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Matthew Chapter 3

 Memory verses for this week:   Psa 141:2  Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.


Introduction:  We continue our study this week on the book of Matthew.  In last weekís lesson, we saw how the wise men finally appeared to see the young child after having traveled for as long as a year.   We discussed how there may have been dozens of wise men rather than the three depicted in the Christmas traditions.   All men (and women) who seek after Christ are wise.  This week we cover one of my favorite chapters in the New Testament as we study Matthew Chapter 3 concerning John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus Christ.


I.  The Ministry of John the Baptist

Mat 3:1  In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,

Mat 3:2  And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew actually skips 30 years between the last verse of chapter 2 and verse 1 of Chapter 3.    We know that John was a special man born for a purpose just he was to fulfill.

Luke 1:11  And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.

Luke 1:12  And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

Luke 1:13  But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

The angel of the Lord came to Johnís father, Zacharias and told him about how that he would have a son and he was to name him John.   We wonít take time to read all the verses, but if you remember Zacharias lost his ability to speak after this, and the day John was born and discussion was going on about naming the baby, Zacharias wrote it out on paper that his name was to be John.   His voice returned to him at that time.   John was the greatest prophet ever born of women according to Jesus Christ.

Luke 7:28  For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

Mal 3:1  Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.

We read there in Malachi that John was called and prophesied of by the prophets.  His job was to make ready a people for the Lord.

Luke 1:17  And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

John was clearly called of the Lord to be a preacher.  It is crucial that a man have a call from the Lord to be in the ministry.   People who are not called should not be preachers as we think of a minister.   All of us, every single Christian, should proclaim the gospel to the lost.  But only those called should hold the office of Pastor in the church.

Many prophets prophesied of future events, but John prophesied of things at hand.  His place of ministry was in the wilderness of Judea.   This shows how God can call a man both to a large city, a small town, or even a remote area such as John.  All called ministers of God labor together with God.   Only God can give the increase.   Johnís message was clear.   He called for men to repent and return to the Lord.  This is one of the most needful messages of our time.  John proclaimed that the kingdom of heaven was at hand.   For a man, woman, boy, or girl to be saved, they must first see themselves as a lost sinner, repent of the sin, and turn to God for forgiveness.   If a Christian drifts away from the Lord, they need to repent and draw back near to the Lord.  If a Christian does not, they will face chastening of the Lord.  God calls for nations to repent as he did in II Chronicles.

2 Chr 7:14  If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Mat 3:3  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.

Mat 3:4  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.

Verse 3 speaks of the prophecy given by Isaiah about John the Baptist.

Isa 40:3  The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

When people asked John who he was, his answer always was ďI am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.Ē  He called upon those who heard him to prepare ye the way of the Lord and make his paths straight.

John 1:23  He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

I donít know how well John would fit into the typical church today.  It says he wore camelís hair and a leathern girdle and eat locusts and wild honey.   He might be a little radical for our groups today.   But I think God brought him in a radical way because there were major radical changes coming, and a man like this would get the attention of the people.

J. Vernon McGee said this about John the Baptist

The garb in which he appeared, the figure he made, and the manner of his life, v. 4. They, who expected the Messiah as a temporal prince, would think that his forerunner must come in great pomp and splendor, that his equipage should be very magnificent and gay; but it proves quite contrary; he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, but mean in the eyes of the world; and, as Christ himself, having no form or comeliness; to intimate betimes, that the glory of Christís kingdom was to be spiritual, and the subjects of it such as ordinarily were either found by it, or made by it, poor and despised, who derived their honors, pleasures, and riches, from another world.

1. His dress was plain. This same John had his raiment of camelís hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; he did not go in long clothing, as the scribes, or soft clothing, as the courtiers, but in the clothing of a country husbandman; for he lived in a country place, and suited his habit to his habitation. Note, It is good for us to accommodate ourselves to the place and condition which God, in his providence, has put us in. John appeared in this dress, (1.) To show that, like Jacob, he was a plain man, and mortified to this world, and the delights and gaieties of it. Behold an Israelite indeed! Those that are lowly in heart should show it by a holy negligence and indifference in their attire; and not make the putting on of apparel their adorning, nor value others by their attire. (2.) To show that he was a prophet, for prophets wore rough garments, as mortified men (Zec. 13:4); and, especially, to show that he was the Elias promised; for particular notice is taken of Elias, that he was a hairy man (which, some think, is meant of the hairy garments he wore), and that he was girt with a girdle of leather about his loins, 2 Ki. 1:8. John Baptist appears no way inferior to him in mortification; this therefore is that Elias that was to come. (3.) To show that he was a man of resolution; his girdle was not fine, such as were then commonly worn, but it was strong, it was a leathern girdle; and blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when he comes, finds with his loins girt, Lu. 12:35; 1 Pt. 1:13.

