Outline of the Book, based on Charles Ryrie’s:
I. Preface: The Method and Purpose of Writing, Luke 1:1-4.
II. The Identification of the Son of Man with Men, Luke 1:5-4:13.
a. The Announcement of the Birth of John the Baptist, Luke 1:5-25.
b. The Announcement of the Birth of the Son of Man, Luke 1:26-56.
c. The Advent of John the Baptist, Luke 1:57-80.
d. The Advent of the Son of Man, Luke 2:1-20.
e. The Adoration of the Baby, Luke 2:21-38.
f. The Advancement of the Boy, Luke 2:39-52.
g. The Baptism of the Son of Man, Luke 3:1-22.
h. The Genealogy of the Son of Man, Luke 3:23-38.
i. The Temptation of the Son of Man, Luke 4:1-13.
In Chapter 3, we have two main sections:
g. The Baptism of the Son of Man, Luke 3:1-22.
h. The Genealogy of the Son of Man, Luke 3:23-38.
The first section, The Baptism of the Son of Man, Luke 3:1-22, includes:
- A historical reckoning of both John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ ministry beginning, vs. 1-2.
- The prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled in John, vs. 3-6.
- John’s fiery preaching, vs. 7-14.
- John preaches the Gospel and coming of Jesus’s ministry, vs. 15-18.
- John preaches against Herod and Herod’s retribution toward John, vs. 19-20.
- Jesus’ Baptism by John, vs. 21-22.
The second section, The Genealogy of the Son of Man, Luke 3:23-38, includes:
- Jesus’ genealogy through His mother Mary’s family tree.
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So we begin with the first section:
g. The Baptism of the Son of Man, Luke 3:1-22.
h. A historical reckoning of both John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ ministry beginning, vs. 1-2.
Luke 3:1, “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene.”
Note the careful details of Luke the historian. In vs. 1-2a, he makes a seven-fold, (7 is the number of Spiritual Perfection), attempt to indicate the time when John the Baptist began his ministry, and prove the historicity of these events.
“Fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,” uses the Ordinal number PENTEKAIDEKATOS, πεντεκαιδέκατος meaning, “15,” it is a hapaxlegomena, meaning it is only used here in the NT. It is from PENTE, “five,” KAI, “and,” DEKATOS, “tenth.”
1. The Reign of Caesar Tiberius, Emperor of the Roman Empire:
“Reign” is the Noun HEGEMONIA ἡγεμονία that means, “leadership, government, or rule.” This too is a hapaxlegomena. The typical word for “king or ruler” is BASILEUS that we noted in Luke 1:5, for Herod the Great, which is not used here.
“Tiberius,” TIBERIOS, Τιβέριος is also a hapaxlegomena. It is the name of the “Caesar,” KAISAR, Καῖσαρ “Caesar or Emperor,” that was the 2nd Emperor of Rome from 14-37 AD, succeeding his adoptive father Augustus. He was born November 16, 42 B.C. Tiberius Caesar was ruler in the provinces two years before Augustus Caesar died. His father, of the same name, (Tiberius Claudius Nero), had been an officer under Julius Caesar and had later joined Antony against Octavian (Augustus). His mother was Livia, who after Tiberius’ birth, became the 3rd wife of Augustus. Thus, Tiberius was a stepson of Augustus. He became emperor at age 55, after having distinguished himself as a commander in various wars and having displayed notable talents as an orator and an administrator of civil affairs. Tiberius was thought to be one of the greatest Roman generals; his conquest of Pannonia, Dalmatia, Raetia, and temporarily, parts of Germania, laid the foundations for the northern frontier. Even so, he came to be remembered as a dark, reclusive, and somber ruler who never really desired to be emperor. He had rulership from 11 or 13 AD as co-regent, but became Emperor in 14 AD. His full name was Tiberius Claudius Nero. His official name as emperor was Tiberius Caesar Augustus. He is said to be a well-respected man in his beginning but later fell into debauchery. In 26 A.D., he retired to Capreae, but did not give up the office, where rumor attributed to him every excess of debauchery. On March 16, 37 A.D., he died at Misenum at the age of 78, after a reign of 23 years. When Tiberius died, he was succeeded by his grand-nephew and adopted grandson, Caius Caligula.
He was the Caesar during John the Baptist’s ministry, Jesus’ ministry, and during the early Church, as he is the “Caesar” mentioned in the Gospels in connection with Jesus’ public ministry, Mark 12:14; Luke 3:1; 20:22-25; 23:2, that parallels, John 19:12, 15. Herod Antipas, who we will note below, built the city of Tiberias in honor of Tiberius, (Josephus, Antiquities, 18.2.3)
In Luke 3:2-3, John the Baptist’s ministry was in the 15th year of his reign. That would place John’s ministry and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry around 29 A.D.
2. The Reign of Pontius Pilate, Governor of Judea:
We noted HEGEMONEUO, “leader, ruler, or govern,” in Luke 2:2, for Quirinius governor of Syria during the birth narrative of Jesus Christ. It is only used in these two places. “Judea,” IOUDAIA was the central province in Palestine ruled by the Roman procurator. The office of the Roman governor in the first century A.D. was the most prominent and distinctive expression of the dominion of Rome over the land and people of the Jews.
Pontius Pilate, PONTIOS, Πόντιος, PILATOS, Πιλάτος was the 5th or 6th Roman procurator of Judea serving under Emperor Tiberius from 26/27-36/37 A.D., succeeding Valerius Gratus as prefect of Judaea in 26 A.D. His appointment was probably sponsored by Tiberius’s anti-Semitic praetorian commander Sejanus, (Philo Leg. Gai. 24).
Among the sources for Pilate’s life are an inscription found in Caesarea in 1961, known as the Pilate Stone, which confirms his historicity and establishes his title as prefect. He is also briefly mentioned by the ancient historians Tacitus, Philo of Alexandria, and Josephus.
Probably connected with the Roman family of the Pontii, his family name Pontius indicates that he was connected, by descent or adoption, with the clan of Pontii, and suggests that Pilatus was from the region of Samnium in central Italy. His name means, “armed with a spear,” which was indicative of his cruel treatment towards the Jews during his rulership.
He is remembered in history as a notorious anti-Semite and in Christian creeds as the magistrate under whom Jesus Christ “suffered,” 1 Tim 6:13; cf. Mat 27:2; John 19:37.
