Nor is it much better to refer it to the fire of the great day, by which the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Clearly, as we think, it is but the fiery character of the Spirit‘s operations upon the soul - searching, consuming, refining, sublimating - as nearly all good interpreters understand the words. And thus, in two successive clauses, the two most familiar emblems - water and fire - are employed to set forth the same purifying operations of the Holy Ghost upon the soul.

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    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

    John Lightfoot's Commentary on the Gospels

    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:

    [Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear.] In Luke it is to unloose the latchet of his shoes: which comes to the same thing: both sound to the same import, as if he had said, 'Whose servant I am not worthy to be.'

    "A Canaanite servant is like a farm, in respect of buying: for he is bought with money, or with a writing, or by some service done as a pledge or pawn. And what is such a pawning in the buying of servants? Namely, that he looseth the shoe of him [who buys], or binds on his shoe, or carries to the bath such things as be necessary for him," &c. These things Maimonides produceth out of the Talmud, where these words are, "How is a servant bought by service? He looseneth the buyer's shoe; he carrieth such things after him as are necessary for the bath; he unclothes him; washes, anoints, rubs, dresses him; puts on his shoes, and lifts him up from the earth," &c. See also the Tosaphta.

    This, by the way, is to be noted, which the Gloss intimates, that all servants, of what heathen nation soever, bought by the Jews, were called 'Canaanite servants,' because it is said of Canaan, "Canaan a servant of servants."

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    Lightfoot, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels". 1675.

    People's New Testament

    I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. His baptism was only a water baptism. The King could send the Holy Spirit, and give a mightier baptism, in addition to the outward baptism.

    Mightier than I. In that he can {perform} all that I only {promise}.

    Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear. The duty of a slave, or one greatly inferior in rank. In the Orient sandals are generally removed on entering a house, and left in charge of a servant, who brings them again when needed. So humble was John, compared with the King, that he was hardly worthy to be his servant.

    He shall baptize with the Holy Spirit. In order to know what is meant we must refer to the fulfillment. On the day of Pentecost occurred such a baptism, the first so recognized in the New Testament. Then the spirits of the apostles were overwhelmed by the Divine Spirit, so that they spoke as he gave them utterance. It was Christ who "shed forth" the baptism of that occasion. This would be plainer had the Greek {en,} here rendered "with," has been rendered "in," after the word baptize. Of the 2,600 occurrences of {en} in the Greek New Testament, it is rendered "in" in the Common Version 2,045 times. The American Committee of Revisers in the Revised Version (see margin) so render it in connection with the word baptize, and are doubtless right. These great scholars, mostly learned Pedo-baptists, would say, "Baptize {in} water," "Baptize {in} the Holy Spirit."

    And with fire. The term {fire} is used in Matthew 3:10, and there means a destroying agency; it is used again in Matthew 3:12 in the same sense; it is used in Matthew 3:11, also, the intervening verse, and must be used in exactly the same sense as in the other two verses. It cannot mean a curse in Matthew 3:10 and Matthew 3:12, and a blessing in Matthew 3:11, without a word of explanation. It is strange, therefore, that all commentators should not agree that the baptism of fire is a baptism of trial and suffering. There were two classes before John. Some would repent and be baptized finally in the Holy Spirit; there were others who would remain impenitent, and be baptized in the awful trials that would come upon Israel. The next verse explains this. John says in it that there is the wheat and the chaff; one shall be gathered into the garner and the other burned.

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    Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
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    Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "People's New Testament". 1891.

    Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

    Mightier than I (ισχυροτερος μουischuroteros mou). Ablative after the comparative adjective. His baptism is water baptism, but the Coming One “will baptize in the Holy Spirit and fire.” “Life in the coming age is in the sphere of the Spirit. Spirit and fire are coupled with one preposition as a double baptism” (McNeile). Broadus takes “fire” in the sense of separation like the use of the fan. As the humblest of servants John felt unworthy to take off the sandals of the Coming One. About βασταζωbastazō see Matthew 8:17.

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    The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
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    Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

    Vincent's Word Studies

    To bear

    Compare to unloose, Mark 1:7. John puts himself in the position of the meanest of servants. To bear the sandals of their masters, that is, to bring and take them away, as well as to fasten or to take them off, was, among the Jews, Greeks, and Romans, the business of slaves of the lowest rank.

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    Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

    Wesley's Explanatory Notes

    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:

    He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire — He shall fill you with the Holy Ghost, inflaming your hearts with that fire of love, which many waters cannot quench. And this was done, even with a visible appearance as of fire, on the day of pentecost.

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    Wesley, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

    The Fourfold Gospel

    I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance1: but he that cometh after me2 is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you3 in the Holy Spirit and [in] fire4:

    1. I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance. That is, unto the completion of your repentance. Repentance had to begin before the baptism was administered. After the sinner repented, baptism consummated his repentance, being the symbolic washing away of that from which he had repented and the bringing of the candidate into the blessings granted to the repentant (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3).

    2. But he that cometh after me, etc. See Luke 3:3.

    3. He shall baptize you, etc. See Luke 3:3.

    4. And [in] fire. Many learned commentators regard the expression "in fire" as a mere amplification of the spiritual baptism added to express the purging and purifying effects of that baptism, but the context forbids this, for, in Matthew 3:10; Luke 3:9 casting the unfruitful trees into the fire represents the punishment of the wicked, and, in Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17 the burning of the chaff with fire does the same, and consequently the baptizing in fire of the intervening verse must, according to the force of the context have the same reference. True, the expression "he will baptize 'you' in the Holy Spirit and with fire", does not separate the persons addressed into two parties, and, if the context is disregarded, must be understood as meaning that the same persons were to be baptized in both; yet the context must not be disregarded, and it clearly separates them.

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    J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "The Fourfold Gospel". Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

    Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

    The idea of the verse undoubtedly is, that John performed merely an external rite,--the symbol and pledge of repentance,--but that the reality of new spiritual life was to be bestowed by the coming Savior.

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    Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

    James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary


    ‘He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.’

    Matthew 3:11

    There are three baptisms in the New Testament: the baptism of John unto repentance; the baptism of Christ for His people; the baptism at Pentecost. At Pentecost there appeared cloven tongues as of fire.

    I. Guided by fire.—This manifestation is not altogether new in the providence of God. (Abraham’s sacrifice in the wilderness; Moses on Horeb; the pillar of fire that went before the Lord’s people in the wilderness. These were all guided by fire.)

    II. Inspired by fire.—Let me place before you three considerations. There never will be a new Bible, but there will be many new readings of it. You open your Bible and you read it. But you never read like that before. It used to be ink and paper; now, as you read it, it is fire. Where does the inspiration come from? Is the Book newly inspired? No, but you are.

    III. Purified by fire.—There never will be a new Saviour. ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.’ But one day you looked at Him through your tears, and He seemed to you altogether new, and the Holy Ghost had fallen upon you and shown to you that you were altogether unlovely, and that your Saviour was altogether lovely. It was not that the Saviour was new, but God had given you a new and a purified heart. The fire of heaven has fallen upon you and purified your heart.

    IV. Baptized by fire.—There will be no new Church. The Church is a very old Church; its altar was set up in the eternity of God. In the beginning it was baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire at Pentecost. That is the Church, the Pentecost Church, the Christian Church. There is no other. ‘I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church,’ no new Church, no other Church. What does it all mean? If you are baptized, you are baptized into the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I know you might go away and say, ‘But is not your idea and your explanation of the Holy Ghost’s Church a little vague? We want something more definite.’ Would you ask me to draw a line round the operations of the Holy Ghost? You ask too much. ‘I believe in the Holy Ghost; the Holy Catholic Church; the Communion of Saints; the Forgiveness of sins; the Resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.’ I believe that which I cannot define.

    The Rev. A. H. Stanton.

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    John Trapp Complete Commentary

    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:

    Ver. 11. I indeed baptize you with water to repentance] There is a twofold baptism, Hebrews 6:2, the doctrine of baptisms ( βαπρισμων), viz. Fluminis et flaminis, external and internal, the putting away of the pollution of the flesh, and the answer of a good conscience (purged from dead works) to God-ward. When these two meet, when men are baptized with water to repentance, then baptism saveth ( σωζει), 1 Peter 3:21; that is, it effectually assureth salvation, whensoever by the Spirit and faith the baptized comes to be united to Christ, and to feel the love of God shed abroad in his soul, whereby is wrought in him a spirit of repentance, a grief for sin, as it is an offence against God. And hereupon St Peter saith, "Baptism saveth," in the present tense, implying that it is of permanent and perpetual use; effectual to save and seal up the promises, whensoever we repent. From which happy time, baptism, once received, remains a fountain always open for sin and for uncleanness, to those that mourn over him that bled over them; a laver of regeneration, a washing of the Spirit, who poureth clean water upon them, ridding and rinsing them from all their sins, past, present, and future, Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 13:1; Ezekiel 36:25. Provided that they stand to the covenant and order of baptism, in a continual renovation of faith and repentance, as occasion shall be offered. This doctrine of baptisms (now cleared by divines) various of the ancient doctors understood not, which disheartened Piscator from spending much time upon them. {a}

    He that cometh after me] Whose harbinger and herald I am, whose prodromus and paranymph, friend and forerunner, I am, as the morning star foreruns the sun, with whose light it shineth.

