Summary: The call of the kingdom is a call to repentance, restoration and life and one of the first steps in that new life ought to be baptism. This message seeks to answer the question: Why should I be baptized?
Following in the Footsteps - Matthew 3:4-17 - July 8, 2012
According to what we read in the pages of God’s word there are what we would call two ordinances that Jesus has established for us. Now the dictionary defines an “ordinance” as “an authoritative command or order.” (www.thefreedictionary.com) So they come to us from one who is in authority over us. In Matthew 28, verse 18, Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” These particular ordinances come to us then under the authority that God the Father has granted Jesus the Son. They are things that Jesus established for us in His day and which the Church is expected to observe until He comes again. Those two ordinances are the Lord’s Supper, which we celebrate monthly, and then secondly, baptism, which we will be carrying out over the next couple of weeks.
Both of these ordinances proclaim the gospel. They are living pictures, if you will, of spiritual truths. When we understand them rightly, we see how they both illustrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, and in doing so how they proclaim the grace of God which is being revealed to the world. Don’t ever be tempted to think of them as simply traditions of man; rather think of them as commands from our Lord through which the gospel is made known.
Open your Bibles with me this morning to the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew, chapter 3, beginning in verse 4. And as you’re turning there, let me set the stage for you. John the Baptist has come to the people filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. He is preaching and teaching and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the kingdom of God was at hand. His is the voice that fulfills prophecy for He is the one who was to come; “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ (Matthew 3:3) This is John’s ministry – this is what God had sent him to do. And he’s doing it, and he’s doing it faithfully! The people are coming. They are flocking to him out in the wilderness, they are coming out to the Jordan river. They are being humbled by their sins, broken before God and crying out in repentance. Let’s begin in verse 4 …
“John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. [Doesn’t sound like he was much to look at but the] People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 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? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 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. 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. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
John the Baptist didn’t pull any punches when he spoke God’s truth! That’s what ultimately lead to his death because he would not compromise God’s word! And the message he preached is the same with which Jesus would begin His public ministry, “Repent and believe for the kingdom of God is near!” And it would make sense that the messages would be the same, and that Jesus would build upon what John had done, for God had sent John on ahead of Jesus to prepare the way for the tremendous things that would be done in and through the life, death and resurrection of the Christ.
And John called people to repentance for it is their sin that separated them from God in the first place. They needed to understand the reality of their sin, to be broken by their inability to cleanse their own hearts, before they could be made ready for a Savior. God has got a pattern He follows with people. It is Law to the Proud and Grace to the Humble. John came and he reminded the proud and self-righteous of God’s Law – Law that they had broken and in doing so had set themselves in rebellion against the Lord God Almighty.