1 Tim 6:13, “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate.”
The NT refers to him as “governor,” while other sources call him “procurator” or “prefect,” as the Pilate stone mentioned above notes. Pilate was removed from office as the result of yet another outrage against Jews and Samaritans, when the Samaritans complained to Vitellius, the governor of Syria, about his antagonisms. Pilate was ordered to Rome to account for his actions to the emperor and is not mentioned again in reliable contemporary sources. He was replaced by Marcellus. We will see him again in Luke chapters 13 and 23
3. The Reign of Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee:
“Tetrarch,” TETRARCHEO, τετραρχέω is used only three times in the NT, all in this passage. It is used for Herod Antipas, then for “his brother Philip II,” and finally for, “Lysanias of Abilene.” This word is not found in the Septuagint, nor does it appear in Greek literature before Christian times. It comes from TETRA, “four,” and ARCHE, “ruler or authority.” It refers to someone who has been made a tetrarch, a governor, or ruler over a tetrarchy. A tetrarchy was one division of a region that had been divided into four sections, each governed by a tetrarch. Technically, it is a ruler of the fourth of a country or region. The Greeks first used this title upon the breakup of Alexander the Great’s empire into four regions under his four lead generals, and later the Romans adopted the term and applied it to any ruler of a small principality, whether it was one fourth or not varied. The term came to be used for any “petty, dependent prince,” whose rank and authority were below the level of a king.
The title of tetrarch was at this time probably applied to petty tributary princes without any such determinate meaning. But it appears from Josephus that the tetrarchies of Antipas and Philip were regarded as each constituting a fourth part of their father’s kingdom, (Antiquities of the Jews. 17.11.4). From these two cases, it seems the title was used in its strict and literal sense.
Of the three “tetrarchs” noted here, the first was Herod Antipas, Mat 4:1; Luke 3:1, 19; 9:7; Acts 13:1, who is commonly distinguished as “Herod the tetrarch,” although the title of “king” is also assigned to him both by Matthew, Mat 14:9, and by Mark, Mark 6:14, 22-28.
Herod Antipas was born before 20 B.C. died in 44 A.D. He was the son of Herod the Great and Malthace, a Samaritan woman. Half Idumean, half Samaritan, he therefore had not a drop of Jewish blood in his veins. On the death of his father, although he was younger than his brother Archelaus, he contested the will of Herod. Antipas was not Herod’s first choice of heir. That honor fell to Aristobulus and Alexander, Herod’s sons by the Hasmonean princess Mariamne I. It was only after they were executed, c. 7 B.C., and Herod’s oldest son Antipater was convicted of trying to poison his father, 5 B.C., that the now elderly Herod fell back on his youngest son Antipas, revising his will to make him heir. Because of Judea’s status as a Roman client kingdom, Herod’s plans for the succession had to be ratified by Caesar Augustus. The three heirs, (Archelaus, Antipas, and Philip), travelled to Rome to make their claims. Antipas argued he ought to inherit the whole kingdom and the others maintaining that Herod’s final will, ought to be honored. Despite qualified support for Antipas from Herodian family members in Rome, who favored direct Roman rule of Judea but considered Antipas preferable to his brother, Augustus largely confirmed the division of territory set out by Herod in his final will. Archelaus had, however, to be content with the title of ethnarch rather than king. Therefore, Rome sustained the final will of Herod the Great and assigned to Antipas the “tetrarchy” of Galilee and Peraea, as it had been set apart for him by Herod, (Josephus: Antiquities, 17.9.4f; Wars, 2.2.3).
He ruled from 4 B.C. – 39 A.D., as tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. He was known as “Herod the Tetrarch” or “Herod,” who married his brother’s wife, Mark 6:17, and ordered the death of John the Baptist, Mat 14:1ff., and is the one who mocked Jesus when Pilate sent Jesus to him prior to the crucifixion, Luke 23:6-12.
As we noted above, Herod the Great’s kingdom was bequeathed to three heirs, of which Herod Antipas received both Galilee and Perea. He dedicated the city Livias in the north of the Dead Sea to Tiberius’ mother.
As to his marriages, Antipas divorced his first wife Phasaelis, the daughter of King Aretas IV of Nabatea, Arabia, in favor of Herodius / Herodias, the wife of his half-brother Philip I, Herod Philip I, whom he had met and seduced at Rome. Antipas was Herod the Great’s son by Malthace, while Herod II was his son by Mariamne II. Since Herodius was the daughter of Aristobulus, his half-brother, and therefore his niece, and at the same time the wife of his half-brother Philip I, the union between her and Antipas was sinful, especially according to the Law of Moses. (See chart below.)
The Mosaic Law prohibited a man from marrying a brother’s wife, Lev 18:16; 20:21, except in the case of levirate marriages, Deut 25:5; Mark 12:19. Since Antipas’s brother Herod Philip I had a daughter with Herodius named Salome, (who danced for Antipas for John the Baptist’s head, and later married Philip II), and, more pointedly, his brother was still living, the levirate marriage did not apply.
In 39 A.D., Galilee and Perea were transferred from disfavored Antipas to Agrippa I by Caligula. With his death in 44 A.D., Agrippa’s merged territory was made province again, including Judaea and for the first time, Perea. From that time, Perea was part of the shifting Roman provinces to its west.
Antipas was a frivolous and vain leader, and was chargeable with many infamous crimes, Mark 8:15; Luke 3:19; 13:31-32. He is most famous for the beheading of John the Baptist, Mat 14:1-12, at the instigation of his wife Herodias, the wife of his half-brother Herod-Philip I, and their daughter Salome.
He was a great builder of cities and built both Sepphoris and Tiberias, the latter named after the Emperor of Rome.
We will see that when John directed his preaching at Herod Antipas, the result was imprisonment, Luke 3:19-20; cf. Mat 14:3-4; Mark 6:17-18.
4. The Reign of Herod Philip II, Tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis:
This Herod was also known as Philip, or Herod Philip II, who Luke says was the, “tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis.”
