7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Matt 3:7-10 (NIV)

Tell us how you really feel John. Seriously, the Baptist doesn’t seem too interested in winning any popularity contest! He was not shy nor did he fear the scorn of the religious elite rather we discover him here boldly fulfilling his God given directives. Without mincing words, in pristinely clear fashion, he exhorts and warns those who were tenaciously clinging to their lineage to Abraham as their automatic entrance into the Messiah’s kingdom. Not going to happen says the Baptist. The doctrine John came preaching was that of repentance not genealogy. His message was plain and direct - pointedly addressed to the hearer’s consciences. He did not begin with the titles and applause that their ears were so accustomed to hearing rather harsh words of conviction and awakening. We see Jesus stating like Words to the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees later in Matthew:

33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” Matt 23:33 (NIV)

God - who takes no delight in the ruin of any man - fairly warns us that there is a wrath to come and it is of great concern for each one of us to flee from its impending doom. These warnings often seem shocking to those who with hardened hearts wallow in self-confidence and false security. Because we profess with our mouths and listen to proper teaching with our ears does not make us truly penitent. The Word does us no good if we do not take it as spoken directly to us and belonging to us. Repentance is rooted in the heart and the pretense of it is futile to say the least. Scripture states if fruit does not naturally flow from its root we are not truly penitent. We are foolish to lull ourselves to sleep or flatter ourselves with a false sense of security if we remain resistant to repentance – a continual turning from sin to Him. It is not a one-time walk the isle type of thing – it is continual process. God remains fully aware of what is in our hearts - what we say within ourselves – what we are dependent upon for our salvation. We are not to let our deluded hearts mislead us. The Prophet Isaiah tells us:

20 He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, "Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?" Isaiah 44:20 (NIV)

It is God’s desire for us to change. He takes no delight in the death of His creation. There are always blessings in our surrender to His will and ways. God stated His heart through the pen of the Prophet Ezekiel:

23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? Ezek 18:23 (NIV)

“From God’s perspective, one hidden act of repentance, one little gesture of selfless love, one moment of true forgiveness is all that is needed to bring God from His throne to run to His returning son and to fill the heavens with sounds of divine joy.” Henri J. M. Nouwen

“The more willing you are to own up to your sin, the more willing God is to forgive you. When you come clean, God will clean your record. If you are willing to use your lips for confession, you will find your Father willing to use His lips to kiss you". Paraphrased, Charles Spurgeon

Lastly, we discover the Baptist proclaiming the foolishness and groundlessness of the Pharisees and Sadducees putting all their eggs – so to speak - in the proverbial lineage basket. We are duped and fall short if we are depending upon our relative’s relationship to God rather than our own. What good does that do us? John states God could raise up rocks as children of faith. The ax, says the Baptist, is at the root of the tree – our time of sojourning is short (to say the least) and he warns us as well not to be marked for ruin but rather for restoration. Every tree that does not naturally produce fruit from the Holy Spirit flowing within them in keeping with repentance will be hewn down and burned. If one is not fit for fruit says John, they are only fit for fuel.

“Once you realize all that it cost God to forgive you, you will be held as in a vise, constrained by the love of God.” Oswald Chambers

What I Glean

  • Repentance is a change of my heart the root of which produces fruit.
  • God takes no delight in the ruin of any man.
  • God remains ever willing to forgive me.