2. His diet was plain; his meat was locusts and wild honey; not as if he never ate any thing else; but these he frequently fed upon, and made many meals of them, when he retired into solitary places, and continued long there for contemplation. Locusts were a sort of flying insect, very good for food, and allowed as clean (Lev. 11:22); they required little dressing, and were light, and easy of digestion, whence it is reckoned among the infirmities of old age, that the grasshopper, or locust, is then a burden to the stomach, Eccl. 12:5. Wild honey was that which Canaan flowed with, 1 Sa. 14:26. Either it was gathered immediately, as it fell in the dew, or rather, as it was found in the hollows of trees and rocks, where bees built, that were not, like those in hives, under the care and inspection of men. This intimates that he ate sparingly, a little served his turn; a man would be long ere he filled his belly with locusts and wild honey: John Baptist came neither eating nor drinking (ch. 11:18)ónot with the curiosity, formality, and familiarity that other people do. He was so entirely taken up with spiritual things, that he could seldom find time for a set meal. Now, (1.) This agreed with the doctrine he preached of repentance, and fruits meet for repentance. Note, Those whose business it is to call others to mourn for sin, and to mortify it, ought themselves to live a serious life, a life of self-denial, mortification, and contempt of the world. John Baptist thus showed the deep sense he had of the badness of the time and place he lived in, which made the preaching of repentance needful; every day was a fast-day with him.  [i]

Mat 3:5  Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,

Mat 3:6  And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

Notice that when you do things Godís way in Godís plan, there is great success.  It says multitudes came out to hear him, and many were baptized of him in Jordan after they confessed their sins and repented.  Even the Pharisees and Sadducees came out to be baptized of him.

Mat 3:7  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?

Mat 3:8  Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

Mat 3:9  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.

John tells these religious leaders of the day to bring forth fruits meet for repentance.   It was not a popular message in Johnís day, and many donít want to hear it today.  Many had the excuse that they were Abrahamís seed and had no need.  Being of Jewish descent was not enough to save a person.   They were of Abrahamís seed, but not Abrahamís children from a spiritual standpoint.

John 8:37  I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.

John 8:38  I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.

John 8:39  They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.

John 8:40  But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.

John 8:41  Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

John 8:42  Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.

John 8:43  Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.

John 8:44  Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

If a person belongs to Christ then that person is Abrahamís seed.   We become children of God by faith in Jesus Christ.

Gal 3:26  For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

Gal 3:27  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Gal 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Gal 3:29  And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Mat 3:10  And now also the ax 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.

The ax was laid at the root of the treeÖ only those who bring forth fruit is permitted to stand.   God wants us to be fruitful Christians and bring others to Christ.

Mat 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:

John baptized with water but Christ was to baptize with the Holy Ghost.  The baptism he spoke of took place on the day of Pentecost.

Acts 2:1  And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

Acts 2:2  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

Acts 2:3  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

Acts 2:4  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2:5  And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

Acts 2:6  Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

Acts 2:7  And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?

Acts 2:8  And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

Acts 2:9  Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,

Acts 2:10  Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,

Acts 2:11  Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

Acts 2:12  And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?

Acts 2:13  Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.

The Holy Spirit was the mode Christ used to baptize the church on the day of Pentecost.  The only other possible record of baptism of the Holy Ghost came at that house of Cornelius.   Besides those two instances, all baptisms have been by water.  When we are saved, the Holy Ghost comes and takes up residence inside the believer.   He guides us in our daily walk and convicts us of sin when we make mistakes. 

Mat 3:12  Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

One day there will be a separation by the Lord of the saved and the lost.  The wheat speaks of the saved going into garner, where the chaff is the lost going to be burned.

Barnes Notes on the New Testament said this about verse 12.

Shall purgeóShall cleanse or purify. Shall remove the chaff, etc.

The garneróThe granary, or place to deposit the wheat.

Unquenchable fireóFire that shall not be extinguished, that will utterly consume it. By the floor, here, is represented the Jewish people. By the wheat, the righteous, or the people of God. By the chaff, the wicked. They are often represented as being driven away like chaff before the wind, Job 21:18: Ps. 1:4; Isa. 17:13; Hos. 13:13. They are also represented as chaff which the fire consumes, Isa. 5:24. This image is often used to express judgments, Isa. 41:15: ďThou shall thresh the mountains and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.Ē By the unquenchable fire is meant the eternal suffering of the wicked in hell, 2 Thes 1:8-9; Mark 9:48; Matt. 25:41.

II.  The Baptism of Jesus

Mat 3:13  Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.

Mat 3:14  But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

Jesus came from Galilee to Jordan, a journey of about 60 miles, to be baptized by John.  It is important that we understand that Jesus did not come like the others to be baptized for remission of sins.  Jesus never sinned and had no need to repent.     We are not really baptized to receive remission of sins, we are baptized because we have repented and received remission of our sins.   The reason he came is explained in verse 15.   Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness, and to set an example of how we should follow our Lord in baptism and fulfil all righteousness.   Salvation is totally of the Lord, and we are saved by faith.  It is not by works of righteousness that we are saved.

Titus 3:5  Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

John declares that he is unworthy to do this baptism.  He argues that he is not worthy to baptize Christ.  In verse 11 he states that when Jesus came he was not worthy to bear his shoes.  John declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God.

Mat 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: 

John 1:29  The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

John 1:30  This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.

Mat 3:15  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.

Mat 3:16  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:

Mat 3:17  And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

John does as commanded, and baptizes Christ.   At this point, we see the Holy Trinity in one place.  Jesus, the Son of God, is in the Jordan River being baptized by John.  The Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove and lights upon Christ.   Then we have the voice of God the Father speaking from heaven.  He declares Jesus to be the Son of God and declares that God is well pleased with Christ.

The Holy Trinity is a clear doctrine in the Word of God.

John had been told that Jesus could be identified by the Holy Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and abiding on Christ.

John 1:32  And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.

John 1:33  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.

John 1:34  And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. 


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Prov 4:18  But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.


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[i]Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henryís Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.