Herod Philip II was the son of Herod the Great and his 5th wife Cleopatra of Jerusalem, (see chart above). She was called Cleopatra of Jerusalem, to distinguish her from the Ptolemaic Greek Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, (Josephus Antiquities 17.1.3; and Wars 1.28.4). He was born around 22/21 B.C. As a result of the debate over Herod’s will, Augustus made him tetrarch over the northeastern part of Herod the Great’s domain, Gaulanitis, Auranitis, Batanea, Trachonitis, Paneas and Iturea, (Josephus Antiquities 17.9.4; Wars 2.6.3). His subjects were mainly Syrian and Greek, (i.e., non-Jewish), and he was the first and only Herodian to have the emperor’s, as well as his own image on his coins.
At the death of his father he inherited region Gaulonitis, made up of Traehonitis and Ituraea, and Paneas (renamed to Caesarea Philippi), (Antiquities, 17.8.1).
Philip built two cities, (Josephus Antiquities 18.2.1; Wars 2.9.1). The first city was a rebuilding and enlarging of Paneas (near the source of the Jordan), which he renamed Caesarea Philippi in honor of the Roman emperor and to distinguish it from the coastal Caesarea. It was there that Peter made his confession of faith to Jesus, Mat 16:13–20; Mark 8:27–30. The second city was the rebuilding and enlarging of the fishing village of Bethsaida, where the Jordan flows into the Sea of Galilee. Philip gave it the status of a Greek polis and renamed it Julias in honor of Augustus’ daughter Julia. There Jesus would heal the blind man, Mark 8:22–26, and in a nearby desert place Jesus would feed the five thousand, Luke 9:10. Also, it may have been in the southern portion of Philip’s territory that Jesus fed the four thousand.
Philip did not possess the ambitious and scheming character of his brothers. He ruled his domain with moderation and tranquility and was well liked by his subjects, (Josephus Antiquities. 18.4.6). He married Herodias’s daughter Salome, whose dance led to the beheading of John the Baptist, Mat 14:3-12; Mark 6:17-29; Luke 3:19-20; Josephus Ant. 18.5.2). They had no children, (Antiquities 18.5.4). When Philip died in 34 A.D. the emperor Tiberius annexed his territory to Syria, and when Caligula became emperor in 37 A.D., Philip’s territory was given to Herod Agrippa I, brother of Herodias.
There are 8 Herod’s known to us and five are mentioned in the NT, (#’s 1, 3, 4, 6, 8):
1. Herod the Great, born c. 74 B.C., ruled 37 – 4 B.C., client king of Judea who built the Second Temple in Jerusalem. He ruled in Judea when Jesus was born, Mat 2:1, and ordered the death of the children in Bethlehem, Mat 2:16ff.
2. Herod Archelaus (born 23 B.C., ruled 4 B.C. – 6 A.D., died c. 18 A.D.), Ethnarch of Samaria, Judea, and Idumea. He is not mentioned in the Bible.
3. Herod Antipas, born before 20 B.C., ruled 4 B.C. – 39 A.D., tetrarch of Perea and Galilee, known as “Herod the Tetrarch” or “Herod,” who married his brother’s wife, Mark 6:17, and ordered the death of John the Baptist, Mat 14:1ff., and is the one who mocked Jesus when Pilate sent Jesus to him prior to the crucifixion, Luke 23:6-12. This is the Herod mentioned in our verse.
4. Philip the Tetrarch or Herod Philip II, born c. 20 B.C., ruled 4 B.C. – 34 A.D., tetrarch of Iturea, Trachonitis, and Batanaea, Luke 3:1.
5. Herod II or Herod Philip I, c. 27 B.C. – 33 A.D., the father of the Salome in Mark 6:21-29; did not rule over any territory, and is not mentioned in Scripture.
6. Herod Agrippa I, 10 – 11 B.C., ruled 41 – 44 A.D., the grandson of Herod the Great, client king of Judaea, called “King Herod” or “Herod” in Acts 12, who killed the apostle James and imprisoned Peter, Acts 12:1ff.
7. Herod of Chalcis, died 48 A.D., also known as Herod V and listed by the Jewish Encyclopedia as Herod II. He was the son of Aristobulus IV and grandson of Herod the Great. King of Chalcis, that was made up of Iturea, Trachonitis, Gaulantis, Batanaea and Auranitis. He ruled 41 – 48 A.D. He is not mentioned in Scripture. Around 41 AD, at the request of his brother, Herod Agrippa, emperor Claudius granted him the rule of Chalcis, a territory north of Judaea, with the title of king. Three years later, after the death of his brother, he was also given responsibility for the Temple in Jerusalem, as well as the appointment of the Temple’s High Priest. During the four years in which he exercised this right he appointed two high priests, Joseph, son of Camydus, 44 – 46 A.D., and Ananias, son of Nedebeus, ca. 47 – 52 A.D. He died in 48 AD. After his death the kingdom was given to Herod Agrippa II. Coin of Herod of Chalcis, showing Herod of Chalcis with brother Agrippa of Judaea crowning Roman Emperor Claudius I.
8. Herod Agrippa II, born 27 A.D., ruled 48 – 93 A.D., his official name was Marcus Julius Agrippa. He was the son of Agrippa 1. He was the eighth and last ruler from the Herodian dynasty. He was the fifth member of this dynasty to bear the title of king, but he reigned over territories outside of Judea only as a Roman client.
On the death of king Herod of Chalcis in 48 A.D., his small Syrian kingdom of Chalcis was given to Agrippa, with the right of superintending the Temple in Jerusalem and appointing its high priest, but only as a tetrarchy. In 53 A.D., Agrippa was forced to give up the tetrarchy of Chalcis but in exchange Claudius made him ruler with the title of king over the territories previously governed by Philip, namely, Batanea, Trachonitis and Gaulonitis, and the kingdom of Lysanias in Abila. In 55 A.D., the Emperor Nero added to Agrippa’s realm the cities of Tiberias and Taricheae in Galilee, and Livias (Iulias), with fourteen villages near it, in Peraea. The tetrarchy of Chalcis was subsequently in 57 A.D., given to his cousin, Aristobulus.
He is the Agrippa who was involved in Paul’s trial, Acts 25:13ff, as he is described in the apocryphal book, “Acts of the Apostles,” as “King Agrippa” before whom Paul the Apostle defended himself, possibly 59 A.D.