    Is mightier than I] And will easily outshine me: "he must increase, but I must decrease;" and this is the complement of my joy, John 3:29-30. To rejoice in the good parts of others, though it eclipseth thy light, and that from the heart, this is indeed to be able to do more than others; this is to excel others in any excellence whatsoever, if this be wanting.

    Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear] Christ thought John worthy to lay his hand on his holy head in baptism, who thinks not himself worthy to lay his hand under Christ’s feet. The more fit any man is for whatsoever vocation, the less he thinks himself. "Who am I?" said Moses, when he was to be sent to Egypt; whereas none in all the world was comparably fit for that embassy. Not only in innumerable other things am I utterly unskilful, saith St Augustine, but even in the Holy Scriptures themselves (my proper profession), the greatest part of my knowledge is the least part of mine ignorance. {b} I, in my little cell, saith Jerome, with the rest of the monks my fellow sinners, dare not determine of great matters. {c} This is all I know, that I know nothing, said Socrates; and Anaxarchus went further, and said, that he knew not that neither, that it was nothing that he knew. {d} This is the utmost of my wisdom, said David Chytraeus, that I see myself to be without all wisdom. And if I would at any time delight myself in a fool, saith Seneca, I need not seek far: I have myself to turn to. {e} Thus the heaviest ears of grain stoop most towards the ground; boughs, the more laden they are, the more low they hang; and the more direct the sun is over us, the less is our shadow. So the more true worth is in any man, the less self-conceitedness; and the lower a man is in his own eyes, the higher he is in God’s. Surely John Baptist lost nothing by his humility and modesty here, for our Saviour extols him to the multitude Matthew 11:7-11; and there are those who doubt not to affirm (where they have it I know not) that for his humility on earth he is dignified with that place in heaven from whence Lucifer fell. Sure it is, that "he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." If men reckon us as we set ourselves ( Tanti eris aliis, quanti tibi fueris), God values us according to our abasements. The Church was black in her own eyes, fair in Christ’s, Song of Solomon 1:5-15.

    With the Holy Ghost, and with fire] That is, with that fiery Holy Ghost, εν δια δυοιν, that spirit of judgment and of burning, wherewith the "filth of the daughters of Zion is washed away," Isaiah 4:4; that they may escape that unquenchable fire mentioned in the verse next following. This fire of the spirit must be fetched from heaven, Lumen de lumine, light from the light from the Father of lights, who giveth his Spirit to those who ask it; Hinc baptismus dicitur φωτισμος. It must be a coat from his altar, which when you have once gotten, your heart must be the hearth to uphold it; your hands, the tongs to build it; God’s ordinances, the fuel to feed it; the priest’s lips, the bellows to blow it up into a flame: so shall we find it (according to the nature of fire): 1. To enlighten us, as the least spark of fire lightens itself at least, and may be seen in the greatest darkness. 2. To enliven and revive us; for "whatsoever is of the Spirit is spirit," John 3:6, that is, nimble and active, full of life and motion. A bladder is a dull lumpish thing, so is a bullet; but put wind into the one, and fire to the other in a gun, and they will flee far. Fire is the most active of all other elements, as having much form, little matter; and therefore the Latins call a dull dronish man a fireless man, which God cannot abide. {f} "What thou doest, do quickly," said our Saviour to Judas; so odious to him is dullness in any business. Baruch, full of the spirit, repaired the wall of Jerusalem earnestly, Nehemiah 3:20. Se accendit, he burst out into heat, and so finished his part in shorter time. "I press toward the mark," saith Paul, διωκω, I persecute it, Philippians 3:14. Never was he so mad in persecuting the saints, Acts 26:11, as after his conversion he was judged to be the other way, 2 Corinthians 5:13; as Lucan says of Caesar:-

    " In omnia praeceps,

    Nil actum credens, dum quid superesset agendum."

    In all things first, never to trust the action while the matter remains to be completed. 3. To assimilate: as fire turns fuel into the same property with itself; so doth the Spirit inform the mind, conform the will, reform the life, transform the whole man more and more into the likeness of the heavenly Pattern; it spiritualizeth and transubstantializeth us, as it were, into the same image from glory to glory, {2 Corinthians 3:18} as the sun (that fire of the world) by often beating with its beams upon the pearl makes it radiant and orient, bright and beautiful like itself. 4. To elevate and carry the heart heavenward, as fire naturally aspireth, Job 5:7; and the spark fleeth upwards, to kindle our sacrifices, and make us heavenly minded; to break out at length, though for a while it lie under the weight of sin, that doth so easily beset us, Hebrews 12:1; as fire may lie puffing and blowing under green wood, as almost smothered. {g} 5. To purify us (as fire doth metals) from "our dross, and to take away all our tin," Isaiah 1:25; 1 Corinthians 9:11. For he is "like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap," Malachi 3:2, whereby we are purified by "obeying the truth, unto unfeigned love of the brethren," 1 Peter 1:22. 6. And that is the last property of the Holy Ghost and of fire (that I now insist upon), Congregat homogenea, segregat heterogenea: it unites them to saints, and separates them from sinners, for "what communion hath light with darkness?" 2 Corinthians 6:14. It maketh division from those of a man’s house, if not of his heart; and yet causeth union with Gentile, Barbarian, Scythian, if truly Christian, Colossians 3:2. Oh, get this fire from heaven: so shall you glorify God, {Matthew 5:16} and be able to dwell with devouring fire (which hypocrites cannot do, Isaiah 33:14), get warmth of life and comfort to yourselves, give light and heat to others, walk surely, as Israel did by the conduct of the pillar of fire, and safely, as walled with a defence of fire, Zechariah 2:5. And if any man shall hurt such, "fire shall proceed out of their mouths to devour them," Revelation 11:5. So that a man had better anger all the witches in the world than one of those that are "baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire," &c., especially if they be much mortified Christians, such as in whom his fiery spirit hath done with the body of sin, as the king of Moab did with the king of Edom, {Amos 2:1} burnt his bones into lime.

    {a} A patrum lectione, postquam nonnullos evolvisset D. Piscator, sibi temperavit: aususque fuit dicere, Vix ullum patrum usum et efficaciam baptismi recte intellexisse.

    {b} Non solum in aliis innumerabilibus rebus multa me latent, &c. Epist. 119.

    {c} Ego in parvo tuguriolo, cum monachis, i.e. cum compeccatoribus meis, de magnis statuere non audeo. Epist. ad August. cxii. 5.

    {d} Anaxarchus praedicabat se ne id quidem nescire, quod nihil sciret. Tusc. 3.

    {e} Si quando fatuo delectari volo non longe mihi quaerendum est, me video. Seneca. Quod si ex parte aliquid didicerim, tamen in comparatione latitudinis intellectus, profecto nihil me intellexisse intelligo. Baldus.

    {f} Segnis quasi seignis, id est, frigidus, ignavus. Tardis mentibus virtus non facile committitus. Cic.

    {g} The least spark of fire will endeavour to rise above the air: so the Spirit.

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    The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

    John's sermon would have been incomplete without a reference to Him whose way he was sent to prepare:

    v. 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.

    His was merely a temporary and a symbolical mission. He was only the forerunner, the herald, and he was fully satisfied with this secondary and subordinate position. His baptism was merely preparatory. By inducing men to repent and by administering the washing of Baptism, he was getting them ready for the understanding of the higher mission of the Messiah. But He who is just coming, who follows immediately after me in point of time, who will shortly make His appearance, is stronger than I; to Him pertains almighty power. And with this power is combined divine dignity. So great, so august, so exalted is His personage that John does not feel himself worthy even to take off His sandals, the work of the lowest slaves in the Orient. The ministry of this man will stand out in wonderful contrast. Himself will baptize you, will give you a peculiar baptism, with the Holy Ghost and with fire. A twofold effect of Christ's work is here predicted: To those who with penitent hearts accept Him as Savior, He will give the precious boon of the Holy Spirit, with all His glorious gifts and powers, Joh_1:33; Mar_1:8; Act_1:5; but those whose impenitent hearts would reject the purchased salvation He will immerse in fire. They have refused to accept the Spirit with His invigorating and illuminating power, and therefore the omnipotence of His outraged holiness will submerge and devour them.

