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Friday, March 20, 2020

2020.03.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 3:7–14

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom is John speaking in Luke 3:7? What does he call them? What does he ask them? What does he tell them to do in Luke 3:8? What does he warn them not to assure themselves by, without repentance? Why? What is true “even now” at the time John speaks (Luke 3:9a)? What happens to those who do not bear the fruit of repentance? What, then, are the people interested to know in Luke 3:10? What illustrations of repentance does he highlight in Luke 3:11? How does this especially apply to whom in Luke 3:12-13? How does this especially apply to whom in Luke 3:14
How do you get saved? Only by God’s graciously bringing you into Abraham’s family of faith (cf. all of Romans 4, Galatians 3)—the family of those who are made right with God through faith in Jesus Christ. That’s a non-negotiable of biblical Christianity.

But today’s passage warns us, “bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as father.’”

Without repentance that produces neighbor-love, our knowledge of saving truth and our membership among God’s people should give us no comfort at all.

This is because of what we are apart from Christ. The baptizer’s opening salvo in Luke 3:7 is shocking, “Brood of vipers!” Matthew only tells us of the baptizer saying this to the Pharisees and Sadducees, and of two times that Jesus said it to the Pharisees. So we ironically (Pharisaically!) think of it as applying primarily to them.

But Luke records that this is what the baptizer said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

In other words, why do we need to be baptized? Because apart from Christ our nature is as wicked as the serpent, and we will end up with him in the fire (end of Luke 3:9) of God’s wrath to come (end of Luke 3:7; cf. Matthew 25:41, Revelation 20:10, Revelation 20:14–15, Revelation 21:8).

The baptizer’s preaching helps us to see how necessary repentance is, without thinking that our repentance earns anything for us. In other words, repentance is “necessary but not meritorious.” You cannot be justified by it. But you also cannot be justified without it.

And what is this repentance? A change from acting like a self-serving viper to acting like a neighbor-loving child of Abraham. It is a change in the kind of “thing” we are from snake into fruit-bearing tree.

The prophet tells us what the fruit looks like. Yes, love of God with all the heart is the life of the tree. The first table of the law is all our heart, soul, mind, and strength poured out unto God in love. But these things are on the inside, and we can more easily deceive ourselves that we have them.

The fruit that the living tree produces, however, might be more easily seen in the second table of the law. Not an endorsement of 8th-commandment-breaking social/financial redistribution systems. But 5th-10th-commandment abundance of personal generosity (Luke 3:11) and self-denial that keeps us from abusing any advantages we might have (Luke 3:12-14). The lover of God will be a lover of neighbors.

But a viper can be neither, and the call to bear that fruit both prepares the way for us to run to Christ to believe in Him, and provides a diagnostic test for considering whether that has happened with us. Have you taken that way and entrusted your wrath-escape entirely to Christ? Does the fruit of your life agree with your answer to that question?
What do self-denial and generosity look like in whatever you spend most of your time doing?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH238 “Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee”

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