He was overthrown by his Jewish subjects in 66 A.D. and supported the Roman side in the First Jewish–Roman War. Agrippa had a great intimacy with the historian Josephus, having supplied him with information for his history, Antiquities of the Jews. Josephus preserved two of the letters he received from him. According to Photius, Agrippa died, childless, at the age of seventy, in the third year of the reign of Trajan, that is, 100, but statements of historian Josephus, in addition to the contemporary epigraphy from his kingdom, cast this date into serious doubt. The modern scholarly consensus holds that he died before 93/94. He was the last prince from the House of Herod.
5. The Reign of Lysanias, Tetrarch of Abilene:
Lysanias, Λυσανίας whose name means, “that drives away sorrow,” is said in Luke 3:1, to have been “tetrarch of Abilene,” a small district of Palestine on the eastern slopes of Anti-Libanus, of which Abila on the river Darada was the capital. His rulership is dated to be 25-30 A.D. Not much is known about this individual. Abilene is a small mountainous region. It was located about 18 miles northwest of Damascus in the Anti-Lebanon mountain range. Its capital was Abila.
There is another more known Lysanias, who was the son of Ptolemy of Chalcis, ruler of the same small realm on the western slopes of Mount Hermon, mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus, (Antiquities 14, 7, 4 and 13, 3; 15, 4, 1; b. j., 1, 13, 1, cf. b. j. 1, 9, 2), and in coins from c. 40 B.C. He is also noted by Josephus as having been slain by Mark Antony at the instigation of Cleopatra. As this happened around 34-36 B.C., this could not be the Lysanias of Luke. As a result, Luke has been charged with inaccuracy. Yet, two inscriptions, (Böckh, C.I.G. 4521 and 4523), have been found on the site of Abilene that mentions “Lysanias the tetrarch,” which corroborates the view that the Lysanias of Luke was probably a descendant of the Lysanias mentioned by Josephus, or the Lysanias mentioned in, (Antiquities, 19.5.1), was the same as Luke noted. As A.T. Roberts notes, “so Luke is vindicated again by the rocks.” (Word Pictures in the New Testament.)
We also see that in 37 A.D., the emperor Caligula appointed Herod Agrippa I king of the tetrarchy of Philip, and added the region of Lysanias to the tetrarchy, (Wars of the Jews, 2.12.8). Later, Abilene was part of the kingdom of his son, Agrippa II.
6-7. The Reign of Annas and Caiaphas, High Priests of Israel:
Luke 3:2, “In the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas…”
Here we have our 6th and 7th historical figures pointed to by Luke for the historicity of his writings. He turns to the religious leaders of that day, and combines these two high priests because both were involved in the ministry of Jesus, especially His trials prior to His crucifixion. As we will see, Annas was the deposed high priest working “behind the scenes,” while his son-in-law Caiaphas held the office at this time.
6. The Reign of Annas:
“Annas” in the Greek is Ἄννας, Westcott and Hort, (The New Testament in Greek) spell it “Hannas,” and Josephus “Ananos.” It is the Greek form of Hebrew חָנָן, HANAN meaning, “merciful or gracious.” In Greek it means, “one who answers; humble.”
He was born 23/22 B.C., and the date of his death is unknown, but thought to be around 40 A.D. He was the son of Seth, Josephus uses Sethi, (Antiquities 18.2.1). He was appointed to the high-priesthood by Quirinius, governor of Syria, Luke 2:2, about 6 A.D, as the first High Priest of the newly formed Roman province of Iudaea, just after the Romans had deposed Herod Archelaus, Ethnarch of Judaea, thereby putting Judaea directly under Roman rule. At that time, the office of high priest was filled and vacated at the whim of the Roman procurators, as Annas was deposed at the age of 36 in 15 A.D., by Valerius Gratus, the predecessor to Pontius Pilate. Gentile innovations had made sad havoc with the Jewish law as to this office. In the last 107 years of the temple’s existence, there were no less than 28 high priests.
Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was also an appointed high priest, as we will see below. Annas is mentioned in our verse and John 18:13, 24; Acts 4:6; cf. John 18:19.
Though he was deprived of official status, he remained as one of the nation’s most influential political and social individuals, as he continued to wield great power as the dominant member of the priestly hierarchy, using members of his family as his willing instruments. His five sons and one son-in-law Caiaphas all served as high priests of Israel, (Antiquities, 10.9.1), though he did not survive to see the office filled by his 5th son Annas or Ananus II, who caused James, the Lord’s brother, to be stoned to death, circa 62 A.D. His son Annas the Younger, also known as Ananus (Annas) the son of Ananus (Annas) was assassinated in 66 A.D., for advocating peace with Rome.
Long after he had lost his office, he was still called “high priest,” as it was customary to attribute the title to former living high priests since the high priesthood according to the OT was a “life office,” even though the Romans played havoc with the office. This is similar to the practice for addressing a former president of the United States as “Mr. President.” In addition, his name appears first wherever the names of the chief members of the priestly faction are given, cf. Acts 4:6.
Acts 4:6, “And Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent.”
Note especially the phrase in our verse, “in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,” as if they were joint holders of the office. In fact, Caiaphas was the actual high priest at this time, yet Annas was the virtual while Caiaphas the titular high priest.
It is thought that both Annas and Caiaphas may have sympathized with the Sadducean aristocracy, a religious movement in Judaea that found most of its members among the wealthy Jewish elite. And, like others of that class, Annas seems to have been arrogant, astute, ambitious, and enormously wealthy. “The chief source of his and his families wealth seems to have been the sale of requisites for the temple sacrifices, such as sheep, doves, wine, and oil, which they carried on in the four famous “booths of the sons of Annas” on the Mount of Olives, with a branch within the precincts of the temple itself. During the great feasts, they were able to extort high monopoly prices for theft goods. Hence, our Lord’s strong denunciation of those who made the house of prayer “a den of robbers” (Mark 11:15-19), and the curse in the Talmud, “Woe to the family of Annas! Woe to the serpent-like hisses” (Pes 57a).” (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia).
Annas appears in the Gospels as a high priest before whom Jesus is brought for judgment, prior to being brought before Pontius Pilate. Although he does not figure very prominently in the gospel narratives, he seems to have been mainly responsible for the course of events. Caiaphas, indeed, as actual high priest, was the nominal head of the Sanhedrin which condemned Jesus, but the aged Annas was the ruling spirit. The officers who arrested Jesus first led Him to Annas according to John 18:12-13. Assuming Annas is the high priest of John 18:19-23, as seems most likely, he questioned Jesus concerning His disciples and teaching. This trial is not mentioned by the synoptic gospels, because it was merely informal and preliminary and of a private nature, meant to gather material for the subsequent trial(s). Failing to gain anything to his purpose from Jesus, “Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest,” John 18:24.