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    Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". 1921-23.

    Sermon Bible Commentary

    Matthew 3:11

    I. The Holy Spirit is fire. Fire all over the world has been taken to represent the Divine energy. Even in heathendom, side by side with the worship of light, was the worship of fire. Though the thought was darkened and marred, wrongly apprehended, and ferociously worked out in ritual, it was a true thought for all that. And Scripture has from the beginning used it. There is a continuous chain of symbolism, according to which some aspect of the Divine nature, and especially of the Spirit of God, is set forth to us as fire. The question then is, What is that aspect? The fire of God's Spirit is not a wrathful energy, working pain and death, but a merciful omnipotence, bringing light, and joy, and peace. The Spirit which is fire is a Spirit which giveth life. So the symbol, in the special reference in the text, has nothing of terror or destruction, but is full of hope, and bright with promise.

    II. Christ plunges us into this Divine fire. I presume that scarcely any one will deny that our Version weakens the force of John's words, by translating "with water, with the Holy Ghost," instead of in water, in the Holy Ghost. Christ gives the Spirit. In and by Jesus you and I are brought into contact with this cleansing fire. Without His work it would never have burned on earth; without our faith in His work it will never purify our souls.

    III. That fiery baptism quickens and cleanses. (1) Fire gives warmth. Christ comes to kindle in men's souls a blaze of enthusiastic Divine love, such as the world never saw, and to set them aflame with fervent earnestness, which shall melt all the icy hardness of heart, and turn cold self-regard into self-forgetting consecration. (2) Fire purifies. That Spirit, which is fire, produces holiness in heart and character, by this chiefly among all His manifold operations, that He excites the flame of love to God, which burns our souls clear with its white fervours. This is the Christian method of making men good—first, know His love, then believe it, then love Him back again, and then let that genial heat permeate all your life, and it will woo forth everywhere blossoms of beauty and fruits of holiness, that shall clothe the pastures of the wilderness with gladness.

    A. Maclaren, Sermons Preached in Manchester, 2nd series, p. 227.

    References: Matthew 3:11.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. x., p. 99. Matthew 3:11-16.—S. A. Tipple, Expositor, 1st series, vol. ix., p. 81.

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    Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

    Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

    Matthew 3:11. I indeed baptize you This is the answer which John made to the question put to him, John 1:19-27 in which he shews what difference there was between him and the Messiah. "I indeed, says he, baptize you with water, to bring you to repentance; for they who were baptized, not only declared that they had repented of their sins, but they bound themselves never to commit the like again, and to lead a life of holiness and virtue;" which is the meaning of the Baptist in this place. He that cometh after me, says he, (namely, the Lord Jesus Christ, who entered on his ministry about six months after John, and was about six months younger; see Luke 1:36.) is mightier than I whose shoes, &c. a proverbial and humiliating expression, meaning, "whose lowest servant I am not worthy to be," and denoting the great superiority of the Lord Jesus Christ above John. He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost; the effusion of which on the day of Pentecost, St. John styles a baptism; shewing thereby the copiousness and abundance of it: and indeed it was a glorious effusion over the church, of which the Lord JesusChrist in this peculiar sense was the author; Acts 2:2; Acts 2:33. He adds, and with fire; because the Holy Ghost descended on the apostles in the shape of fire, and had the same power and virtue as that element, of purifying, enlivening, &c.

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    Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

    Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

    In these words John declares the excellency of Christ's person and ministry above his own.

    As to his person, he owns that he was not worthy to carry his shoes after him, or to perform the lowest offices of service for him.

    And as to his office, he declares that Christ should not baptize as he did, with water, but with the Holy Ghost and with fire; that is, should plentifully pour down of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit upon his proselytes, which, like fire, in their operation should purify their hearts from sin, consuming their lusts, and corruptions: but at the same time he has a fiery indignation, and flaming judgments, to destroy and burn up impenitent sinners like combustible stubble.

    Where Observe, How Christ is represented by one and the same metaphor of the fire, in a way of comfort to his children, and in a way of terror unto his enemies, he is a fire unto both: He sits in his church as a refiner's fire; he is amongst his enemies as a consuming fire: a fire for his church to tke comfort in, a fire for his enemies to perish by.

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    Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. 1700-1703.

    Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

    11. ἐν ὕδ.] ἐν is not redundant, but signifies the vehicle of baptism, as in ἐν πν. ἁγ. κ. πυρί afterwards.

    ἐρχόμενος] The present participle is used of a certain and predetermined future event; “he that is to come.” See on ch. Matthew 2:4.

    τὰ ὑποδ. βαστάσαι] Lightfoot (from Maimonides) shews that it was the token of a slave having become his master’s property, to loose his shoe, to tie the same, or to carry the necessary articles for him to the bath. The expressions therefore in all the Gospels amount to the same.

    ἐν πν. ἁγ. κ. πυρί] This was literally fulfilled at the day of Pentecost: but Origen and others refer the words to the baptism of the righteous by the Holy Spirit, and of the wicked by fire. I have no doubt that this (which I am surprised to see upheld by Neander, De Wette, and Meyer) is a mistake in the present case, though apparently (to the superficial reader) borne out by Matthew 3:12. The double symbolic reference of fire, elsewhere found, e.g. Mark 9:50, as purifying the good and consuming the evil, though illustrated by these verses, is hardly to be pressed into the interpretation of πυρί in this verse, the prophecy here being solely of that higher and more perfect baptism to which that of John was a mere introduction. To separate off πν. ἁγίῳ as belonging to one set of persons, and πυρί as belonging to another, when both are united in ὑμᾶς, is in the last degree harsh, besides introducing confusion into the whole. The members of comparison in this verse are strictly parallel to one another: the baptism by water, the end of which is μετάνοια, a mere transition state, a note of preparation,—and the baptism by the Holy Ghost and fire, the end of which is (Matthew 3:12) sanctification, the entire aim and purpose of man’s creation and renewal. So Chrys.: τῇ ἐπεξηγήσει τοῦ πυρὸς πάλιν τὸ σφοδρὸν καὶ ἀκάθεκτον τῆς χάριτος ἐνδεικνύμενος. Thus the official superiority of the Redeemer (which is all that our Evangelist here deals with) is fully brought out. The superiority of nature and pre-existence is reserved for the fuller and more dogmatic account in John 1:1-51.

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    Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

    Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

    DISCOURSE: 1283


    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.

    IT is ignorantly imagined, that they who are most enlightened with the knowledge of Christ, and are most zealous in bringing others to an acquaintance with him, must of necessity be puffed up with pride, and be filled with a high conceit of their superiority to others. But none ever surpassed the Apostle Paul either in zeal or knowledge; yet none ever manifested more deep humility, since language could not even afford him words whereby sufficiently to express the low sense he had of himself before God: he calls himself “less than the least of all saints.” Another eminent example of humility is exhibited in the conduct of John the Baptist, who, though faithful in the highest degree as a preacher of righteousness, never sought his own glory, but invariably directed the eyes of his followers to Christ, in comparison of whom he accounted himself unworthy of the smallest regard. His expressions before us lead us to consider,

    I. The transcendent dignity of Christ—

    Christ, in a civil view, was not at all superior to John, yea, perhaps inferior, inasmuch as the son of a carpenter might be reckoned inferior in rank to the son of a priest: nevertheless he was, in other points of view, infinitely superior:

    1. In his person—

    [The person of John might well be considered as dignified in no common degree. He was the subject of prophecy many hundred years before he came into the world [Note: Isaiah 40:3. Malachi 3:1.]: his formation in the womb was announced by an angel from heaven, and that too at a period when his parents, according to the common course of nature, could entertain no hope of having any progeny. He was filled with the Holy Ghost even from his very birth; and was ushered into the world with the restoration of prophecy, after that gift had been withdrawn from the church almost four hundred years. But in all these respects Christ was far greater than he: Christ had been the subject of prophecy from the very foundation of the world: his work and offices had been exhibited to the world in numberless types and prophecies during the space of four thousand years. His body was formed, not merely in a preternatural, but in a supernatural way, by the immediate agency of the Holy Ghost, who created it in the womb of a virgin; by which means he was not merely holy, but spotless, without the smallest taint of that corruption, which every child of Adam inherits. Without noticing the songs with which the heavenly choir celebrated the tidings of his birth, or any of those miraculous circumstances which pointed him out to the Eastern Magi, we see already how far superior he was to John, even in those things wherein John surpassed all other men.

    But what must we say, when to this we add, that he was God, “God manifest in the flesh,” “God over all, blessed for ever?” Then all comparison must cease: and the expressions used by John, instead of appearing exaggerated, will be acknowledged to be infinitely below the truth: though the loosing of the sandals, and carrying them to the bath, was deemed too mean an employment for a Hebrew servant, or for any but a slave [Note: See Gill on the place.], yet John accounted it far too high an honour for him to render such a service to that glorious person, whose advent he announced.]

