Matthew 3

John Preaches Judgment & the Messiah

MATT 3:7-12       MARK 1:7-8        LUKE 3:7-18        JOHN 1:15-28


MATT 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?  {Similar to Luke 3:7}

[when] – John had already built up some fame and caught the attention of the religious leaders.

[come to his baptism] – Did they come to be baptized or just to watch?  John assumed they were trying to escape from “the wrath to come”.  John 1:19 implies that they just came to find out who John was.

[Pharisees & Sadducees] – Religious leaders.  The difference in the two is that the Pharisees were conservative and believed there would be an event called the resurrection where every dead person’s spirit would go back into their body and they would come back to life (Isa 26:19), but the Sadducees were liberal and denied that people had spirits or that there would be a resurrection (Acts 23:8).  It’s been said that the Sadducees only believed in the Pentateuch; Moses’ first 5 books of the bible/torah.

[generation of vipers] – “you brood/bunch of poisonous snakes”.  They are compared to the snake that did Satan’s will (Gen 3:14).  Their doctrine was evil (Matt 16:12), it spread like poison – like leaven spreads (1Cor 5:6).  They came from the devil, which is why they’re called snakes (John 8:44).



MATT 3:8 – Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:  {Similar to Luke 3:8a}

[Bring forth fruits] – A common idiom in the bible meaning, “to take action” or “to do” something.

[fruits for repentance] – Actions that a person does in obedience to God, such as loving God and neighbors (Matt 22:37-40).  We don’t love God or the people around us just by feeling like we love them, but by showing love through action, giving, and showing charity like Jesus did.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, did not give, but took; were not selfless, but drew attention to themselves; did no good but prevented it (Matt 23).



MATT 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.  {Similar to Luke 3:8b}

[We have Abraham to our father] – Means, “We don’t need TO DO anything to become righteous; we’re fine just because we’re descendants of Abraham”.  This way of thinking permitted any kind of behavior, and all they had to do was nothing – Just like stones!  On the other hand, they believed gentiles (non-Jews) were damned because they WEREN’T Abraham’s descendants.  The truth is, sons of Abraham are men who do what Abraham did (John 8:39), which is to be righteous through faith (Rom 4:13 & Gal 3:7).  Jesus told the story of Lazarus and the rich man to show that a person isn’t safe from Hell just because he descended from Abraham (Luke 16:19-31).

[God is able of these stones to raise up children] –The idea is, “if you don’t start doing something for God by repenting then He’ll replace you with someone else.”  The Jews were replaced by the gentiles (Rom 11:16-24).  Also, rocks were a somewhat common theme in the gospels (Matt 4:3 & Luke 19:40).



MATT 3:10 – And now also the axe 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.  {Similar to Luke 3:9}

[the axe is laid unto the root of the trees] – Judgment/Condemnation is coming to you (trees/branches) for not being obedient (fruitful) for God.  The Jews (natural branches) were cut down and replaced with the gentiles (wild branches) (Rom 11:16-24).

[good fruit] – The Pharisees produced bad fruit, called fruits of the flesh (Gal 5:17-21).  The good fruit they were supposed to produce is called the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22-26).  One good fruit is love, while one bad fruit of the flesh is hate.  To be fruitful in either direction doesn’t just mean to love a lot or hate a lot, but to spread it among other people.  The Pharisees spread their poisonous bad fruit (Matt 23:15), Christians spread their good fruit, the good news (Mark 16:15).

[hewn down, and cast into the fire] – Punished in Hell (John 15:6, Matt 7:19, Matt 13:50, Mark 9:45).  This is the unquenchable fire of Matt 3:12.

See Luke 3:10-15 – The people ask “What should we do?”



MATT 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:  {Similar to Mark 1:7-8, Luke 3:16, & John 1:26-27}

[he that cometh after me] – The messiah, Jesus, who came in Matt 3:13.

[mightier than I] – How was He mightier than John?  He could baptize with the Holy Ghost and of fire.

[baptize with the Holy Ghost] – This is a reward, like Him storing the wheat in His barn in Matt 3:12.  Jesus never baptized anyone (John 4:2).  The Holy Ghost wasn’t given before Jesus was resurrected (John 7:39).  He sent the Holy Ghost on Pentecost (Acts 1:5).  Receiving the Holy Ghost is the same as being baptized or filled with the Holy Ghost.  Men have received the Holy Ghost before they’re baptized with water (Acts 10:47).

[baptize … with fire]What is the Baptism of Fire? – No one listening to John would have assumed that being immersed in fire was good.  Being baptized with fire is equal to Hell where a person is burned up with unquenchable fire as the next verse says.  John was addressing a mixed crowd of good and evil people.  John was really saying, “He will baptize some of you (the wheat) with the Holy Ghost and some of you (the chaff) with fire”.  Baptism of the Holy Ghost was for those who repented.  Baptism of fire was for the Pharisees who blasphemed the Holy Ghost (Mark 3:29).  Three times in Matthew 3:10-12, John repeats the idea of reward for the good and punishment for the bad: “the good fruit, the wheat, is baptized with the Holy Spirit (reward)” but “the bad fruit, the husk, is baptized with unquenchable fire (punishment).  Jesus, talking to His apostles, says, “You’ll be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days from now” (Acts 1:5).  Why no mention of fire?  It’s because the baptism of fire is punishment in Hell.



MATT 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.  {Similar to Luke 3:17}

[fan] – G4425 = winnowing fan/shovel, used to toss wheat in the air to separate the husk from wheat.

[purge his floor] – Floor = G0257, “threshing floor”.  This means to judge the world (Acts 17:31).

[his wheat] – Same as the wheat from Matt 13:24-30; Children of the kingdom (Matt 13:38).

[the chaff] – Same as the tares from Matt 13:24-30; Children of the wicked one (Matt 13:38).

[unquenchable fire] – Punishment in Hell (Mark 9:43).


Go back to Matthew – Owen’s Bible Study Notes

Kent Owen

Author: Kent Owen

After college I lived in China for 5 years, working as an English teacher and foreign marketing manager. Now i'm an insurance salesman, but my real passion is Christ and learning the bible.

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