It is highly likely, that Annas was present at the subsequent trials of Jesus, but no further mention is made of him in the NT, except that he was present at the meeting of the Sanhedrin after Pentecost when Peter and John defended themselves for preaching the gospel of the resurrection, Acts 4:6.
Acts 4:6, “And Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent.”
The terms of Annas, Caiaphas, and the five brothers were:
Annas, the son of Seth, 6 – 15 A.D.
1. Eleazar, the son of Annas, 16 – 17 A.D.
Caiaphas – properly called Joseph son of Caiaphas, 18 – 36 A.D.
2. Jonathan, the son of Annas, 36 – 37, and 44 A.D.
3. Theophilus, ben Annas, 37 – 41 A.D.
4. Matthias, ben Annas, 43 A.D.
5. Annas, ben Annas, 63 A.D.
7. The Reign of Caiaphas:
Caiaphas, Καϊάφας, KAIAPHAS, also Kephas, meaning, “rock or a depression,” was the son-in-law of Annas, John 18:13, and high priest during the ministry of Christ. His full name was Joseph Ben (son of) Caiaphas, yet known simply as Caiaphas. He was born c, 14 B.C. and died c, 46 A.D.
He was high priest from 18 – 36 A.D., and ruled longer than any high priest in NT times. The comparatively long eighteen-year tenure of Caiaphas, suggests he had a good working relationship with the Roman authorities, even though Josephus relates that Caiaphas became a high priest during a turbulent period. Caiaphas was appointed in 18 A.D., by the Roman prefect who preceded Pontius Pilate, Valerius Gratus, and was reappointed by Pontius Pilate and served under him from 27-36 A.D. He was deposed in 36 A.D. by Vitellius, the president of Syria, (Antiquities, 18.2.2; 18.4.3).
Little is known about Caiaphas beyond what can be learned from the NT. He is mentioned in our verse and Mat 26:3, 57; John 11:49; 18:13-14, 24, 28; Acts 4:6.
Caiaphas played a leading role in the trial and condemnation of Jesus. It was in his court or palace that the chief priests (Sadducees) and Pharisees, who together constituted the Sanhedrin, assembled, “and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him,” Mat 26:3-4; John 11:49. In order to expedite the removal of Jesus, he led the plot to capture Him at the appropriate time and in doing so, he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, John 11:49ff.; 18:14; cf. Mat 26:5, 57-68. Caiaphas was the one who asked Jesus if He were “the Christ, the Son of God,” Mat 26:63. When our Lord answered in vs. 64, “you have said it yourself,” Caiaphas “tore his robes and said, ‘He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy’,” vs. 65. Upon this charge, Jesus was found to “deserve death,” vs, 66.
Caiaphas, like Annas above, is also mentioned in Acts 4:6, as being among those who presided over the trial of Peter and John.
Lastly, I found an interesting article on Wikipedia’s page regarding Annas called, “The plot to kill Lazarus of Bethany,” that speaks to Annas, Caiaphas, and Annas five sons.
The Plot to Kill Lazarus of Bethany
The involvement of the family of Annas may be implied in the plot to kill Lazarus of Bethany, in John 12:10-11, whom Jesus raised from the dead. Although Annas is not mentioned by name in the plot to kill Lazarus, several 19th-century writers such as Johann Nepomuk Sepp and the Abbé Drioux, considered that there may be a concealed reference to Annas in the parable by Jesus of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-30, which points at a “rich man” with five brothers, Luke:16:28. It is considered that the rich man dressed in purple and fine linen, (as Ex 28:8 indicates was the traditional garment for the high priest), was probably representative of Caiaphas, as figurehead of the Sadducees. As such, Annas is intended by the term “father” in “my father’s house” in Luke 16:27, and the “five brothers” are intended in Luke 16:28, as Annas’ five sons. In support of this is the coincidence that the father and five brothers, who will not be convinced even if the parable Lazarus is raised from the dead, Luke 16:31, predicts that Caiaphas, Annas, and the five unbelieving sons of Annas plot to have the real Lazarus killed when he was raised, John 12:10.
In conclusion, we see that “Luke is the only one who fixes the time when Jesus began his ministry. He locates it by emperor and governor, tetrarch and high priest, as an event of world-wide importance, and of concern to all the kingdoms of men. He conceives of it as Paul did—Acts 26:26.” (The Fourfold Gospel: or A Harmony of the Four Gospels.)
Luke 3:2, “… the word of God came to John, the son of Zachariah, in the wilderness.”
Given the historical statements noted in vs. 1-2a, this is about 18 years after the young Jesus visited the Temple.
This “Zachariah,” John the Baptist’s father, is only mentioned in Luke’s Gospel, and this is the last time John’s father is mentioned in Scripture.
“The Word of God came to John,” RHEMA THEOS EPI IOANNES, indicates that John’s Divine commission has begun. God had appointed him to this position and work from eternity past and now it has begun, as he enters his career as a prophet, Jer 1:2; Ezek 6:1; Hosea 1:1; Micah 1:1; Haggai 1:1, and the forerunner to Jesus Christ.
All four gospels give insight into John’s ministry in various fashion, but Luke provides more detail of the type of message he delivered, as we will see, cf. Mat 3:1-17; Mark 1:2-11; John 1:19-34.
Luke sought to portray John the Baptist as a God-sent prophet. Prophets gave temporary and limited manifestations of God’s will, Heb 1:1-2. John’s commission as prophet and forerunner was to prepare the way of the Lord Jesus Christ to enter His public preaching ministry. So, John began preaching in preparation for the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
As we will see in this chapter, his message included hope for the spiritually hungry, Luke 3:3-6, and a stern warning to the unrepentant, Luke 3:7-18, as the Jews could not consider themselves accepted by God simply because they were Abraham’s children. Good deeds must demonstrate their true repentance, Mat 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; John 1:6-8, 15-34.