    2. In his office—

    [John was a prophet of the most high God, yea, “more than a prophet.” He had the distinguished honour of being the forerunner of the Messiah, who should prepare his way, and point him out to the people, being himself divinely instructed how to distinguish him from all others who should attend his ministrations. Hence our Lord himself declares respecting him, that there “never had been a greater person born of woman than John the Baptist;” but glorious as he was, Jesus far excelled him in glory. Jesus was the great prophet, to whom Moses and all the prophets gave testimony, and to whose directions all were commanded to submit. He was the Messiah himself, the very “Lamb of God that was to take away the sins of the world,” of whom “John himself needed to be baptized,” and by whom alone John himself could be saved. Surely then the words of John respecting him were not an unmeaning hyperbole, the offspring of affectation and the footstool of vanity, but they were the words of truth and soberness; for though John was like the morning star, yet he was altogether eclipsed as soon as ever the Sun of Righteousness arose.]

    The superiority of Jesus will still further appear while we consider,

    II. The baptism he administered—

    Jesus never administered the baptism of water to any: but to him was committed the work of baptizing with the Holy Ghost—

    [Though the Church had from the beginning received, in some measure, the communications of God’s Spirit, yet, “till Christ was glorified, the Holy Ghost was not given” in a very genera or abundant manner: it was reserved for Christ to send him down, in order that, through the Spirit’s testimony, his own divine mission might be established beyond a possibility of doubt. Accordingly, a few days after his ascension, he fulfilled his promise, and sent down the Spirit upon his waiting disciples, causing it to rest upon them visibly, in the shape of cloven tongues of fire. And when, on another occasion, he poured out the Spirit upon Cornelius and his company, Peter particularly called to mind this declaration, which John the Baptist had made to the infant Church, and acknowledged it to be a glorious completion of his prophecy [Note: Acts 11:16.].]

    This baptism infinitely surpassed that of John—

    [John baptized with water those who were penitent, testifying to them that they should believe on him who was to come after him [Note: Acts 19:4.]: but Jesus, by the baptism which he administers, makes men both penitent and believing. John, in applying water to the body, even if he had immersed his followers ten thousand times, could do no more than cleanse the outward body; he could not reach the mind; he could not affect the soul; he could not in any degree change the character of his disciples. But the Spirit, with which Jesus baptized, acted with the powerful energy of “fire.” This was no sooner poured out than it penetrated the inmost recesses of the soul, and, like a furnace, purged away the dross which was there concealed. What a change it effected in the characters of men may be seen by its operations on the day of Pentecost: how was the lion instantly transformed into a lamb! and how did the noxious qualities, which had so lately rendered men like incarnate fiends, immediately subside and disappear! And such are the effects which it invariably produces wheresoever it is bestowed.]


    1. How awfully are they mistaken who rest in the outward form of baptism!

    [I would on no account depreciate baptism, or detract in the least from its importance. It is necessary for all who embrace the faith of Christ: and is replete with blessings to all who receive it aright. Even the outward ministration of it gives us a title to the blessings of the Christian covenant, exactly as circumcision gave to the Jews a title to “the adoption” of sons, and to “the promises” which God had made to his people [Note: Romans 9:4.]. But if we receive it not aright, we are still, like Simon Magus, “in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity [Note: Acts 8:13; Acts 8:18-23.].” To receive any saving benefit (for, if it be rightly received, “baptism does save us [Note: 1 Peter 3:21.]”) we must have not only the sign, but the thing signified, a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness; or, in other words, we must be “baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” For the truth of this I will even appeal to the consciences of the ungodly themselves. Who does not feel at times that he needs somewhat more than he has ever yet received, in order to fit him for death and judgment? There is in every man at times, I say, this conviction: and this which is so wanted, is the very gift which Christ alone can bestow, namely, the baptism of the Spirit, as contrasted with, and superadded to, the baptism of water: it is “the renewing of the Holy Ghost” superadded to “the washing of regeneration [Note: Titus 3:5.].” If we have received this spiritual baptism, it will infallibly discover itself by its effects upon our heart and life. “As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ [Note: Galatians 3:27.],” seeking daily to be clothed with his righteousness, and to be transformed into his image. So also, if we have been “baptized by the Holy Spirit into one body,” with the holy Apostles and the primitive saints, we shall have been “made to drink into one spirit with them [Note: 1 Corinthians 12:13.].” “Now it is easy to see whether such a change have been wrought upon our heart and life, by our being altogether like-minded with them: and I wish you all to judge yourselves, that you may not be judged of the Lord.”

    It is easy to put this off with a sneer: but we cannot change that declaration of God, that, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his [Note: Romans 8:9.];” or that, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God [Note: John 3:5.]: and, if we will brave those explicit declarations, we shall find ere long, “whose word shall stand, whether ours or God’s.”]

    2. What rich encouragement does the Gospel afford to drooping contrite souls!

    [It is by the Gospel that Christ communicates this blessing to mankind. See this exemplified in the instance of Cornelius. Peter, in preaching to him, said, “To Christ give all the prophets witness, that whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Then we are told, “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word [Note: Acts 10:43-44.].” Now to you also do I make the same blessed declaration, that “all who believe in Christ shall be justified from all things.” O that God might bear the same testimony to it at this time, by sending to you the Holy Ghost in rich abundance! What joy that event would occasion, you may see in the effect produced on all the college of Apostles at Jerusalem, at the recital of it in reference to Cornelius: “They glorified God, saying, Then hath God unto the Gentiles granted repentance unto life [Note: Acts 11:15-18.].” Yes, my dear brethren, “Repentance,” “repentance unto life,” would infallibly accompany the gift of the Holy Spirit to your souls. And is not that worth seeking? You are sure to repent sooner or later: and how much better is it to repent on earth, than to repent in hell; to have “repentance unto life,” than “repentance that shall be eternally to be repented of!” Go then to the Lord Jesus for this heavenly baptism. The baptism of water you are to receive but once: bat the baptism of the Spirit you are to be receiving every day and hour. St. Paul speaks of “supplies of the Spirit of Jesus Christ [Note: Philippians 1:19.],” which you are to be continually receiving: and it is the very office of Christ to impart them to you. The Lord grant, that you may all now “be filled with the Spirit [Note: Ephesians 5:19.],” and that, having him poured out abundantly upon you, you may possess also, in the richest abundance, all his attendant blessings both of grace and glory [Note: Titus 3:6-7.]!

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    Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

    Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

    Matthew 3:11. Yet it is not I who will determine the admission or the exclusion, but He who is greater than I. In Luke 3:16 there is a special reason assigned for this discourse, in keeping with the use of a more developed tradition on the part of the later redactor.

    εἰς μετάνοιαν] denotes the telic reference of the baptism (comp. Matthew 28:19), which imposes an obligation to μετάνοια. To the characteristic ἐν ὕδατι εἰς μετάνοιαν stands opposed the higher characteristic ἐν πνευματι ἁγίῳ κ. πυρί, the two elements of which together antithetically correspond to that “baptism by water unto repentance;” see subsequently.

    ἐν is, agreeably to the conception of βαπτίζω (immersion), not to be taken as instrumental, but as in, in the meaning of the element, in which immersion takes place. Mark 1:5; 1 Corinthians 10:2; 2 Kings 5:14; Polyb. v. 47. 2 : βαπτιζόμενοι ἐν τοῖς τέλμασι; Hom. Od. ix. 392.

    δὲ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος] that is, the Messiah. His coming as such is always brought forward with great emphasis in Mark and Luke. The present here also denotes the near and definite beginning of the future.

    ἰσχυρότ. μου ἐστίν] In what special relation he is more powerful is stated afterwards by αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει, κ. τ. λ.

    οὗ οὐκ εἰμί, κ. τ. λ.] In comparison with Him, I am too humble to be fitted to be one of His lowest slaves. To bear the sandals of their masters ( βαστάσαι), that is, to bring and take them away, as well as to fasten them on or take them off (the latter in Mark and Luke), was amongst the Jews, Greeks, and Romans the business of slaves of the lowest rank. See Wetstein, Rosenmüller, Morgenl. in loc.; comp. Talmud, Kiddusch. xxii. 2.

    αὐτός] He and no other, Matthew 1:21.

    ὑμᾶς] was spoken indeed to the Pharisees and Sadducees; but it is not these only who are meant, but the people of Israel in general, who were represented to the eye of the prophet in them, and in the multitude who were present.

