Matthew 3:7-12
Mat 3:7 (KJB)
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?
No doubt someone had probably sent word back to Jerusalem to the ruling council that something was happening in the area of the Jordan. So many of the Pharisees and the Sadducees had come to the site where John was baptizing. The Pharisees were zealous for the law but they equated tradition as valid as the Scriptures themselves. The Sadducees were a priestly sect and were more political than religious. John wasted no time in identifying these religious leaders as enemies. By calling them ďgeneration of vipers,Ē he was actually calling them children of Satan by means of using the snake as a representative for Satan. (Gen 3:1 KJV) Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? John asks them who warned them to flee the wrath to come. John was asking because he knows that he did not warn them and were they there just to cause trouble or were they there to confess their sins. John knew what they were there for and that was to see what was going on.
Mat 3:8 (KJB)
Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
Meet - Worthy
A fruit tree is only good if it brings forth good fruit. John is telling them that the fruits worthy of repentance are not just the acceptance of doctrines or teachings but a complete change of mind which is the source of the change of habits and lifestyle. One can tell true repentance if the works coincide with the words. It does no good to say I repent of evil deeds and then go to a bar and start drinking. That shows hypocrisy and it shows that the person was never transformed. If the Pharisees and Sadducees showed true repentance, they would be friends of the Messiah and not the enemies and we all know how that turned out.
Mat 3:9 (KJB)
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.
One of the major misconceptions is that many of the religious leaders believed that they would be able to draw upon the merits and lives of the fathers like Abraham. John immediately rejects that belief and basically tells them that being a physical descendant of Abraham is no substitute for true conversion along with accompanying good works. (Isa 51:1-2 KJV) Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. {2} Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him. John had declared to them that just as God had hewn Israel out of the rock of Abraham, He would be able to raise up children of Abraham from the very same rock. John was not telling them that being physical descendants was the important thing but they needed to belong to the spiritual line of Abraham, that is, they needed to become saved and with that true salvation would come the accompanying good works.
Mat 3:10 (KJB)
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 image of the ax striking the root of the tree portrays the judgment of God which await the ungodly. Here the ax that is laid to the root of the tree is the true Gospel, the Kingdom of God. The root of the trees is Judaism and the true Gospel is to replace the Mosaic law. Every tree which does not embrace the true Gospel but sticks to the law will be cut down with the ax of the Gospel and they will be judged by that Gospel. When they are found guilty for rejection of that Gospel they will be cast into the fire, that is, eternal damnation of Hell. With the arrival of John the Baptist, it signaled the beginning of the last days of earth and at the end of those days will come judgment.
Mat 3:11 (KJB)
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:
Mightier - Powerful, able, strong
Here John begins to state the difference between his ministry and that of the Lord Jesus Christ. Johnís ministry was a limited one which was a baptism in water unto only repentance as the people came to him and made verbal professions of their sins and their repentance from those sins. Then John begins to speak about the Lord Jesus Christ. He now begins his ministry of introduction and states that He which will come after him is mightier than him. John was born about six months before Jesus for the purpose of the ministry of introducing the Messiah. Jesus was mightier because He was God in the flesh and John is not necessarily speaking about physical strength but strength which is not found on this earth. Strength to raise the dead, strength to be meek, strength to face His adversaries, strength to pay for the sins of all the Elect, etc. John was speaking about the divine strength of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He then states that he is not worthy to bear His sandals. When someone carried anotherís sandals, it was a sign of subordination and humiliation but here John says that in comparison to who Jesus is, he is not even worthy to carry his sandals. John knows that Jesus is the Son of God who came to dwell among them. Then he goes on to reveal a little about the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus will save someone they will be baptized with the Holy Ghost and fire. When a person becomes saved, they are baptized into the body of Christ, that is, they become one with all the other believers. (1 Cor 12:13 KJV) For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. The baptism is a uniting together by the witness of the indwelling Holy Ghost. Below are two verses which speak of the believers being baptized, that is, immersed in the Holy Ghost.
(Acts 1:5 KJV) For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
(Acts 11:16 KJV) Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
Then John states that the believer will be baptized by fire. Fire in the Bible always has to do with judgment. First, it would be through the Lord Jesus Christ where every true believer would be judged and that judgment was taken on Calvary and because of Calvary, all the believers would be found not guilty and would be saved eternally. (Rev 1:15 KJV) And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. Secondly, all true believers would face persecution in one way or another. (Rom 6:3 KJV) Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? As Jesus died to self, so must we. We will face the opposition of the unsaved world as we bring the Gospel and many will suffer just like Jesus did, giving their lives for the Gospel. Thirdly, the believerís works will also be judged by fire and if they are wood, hay, or stubble, they will be burned up but the believer will be saved by fire, that is, the wrath of God the Lord Jesus Christ took on Calvary on behalf of all those who will inherit eternal life. (1 Cor 3:15 KJV) If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (Mat 19:29 KJV) And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
Mat 3:12 (KJB)
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.
Here is an example from agriculture. Grain was placed in the open air and normally in a big circle. It was then trodden down by big animals such as oxen or even donkeys. Once the initial threshing was done, then the workers would move with their fans. The fan was used to take the grain and throw it up into the air. While the grain was in the air, the wind would blow away the chaff and only the good grain would fall back into the circle and be gathered and placed in the garner which was a building used for the storage of grains. The principle in this verse is that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to die for His people. The ones He died for will be the saved and they will be brought to Heaven which is symbolized by the garner. The unsaved, which is symbolized by the chaff, will be judged on the last day and cast into eternal hell for their sins. The fan represents a separation of the saved and the unsaved. The fan being the Gospel, which will go forth to the end of the earth, separating the wheat from the chaff.