Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1
February 5, 2006
7 Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin 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.
1901 ASV Translation:
7 He said therefore to the multitudes that went out to be baptized of him, Ye offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin 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.
- I. John's Impact.
- A. The record tells us that "crowds" were going out to the wilderness to be baptized by him.
- 1. Matthew used 48 of the 170 references to "the crowd(s)."
- 2. Mark used 36.
- 3. Luke used 41.
- 4. John only used 19.
- 5. Acts used 22.
- 6. The Revelation used the last 4 of the 170 references.
- B. The obvious implication is that John's "preparatory" ministry, ordained by God and revealed by prophecy, involved great masses of people.
- C. The question is the significance of Luke's record: what does it matter to us that "crowds" of people were going out to be baptized?
- 1. "Crowds" do not validate the "ministry" of anyone.
- 2. John, himself, saw the "crowds" as a matter of "greatness" in terms of popularity as did his disciples (John 3:30). He was pleased, though they were not, that Jesus' popularity was growing. In a direct response to the "problem" of a dwindling audience, he said, "A man can receive nothing, except it have been given him from heaven" (John 3:27).
- 3. Jesus recognized the significance of His "popularity" (John 4:1).
- a. He was disinterested in the "popularity" issue, but His adversaries were "eaten up" by it.
- b. He recognized the enormous danger for His disciples of being "popular" (Mark 1:37 and 6:45 in comparison with John 6:15).
- c. 1 John 4:5 pointedly tells us that the "world" hears its own.
- d. John 15:19 records Jesus saying that the world loves/hates according to its own nature.
- 4. The "point" of Luke's record is the "fulfillment" of John's prophesied impact upon Judah as he recorded it for us in Luke 1:17: John was to be Yahweh's instrument in preparing a people for Him.
- a. In the outworking of this "program", it was Yahweh's procedure to pull multitudes into the fields where the "sowing" of the Word was going to occur (see the parable of the Sower in Luke 8:4-15). There was, by this, no indication that great numbers were going to embrace the doctrine; only that great numbers would be exposed to the doctrine.
- 1) One wonders at the procedure: why expose great numbers just to reach "some" who are caught up in the band-wagon mentality of the "crowd"?
- 2) There is more going on than just "reaching the elect"; there is also the process of heightening the responsibility of the wicked (John 9:39-41). In the divine plan to enlarge the participation of creatures in His "Life", there is a necessity for "pressing the boundaries" of the "revealed glory" so that "Life" can be greatly expanded for those who run to the edges of the boundaries in their enthusiasm for "Life". Part of the "pressing of the boundaries" has to do with revealing the divine attitude toward the wicked -- He is incensed by them and is willing to expose them to enormous wrath. This attitude, though terrifying to creatures who are in rebellion, is a necessity for those who would discover the height and depth of the love of Yahweh. Those who have a mild-mannered deity who does not get upset by the wickedness of men have almost no "Life" at all. To be forgiven for "incidental imperfections" is insignificant. Those love most (and, thus, live most) who are forgiven MUCH (see Luke 7:47).
- b. It was, according to John, the work of God to bring him an audience.
- II. John's Message.
- A. Luke deliberately casts his record of John's message in terms of an imperfect tense -- indicating that he, again, is giving only the "seed-form" of what John regularly preached.
- 1. This is not a "sample" sermon which he preached once or twice.
- 2. This is a reduction of his preaching into its essence.
- B. Luke's record is shocking to most people.
- 1. The opening words out of John's mouth were, "You offspring of vipers...".
- a. The man whose name trumpets the "graciousness" of Yahweh is the man whose regular message was "You are a generation of vipers...".
- b. There is an echo here of Psalm 58:4 and Psalm 140:3. Paul quoted from Psalm 140:3 in his litany of problems with man in Romans 3: no one was exempted.
- c. Matthew's record tends to make John's words applicable to the leaders of the nation, but Luke deliberately does not do this.
- d. The point it this: no one comes to justifying repentance who bypasses the reality of his own depravity. This is not to say that everyone has to see this problem with great clarity or insight, but it is to say that no one gets to "go around" the problem. The fact is that human depravity is profound and the only solution is the Grace of God. And another fact is that the Grace of God does not work outside of the parameters of a clear understanding of one's personal depravity. An interesting claim in much modern religious literature is that God does not greatly use anyone who has not been "broken". Isn't the very fact that men see "being humbled" as "being broken" an illumination of the strength of our depravity? Rather than seeing the development of humility as a "good" we cast it in terms of being "put through the wringer".
- 2. The question is this: What in the world was he trying to do? Since when does giving an insult produce a receptive mind?
- C. Luke's intent...
- 1. He began the sentence with the enormous popularity of John.
- 2. He clearly intends to reveal the fact that his popularity was not created by telling folks what they want to hear.
- a. There is a pointed recognition in Paul's writings that there is a serious need for exceedingly plain speech.
- 1) He instructed Titus (Titus 1:13) to "rebuke sharply".
- 2) He revealed to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:3) that the time would come when people would not listen to sound doctrine.
- b. There is no point to "smooth speech" (Isaiah 30:8-16). The time has come for the Word of God to be plainly spoken, but the expectation should not be that there will be a receptive audience. Rather, the expectation should be that there will be some in the midst of many who have ears to hear.