    ἐν πν. ἁγ. κ. πυρί] in the Holy Spirit, those who have repented; in fire (by which that of Gehenna is meant), the unrepentant. Both are figuratively designated as βαπτίζειν, in so far as both are the two opposite sides of the Messianic lustration, by which the one are sprinkled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:5), the others with hell-fire, as persons baptized are with water. It is explained as referring to the fire of everlasting punishment, after Origen and several Fathers, by Kuinoel, Schott (Opusc. II. p. 198), Fritzsche, Neander, de Wette, Paulus, Ammon, B. Crusius, Arnoldi, Hofmann, Bleek, Keim, Volkmar, Hengstenberg, Weber, vom Zorne Gottes, p. 219 f.; Gess, Christi Vers. u. Werk, I. p. 310. But, after Chrysostom and most Catholic expositors, others (Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, Clericus, Wetstein, Storr, Eichhorn, Kauffer, Olshausen, Glöckler, Kuhn, Ewald) understand it of the fire of the Holy Spirit, which inflames and purifies the spirits of men. Comp. Isaiah 4:4. These and other explanations, which take πυρί as not referring to the punishments of Gehenna, are refuted by John’s own decisive explanation in Matthew 3:12 : τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ. It is wrong, accordingly, to refer the πυρί to the fiery tongues in Acts 2. (Euth. Zigabenus, Maldonatus, Elsner, Er. Schmid, Bengel, Ebrard). The omission of καὶ πυρί is much too weakly attested to delete it, with Matthaei and Rinck, Lucubr. crit. p. 248. See Griesbach, Comm. crit. p. 25 f.

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    Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

    Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

    Matthew 3:11. ὑμᾶς, you) John, therefore, did not exclude the Pharisees from baptism.— ἐν ὕδατι, in water) The conclusion of the verse corresponds with this part of it. John, however, depreciates not so much his baptism as himself. And again, in this place alone, is that fire mentioned in contradistinction to water, whereas the Holy Spirit is mentioned in every case.— εἰς μετανόιαν, for repentance) This portion of the verse corresponds with Matthew 3:12.— δὲ, but) The contrast does not apply only to those who confer, but to those also who receive baptism (See Acts 1:5, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost), and also to the different times.— ὀπίσω μου, after me) It was fitting that John should be born a little before the Messiah.— ἐρχομένος, that cometh) sc. immediately; see Matthew 3:13.— ἰσχυρότερός μου, mightier than I) One whom you ought to fear and to worship, rather than me, who am feeble. John teaches, both here and in Matthew 3:12, that his power is not great; whereas that of Christ, as God, is infinite.(127) He does not say directly, “Messiah cometh after me,” but expresses it by a paraphrase more obscurely, and yet more augustly. John, moreover, said this at the time when he possessed the greatest power; see Acts 13:25.— βαστάσαι, to bear) As a servant bears the shoes, which his master has either called for, or commanded to be taken away.—Cf. Psalms 60:8.— αὐτος, He) Believe on Him: see Acts 19:4.— ὑμᾶς, you) sc. as many as shall receive Him.— βαπτίσει, shall baptize) i.e. abundantly impart; see Titus 3:6; Acts 2:3-4; Acts 2:17; Acts 10:44; and shall thereby show Himself the mightier. The Holy Spirit and fire have the greatest power.— ἐν, κ. τ. λ., in, etc.) This was the difference between John and Christ; see John 1:33.— πνεύματι ἁγίῳ, the Holy Ghost) See Gnomon on Luke 3:16.— καὶ πυρὶ, and with fire) St Luke has these words, though St Mark has not: even, therefore, were the reading doubtful in St Matthew, there would be no danger;(128) it is certain, however, that he also wrote καὶ πυρὶ. The Holy Spirit, with which Christ baptizes, has a fiery power, and that fiery power was manifested to the eyes of men; see Acts 2:3.

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    Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

    Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

    I am not the Christ, Mark 1:8 Luke 3:15,16 Joh 1:15,26, I am but the messenger and forerunner of Christ, sent before him to baptize men with the baptism of water, in testimony of their repentance; but there is one immediately coming after me, who is infinitely to be preferred before me, so much, that I am not worthy to carry his shoes, or unloose his shoe latchet. He shall baptize men with another kind of baptism, the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire.

    With the Holy Ghost, inwardly washing away their sins with his blood, and sanctifying their hearts: the Holy Ghost working in their hearts like fire, purging out their lusts and corruptions, warming and inflaming their hearts with the sense of his love, and kindling in them all spiritual habits. Or, with the Holy Ghost, as in the days of Pentecost, there appearing to them cloven tongues like as of fire, as Acts 2:3: thus the term fire is made exegetical of the term the Holy Ghost. Or, with the Holy Ghost, and with fire; changing and renewing the hearts of those that believe in him, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, and consuming and destroying others, that will not believe, as with fire.

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    Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

    Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

    В этом стихе описано три разновидности крещения:

    1) в воде в покаяние Крещение Иоанна символизировало очищение (см. пояснение к ст. 6);

    2) Духом Святым Все верующие в Иисуса Христа крещены Духом Святым (1Кор.12:13) и

    3)’ огнем В данном месте огонь являет собой средство наказания (ст. 10, 12). Это должно говорить о суде над нераскаявшимися.

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    MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture.

    Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

    He; Jesus Christ.

    Not worthy; though among all who were born of women none were greater in condition and honor than John. Matthew 11:11, yet so much greater was Jesus Christ, even in his deepest humiliation, that John was not worthy to untie, or carry his shoe.

    Holy Ghost; by his Spirit he will purify all who believe in him, as gold is purified by the fire. The greatest and most honorable among men are so much less honorable than the Lord Jesus Christ, that they are not worthy to perform for him the most lowly service.

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    Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

    Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

    11.He that cometh after me is mightier — This entire speech of John’s is mainly founded on the closing two chapters of the Old Testament, to which we have already referred, where is predicted the day of Christ’s coming, preceded by his harbinger, and attended by all the terrors of searching scrutiny, divine blessing, and fiery judgment. In this expression John alludes to Malachi 3:1: Behold, I will send my messenger and he shall prepare the way before me; and the Jehovah whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple. (We may here remark that LORD, in capitals, in the Old Testament, means Jehovah, the incommunicable name of God.) The one to come after John was, indeed, mightier than he, being no other than Jehovah incarnate. Shoes — Whenever a Jew entered a respectable house he left his sandals at the door. Orientals of rank are attended by a servant, who takes them in charge; and this is a very menial duty. But so humble is John the Baptist in comparison with his Lord, that the service which is too disgraceful to be performed for any man by anybody but the lowest servants, is too honorable for him to perform. This menial duty was sometimes performed in reverence by disciples for the rabbi. Baptize you with the Holy Ghost — God’s holy Spirit had been at various times bestowed in sanctifying, regenerating, and miracle-working power under the old dispensation. Since the close of the Old Testament books, miracles had ceased; but Christ came preceded, attended, and succeeded by a stupendous display of divine powers. The baptism of the Holy Spirit in its sanctifying, quickening, and even wonder-working power, was one of these displays. It was even made visible in the memorable season of Pentecost. Acts 2.

    This text is the fundamental passage for showing, from the very nature of the rite, what is the true mode of performing baptism. This I have shown at fuller length than is here possible, in my two sermons on The Double Baptism, in the Methodist Episcopal Pulpit. We may here remark:

    1. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was not by immersion but affusion. At the Pentecost, where the Spirit baptism was made visible, the tongues of fire descended and sat upon them. When our Lord was baptized the Holy Spirit descended and lighted upon him. On Cornelius and his company it was poured out. So Titus 3:5-6. The washing of regeneration is shed on us. Baptism by the Holy Ghost is always by affusion.

    2. If so, then the word baptizo, as a religious rite, does not necessarily or properly signify immersion. It is the descent of the element upon the person, not of the person into the element. For if baptism by the element spirit is affusion, then baptism by the element water is affusion. The meaning of the word is the same whatever be the element.

    3. We have here a principle of interpretation. The symbol ought always to conform to and picture its original. Now, spirit baptism is the original of which water baptism is the symbol. If spirit baptism be by affusion, certainly water baptism must also be affusion. Spiritual affusion cannot be symbolized by immersion in water. Hence immersion fundamentally fails to be a picture of the original. It is symbol without a reality, a shadow without a substance.

    4. The baptism by fire is a case equally clear. Its process was made visible at the Pentecost, when the fiery tongues sat upon the apostles. Baptismal fire is by affusion; the fire of hell is by immersion. So, Matthew 3:10, the fruitless tree is cast into the fire. So, Revelation 20:15, cast into the lake of fire.

    And with fire — The baptism of spirit and of fire are no doubt different parts or phases of the same process. To understand the difference between the two phases we must reduce the idea of spirit back to its simple idea of a breathing. “He breathed upon them and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” John 20:22. Hereby was effected the gentle impartation of holy tempers, consecrating unction, and comforting grace. The baptism of fire, manifested in the fiery tongues at Pentecost, is the severer purgation, burning sin away by sharper agonies, imparting a severer spiritual purity and energy, and qualifying the preacher for the performance of sterner rebuke toward a wicked world.


