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9/1/14 The Ministry of John the Baptist

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                                                                        (Part 4)

                                                                    Matt. 3:1-17

Morning Meditation  9/1/14     

Matthew quotes John the Baptist in this passage of Scripture. You will notice that John uses the personal pronoun “I.” I want us to look especially at two verses: verses 11-12 say, “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: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

John says, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance . . .” John says, “I want to say something further about my ministry.” In the Greek pronouns are attached to the verb. In other words, you do not have to use a personal pronoun separate from the verb unless you want to emphasize it. The “I” here is the translation of “ego” and is a personal pronoun that is placed there for emphasis. John is going to contrast his ministry with that of Jesus. The word “baptize” translates “baptizo” and means “ to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk), to overwhelm.” Sometimes a word is illustrated by its use in the Bible. This is true of the word “baptize.” Paul says in Romans 6:4:  “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”  The word buried” translates “sunthapto” and means, “to bury together with.” He says this burial is by “baptism” which translates “baptisma” and means “immersion.” It is not the purpose of this meditation to straighten anyone out on the subject of baptism. It is simply my desire to aid you in your understanding of what the Bible actually says. What you do with the truth after I help you to understand it, is strictly between you and your Lord. Baptism has never been and is not now a condition to salvation.

The word “baptize” is also a verb and is in the present tense. This means, “I indeed keep on baptizing you with water unto repentance.” The words “keep on” is an explanation of the present tense which is a continuous action verb. John is talking about his present practice, i.e., the present tense referring to the time he spoke these words. I baptize you with water, not in vegetable beef soup! Water was used to cleanse the priests and vessels in the Temple. The people to whom John spoke knew what the water represented. So water is the proper element. The word “unto” is the preposition “eis” and means “with reference to.” The word “repentance” is the translation of “metanoia” and means “a change of mind.” Have you ever been wrong about something and someone or something changed your mind?  And when you changed your mind, your change of mind became evident in your talk on that subject and your actions with regard to that subject. God sent John to preach and baptize those who believed the message. as an expression of their identification with him and his message, they were baptized.

Next John says, “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:” The words “but he that cometh after me” means “he who follows after me.” John was a forerunner. He came to “prepare the way” for the Lord. John knew what his job was. He did not allow visions of greatness to deter him. He did not try to “develop his full potential!” He came (was sent; Jn. 1:6) to do a job and did it. That was what success was to John. I thank God for the day I learned that it was not up to me to be great. What ever God wants to make of me is His business. I ceased to listen to the voices a long time ago who tried to tell me what God wanted me to accomplish for Him. Have you ever heard the, “I’m doing it and you can also” routine? Or, “Come and hear me and I’ll tell you how to do it.” Now I’m not saying you can’t get help from another. I am saying that you need to know what God has gifted you to do and begin to let Him work in and through you to accomplish that service (Phil. 1:12-13). I will tell you this. He has not called us to be great! He has called us to walk in humility before Him and exalt Jesus in our words and works.

John says that the One who comes after me is “mightier than I” and I am not worthy to “bear” His “shoes.” I believe John knew that in the eyes of a lot of his followers that he was the greatest thing since buttons on a shirt. John tells them that he is baptizing with water but the Messiah will baptize with the “Holy Ghost, and with fire.” He says that there is nothing supernatural about my baptism but there is His. I believe John is saying, “You can reject me and there is no real consequences ( what if you are not baptized. Big deal!), but what you do with Him will be the difference between heaven and hell.”

John says, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” The Holy Spirit baptism happens when we are Saved and Jesus is the Baptizer. This is John’s theology and I’m going with it. This is also Paul’s theology. Paul says in Ephesians 1:13-14: “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” This is a definitive statement about when the Holy Spirit comes into the life of the believer.  We do not pray Him in, He comes in when we believe the gospel and stays for the duration, i.e., the redemption of the body. If we do not have the Holy Spirit we are not saved (Rom. 8:9). It is as simple as that.

What does “and with fire” mean? This is explained in the next verse. Verse 12 says, “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Fire in the Bible speaks of judgment. There is no question about what it means in this passage. When you come to Jesus you either get saved or you will suffer the judgment of eternal fire as a result of your rejection of Him. John says, “Your reject me and there is no eternal consequences. You reject Jesus and there is eternal consequences.”

John also brings out the greatness of Jesus with the words “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..”  Those who are interested in sermons or lessons, there are four things to look at in this verse: “His hand” His floor” “His wheat” and “He will burn up the chaff  (His judgment).” John says His greatness is brought out in the fact that He is the Savior and Judge. What you do with Him determines where you spend eternity. The “garner” is heaven. Jesus takes His own to a specially prepared place (John 14:1-3). He puts the “chaff” into a place prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). It is a place of “unquenchable fire.” The word “unquenchable” translates “asbestos” from which we get our word asbestos. Asbestos is something that resists fire and remains. The idea here is that the fire is irresistible. There is nothing that will quench it. Those cast into hell will not be able to resist it. It is an eternal judgment upon those who reject Jesus as a personal Savior. It is true, man has a choice to either accept or reject the gospel of Christ. But he has absolutely no choice over the consequences of his choice.

John says, “I am just a voice. But Jesus is the One who can either save you or reject you forever as your eternal Judge.”

May the Lord bless these words to our hearts.

In Christ

Bro. White

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Gantt Street Baptist Church
2121 Gantt Street, Cayce, SC 29033 • (803) 794-6280
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