Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 2 Study # 4
Thesis: There is no hiding place in "theology" for those who refuse the summons to repentance.
Introduction: Last week we looked at John's demand that his audience (of whom the text says that they "were coming to be baptized by John") bring forth fruit that suited "repentance". We saw that this demand can be taken two ways. Those whose fixation in theology is upon man's "responsibility as the basis for justification" take the demand to mean that John was requiring his hearers to "perform" in order to obtain the forgiveness he offered. This is tantamount to demanding of "snakes" the behavior of "doves". Those who recognize the transition in theology that John represented -- justification is by God's grace through man's faith -- take John's demand to be a demand to "repent" instead of using some excuse to deny the need. After all, the "fruit of repentance" is automatic to repentance. The only thing a person has to "do" to bring forth fruit worthy of repentance is to repent. Once the tree is "made good", the fruit will be "good" [Note Jesus' words in Matthew 12:33.]
Now, this morning we are going to look into John's claim that God can "raise up children to Abraham out of these stones." Can He really?
February 26, 2006
- I. Why Did John Make This Claim?
- A. He made this claim, first, because there were those in his audience who were denying their need to be regenerated.
- 1. John accused those who were coming out to him of two major problems.
- a. First, he accused them of being the "generation" of vipers.
- 1) The "generation" of vipers means that which is born to vipers.
- 2) The accusation was, therefore, an accusation of an essential identity as vipers.
- 3) This is in exact accord with Paul's teaching in Ephesians 2:1-3 where he taught that unbelievers are not only "by nature" the children of wrath, but are essentially the instruments of the prince of the power of the air for the production of disobedience.
- a) The prince of the power of the air is a title of Satan, who was first introduced to us as a "snake" in Genesis 3.
- b) Those who are generated by natural generation are of his generation: snakes.
- b. Second, he accused them of being fundamentally interested in "flight from the wrath to come."
- 1) The wrath to come is very real and seems to be very near.
- 2) The problem of "flight from the wrath" is this: the only way a person can "flee" is to stop "fleeing" (the summons to repentance is a summons to turn to the God from whom one is fleeing).
- 3) The major issue in the flight is the fixation upon the danger to one's own survival, which is a fundamental characteristic of the snake.
- 4) Thus, the "flight from the wrath to come" is essentially a flawed motivation: it must be replaced by a pursuit of the glory to come.
- 5) The only way for the "flight" to be turned into a "pursuit" is for the very nature of the individual to be changed: thus, the only solution is for God to change the essence of the person.
- 6) The conclusion we draw is two fold: those whose primary interest is in escaping wrath will not escape wrath; and those whose primary interest is to be included in the glory will be.
- 2. There is no remedy for "snakiness" except regeneration -- i.e., a "birth" from God that essentially generates a new being.
- 3. But there were those in his audience who claimed to be the "generation" of Abraham without any need for repentance.
- a. There is no need to refuse "repentance" if there has been repentance.
- b. The only reason for refusing "repentance" is to maintain one's identity and one's ability to continue to pursue one's own lusts. [Illustration: my own reluctance to become a "preacher" as the consequence of yielding to God.]
- B. He made this claim, second, because those who were rejecting his insistence upon repentance were "resting in the promises of God to Abraham" -- essentially saying, "God has to save us in order to fulfill His words to Abraham."
- 1. John flatly denied that God has to save anyone who uses His own words against His own plan.
- a. The most serious "problem" that God has is the "problem" of allowing the Snake to get a foothold in His Kingdom.
- 1) History reveals the inevitability of the juggernaut (a massive, inexorable force or object that crushes anything in its path) of Sin once the door is opened.
- 2) Scripture reveals the determination of God to absolutely eliminate any, and every, root and expression of Sin before He establishes the final stage of His Kingdom.
- b. The divine solution to this problem is to absolutely reject every single person who attempts to enter His Kingdom without being willing to be regenerated.
- c. This includes those who think that they have figured out a way to force God to allow them entrance by using His words against Him.
- 2. John posited the possibility of God's fulfillment of His word to Abraham by a very strange means: turning stones into the children of Abraham.
- a. This has never literally happened in human history...which means it is not a real possibility.
- b. This is, most fundamentally, a figure of speech that is designed to do one thing: to jerk the rug out from under anyone who thinks he can, as an impenitent snake, escape the coming wrath or participate in the coming glory.
- c. As a figure of speech, it is designed to put a major spotlight upon one fact: no one is going to be able to use God's own words to destroy God's own plan.
- d. Anyone who refuses God's offer of regeneration so that he may continue to pursue his own way will discover there is no safety in "theology".
- II. What Has John's Claim to Do With Me?
- A. It makes one thing very clear: If I am unwilling to not only embrace my "snakiness", but also to bring it to God for the specific purpose of being changed, I will not be forgiven.
- B. It makes the issue not the embracing of my "snakiness", but the willingness to be fundamentally altered so that my pursuits are according to the will of God and not according to my intense lusts.
- C. The "bottom line" is this: do I want to merely be "forgiven", or do I want to be regenerated?