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    Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

    Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

    “I indeed baptise you in water to repentance, but he who comes after (or ‘behind’) me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear. He will baptise you in the Holy Spirit and fire,”

    John has ever before his eyes the One Who is coming. That is why he is baptising in water. His baptism is as an acted out prophecy of what is coming, and in order to prepare men for it. It is a picture of the fact that the One Who is coming will fulfil the promises of the prophets and drench them with the Holy Spirit and fire. He, John, is preparing them for it, but he wants them to be aware of the fact that one day soon the greater reality will come. See Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 44:1-5; Joel 2:28; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Malachi 3:1-3; Isaiah 4:4; Zechariah 13:9.

    ‘He who comes after (opisow) me.’ ‘After’ (opisow) is not usually a time word (never elsewhere in Matthew, see Matthew 4:19; Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24), although instances are known. The thought may therefore be that John knows that the Coming One will become his follower (come after him), but will in the end prove to be high above him. Alternately we may see it as a rare use of it as meaning ‘after’ in time.

    ‘I indeed (ego men).’ This is a typical Matthaean emphasis bringing out a contrast. Here it signifies ‘I in contrast with Him’.

    “I indeed baptise you in water to repentance.” He recognises that his baptism is the lesser work of God, a prophetic acting out of a greater reality yet to come. ‘To repentance’ is probably better rendered ‘because of repentance’. It was not inducing repentance but accepting that it had taken place, as the very coming of the people to him, and their open admission of sins, revealed. But that was all that John could do. While God could change their inner hearts, there was nothing that he himself could do about it except preach and then leave it to God. How different it would be in the case of the One Who was coming Who had the power within Himself to give life (John 5:21), and Who could drench men in the Holy Spirit.

    ‘He is mightier than I.’ The Coming One would be the Reality to which John was the shadow. John wants all to know that although he himself may be a prophet, and powerful through God, he is but in the end an ordinary man. But this One Who is coming is God’s ‘Superman’, with a power that will be far greater than his. He is the mightier than John. Indeed, as we learn later, while Satan can be thought of as a ‘strong man’ (Matthew 12:29) Jesus is ‘the stronger than he’ (Luke 11:22), a fact which will shortly be demonstrated by Jesus in the same wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Thus His mightiness is here first revealed by John in order for it to be demonstrated by His resistance to the wiles of the Devil. He will be all-powerful and all-prevailing. We could add with Isaiah, ‘He will be the Mighty God’ (Isaiah 9:6). But how far John was aware of the full implications of this we do not know.

    For we should note that it is possible to be aware of the divinity of Jesus without being able to put it into words. The inner sense is there even when it cannot be verbalised. Indeed throughout the ages no one has been able to put it into words in a full satisfactory way, for human language does not have the means to do so. Many who have been heretics in their words have been orthodox in their hearts. Many an Arian died willingly for Christ out of love for Him, and not all have the refined ability of the advanced theologian. And many church members today are heretics without knowing it because of what they would say that they believed about Jesus as the Son of God, although their hearts would say otherwise, because their belief has never been tested out or corrected. But fortunately God looks at the heart and understands the problem. He knows how difficult it is for us to grasp the full significance of His tri-unity.

    And John sees Him as not only greater than he but as holier as well, for John sees himself as not fit even to take off and carry His shoes (the carrying of the shoes assumes that they have either just been taken off or are about to be put on, so that it also indicates the taking off of the shoes). Dealing with a man’s shoes in this way was the task of the lowest slave, (the Rabbis declared that even a Teacher in those days would not expect his disciples, who would perform most general tasks for him, to perform a task like this for him), and thus by these words John is humbling himself into the very dust. He is declaring that he is not even fit to be the Coming One’s humblest slave. So the Coming One will be mighty and holy. In the words of Isaiah He will be the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the One Who is powerful, compassionate and merciful (Isaiah 9:7). Note how these two aspects described by John, His mightiness and His holiness, will be brought out in the parallel where the voice from Heaven will declare Him to be God’s beloved Son, and the One Who is totally pleasing to God (Matthew 3:17).

    But as we shall later see, while John was right in what he said about Him, he was not fully right in his own interpretation of it. He saw the Coming One as the One Who would come like a powerful wind, a wind of the Lord driving a rushing river (Isaiah 59:19), a powerful tempest toppling trees before Him, a sweeper away and burner of chaff. He was a little short on what stamped Jesus off as unique, His love, and compassion, and mercy; His gentleness and tenderness. As Jesus would later have to point out to an anxious John, lying puzzled in his stinking and dark prison, while it was true that He had come like ‘a rushing wind’, it was first of all as a wind of healing and of hope as Isaiah had also prophesied, dealing gently with the bruised reeds and fanning the dying embers of the flax into flame, rather than dousing them in His fury (Matthew 11:1 to Matthew 12:21).

    ‘He will baptise (drench, overwhelm) you in the Holy Spirit and fire,” John’s baptism pictured this forthcoming climax. He would come like deluging, life-giving rain, and purifying and consuming fire. On those who were ready to receive Him He would come like the life-giving rain, the Holy Breath, in the ‘washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit’ (Titus 3:5). He would produce fruitfulness and blessing as the prophets had made clear (Isaiah 44:1-5; Ezekiel 34:26; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Ezekiel 37:1-10; Ezekiel 37:14; Jeremiah 31:27-34; Psalms 72:6; Zechariah 10:1). And He would come like refining fire (Malachi 3:1-2; Zechariah 13:9). Purity, holiness and goodness would abound. But the same fire that would refine would also burn up what was only chaff (Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 66:16; Isaiah 66:24; Ezekiel 15:6-7; Ezekiel 22:21-22). His fire would not only purify, but would also destroy. The message is one of sharp division. To those who believe, life and blessing, refreshing rain and a purifying wind, and along with it the purifying fire, but to those who do not believe He would be a scattering tempest and a fire of destruction.

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    Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

    Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

    John baptized in water "in connection with" repentance. [Note: Carson, " Matthew," p104.] However the One coming after him, the King, would baptize with the Holy Spirit (cf. Joel 2:28-29) and fire (cf. Malachi 3:2-5). The Malachi prophecy speaks of fire as a refining or purifying agent, not as an instrument of destruction. Both prophecies involve the nation of Israel as a whole primarily.

    Are these two different baptisms or one? This is a very difficult question to answer because the arguments on both sides are strong. [Note: See Hagner, pp51-52.] In both interpretations baptism connotes both immersion, in the metaphorical sense of placing into something, and initiation.

    The construction of the statement in the Greek text favors one baptism. Usually one entity is in view when one article precedes two nouns joined by a conjunction. [Note: Robertson, p566.] This would mean that the one baptism Jesus would perform would be with the Holy Spirit and fire together. This apparently happened on the day of Pentecost initially ( Acts 2:3-4).

    The fire in Malachi"s prophecy probably refers to purification and judgment. The purification emphasis is in harmony with Malachi"s use. This has led many scholars to conclude that the fire baptism that John predicted is not the one at Pentecost. [Note: E.g, Edersheim, 1:272; M"Neile, p29; Toussaint, p70; Carson, " Matthew," p105; and James Morison, A Practical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, p36. See also John Proctor, "Fire in God"s House: Influence of Malachi 3in the NT," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society36:1 (March1993):12-13.] They believe that the time when Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire to fulfill these prophecies concerning Israel is yet future from our viewpoint in history. It will happen at His second advent. It would have happened at His first advent if Israel had accepted Him. Jesus" baptism of His disciples on the day of Pentecost was a similar baptism, they say. However, it was not the fulfillment of these prophecies since they involved Israel and "the day of the Lord" specifically (cf. John 14:17; Acts 2; 1 Corinthians 12:13). [Note: See Renald E. Showers, Maranatha: Our Lord, Come! A Definitive Study of the Rapture of the Church, pp30-40, for an excellent discussion of "the day of the Lord."]

    The context, which speaks of blessing for the repentant but judgment for the unrepentant, tends to favor two baptisms ( Matthew 3:8-10; Matthew 3:12; cf. Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16). In this case the fire would refer primarily, if not exclusively, to judgment. [Note: Those who favor this view include Walvoord, Matthew: . . ., p32; Barbieri, p25; and Wiersbe, 1:17.] The baptism with the Holy Spirit would refer to Spirit baptism that will happen when Israel accepts her Messiah ( Isaiah 44:3; Joel 2:28-32). A foretaste of that baptism occurred on the day of Pentecost ( Acts 2). The baptism with fire would refer to Jesus" judgment of unrepentant Israel (cf. Matthew 3:12). After Israel"s rejection of Jesus, it became clear that this national judgment will happen primarily at His second coming. This fiery judgment might also refer to unrepentant individuals when they reach the end of their lives.

