Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

Matthew 3:4-12

Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

The Original Intent

1) Who is John?

John is the cousin of Jesus. He was a prophet and was nicknamed, “John the Baptist” because he baptized people in the Jordan River, including Jesus.

He is often considered the front runner to Jesus and John the Apostle says, “He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light”. (John 1:14-23)

The Everyday Application

1) Who is John?

The importance of John the Baptist to the Gospel is imperative to understand. He was prophesied about in the Old Testament (Isaiah 40:3Malachi 3:1) as the one who would come before Christ to tell the world of the coming Messiah. The message of repentance would be on his lips.

We can look at John and see a standard of true gospel living. He pointed to Christ and walked humbly waiting for Him to come. From the womb where he leaped with excitement (Luke 1:41), to the tomb where he lost his head because he faithfully followed Christ. John the Baptist is a follower whose entire life points to the redemption found at the cross.

The Original Intent

2) Why does it matter what he was wearing?

The belief held among theologians is Matthew describes John this way for one very specific purpose. The reason is thought to be, he was emulating the appearance of Elijah the prophet (2 Kings 1:8) because he was the first prophet on the scene since Malachi 400 years earlier.

People would have seen John and immediately recognized him as a prophet simply by his appearance. They would have remembered the oral traditions of the stories of God’s prophets heralding repentance.

The Everyday Application

2) Why does it matter what he was wearing and eating?

In a day and age of wealth and prosperity, it is important for believers to be mindful of the lifestyle they live and where their priorities are centered. John the Baptist went out of his way to run counter-cultural. He used the clothes he wore and the food he ate as a visual representation of his commitment to the Lord.

This does not mean you have to eat honey and locust and wear camel hair, but we should be challenged to evaluate where we spend our money and how we spend our time. We should ask ourselves, do we point to the cross of Christ?

When people saw John the Baptist, he stood out as a prophet and he not only represented himself in physical appearance as a prophet, but his message of repentance matched his actions. The words he spoke pointed directly to Christ as the coming Messiah. Could we say the same?

Do we stand out in our representation of Christ or do we “fit in” with the culture? Do we proclaim a coming Messiah with every part of our being? Are we leveraging our material possessions, how we carry ourselves, and the words we speak to point people to the hope of Christ?

The Original Intent

3) Who are the Pharisees and Sadducees and why is John mad at them?

The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the religious leaders of the 1st century. They were lording the rules and regulations of the Old Testament over the people of Israel as a hard and fast rule of law.

They had added “extra rules” to the original law of Moses, enforcing heavy burdens on the Jews. Jesus described them as “white washed tombs” (Matthew 23:27-28) because they followed the rules on the outside, but there was no heart transformation.

John knew their hearts and why they had come to see him. It had nothing to do with a desire to repent and be saved, rather they wanted to rely on their ancestral heritage of being a child of Abraham through bloodlines. They saw this as a “free pass” to continue in their prideful sins of the heart as long as they had lineage and “rule-following” appearance in their favor.

The Everyday Application

3) Who are the Pharisees and Sadducees and why is John mad at them?

I, for one, find it difficult at times to watch believers misrepresent the Gospel. This was the issue John the Baptist had with the Pharisees and Sadducees. We will all mess up because we are sinful people living in a sinful world, but this perpetual choosing goes beyond that.

The religious leaders of the 1st century prided themselves on their “perfect” behavior when in reality they were missing the cross, Christ, and the Gospel altogether. The habitual prideful heart of other believers should upset us.

If we see it in ourselves, we should repent, and we should ask other believers to confront us when they see it. If we see it in our brothers and sisters in Christ, we should keep each other accountable to representing the Cross well with God-honoring actions, beliefs, and attitudes.

The Original Intent

4) What imagery is John describing at the end of the passage?

John’s message was one of repentance. He proclaimed when Jesus came, He would judge the earth.

The imagery used by John shows the judgement Christ will render. There will be a time when the followers of Christ will reign with Him and those who choose not to follow will be like chaff burned up in the fire of judgement.

The Everyday Application

4) What imagery is John describing at the end of the passage?

There are times in Scripture where the consequence of sin is given in perfect imagery. The brokenness of humanity and the separation from God a world full of people experience, is spelled out so clearly in this passage.

This should be a wake-up call as believers that we could once be described as such, chaff burning in the fire. This should prompt us to speak His name, His truth, and tell of His amazing grace to a world dying without Christ.

Everyone has a place in His presence, and we are His representatives, His ambassadors just as John was. Our job is the same as his, to point to the Cross with the entirety of our lives!

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Rachel Jones
Editor
3 years ago

I am pondering this challenge you gently leveled this morning: Do we stand out in our representation of Christ or do we “fit in” with the culture? Praying here that my life will point others to the cross. Thank you for this good word!

Leslie Umstattd
Leslie Umstattd
3 years ago
Reply to  Rachel Jones

Love this- praying along side you. Honestly there are times I “fit in” more than stand out and as I wrote this, it was a clear challenge and point of reflection for myself to look like Him and point to Him in everything. Thank you for sharing!

Rebecca Adams
Admin
3 years ago
Reply to  Rachel Jones

I’ve been mulling this over much lately too. I’ve been in Acts 17 reading of the disciples being called “they are turning the world upside down”. How are we doing the same? Good word, Leslie! Thanks for sharing!

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Ambassador,John The Baptist,Messiah,prophecy,repentance
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