Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance
Luke 3:1-22 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. 3 And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; 4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way
of the Lord,
Make His paths straight. 5 ‘Every ravine will be filled, And every mountain and hill will be brought low; The crooked will become straight, And the rough roads smooth; 6 And all flesh will see the salvation of God.’”
7 So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 9 Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” 11 And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” 12 And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” 14 Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.”
15 Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ, 16 John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
18 So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people. 19 But when Herod the tetrarch was reprimanded by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the wicked things which Herod had done, 20 Herod also added this to them all: he locked John up in prison.
21 Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”
In John 14:6-7 Jesus says: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” In Matthew 7:14-15 He says: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” If anyone says that Jesus is just one of several or many ways to heaven, they call Jesus a liar. According to Jesus Himself, He is the way. He is not only the narrow gate, but the only gate that leads to life.
In today’s text it says: The word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight. ‘Every ravine will be filled, And every mountain and hill will be brought low; The crooked will become straight, And the rough roads smooth; And all flesh will see the salvation of God.’” John came, like many prophets before him to prepare the way, to make ready the way of the Lord, so that all flesh would see the salvation of God. The paths which need to be made straight and the landscape which needs to be leveled; these are not the physical things of the earth, but rather the wrong ways of thinking of people. In order to see the salvation of God, people need to change the way they think.
The text continues: So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Many in John’s time thought that their salvation was based on their heritage. They believed that as descendants of Abraham they automatically would receive the blessings and the promises of Abraham. Abraham was indeed given a promise and a blessing. In Genesis 22:16-18 it says: “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” We see then that Abraham and his seed, his children will be blessed. But it is through his seed that all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Jesus Christ is that seed of Abraham through which the world is blessed.
Even seeing and knowing Jesus is not all that is needed. Abraham received the blessing because of obedience to the voice of God. Obedience to God is still a key aspect of God’s blessing through Christ. John exhorts the people to: bear fruits in keeping with repentance… He warns: Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. It is not through our birthright as part of any human heritage or in belonging to any earthly organization that we receive the salvation of God. Joining a church or saying we are Christians is not enough. It is not by our own works or righteousness, but rather through Jesus Christ and the cross through which we receive the blessings and the promises of God. Still though, obedience is necessary and salvation will produce a change not only in how we think but in how we act. Jesus Himself agrees with what John says about bearing good fruit and about the consequences for those who do not. In John 15:2-10, He says: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” In Ephesians 2:8-10 it also says: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
The text ends saying: Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” Romans 8:14-17 says: For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. If we are His children, then He says of us also, you are My beloved child, in you I am well pleased. If we are His heirs, then through Christ we have received all the blessings and promises of God.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit thank You for allowing me to see Your salvation. Thank You for calling me to change the way I think and act. Thank You for the grace by which I am saved, through the cross. Holy Spirit help me to walk in obedience to God and Christ, that as a child and a heir I might receive all the blessings and promises of God and also produce good fruit for the kingdom of God in obedience to His word. Amen.