We too, must show good works, Divine Good Production, as a demonstration of our repentance to Christ. Yet, Satan has done a great job in lulling the church to sleep regarding their everyday lives and their works towards others. We live in such great times of peace and prosperity that we think we are holy and righteous because of what we have or have been given. That is the lie of Satan, we are holy and righteous when we do good deeds and produce the fruit of the Spirit. So, do not let the great snake charmer lull you to sleep walking in your spiritual life. Live in the light of Jesus Christ and do good works towards others as you “love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Eph 5:14, “For this reason it says, ‘Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you’.”
Next we have, “in the wilderness,” EN HO EREMOS, “desolate, abandoned, desert, or solitary place,” was how the narrative of John’s birth ended, Luke 1:80. So now, Luke picks up where he left off, cf. Mat 3:1; Mark 1:4; Luke 7:24-28.
The wilderness of Judea is an almost uninhabitable area of barren ridges extending the whole length of the Dead Sea, and a few miles further north following the River Jordan. It is five to ten miles wide, and extends from a little north of Jericho down to the south end of the Dead Sea. Even as desolate as it was, it was not destitute of vegetation and some people lived in it. This ties in with vs. 3, below, regarding his teaching being in the Jordan district.
G. The Baptism of the Son of Man, Luke 3:1-22.
2. The prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled in John, vs. 3-6.
Luke 3:3, “And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
“All the district around the Jordan,” uses the Adjective PERICHOROS that means, “neighboring region or surrounding country.” It is used 9 times in the Gospels and once in Acts. It is a general geographical term. The area in view is the “Jordan,” IORDANES, Ἰορδάνης which is not a city or town but a major river flowing from Mount Hermon in the north, through the Sea of Galilee, to the Dead Sea in the south. It is one of the main features of Israel. The Jordan valley is called in the OT the Arabah, and by the modern Arabs the Ghor. It is the deepest valley in the world, its lowest part being about 1,300 feet below sea level. So, this is speaking of the areas around the Jordan River, including both sides.
From this we see the extent of John’s ministry. It was not tied to one specific town or city, but moving up and down the Jordan River. Since he was baptizing, the river provided many inlets to perform his work. Although this is a geographical designation, its main function is not to designate a physical place, but to indicate that John was the promised prophet of Isa 40:3, i.e., the one who was the voice calling “in the desert,” Luke 3:4.
The Jordan is also pertinent because it was the place where the Israelites crossed into the Promised Land!!! In fact, they crossed near Jericho. We will see more of this below.
John’s ministry included, “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
“Preaching,” is the Verb KERUSSO, κηρύσσω that means, “proclaim aloud, publicly preach, herald, announce, tell, or declare.” It speaks to crying out a message as a king’s herald making a proclamation, and emphasizes the content of the message rather than, in this case, the rite of baptism.
“Baptism” is the Noun BAPTISMA βάπτισμα that means, “baptism, the rite or ceremony of baptism.” It means identification or association with something or someone, Mat 3:7; 21:25; Luke 3:3; 7:29; 12:50; 20:4; Rom 6:4. The ritual of baptism finds its roots in the OT ritual of purification. Yet, there is an unmistakable distinction between the OT purification rites and the baptism of John. The same holds true for John the Baptist’s baptism and that of the early Church.
The Greek meaning of baptism began in Homer’s time, who wrote of the giant Ulysses who took a piece of hot metal and rammed it into Cyclops’ one eye, and called it “baptizing.” Homer’s Odyssey, Book 9, used baptism for hot metal identified with water when a smith dipped a piece of hot iron into water. Other ancient Greek writers like Zenophen said that the Spartans baptized their spears by putting them into a bowl of blood, and Euripides used the word for a ship identified with the bottom of the sea when it sank.
So “baptism” in the classical Greek meant to identify one thing with another thing, so that the characteristic of the original thing was changed into another characteristic by what it was identified with. Therefore, the interpretation of the word “baptism” is identification.
There is a family of Greek words used for baptism in the NT:
1. The Verb BAPTIZO, βαπτίζω has been transliterated, “to cleanse by washing, to immerse, to dip, to baptize,” cf. Luke 3:7; 11:28; 12:50.
2. The Verb BAPTO, βάπτω means, “to identify, to intimately unite, to dip, or immerse,” Luke 16:24; John 13:26; Rev 19:13, (i.e., to dye a piece of cloth.)
3. The noun BAPTISMOS, βαπτισμός means, “cleaning or washing; of dishes,” Mark 7:4, 8; Heb 9:10. In Col 2:12; Heb 6:2 it means, “baptism.”
4. The Noun BAPTISTES, Βαπτιστής means, “Baptist,” and always refers to John the Baptist; the one who performs the ritual of baptism, Luke 7:20, 28, 33; 9:19.
We will come back to the topic of baptism below, but first we need to note the rest of this verse for the context of John the Baptist’s baptism.
John’s baptism is said here to be a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” The idea of a “baptism of repentance” ties the concept of baptism (dipping or water immersion) with the overall theme of repentance.
“Repentance,” is the Noun METANOIA μετάνοια that means, “remorse, repentance, turning about, or a change of mind.” It comes from the Verb METANOEŌ μετανοέω that means, “to repent, change one’s mind, be converted.” So, a change of mind or a change of thinking is related to this baptism of John.
Then Luke adds, “for the forgiveness of sins,” EIS APHESIS HAMARTIA. “Forgiveness,” is the Noun APHESIS ἄφεσις that means, “release, forgiveness, deliverance, a suspension of punishment, pardon, etc.” So, a release, forgiveness, or pardoning is related to this baptism.
“Sins” is the Plural of HAMARTIA, ἁμαρτία that means, “sin, a sinful deed, sinfulness, wrong, injustice, iniquity, etc.” It comes from the root Verb HAMARTANO that means, “to err, to miss the mark, or goal.” So, sin and wrong-doing is related to this baptism.
We noted both of these words in Luke 1:77, Zachariah’s prophecy about the knowledge his son would bring to the people of Israel and Gentiles, “The knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.”
Sin is the subject that they had to change their minds about, i.e., “repent.” The change of thinking they had to make about their sins was related to how their sins are forgiven; through their good works by keeping the Law or by the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the Lord? When they changed their minds / their way of thinking about sin, and accept the Christ, the Savior, as the One who would pay for their sins, they would receive forgiveness or be pardoned of their sin. Forgiveness is not the result of baptism. Forgiveness is the result of the change in their way of thinking. Baptism was just the identification with God’s plan of forgiveness of their sins.
