Summary: John shares with us three wonderful gifts of the baptism/fire of the Holy Spirit - 1. A New Life 2. A New Life of Power 3. A New Life of Order and Direction
Scripture: Matthew 3:7-12
Title: Holiness at the River
John shares with us three wonderful gifts of the baptism/fire of the Holy Spirit - 1. A New Life 2. A New Life of Power 3. A New Life of Order and Direction
Grace and peace from God our Father and from His Son Jesus Christ who came to take away the sin of the world!
Who is that man speaking over there at the Jordan River? Did I just hear what I thought I heard? Is it true that John the Baptizer is really the Prophet Elijah come back to life? Or is John the long awaited Messiah?
For nearly 400 years the voice of a God anointed prophet had not been heard around the Jordan River or anywhere else for that matter. Suddenly, out of nowhere John the Baptist appeared dressed in camel's hair and wearing a leather belt eating a diet of honey and locust. He looked like something from the ancient past. He looked and sounded like the real deal. His voice was strong and his message was unrelenting.
John the Baptist was from the Tribe of the Levi. God had appointed the Levites to be the priests around the Temple and subsequently around the synagogues. At the time of Jesus over 20,000 Levites lived in and around the city of Jerusalem taking care of the Temple when it was their appointed time. So, what was John doing down at the River Jordan? Why wasn't he standing beside those who were serving in the Temple?
What we may not remember is that some of Israel's greatest prophets came out of the Tribe of Levi . In fact, the greatest prophet and Law Giver Moses ben Amram comes out of the Tribe of Levi. The Bible tells us that some other great prophets including the likes of Jeremiah and Ezekiel came out of the Tribe of Levi. While John had not taken up the linen clothes of the priesthood he was being true to his heritage and to his call.
Fearlessly, John the Baptizer denounced evil wherever he found it. It didn't matter if that sin was found in King Herod's palace or in the halls of the Temple or even in the lifestyles of the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes. Unashamedly and without hesitation John relentlessly rebuked evil. Noted British Bible Scholar Dr. William Barclay calls John a "light in dark places; he was like a wind which swept from God throughout the country".
Denouncing evil, however, was only a minor part of John's message. John didn't spend his whole ministry fixated on the negative. John didn't go around seeking places where he could rail against evil. John focused most of his ministry on promoting the positive life of holiness. He summoned men, women and children to live a life of progressive righteousness. He challenged people to enjoy a higher life in the LORD. John the Baptizer wanted people to know that the LORD was leading them towards a new life of holiness.
John challenged people to be baptized into a life of repentance and spiritual formation. John's baptism was a bridge between the Jewish ritual Mikveh and what we today call Christian baptism.1 In John's day those who repented and were symbolically cleansed by water still continued to go to the Temple, celebrate the festivals and offer prayers and sacrifices. They continued to be faithful to the Law and the Prophets. It was only after Pentecost that the disciples and the Early Church began to understand Christian baptism as a outward sign of the inward work of justification and regeneration made possible through the shed blood of Jesus the Messiah. (Matthew 28:19)
In verse 11, John points beyond himself to the one who was to come. John speaks of a person who would come and bring not only the effects of water baptism but would do even more. This person would come and baptize those who would accept the baptism of the Holy Spirit with fire. We know today that John was speaking of Jesus Christ our Savior and LORD.
What John is sharing had been the life dream of the Jewish people for ages. All throughout their history they had been looking for time when the Holy Spirit would come. Ever since the Lord had put the words of Ezekiel 36:26-27 - "... I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will pour my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statues and be careful to obey my rules" (ESV) the people had been longing for that day to come to reality.
Now, John says that day was upon them. The one who would bring that promise to pass was now in their very midst.