The Gospel of Luke - Part 11: Fruits in keeping with repentance

(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for Connection Class Leaders at Hoffmantown church.)

Review:

Last week, we began the study of Chapter 3 of Luke, with Luke’s introduction of the ministry of John the Baptist. Luke established that John’s purpose was to prepare the way for the arrival of the ministry of Jesus, to prepare the people to recognize and receive Jesus for who he was. We also established that, contrary to what some claim, John message was one of repentance of sin and then public evidence of that decision by baptism. He never taught that the Baptist eliminated the sin.

Luke made it clear that John the Baptist fulfilled the Old Testament prophesy of Isaiah:

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight.
Every ravine will be filled,
And every mountain and hill will be brought low;
The crooked will become straight,
And the rough roads smooth;
And all flesh will see the salvation of God.’"
Luke included the end of this quote while Matthew and Mark did not. This shows Luke’s recognition that the Gospel is available to everyone, “All flesh”.

Luke’s detailed dating of the beginning of John’s ministry puts it at about 29 A.D.

We also determined that ρημα [rhema], the Greek word translated as "the word" came from God to John, indicates that it was a specific revelation, an instruction from God to get on with his ministry.

This morning - we will pick up with Luke 3:7, where Luke describes John’s ministry.

So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? “Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” --Luke 3:7-14
Remember that last week I called John an “in your face prophet?”  In verse 7 he opens up by calling the people who were coming to him to be baptized a "brood of vipers". John the Baptist was no people-pleaser. He confronted people with their own sinfulness and did not pull any punches. He told people they were sinners. He named specific sins and he called them to repent.  He insisted that they be baptized under water, to prove that they were sincere

Baptism under water was nothing new to Judaism. It was a symbol of washing away old sin and beginning a new life. However, Jews themselves were never baptized. Baptism was limited to non-Jews who wanted to convert. They were required to be baptized under water as a symbol of leaving their old sinful lives and beginning a new life with God as a Jew.

John was telling those who were born Jews to be baptized. Under usual circumstances this would have been unheard of and totally unacceptable. Yet, people by the thousands came right into the Jordan River, confessed their sins and John put them under the water in baptism.

It is amazing what people will do when they get serious about God! What do you think you would do? Would you go out of town to hear John shout like a prophet and tell you that you are a sinner? Would you confess your sin? Would you step up and be baptized under water? It is amazing what people will do when they get serious about God!

Then, in verse 8 he tells them to produce fruits in keeping with repentance.  This is the theme of this passage. It's also a very important principle - genuine repentance results in real change in the way we live. John made it clear that even though they were God's people (children of Abraham), they still needed to repent of their sins.

This word repentance is an extremely dramatic word. From its Hebrew roots it is a physical word. It is a passionate word. It speaks to the notion of people having been going in one direction changing radically to another direction. But it is not only physical in the sense of a change of direction, it is passionate in the sense that it includes the notion of sorrow and regret, perhaps even tears, about the direction in which one had been going. So it is a feeling that erupts from the heart, the innermost spirit, and leads to a change of deeds and actions.

It's a word, by the way, that is frequently used by Jews to Gentiles. "You've got to change your former loyalties, your way of life, the things you're proud of, the values you've had. You've got to become like one of us. You've got to repent." No self-respecting Jew in John's time really thought the word repentance relevant for himself or herself. And yet it was Jews to whom John spoke. It was to the religious people, the people who had their theology and their doctrine and their positions on all issues right in place. He says to them, "You have got to repent." That was the one message, and every day when he met them at the Jordan by the hundreds, that's the message he preached.

Here’s what Gordon MacDonald says about John’s harping on repentance: The people probably said:  "John, don't you know anything else?"

John probably said: "No, I'm going to keep preaching this day after day. Repentance, repentance, repentance. Because repentance is the only way that you people will be prepared to see and respond to the Lamb of God."

MacDonald suggests that it is legitimate to suggest that the only way a woman or a man today can see and respond to Christ is in the atmosphere and climate of repentance. It is only when men and women like you and me begin to break through the hardness that often encrusts our inner being and see what we really are by nature that we are able to be prepared to see Christ.