Interestingly, Luke was predominately writing his gospel for the Gentiles. But Matthew, who was predominately writing to the Jews, writes about John’s baptism as one necessary to enter the Kingdom of heaven, Mat 3:1-2.
Mat 3:1-2, “Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying 2‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’.”
They are saying the same thing, yet in different ways, to different audiences. Both say, “repent,” i.e., change your way of thinking. Matthew says, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (This is the only record of John preaching the “kingdom.” All other references to the “kingdom of heaven,” or “kingdom of God,” are by Jesus). Yet, Luke says, “for the forgiveness of sin,” as Luke states, to repent means forgiveness of sins.
Well, to get to the kingdom of heaven, one must first have his sins forgiven, and to have your sins forgiven you must believe in the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior, the Lord, as the One who would pay for your sins. As we now know, Jesus Christ paid for our sins at the Cross.
Matthew also noted that “repentance” involved “confession of sin,” Mat 3:6, which does not mean they recited all their sins to John, but that they recognized they were sinners and need a Savior. Mat 3:6, “And they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins (i.e., sinfulness).” Therefore, anyone who believes in Jesus Christ and His work upon the Cross, receives forgiveness of their sins and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.
So, John’s baptism was a means of identification with Jesus Christ, the Savior / Messiah, by changing their way of thinking regarding how their sins were forgiven and confessing their sinfulness, (recognizing they needed a Savior, who was to come, i.e., Jesus Christ, the Lamb)!
When we change our mind about Jesus Christ, recognizing that He paid for our sins upon the Cross and through Him we have salvation, we have the forgiveness of our sins, positionally. This is what John’s father Zachariah prophesied regarding the ministry of his son in Luke 1:77, he would, “give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.” Therefore, we see that this “baptism” by John had the meaning of “people changing their mind to receive forgiveness or pardoning of their sins,” with the result of entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.
From an OT standpoint, as John was using, this change also meant a change in thinking away from sin and worldliness, (i.e., living a sinful life), to living for God in righteousness. This change of mind was then demonstrated through the ritualistic worship noted in the Law, that was now substituted with John’s Baptism. It demonstrated the new relationship man had with God. John’s baptism, normally performed on the adult Jew, was an immersing, which signified death and burial with respect to sin, and a raising, which signified a new life. This new life was to be marked with “fruits of repentance,” Luke 3:8-14.
John’s water baptism was not the key to a person’s salvation or new life, just as it is not today. The key is the change of thought / heart towards the Christ, Savior, Lord, Jesus, that come with “knowledge,” Luke 1:77, i.e., Bible Doctrine in the soul! John’s baptism was a sign or demonstration of the person changing their mind regarding God’s plan of salvation for their life.
The law required self-baptism or washing for purification of all persons who were unclean, Lev 14:9; Num 19:19; 8:7; Lev 15, 16. More than twenty distinct cases are specified in which the law required bathing or self-baptism, and it is to these Paul refers when he states that the law consisted in part “of various washings / baptisms,” Heb 9:10. The type of baptism John was preaching was not found in the Law. Therefore, Luke shows that God authorized John’s baptism as a demonstration of asking for and receiving forgiveness of sin, which results in eternal salvation, (gaining the kingdom of heaven). Jesus confirmed John’s baptism. And, the ritualistic water emersion was the demonstration of someone accepting the Messiah as their Savior, giving them the forgiveness of their sins that resulted in their eternal salvation.
Now, regarding Baptism as a form of identification with someone or something, there are two categories of identification in Scripture:
- An actual identification; called a “Real Baptism.”
- A representative identification; called a “Ritual Baptism.” It uses water.
There are four real baptisms in the Bible, meaning there is an actual identification with something that has significance.
1. The Baptism of Moses, 1 Cor 10:1-2. This was a real identification in which Moses was identified with the open path through the Red Sea and the Jews were identified with Moses. Though water was around them, the Israelites were not immersed in it. Only unbelieving Egyptians were immersed in the water as a means of judgement and death. This was an identification with the mandates of true leadership. Moses was identified with the cloud or Shekinah Glory, (i.e., Jesus Christ), and the people were identified with Moses. Therefore, the people were identified with Jesus Christ.
Though not mentioned in Scripture as a separate baptism, this also reminds us of the second miraculous river crossing of the Israelites, when they crossed the Jordan River where John the Baptist was teaching, Joshua 1:2-14; 3:14; 4:1-7. As God led them into the Promised Land at the crossing near Jericho, under the leadership of Joshua, (whose name means, “God saves or savior,” and the Greek translation is Jesus), they were identified with God and His Kingdom that is found in the Savior Just as John was preaching with his baptism.
2. The Baptism of the Cross, Mark 10:38-39. This baptism is our Lord Jesus Christ being identified with our sins. This refers to the judicial imputation of personal sins to Jesus Christ on the Cross. Jesus Christ was identified with our personal sins and judged for them, so that Christ became our Savior.
3. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit,1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:26-28. This occurs at salvation for Church Age believers only. This baptism is God the Holy Spirit identifying us with the Lord Jesus Christ forever. It is the means of forming the Royal Family and breaking the back of the Old Sin Nature as the ruler of human life. We are positionally changed. No water is involved in this baptism. We are identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, Eph 4:5; Acts 1:5. The Holy Spirit enters us into union with Christ at the right hand of the Father, making us positionally higher than angels.
4. The Baptism with Fire, Mat 3:11; Luke 3:16; Rev 19:11. This is the real identification of unbelieving Jews and Gentiles at the end of the Tribulation with fire in Hades. The unbeliever is identified with fire forever. The Tribulational unbeliever is identified with the defeat of Satan. All unbelievers are removed from the earth for the start of the Millennium and placed into Hades / Hell.
There are three Ritual Baptisms. None of these are extant at the present time. They are representative identifications in which water is used as a training aid to represent some principle of doctrine. Water represents something else in a ritual baptism, and the person going into the water must have knowledge of the meaning of the water and ritual.