    All things considered it seems probable that John was referring to one baptism that took place initially on the day of Pentecost but which will find complete fulfillment at Jesus" second coming.

    The rabbis taught that, even if one was a slave, loosening another person"s sandal was beneath the dignity of a Jew. [Note: The rabbinic writing Mekilta de Rabbi Ishmael, Nezikin1on Exodus 21:2, cited by Bock, Jesus according . . ., p83.] So by saying he was unworthy to unloose Jesus" sandals, John meant that he was unworthy of even the most humiliating service of Jesus.

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    Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

    Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

    Matthew 3:11. I indeed. Contrast between himself and the One he heralded. He was not the judge; the Messiah would be.

    With (literally ‘in’) water. The person baptized stood in the water as the most convenient place, and may have been immersed, or the water was taken up and poured on his head.

    Unto, i.e., with a view to repentance.

    He that cometh after me, the Messiah; assuming his speedy appearance, and that the hearers also expected him.

    Mightier. In himself stronger and about to exert that strength.

    Whose sandals I am not worthy to bear. Sandals were fastened with a strap; comp. Mark 1:7, where there is a reference to unloosing this strap, here to carrying the sandals away after being unloosed. To perform for the Messiah this menial office of the meanest slave, was too honorable for one to whom all Judea resorted. This unexampled humility was stronger evidence of true greatness than the power he exerted as a preacher. A fit forerunner of the ‘meek and lowly’ Messiah. Here the official superiority of Christ is spoken of, the superiority of nature is declared in the Gospel according to John, John 1.

    He shall baptise you. Christ himself did not baptize (John 4:2). The contrast is between John’s baptism unto repentance, and the spiritual power which Christ would give (not the Christian rite), for full and entire salvation. The second baptism is figurative; hence nothing is suggested for or against the identity of John’s baptism and the Christian rite.

    With, literally, ‘in.’ The parallel passage (Mark 1:8), makes it doubtful whether the literal sense is to De adhered to; see below also.

    The Holy Ghost. The third person of the Trinity; not a contrast between external water and internal spirit.

    Fire. ‘With’ is not to be supplied. Some refer this to the fire of judgment, as in Matthew 3:12; but the close connection with what precedes, and the actual appearance of ‘fire’ on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:13), favor a reference to the powerful and purifying influences of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 4:4; Jeremiah 5:14; Malachi 3:2). ‘In’ must not be pressed in either case, since the Holy Ghost is represented as poured out, and the fire on the day of Pentecost came down upon the disciples.

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    Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

    Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

    Matthew 3:11. I indeed baptize you with water — I call you to repentance: and admit the penitent to the baptism of water, as a sign and token of their being washed from their past sins, and of their engaging to walk henceforward in newness of life. He answers the question put to him, John 1:19; John 1:25, by the priests and Levites sent from Jerusalem. But he that cometh after me — That succeeds me in preaching and baptizing, is mightier than I — Is endued with unspeakably greater authority and power; Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear — That is, for whom I am unworthy to perform the humblest office of menial service: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire — He shall not only administer the outward element, or sign, to his disciples, but the thing signified thereby, viz., the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, which, in their operations and effects, are like fire, enlightening, quickening, and purifying men’s souls, and kindling therein pious and devout affections; inflaming their hearts with love to God and all mankind, and with a degree of zeal for his glory and the salvation of sinners which all the waters of difficulty and danger, of persecution and tribulation, which they may be called to pass through, shall not be able to quench. And this baptism he will communicate in so abundant a measure, that you shall seem to be overflowed therewith. Now this promise was fulfilled, even with a visible appearance, as of fire, on the day of pentecost; and it is fulfilled without that appearance to this day, with respect to all that believe in Christ with a faith that worketh by love.

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    Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

    George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

    baptism is only calculated to lead you to a penitential life, and not to give you true justice; but he who comes after me, is stronger than I, and whose shoes I am not worthy to carry: (it was customary with the attendant slave to carry a change of shoes for his master) he will baptize you in the Holy Ghost, and in the fire of his divine charity, which he will infuse into your hearts, to purify you from all your sins. (Bible de Vence) --- Here St. John tacitly insinuates the divinity of Jesus Christ. He acknowledges his unworthiness, and it is this his humility that makes him the more acceptable to God, "I ought to be baptized by thee, and comest thou to me?" (Tirinus) --- Whose shoes I am not worthy to carry. In St. Mark, (chap. i. 7.) and in St. Luke, (iii. 21.) we read, the latchet of whose shoes . . . I am not worthy to untie. The sense is the same, and St. John might use both these expression. His meaning is, that he was not worthy to do him the least, or the lowest service. --- He shall baptize you in, or with the Holy Ghost, i.e. by his baptism, he will give you the remission of your sins, and the graces of the Holy Ghost, signified also by fire, which may allude to the coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, in the shape of fiery tongues. (Witham)

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    Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

    E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

    with. Greek. en. The literal rendering of the Hebrew (Beth = B). Matthew 7:6; Matthew 9:34. Romans 15:6. 1 Corinthians 4:21, &c.

    shoes = sandals.

    worthy = fit or equal. Not the same word as "meet for" in Matthew 3:8.

    bear = bring or fetch. Mark: "stoop down and unloose". Luke: "unloose". Probably repeated often in different forms.

    He shall baptize. "He" is emph. = He Himself will, and no other. See App-115. See Acts 1:4, Acts 1:5; Acts 2:3; Acts 11:15. Isaiah 44:3. Compare Ezekiel 36:26, Ezekiel 36:27. Joel 2:28.

    baptize . . . with. See App-115.

    the Holy Ghost = pneuma hagion, holy spirit, or "power from on high". No Articles. See App-101.

    fire. See Acts 2:3. Note the Figure of speech Hendiadys (App-6) = with pneuma hagion = yea, with a burning (or purifying) spirit too, separating the chaff from the wheat (Matthew 3:12), not mingling them together in water. "Fire" in Matthew 3:11. Matthew 3:35 symbolic (see Isaiah 4:3. Ma Matthew 1:3, Matthew 1:1-4; Matthew 4:1. Compare Psalms 1:4; Psalms 35:5. Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 30:24; Isaiah 41:16. Jeremiah 51:2. Hosea 13:3). In Matthew 3:12, the "fire" is literal; for destroying, not for purging. Note the seven emblems of the Spirit (or of pneuma hagion) in Scripture. "FIRE" (Matthew 3:11. Acts 2:3); "WATER" (Ezekiel 36:25. John 3:5; John 7:38, John 7:39); "WIND" (Ezekiel 37:1-10); "OIL" (Isaiah 61:1. Hebrews 1:9); a "SEAL" (Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30); an "EARNEST" (Ephesians 1:14); a "DOVE" (Matthew 3:16).

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    Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

    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:

    I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance (see the note at Matthew 3:6): but he that cometh after me is mightier than I. In Mark and Luke this is more emphatic - "But there cometh the Mightier than I" [ erchetai (Greek #2064) de (Greek #1161) ho (Greek #3588) ischuroteros (Greek #2478) mou (Greek #3450)].

    Whose shoes, or 'sandals' [ hupodeemata (Greek #5266)].

    I am not worthy to bear. The sandals were tied and untied, and borne about by the meanest servants.

    He shall baptize you, [ autos (Greek #846)] - the emphatic "He;" 'He it is,' to the exclusion of all others 'that shall baptize you.'

    With the Holy Spirit. 'So far from entertaining such a thought as laying claim to the honours of Messiahship, the meanest services I can render to that "Mightier than I that is coming after me" are too high an honour for me; I am but the servant, but the Master is coming; I administer but the outward symbol of purification; His it is, as His sole prerogative, to dispense the inward reality.' Beautiful spirit, distinguishing this servant of Christ throughout!

    And with fire. To take this as a distinct baptism from that of the Spirit-a baptism of the impenitent with hell-fire-is exceedingly unnatural. Yet this was the view of Origen among the Fathers; and among moderns, of Neander, Meyer, DeWette, and Lange. Nor is it much better to refer it to the fire of the great day, by which the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Clearly, as we think, it is but the fiery character of the Spirit's operations upon the soul-searching, consuming, refining, sublimating-as nearly all good interpreters understand the words. And thus, in two successive clauses, the two most familiar emblems-water and fire-are employed to set forth the same purifying operations of the Holy Spirit upon the soul.