Knowing Jesus requires a lifestyle of repentance. He goes on to suggest to you that repentance is more than a one-time act. Repentance is a lifestyle. It is a way of living. To put it in more poetic words, it is the process of keeping soft before the Spirit of God, allowing the Spirit of God to turn up in our lives with consistency the record of what we are by nature and what we are prone to be if we are not looking to him for direction and dimension every day.

That's why we sing that hymn that has the words:

"Prone to wander. Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.
Here's my heart. Oh, take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above."
What's being said in those words? What's being said is that repentance, openness, softness, warmth must be not only an initial act, but it must be a way of life if a person is to be regularly and routinely prepared to see Christ in his broadest possible implications in his life.

Notice how John helps each person or group of people to see how real repentance could be demonstrated in their daily living. He identifies character qualities that are important to God, that God wants to see in all our lives:

And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” --Luke 3:10-14
John says they need to have compassion:
And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” --Luke 3:11
He says they need to have integrity:
And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”  And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” --Luke 3:12-13
He told them they needed honesty:
Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely. --Luke 3:14
And he told them they should be content with what they have:
Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them “... and be content with your wages.” --Luke 3:14
Just a note for anyone who considers military service against God’s will, if God opposed His people serving in the military, this situation would have been a perfect opportunity to make that clear. Notice that John doesn’t at all suggest that these soldiers should change careers.

Consider the words of C. S. Lewis from Mere Christianity:

“Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him? No, for loving myself does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punishment--even to death. If you had committed a murder, the right Christian thing to do would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged. It is, therefore, in my opinion, perfectly right for a Christian judge to sentence a man to death or a Christian soldier to kill an enemy. I always have thought so, ever since I became a Christian, and long before the war, and I still think so now that we are at peace. It is no good quoting 'Thou shalt not kill.' There are two Greek words: the ordinary word to kill and the word to murder. And when Christ quotes that commandment He uses the murder one in all three accounts, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And I am told there is the same distinction in Hebrew. All killing is not murder any more than all sexual intercourse is adultery. When soldiers came to St. John the Baptist asking what to do, he never remotely suggested that they ought to leave the army: nor did Christ when He met a Roman sergeant-major -- what they called a centurion. The idea of the knight -- the Christian in arms for the defense of a good cause -- is one of the great Christian ideas.”
Now look at what John said about Jesus
Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ, John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people. But when Herod the tetrarch was reprimanded by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the wicked things which Herod had done, Herod also added this to them all: he locked John up in prison. --Luke 3:15-20
The people were all wondering in their hearts if John might be the Christ.

What an opportunity for pride. Imagine being so used of God that people begin wondering you might actually be Jesus! But John's humility and godliness shone through. It reminds me of what John the Apostle quoted John the Baptist as having said about Jesus:

He must increase, but I must decrease. --John 3:30
The New Living Translation says:
He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. --John 3:30 (NLT)
John answered them all:
John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I...” --Luke 3:16
John quickly makes it clear that he is not the Messiah. No doubt John already knew that Jesus was the Messiah. Remember, they were related.

What are some things we learn about Jesus from what John says here?

Note the image present in verse 17:
His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. --Luke 3:17
This imagery would be clear and vivid to John's audience. The way a person would sift wheat from the chaff is to scoop up some with a “winnowing fork”, shake it out and let the chaff blow away. Just as a farmer sifts out wheat from the chaff, so Jesus will sort out those who believe and follow Him from all the pretenders. God knows what's in the heart of every person.

Then we learn that John rebuked Herod...

But when Herod the tetrarch was reprimanded by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the wicked things which Herod had done, Herod also added this to them all: he locked John up in prison. --Luke 3:19-20
Both Matthew and Mark record more detail about the events leading up to John's arrest by Herod. If Luke, in fact, as many believe, were written after either or both Matthew and Mark, it would explain why he doesn't include this information. That information was already known and on the record.
For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” --Matthew 14:3-4

For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so. --Mark 6:17-19
So it is clear that John rebuked Herod because Herod was in an immoral relationship with Herodias, who was his brother Philip's wife. Note that Luke also indicates there were “other evil things” that Herod had done that John apparently publicly condemned.

