Bible Study #9, Based on Luke 3:7-14
People came to be baptized by John, yet John called them brood of vipers, said they were fleeing from the wrath to come, exhorted them to produce fruit that demonstrated repentance, and warned them not to think they would be saved simply because they were descendants of Abraham. In other words, John meant that the people that were coming to him (not necessarily all those, but a considerable number) though they would be spared from the wrath to come because of their lineage, nationality, and baptism itself. However, John warned them that they needed true repentance, repentance that changed their behavior and manner of living.
Once again, we have seen this important theme: not all Jews would be saved.
From John’s perspective, judgment was at hand, it was something that would take place soon. The axe was at the tree, and every tree that did not produce the fruit of true repentance would be cut down and thrown into the fire—he meant that all individuals who failed to repent would be destroyed.
But how exactly would these individuals be destroyed? John was talking about divine judgment upon individuals who failed to repent, an idea that is likely related to the “fall of many” mentioned by Simeon in Luke 2:34. The divine judgment of which he spoke was most likely a spiritual judgment, a reference to their present relationship with God, and possibly the afterlife and the eternal destiny of their souls.
In verses 10-14, John exhorted the people to practice repentence by showing generosity, being honest, not mistreating people, and being satisfied with their income.
Now, it is important that we understand that repentance alone does not merit a pardon (forgiveness). John the Baptist was not telling people to repent in order to earn forgiveness: instead, John was telling people to repent in order to receive the pardon (forgiveness) that God was graciously extending to Israel (and all humanity), and to escape the judgment that they deserved, that they would receive if they did not repent, and that was coming soon.
Salvation, then, has always been by grace through faith: God proclaims that He will extend a pardon (forgive) all who repent—God’s grace is the offer of forgiveness, and repentance is the product of believing God’s offer.
Questions for Reflection
- What is the relationship between God’s word (message, gospel), faith, and repentance?
- What does true repentance accomplish in a person’s life?
- Have you truly repented from ignoring God and from your sins? Has the direction of your life changed?
- Ask God to help you understand His word and know His will so you can truly repent.
- Ask God to give you true repentance, to help you change the way you live.
- Aks God to to help you undertnad His word so you can know how to live according to His will.
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