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    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

    The Bible Study New Testament

    11. I baptize you with water. His baptism was with water only. Christian baptism (the baptism that makes Christians) is with both water and spirit (John 3:5; Acts 19:1-7). The one who will come. The King is greater than John. He can do what John can only promise. Holy Spirit. Note how Jesus uses John’s statement in Acts 1:5. Christian baptism is with water AND Spirit (Acts 2:38), with every one becoming through this act the temple of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Fire, Some of those who came to John would later accept Christ, but some would not. The “fire” of Matthew 3:10 destroys; and it is used in the same sense in Matthew 3:12. Therefore it must be understood in Matthew 3:11 to mean a “baptism of suffering” which would come to those Jews who did not accept Christ as the Messiah. See Christ’s words in Matthew 23:29-39.




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    Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

    Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

    (11) With water unto repentance.—The “I” is emphasized, as also the baptism with water, as contrasted with that which was to follow. The result of John’s baptism, even for those who received it faithfully, did not go beyond the change of character and life implied in “repentance.” The higher powers of the unseen world were to be manifested afterwards.

    He that cometh after me.—The words as spoken by the Baptist could only refer to the expected Christ, the Lord, whose way he had been sent to prepare.

    Mightier.—i.e., as the words that follow show, stronger both to save and to punish; at once the Deliverer and the Judge.

    Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear.—In Luke 3:16 we have the yet stronger expression, “The latchet (or thong) of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose.” Among Jews, Greeks, and Romans alike, this office, that of untying and carrying the shoes of the master of the house or of a guest, was the well-known function of the lowest slave of the household. When our Lord washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:4-5), He was taking upon Himself a like menial task which, of course, actually involved the other. The remembrance of the Baptist’s words may in part account for St. Peter’s indignant refusal to accept such services.

    He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.—As heard and understood at the time, the baptism with the Holy Ghost would imply that the souls thus baptised would be plunged, as it were, in that creative and informing Spirit which was the source of life and holiness and wisdom. The baptism “with fire” would convey, in its turn, the thought of a power at once destroying evil and purifying good; not, in any case, without the suffering that attends the contact of the sinner’s soul with the “consuming fire” of the holiness of God, yet for those who had received the earlier baptism, and what it was meant to convey, consuming only what was evil, and leaving that which was precious brighter than before. The appearance of the “tongues like as of fire” that accompanied the gift of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost was an outward visible sign, an extension of the symbolism, rather than the actual fulfilment of the promise.

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    Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

    Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

    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:
    6; Mark 1:4,8; Luke 3:3,16; John 1:26,33; Acts 1:5; 11:16; 13:24; 19:4
    Luke 1:17; John 1:15,26,27,30,34; 3:23-36
    Mark 1:7; Luke 7:6,7; Acts 13:25; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Peter 5:5
    he shall
    Isaiah 4:4; 44:3; 59:20,21; Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:2-4; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 2:2-4; 11:15,16; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27,28
    Reciprocal: Numbers 31:23 - abide;  Deuteronomy 23:11 - wash himself;  1 Kings 3:9 - who is able;  Isaiah 6:6 - having;  Isaiah 9:5 - burning;  Matthew 8:8 - I am;  Matthew 11:11 - a greater;  Luke 1:32 - shall be great;  Luke 1:76 - thou shalt;  John 1:16 - of his;  John 1:20 - GeneralJohn 3:5 - born;  John 3:25 - about;  John 3:28 - but;  John 10:41 - but;  John 13:6 - Lord;  John 14:26 - Holy Ghost;  Acts 2:3 - like;  2 Corinthians 4:5 - we;  Hebrews 10:22 - our bodies;  Revelation 4:5 - the seven;  Revelation 15:2 - mingled

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    Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

    E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

    There are three baptisms referred to in this verse, one administered by John and two by the Lord; the two were in the future when John spoke. The three baptisms were in different elements, namely. water, Holy Ghost and fire. and the three were for that many different kinds of subjects. The water baptism administered by John was performed upon penitent Jews and it was for the remission of their sins. The Holy Ghost baptism administered by the Lord was performed upon the apostles and it was to "guide them into all truth" (John 16:13). The baptism with fire to be administered by the Lord (at the judgment day) upon the unsaved and it is for the purpose of punishment. The simple pronoun you Is used by John because he knew that in his audience were men who would become apostles and hence would receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost. He knew also that some of his hearers would live and die in their sins because they would be too stubborn to repent, and these would receive the baptism of fire. But he spoke to the multitude as a whole and intended the two baptisms to be applied to the ones deserving . them. This explains Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16 where the baptism of the Holy Ghost only is mentioned because the apostles were the only ones being considered. Shoes not worthy to bear is an allusion to the customs of that time. Loose sandals were worn in foot travel and upon entering a home they were removed and taken charge of by a servant. By way of illustration John regarded himself as unworthy even to bear the shoes of the one who was soon to come after him in the work of further reformation.

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    Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.

    Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

    The three Evangelists relate the Baptist’s discourse in the same words. In one respect, Luke’s account is more full: for he opens it by explaining the occasion on which this discourse was delivered. It arose from the people being in danger of being led, by a false opinion, to convey to him the honor which was due to Christ. To remove, as soon as possible, every occasion of such a mistake, he expressly declares, that he is not the Christ, and draws such a distinction between Christ and himself as to maintain Christ’s prerogative. He would have done this of his own accord, by handing them over, to use a common expression, as disciples to Christ: but he takes up the matter at an earlier stage, lest, by remaining silent any longer, he should confirm the people in an error.

    He who cometh after me is stronger than I Christ is thus declared to be so far superior in power and rank, that, with respect to him, John must occupy a private station. (282) He uses ordinary forms of speech to magnify the glory of Christ, in comparison of whom he declares that he himself is nothing. The chief part of his statement is, that he represents Christ as the author of spiritual baptism, and himself as only the minister of outward baptism. He appears to anticipate an objection, which might be brought forward. What was the design of the Baptism which he had taken upon himself? For it was no light matter to introduce any innovation whatever into the Church of God, and particularly to bring forward a new way of introducing persons into the Church, which was more perfect than the law of God. He replies, that he did not proceed to do this without authority; but that his office, as minister of an outward symbol, takes nothing away from the power and glory of Christ.

    Hence we infer, that his intention was not at all to distinguish between his own baptism, and that which Christ taught his disciples, and which he intended should remain in perpetual obligation in his Church. He does not contrast one visible sign with another visible sign, but compares the characters of master and servant with each other, and shows what is due to the master, and what is due to the servant. It ought not to have any weight with us, that an opinion has long and extensively prevailed, that John’s baptism differs from ours. We must learn to form our judgment from the matter as it stands, and not from the mistaken opinions of men. And certainly the comparison, which they imagine to have been made, would involve great absurdities. It would follow from it, that the Holy Spirit is given, in the present day, by ministers. Again, it would follow that John’s baptism was a dead sign, and had no efficacy whatever. Thirdly, it would follow, that we have not the same baptism with Christ: for it is sufficiently evident, that the fellowship, which he condescends to maintain with us, was ratified by this pledge, (283) when he consecrated baptism in his own body.

    We must therefore hold by what I have already said, that John merely distinguishes, in this passage, between himself and the other ministers of baptism, on the one hand, and the power of Christ, on the other, and maintains the superiority of the master over the servants. And hence we deduce the general doctrine, as to what is done in baptism by men, and what is accomplished in it by the Son of God. To men has been committed nothing more than the administration of an outward and visible sign: the reality dwells with Christ alone. (284)

    Scripture does sometimes, though not in a literal sense, (285) ascribe to men what John here declares not to belong to men, but claims exclusively for Christ. In such cases, however, the design is not to inquire, what man has separately and by himself, but merely to show, what is the effect and advantage of signs, and in what manner God makes use of them, as instruments, by his Spirit. Here also is laid down a distinction between Christ and his ministers, that the world may not fall into the mistake, of giving to them what is justly due to him alone: for there is nothing to which they are more prone, than to adorn creatures with what has been taken from God by robbery. A careful attention to this observation will rid us of many difficulties. We know what disputes have arisen, in our own age, about the advantage and efficacy of signs, all of which may be disposed of in a single word. The ordinance of our Lord, viewed as a whole, includes himself as its Author, and the power of the Spirit, together with the figure and the minister: but where a comparison is made between our Lord and the minister, the former must have all the honor, and the latter must be reduced to nothing.

    Matthew 3:11.He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire It is asked, why did not John equally say, that it is Christ alone who washes souls with his blood? The reason is, that this very washing is performed by the power of the Spirit, and John reckoned it enough to express the whole effect of baptism by the single word Spirit The meaning is clear, that Christ alone bestows all the grace which is figuratively represented by outward baptism, because it is he who “sprinkles the conscience” with his blood. It is he also who mortifies the old man, and bestows the Spirit of regeneration. The word fire is added as an epithet, and is applied to the Spirit, because he takes away our pollutions, as fire purifies gold. In the same manner, he is metaphorically called water in another passage, (John 3:5.)

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    Bibliographical Information
    Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:11". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.