Saturday, October 07, 2023

2023.10.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Matthew 3:1–12

Read Matthew 3:1–12

Questions from the Scripture text: To what days does Matthew 3:1 fast forward? Where was John the baptizer preaching? What did he command to do (Matthew 3:2)? Why? Who had talked about John (Matthew 3:3)? What had Isaiah called him? What would this voice command that they prepare? How was John dressed (Matthew 3:4)? What did he eat? From where were people coming to him in Matthew 3:5? What was he doing to them? Where? What were they doing as they were being baptized? Whom does John see in Matthew 3:7? What does he call them? What does he say is coming with the kingdom? What does he ask them? What does he tell them to do in Matthew 3:8? What mustn’t they think can be a substitute for repentant works (Matthew 3:9)? How do children of Abraham arise? What picture does Matthew 3:10 use for the coming of the kingdom? How are the trees that are going to be burned identified? With what did John baptize (Matthew 3:11)? Unto what? Who else was coming—of what power? Of what worthiness? With Whom (!) would He baptize instead? What is the difference in source of power and likelihood of success? What else does the One Who baptizes with he Spirit have in His hand (Matthew 3:12)? What will He do with it? What does He gather? What does He burn? With what fire?

What has King Jesus come to do? Matthew 3:1–12 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twelve verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us King Jesus has come to fit His people for glory with Him before pouring out His wrath in unquenchable fire. 

John has pressed how urgent it is that sinful people receive a new mind, a new nature. For any who does not, the coming of the kingdom is not good news but rather the worst possible news. Jesus is a righteous King, Who will come in vengeance to condemn those who are not “good grain” by burning upon them in wrath of unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:12b). But that puts to us the question of how it can be that we can have a new nature. We cannot give one to ourselves!

No hope from men. John pressed the urgent need of conversion, but John could not offer hope for that conversion from himself. Of himself he said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance.” He administered a sign that acknowledged they needed a new nature. A sign that admitted that they needed “to flee from the wrath to come” (Matthew 3:7). 

But they needed (and we desperately need) the One Who can apply the thing that the sign signified. We need someone Who can give us such a repentance in our hearts that it bears worthy fruits in our lives (Matthew 3:8). What could do this? Not John. Not oneself. Not biological or covenantal lineage descending from Abraham (Matthew 3:9).

Hope from God by His Spirit. But there, in Matthew 3:9, John does refer to One Who gives a new heart. One, indeed, Who said that He would turn hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:25–27). The Lord Himself would baptize, but not with physical water as in the metaphor of Ezekiel 36:25 but rather with the Spirit in the reality of Ezekiel 36:27. This is how a man can have a change in the substance of his mind! 

Hope from a Man Who is God. And John shockingly says that the One coming after him is the Lord. Jesus is not a mere man. He is YHWH of Isaiah 40, before Whom the voice in the wilderness cries out. He is YHWH of Ezekiel 36, Who puts His own Spirit into people to change them (cf. Ezekiel 36:26–27).

Although the great and true Christian baptism is Christ’s own pouring of the Spirit, He would command His apostles to administer water baptisms as naming ceremonies. Naming ceremonies in which God gives His people to know Him as Father. And to identify their Savior as not just man but God. And to know the Spirit not merely as a power to have new life, but a Person Who gave us that life and Who continually works it into us. So the metaphor of the sprinkling of water (cf. Ezekiel 36:25; Hebrews 10:22) continues now, not just verbally but sacramentally. By His Spirit, Jesus will change sinners’ hearts, join them to Himself through faith, and make them the good grain that He is cleansing to gather to Himself. 

By right, Jesus the King destroys His enemies. But by His pleasure, and by His plan, He gives His Spirit to redeem us, so that we are indeed changed by the time the kingdom itself has come. This is the only hope that a sinner can have of a new heart. And it is an almighty and certain hope!

What do you need, in order for the kingdom to be good news for you? How does this conversion happen?

Sample prayer:  Father, thank You for giving Your Son to be our King, Who subdues us to Himself by His Spirit, before destroying His enemies. Grant that the Spirit, we make us believe in Christ, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or TPH391 “Come, O Come, Thou Quickening Spirit” 

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