Matthew Henry's Commentary
ohn the Baptist, His preaching, manner of life, and baptism. (1-6) John reproves the Pharisees and Sadducees. (7-12) The baptism
of Jesus. (13-17)
Verses 1-6: After Malachi there was no prophet until
John the Baptist came. He appeared first in the wilderness of Judea. This was not an uninhabited desert, but a part of the
country not thickly peopled, nor much enclosed. No place is so remote as to shut us out from the visits of Divine grace. The
doctrine he preached was repentance; "Repent ye." The word here used, implies a total alteration in the mind, a
change in the judgment, disposition, and affections, another and a better bias of the soul. Consider your ways, change your
minds: you have thought amiss; think again, and think aright. True penitents have other thoughts of God and Christ, sin and
holiness, of this world and the other, than they had. The change of the mind produces a change of the way. That is gospel
repentance, which flows from a sight of Christ, from a sense of his love, and from hopes of pardon and forgiveness through
him. It is a great encouragement to us to repent; repent, for your sins shall be pardoned upon your repentance. Return to
God in a way of duty, and he will, through Christ, return unto you in the way of mercy. It is still as necessary to repent
and humble ourselves, to prepare the way of the Lord, as it then was. There is a great deal to be done, to make way for Christ
into a soul, and nothing is more needful than the discovery of sin, and a conviction that we cannot be saved by our own righteousness.
The way of sin and Satan is a crooked way; but to prepare a way for Christ, the paths must be made straight, (Heb
12:13). Those whose business it is to call others to mourn for sin, and to mortify it, ought themselves to live a serious
life, a life of self-denial, and contempt of the world. By giving others this example, John made way for Christ. Many came
to John's baptism, but few kept to the profession they made. There may be many forward hearers, where there are few true believers.
Curiosity, and love for novelty and variety, may bring many to attend on good preaching, and to be affected for a while, who
never are subject to the power of it. Those who received John's doctrine, testified their repentance by confessing their sins.
Those only are ready to receive Jesus Christ as their righteousness, who are brought with sorrow and shame to own their guilt.
The benefits of the kingdom of heaven, now at hand, were thereupon sealed to them by baptism. John washed them with water,
in token that God would cleanse them from all their iniquities, thereby intimating, that by nature and practice all were polluted,
and could not be admitted among the people of God, unless washed from their sins in the fountain Christ was to open, (Zec 13:1).
Verses 7-12: To make application to
the souls of the hearers, is the life of preaching; so it was of John's preaching. The Pharisees laid their chief stress on
outward observances, neglecting the weightier matters of the moral law, and the spiritual meaning of their legal ceremonies.
Others of them were detestable hypocrites, making their pretences to holiness a cloak for iniquity. The Sadducees ran into
the opposite extreme, denying the existence of spirits, and a future state. They were the scornful infidels of that time and
country. There is a wrath to come. It is the great concern of every one to flee from that wrath. God, who delights not in
our ruin, has warned us; he warns by the written word, by ministers, by conscience. And those are not worthy of the name of
penitents, or their privileges, who say they are sorry for their sins, yet persist in them. It becomes penitents to be humble
and low in their own eyes, to be thankful for the least mercy, patient under the greatest affliction, to be watchful against
all appearances of sin, to abound in every duty, and to be charitable in judging others. Here is a word of caution, not to
trust in outward privileges. There is a great deal which carnal hearts are apt to say within themselves, to put aside the
convincing, commanding power of the word of God. Multitudes, by resting in the honours and mere advantages of their being
members of an outward church, come short of heaven. Here is a word of terror to the careless and secure. Our corrupt hearts
cannot be made to produce good fruit, unless the regenerating Spirit of Christ graft the good word of God upon them. And every
tree, however high in gifts and honours, however green in outward professions and performances, if it bring not forth good
fruit, the fruits meet for repentance, is hewn down and cast into the fire of God's wrath, the fittest place for barren trees:
what else are they good for? If not fit for fruit, they are fit for fuel. John shows the design and intention of Christ's
appearing, which they were now speedily to expect. No outward forms can make us clean. No ordinances, by whomsoever administered,
or after whatever mode, can supply the want of the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire. The purifying and cleansing power
of the Holy Spirit alone can produce that purity of heart, and those holy affections, which accompany salvation. It is Christ
who baptizes with the Holy Ghost. This he did in the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit sent upon the apostles, (Ac
2:4). This he does in the graces and comforts of the Spirit, given to those that ask him, (Lu 11:13; Joh 7:38,39);
see (Ac 11:16). Observe here, the outward church is Christ's floor, (Isa
21:10). True believers are as wheat, substantial, useful, and valuable; hypocrites are as chaff, light and empty, useless
and worthless, carried about with every wind; these are mixed, good and bad, in the same outward communion. There is a day
coming when the wheat and chaff shall be separated. The last judgment will be the distinguishing day, when saints and sinners
shall be parted for ever. In heaven the saints are brought together, and no longer scattered; they are safe, and no longer
exposed; separated from corrupt neighbours without, and corrupt affections within, and there is no chaff among them. Hell
is the unquenchable fire, which will certainly be the portion and punishment of hypocrites and unbelievers. Here life and
death, good and evil, are set before us: according as we now are in the field, we shall be then in the floor.
Verses 13-17: Christ's gracious condescensions are so surprising, that even the strongest
believers at first can hardly believe them; so deep and mysterious, that even those who know his mind well, are apt to start
objections against the will of Christ. And those who have much of the Spirit of God while here, see that they need to apply
to Christ for more. Christ does not deny that John had need to be baptized of him, yet declares he will now be baptized of
John. Christ is now in a state of humiliation. Our Lord Jesus looked upon it as well becoming him to fulfil all righteousness,
to own every Divine institution, and to show his readiness to comply with all God's righteous precepts. In and through Christ,
the heavens are opened to the children of men. This descent of the Spirit upon Christ, showed that he was endued with his
sacred influences without measure. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
meekness, temperance. At Christ's baptism there was a manifestation of the three Persons in the sacred Trinity. The Father
confirming the Son to be Mediator; the Son solemnly entering upon the work; the Holy Spirit descending on him, to be through
his mediation communicated to his people. In Him our spiritual sacrifices are acceptable, for He is the altar that sanctifies
every gift, (1Pe 2:5). Out of Christ, God is a consuming fire, but in Christ, a reconciled Father.
This is the sum of the gospel, which we must by faith cheerfully embrace.
Prepare Ye the Way of the
Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application
of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we continue in the book
of Matthew with Chapter 3. In our text today we see the account of John the Baptist Preparing the way of Jesus, preaching
repentance, rebuking sinners, and baptizing Jesus. In making application we see that the Lord is still preparing the way for
us with His Word, the Bible. In its pages are all the issues of life and if listen, as those who listened to John in his day,
will that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. How about you? Do you see Jesus through the Word of God? Let us learn
from our text today and the example of the John the Baptist to see that the Lord has prepared a way for us that we can find
if we simply listen to the Word of the Lord.
those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
2And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
3For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of
one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
4And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about
his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
6And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation
of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to
raise up children unto Abraham.
also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and
cast into the fire.
11I indeed baptize you
with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall
baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff
with unquenchable fire.
13Then cometh Jesus
from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
15And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all
righteousness. Then he suffered him.
Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the
Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.