Setting

As in the previous two chapters, John once again came on the scene first. His mission was to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus and introduce to the people about “One mightier than I.” John was the messenger of God whom the OT prophets spoke about (Isa 40:3-5; Mal 3:1; 4:5-6). Since he was the forerunner, the clear implication is that Jesus, who came after John, would be the Messiah.

Key Verse

(3:9)

Did You Know...?

1. Annas and Caiaphas (3:2): Annas was high priest from A.D. 6
until he was deposed by the Roman official Gratus in 15. He was
followed by his son Eleazar, his son-in-law Caiaphas and then four
more sons. Even though Rome had replaced Annas, the Jews
continued to recognize his authority (see Jn 18:13; Ac 4:6); so
Luke included his name as well as that of the Roman appointee,
Caiaphas. [ref]
2. Tunic (3:11): undergarment worn under the longer robe.
3. Tax collectors (3:12): Jewish agents who collected tax for the
Roman government. They often collected more than they paid
the Romans and were therefore despised by the Jews.
4. The soldiers (3:14): [They] were probably not Roman but
Jewish, assigned to internal affairs. The very nature of their work
gave them opportunity to commit the sins specified. [ref]
5. Winnowing fork (3:17): The grain is tossed in the air with a
“winnowing fork.” The lighter and heavier elements are thus
separated, the heavier grain falling on the “threshing floor.” The
“chaff,” which is not the true grain, is burned up and the wheat
stored in the barn. [ref]
6. Concerning Herodias (3:19): Herod Antips divorced his former
wife to marry Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip.

Outline

  • The Voice in the Wilderness
    (3:1~6)
  • Bearing Fruits Worthy of Repentance
    (3:7~14)
  • Coming of the Mightier One
    (3:15~20)

Segment Analysis

  • 3:1-6

    1a.

    When did John begin his ministry?

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  • 1b.

    Where did he carry out his ministry?

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  • 2.

    Explain the meaning and significance of the statement, “the word of God came to John.”

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    These words are reminiscent of the opening words of the OT prophets (Jer 1:1-3; Hos 1:1; Amos 1:1). In other words, John was a prophet sent by God. In fact, he was the last of the OT prophets (Lk 16:16)
    This statement is significant because after a long period of prophetic silence, God’s word had finally come to the people once again. Not only so, this divine oracle would pave the way for the coming of the Savior.

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  • 3a.

    What was the message of John’s ministry?

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  • 3b.

    What is the difference between John’s baptism and that of the apostles? (Acts 2:38, 19:4-5)

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    John’s baptism was a preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus. It was a baptism of repentance that led people to Christ. But after Jesus came, the people must put their trust in Christ, through whose blood we can receive atonement. Therefore, after the resurrection of the Lord, those who had accepted John’s message must also be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.

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  • 4.

    According to the prophecy of Isaiah, what is the purpose of John’s ministry?

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    Through his preaching and exhortations (cf. 18), John would remove the obstacles in the hearts of the people (symbolized by valley, mountain, crooked places, and rough ways) that would hinder the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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  • 3:7-14

    5a.

    Why did John call the multitudes “brood of vipers”?

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    This term exposes the inherent wickedness of the people, who were also the descendants of those who killed the prophets (cf. 11:47-51). The Lord Jesus also called the scribes and Pharisees brood of vipers (Mt 23:31-33).

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  • 5b.

    What does “the wrath to come” refer to?

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    Impending judgment on the day of the Lord (Isa 13:13; Zeph 1:14-15; Rom 2:5; Col 3:6; 1Thess 1:10).

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  • 6.

    What does true repentance involve?

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    Bearing fruits of repentance. i.e., speech and conduct that demonstrate a changed heart and reflect God’s nature (Rom 6:1-4; Gal 5:22-25; Eph 4:20-24)

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  • 7a.

    Explain the meaning of the phrase, “we have Abraham as our father.” Why would someone say these words?

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    Many people took pride in their heritage as the children of Abraham (Jn 8:39a). As descendants of God’s covenant, they believed that God would never reject them.

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  • 7b.

    According to John, what is wrong with such mentality?

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    John told them that God could choose to raise up children for Abraham from the stones. In other words, if they were unrepentant, they would be rejected by God despite their physical lineage. God could easily raise up others to be the descendants of Abraham and still fulfill His promise to Abraham.

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  • 8a.

    What would God do with those who do not bear the fruits of repentance?

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    He would forsake them and cast them into the fire of His judgment.

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  • 8b.

    What message do the words, “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees” convey?

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    These words carry a sense of urgency. God is ready to reject the unrepentant anytime. We must repent immediately before we exhaust God’s mercy.

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  • 8c.

    What fruits of repentance do you need to bear in your life today?

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  • 9.

    How would John’s instructions to each of the following groups apply to our lives today? Give some examples. a. To the people (11) b. To the tax collectors (13) c. To the soldiers (14)

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  • 3:15~20

    10.

    How will Jesus Christ baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire?

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    He would send the Holy Spirit as the Counselor. The work of the Holy Spirit has the effect of fire. When the Spirit comes, He will judge the world (Jn 16:8-11) and purify the believers (2Thess 2:12; Isa 4:4). While John’s ministry called people to repentance, Christ ministry would sanctify and renew the life of believers. Therefore, Christ’s ministry would be “mightier” than John’s.

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  • 11.

    Explain the analogy of the winnowing fan, the gathering of the wheat, and the burning of the chaff.

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    Palestinian farmers used winnowing forks to separate the wheat from the unwanted chaff. This process is used to refer to the judgment, when God will separate the righteous from the wicked (cf. Mt 13:37 43; 47-50). In the same way, Jesus’ ministry will separate true believers from unbelievers (Mt 21:42-44; Rom 9:30-33; 1Pet 2:7-8). Believers will be gathered into God’s kingdom. Unbelievers will be rejected and cast into eternal fire.

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  • 12.

    How did John’s Ministry end?

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  • 13.

    What lessons have you learned from John’s life and ministry?

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