We see here what is human nature. You are in dangerous territory when you start to meddle into the illicit sexual affairs of another. John paid his life as a result.

Ephesians 4:15 guides us in how we should correct a fellow believer. It says, "...but speaking the truth in love..."

If we really care about someone, we'll speak the truth to them even if they don't want to hear it. Have you ever known someone who basically self-destructed over a period of time - and yet no one ever challenged him or rebuked him?   Have you ever known someone who was getting married and everyone thought they were making a mistake but no one told them?

Proverbs tells us:

Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.
      --Proverbs 27:6
We all need friends like John the Baptist. And we all need to be like John the Baptist sometimes with our friends!

Jesus is Baptized:

Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” --Luke 3:21-22
It is interesting that Luke just says that when all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too.

The baptism of Jesus and God’s pronouncement that this was his beloved son is a big deal. One indication of the importance of this event is that every Gospel records it.

Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” --Matthew 3:13-17

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased". --Mark 1:9-11

Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” --Luke 3:21-22

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me'. I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.' I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” ---John 1:29-34
All four Gospels record the Spirit descending on Jesus in the form of a dove. All but John record the voice of God the Father speaking from heaven. These two events, the dove and the voice, show the confirmation by God the Father and God the Holy Spirit validating Jesus and His ministry. Jesus' baptism marks the beginning of His public ministry.

Baptism was clearly important to Jesus. He Himself was baptized and He has commanded that His disciples be baptized

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit... --Matthew 28:19
If I have not been baptized after I trusted Christ as my Savior, then I am disobeying the Lord's clear command and refusing to follow His example. If you haven't been baptized, talk to me or a pastor today about following through with this command of the Lord's.

Since John baptized before Jesus did, that means that it is likely that all his disciples were “re-baptized” after trusting Christ as the Savior.

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. --Acts 2:41
People today who may have been baptized as infants or at some time before coming to faith in Christ, just like the followers of John the Baptist who later accepted Jesus, need to follow through with “believers' baptism”.

The Ancestry of Jesus:

Then Luke tells us about the ministry of Jesus and his lineage, using the public assumption that Jesus is the son of Joseph.

When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Hesli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Heber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. --Luke 3:23-38
We learn several things about the Lord from these verses:

He began His ministry when He was about 30 years old He was thought to be the son of Joseph (though actually the Son of God) His lineage can be traced back to David (v.31), Abraham (v.34) & Adam (v.38).

There is some argument about whether this genealogy is of Joseph or of Mary. Matthew 1:1-16 also records a genealogy. The Matthew genealogy is clearly of Joseph, tracing his lineage beginning with Abraham. Most scholars consider the Luke genealogy as that of Mary. Both genealogies show how God fulfilled His purposes in Christ over the span of time, through the lives of many generations. Both include David and Abraham.

We should also be careful about trying to date human history through the genealogies. There may be generations, even many generations, left out. The purpose of these lists is not to chronicle human history but to affirm the fulfillment of God's purposes in His Son, Jesus. It shows that Jesus is of the house of David, as promised and that he is a descendent of Abraham as promised.

Only Luke records that Jesus was praying when these things happened. Luke documents many more instances of Jesus praying than any of the other Gospels. Luke recorded eleven times that Jesus prayed. Prayer was a very important aspect of the life of Jesus. We're going to be reading about Jesus praying over and over again in the book of Luke. So let's ask the question now that we will ask again and again,

“Is prayer as much of a priority in your life as it was in the life of Jesus?”

Jesus' life was every bit as busy as ours - and He had many more demands placed on Him, many more people trying to get some of His time. Sometimes He prayed early in the morning and sometimes late at night. Jesus made time to pray. He took the time from a busy and demanding schedule because prayer was important to Him.

What application does God want you to make?  Maybe you can't pray an hour a day, you could pray five minutes each day.  Remember, don't let what you can't do keep you from doing what you can!

Whether it's 5 minutes or 10 minutes or 30 minutes or an hour, all of us can and should spend time in prayer each day.

__________

Next week - we will start with Luke Chapter 4 and the temptation of Jesus prior to the start of his ministry.