THROUGH THE BIBLE IN THREE YEARS

This program of daily Scripture studies is designed to help you in daily honoring God with adoration.

Each day, Monday through Friday, a Scripture with commentary is posted.

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TODAY'S SCRIPTURE STUDY

MATTHEW

CHAPTER 3

1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

John the Baptist began to preach, as Luke says, "in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar" (Luke 3:1). And the words "In those days" (above - Matt. 3:1) refers us back to the second chapter when Jesus was residing in Nazareth. Jesus did not begin His ministry until after John the Baptist baptized Him.

John's message is the same as the theme in virtually every book of the Bible, "REPENT YE!" We should understand from this that mankind has much to repent of, and should do so often. We should also understand the meaning of the word "repent." It means turn away from what you are doing and turn to the Lord. There is a purpose for this statement, which you shall see at the end of this commentary on Chapter 3 of Matthew.

The words "..the kingdom of heaven is at hand" mean that it is close by or near. The kingdom of heaven has always been "near" for mankind. All one has had to do is to call upon the Lord in true repentance, See Isaiah 55:6-7

John identified himself with Malachi 4:5 which says, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:".

John the Baptist is the one "crying in the wilderness" and pleading with the people to "prepare ye the way of the Lord." John denied that he was the resurrected Elijah John 1:21, however, Jesus said that if the people would have received him as such, John would have completely fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy. See Matthew 17:10-13and Luke 1:17.

4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets. His manner of dress demonstrated that he was a man of God, a man of self-denial for God's purposes. His lifestyle was to live according to what God provided, and to preach the Word of God.

And the people had not seen a genuine prophet in over 400 years! After Malachi, there was no prophet. And Malachi definately pointed to a prophet such as John, who would appear before the Messiah came.

Therefore, great crowds went to see John as he preached. Many of them were convicted by God's Holy Spirit, and demonstrated their repentance by being baptized. This baptism of John was public showing of their: need for deliverance from sin, their expectation of Messiah Who would cleanse their sins, and their desire to receive Him when He came.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

These "Pharisees and Sadducees" came to see what all the commotion was about. They did not participate in the "baptism," and probably ridiculed the people for it. John's call to them was to come and show "fruits meet for repentance," or to believe and demonstrate that they needed repentance from sin.

John issued a warning to these people that their relationship by blood to Abraham would not save them. You can park a bicycle in a garage, but that will not make it a car. So to be a Jew does not automatically infer salvation. And, we must carry this a step farther. Neither is a person born into a Christian family automatically saved. Salvation is dependent upon a person's individual confession of sin, need of the Savior, and surrender to His Lordship. Many times I have visited with a person who has made no profession of faith in Christ. And they will seek to justify themselves by saying, "my father was a preacher," or "my mother went to so&so church," etc. I have preached it for 26 years, and will preach it as long as God gives me breath: "Without personal, individual surrender there is no salvation!"

And John says, "EVEN NOW the Axe is laid to the root of the trees!" The Judge of all the earth has come. Christ Himself said that no good work could be done without Him (John 15:5). Therefore, we must come to God through a genuine conviction of, and open and personal confession of sin, and commitment to Him as Lord of our lives.

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: 12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

John was careful to point out that the baptism of water is not salvation in itself. I have seen many people come down they aisle of a church, genuinely broken from sin. They confessed that they had been baptized many years earlier, but all it served was to get them wet. For they had not come in genuine surrender to the Lord. Baptism is a SYMBOL on the outside of what has happened on the inside. The person has died to self, been buried in Christ's death, and raised again by His power to live a new way of life. When a person sincerely surrenders to Christ, he/she will be baptized in God's Holy Spirit, and THAT is what "seals" us until the final day of redemption (See (Ephesians 1:13).

Jesus is the undeniable, eternal LORD of all. He is the One Who will ultimately judge, and is judging even today. His present judgment is of the genuine nature of salvation. (Those who are genuinely saved are convicted of it by His Spirit, and those who are not genuinely saved are convicted By His Holy Spirit of that.) His eternal and final judgment will be to "gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

Let me caution you, dear reader, to consider the seriousness of John's statements! Those who have genuinely been "sealed" in God's Holy Spirit will not live a life filled with sin, though we are all sinners. The truly saved will live a life reflecting Christ and His purposes. See what the apostle John says of this:
"11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."

(1 John 5:11-13)

13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

Now Jesus is the incarnate God; God in flesh. Why then would He Who had no sin come to be baptized? Jesus was confessing His relationship to us! He also came in baptism to reflect His perfect obedience to God's will. He had come to redeem us by giving His own life and blood for our sins. And through His baptism, Jesus demonstrated He was the "Author and Finisher of our faith" and that though He was "despising the shame," would endure the cross for our sakes (See Hebrews 12:2).

John did not feel worthy of baptizing the Christ, and argued that it was not proper. But Jesus said it was necessary in order to "fulfill all righteousness." That "righteousness" is the fact that even Jesus had to openly and personally submit Himself to the will of God in His life. How much more should we, who are filled with sin, openly and personally submit ourselves to Him? Through public confession of our faith in Him, and through baptism, we are submitting who we are to Christ, and asking Him to make us what He wants us to be.

16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

When Jesus came up out of the water, John saw the Spirit of God descending upon Jesus in the similitude of a dove. And, by the way, the Scripture does NOT say that Spirit left. Rather the Spirit REMAINED in Christ! He came upon Jesus WITHOUT MEASURE in the pureness, innocence and beauty of the dove which is a reflection of peace.

Later, John the apostle describes John the Baptists experience this way:
"31 And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;
36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!"

(John 1:31-36)

John the Baptist had received from God a revelation that the Spirit of God would descend upon the Messiah like a dove and remain. When he saw this happen to Jesus, John KNEW that Jesus was the One Who came to die for our sins.

Not only did John the Baptist see the Spirit of God descending and remaining, but He HEARD the voice of God speak: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." God's confirmation was audible: THIS is the ONE!

And God was "well pleased." I cannot tell you all that implies! God came in the form of a baby. He grew up like you and me. Through His childhood and youth He never sinned! And during that time He came to the full realization of WHO He was, and WHY He was on earth. And, here, at 30 years of age, Jesus humbly submitted Himself to the will of God for His life. That will of God was that He would DIE for you and me. He would be the perfect "Lamb of God" sacrificed for the "remission of sins."

This was the perfect emptying of self for the purposes of God! Later, Paul would describe it this way:
"5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
(Philippians 2:5-8)

And THIS I believe is the meaning of Jesus' baptism. That you and I should empty our SELF, and surrender to becoming what God wants of us in our lives.

PLEASE CONTINUE WITH US IN BIBLE STUDY TOMORROW.