1. The Baptism of John, Mat 3:1-10; Luke 3:3-18; John 1:25-33. John lived in the ritual Age of Israel. The water represented the kingdom of God.
a. Because the King, Jesus Christ, was present, there had to be a ceremony never used before to identify a person with the kingdom of God. The water represented the kingdom of God as John was preaching it. Putting a person in the water showed that he was identified with Messiah and that kingdom. It was an encouragement and means of relating Bible doctrine to the fact the kingdom was being offered during the first Advent. The kingdom was postponed, but this did not change the significance of John’s baptism.
b. There was no spiritual advance in this baptism; only doctrine advances the believer.
c.This baptism was never practiced after John’s death. John and his ministry and his baptism were unique.
d. In the water the person testified to his belief that the Messiah would go to the Cross to die for his sins, recognizing that because he accepted Christ as Savior before He died and accepted Him as King, he was saved and identified in the Jewish kingdom forever.
2. The Baptism of Jesus Christ, Mat 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22. This was a unique baptism. John recognized Jesus Christ’s impeccability and refused to baptize Him. Jesus told him the water represented something new, (i.e., the Father’s plan and will for Jesus’ public ministry was to begin culminating with Him going to the Cross and receiving the personal sins of mankind and being judged for them). So at the beginning of His earthly ministry, Christ identified Himself with the Father’s will.
a. In the water, Jesus was saying He would fulfill God’s plan and live a perfect life under the greatest testing and then go to the Cross and receive the imputation of all personal sins, Mat 3:13-17.
b. As He came out of the water, Jesus recognized that when He completed the plan of the Father by being judged for our sins and then dying physically, He would be resurrected, followed by His ascension and session. Coming up out of the water was a picture of His resurrection.
3. Christian water baptism. This is the ritual testimony of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. There had to be a testimony before the Canon was written to explain the baptism of the Spirit. From the beginning of the Church Age until the completion of the Canon, this baptism was necessary to teach the principle of the baptism of the Holy Spirit at salvation. But once the Canon was completed, this ritual was no longer necessary, since the explanation for the baptism of the Spirit is now in writing.
a. The purpose of Jesus Christ on the cross, His resurrection, ascension and session, and the beginning of a new Church Age had to be portrayed with ritual until the Canon was completed.
b. Water baptism was used as a training aid for new, weak believers, just as certain temporary spiritual gifts were used to teach until the Canon was completed.
c. In the water, the believer recognized that he was identified with Jesus Christ in His spiritual death, physical death, and burial, (i.e., retroactive positional truth). Identification with His spiritual death meant rejection of good and evil. Identification with His physical death and burial meant separation from good and evil.
d. Coming out of the water was recognition of being identified with Christ in His resurrection, ascension, and session, now seated at the right hand of the Father, (i.e., current positional truth).
e. Paul tells the Corinthians he stopped using water baptism because it was a means of dividing believers, cf. Acts 2:38; 8:36-38; 16:15, 33; 1 Cor 1:11-17. So before Rom 6:3-4; 1 Cor 12 were written to explain the baptism of the Spirit and identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, water baptism was used to represent what had happened at salvation to those who did not yet have the completed Canon.
Vs. 4-6, The preamble to John’s Ministry.
In fulfillment of the prophecies of Luke 1:14, 76, and quoting the prophecy of Isaiah in Isa 40:3-5, from 700-750 years earlier, Luke is identifying John the Baptist as the fulfillment of this prophecy along with his message. All three Synoptic Gospels identify the ministry of John as its fulfillment.
Yet, only Luke quotes the longer version of the Isaiah prophecy by including Isa 40:5. Matthew and Mark stop short of this verse. We will see its importance below. Also, in vs. 7, Luke identifies the recipients of John’s scathing rebuke as the crowds in general, while Matthew tells us more specifically that it was addressed to the Pharisees and Sadducees. These may be the mountains and valley’s this preamble to John’s ministry refers to. Nevertheless, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Rom 3:23, and sin is what needs to be brought low and smoothed out, cf. Luke 1:52; 14:11; 18:14.
Luke 3:4-6, “As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths (TRIBOS, path or beaten track is only used in this narrative in Mat., Mark, and Luke) straight. 5every ravine, (PHARANX – valley, only used here in the NT), will be filled, and every mountain and hill, (mountains and hills and other high places were typically places of worship and belonged especially to God, but they were often places of pagan worship), will be brought low (TAPEINOO, humbled); the crooked (SKOLIOS, crooked, full of obstacles, disorganized, devious, corrupt, evil, unjust), will become straight, and the rough (TRACHUS, rough or jagged. Used figuratively of the actions of crude persons) roads smooth (LEIOS, smooth or level, only used here), 6and all flesh will see the salvation of God’.” Cf. Mat 3:3; Mark 1:3.
It is interesting that instead of going to the people, John compelled the people to come out to him in the wilderness. This sets up his preaching perfectly, as the people need to come to the knowledge of Jesus for salvation.
“Smooth,” is the adjective LEIOS, λεῖος that is uniquely used here in a parabolic way to speak of repentance. Taken from Isa 40:3-5, the imagery of Luke’s preamble to John’s ministry is that of making a highway for the coming King. New roads would be made which would be level, straight, and smooth. This imagery was a common one in ancient days of preparing for the coming of a king or emperor. Much work was needed to be done before his arrival. This is similar to our current day etiquette of “rolling out the red carpet,” for a dignitary or honored guest. It was also used in ancient days regarding warfare, as the conquerors would pave a straight and smooth path for their armies to navigate through otherwise rough terrain, thereby, saving their energy for the great battle, so that they could be victorious. This too is analogous to the coming of our Lord, where He would win the strategic battle of the Angelic Conflict upon the Cross.
In this imagery of paving a new road way, it is a beautiful figure of the real preparation that was the more beautiful; the transformation of repentance in the hearts of the people. By encouraging repentance, John was preparing the people to receive Jesus and the message of His apostles, so that they would positively receive Jesus’ message of salvation. Therefore, in a spiritual sense, John was to prepare a highway for the Lord, which would result in a repentant people that would receive its Messiah.
Isaiah prophesied as follows:
Isa 40:3-5, “A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. 4Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; 5Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
This is a human voice calling out in the wilderness commanding the people to prepare the way of the Lord, to make a straight highway in the desert for God. Although, commentators have made several allusions to the application of this passage, this has nothing to do with people returning to the land of Israel. This highway is similar to those mentioned in many ancient Near East records. The context is of emissaries of a great conquering king going before him and preparing a road sufficiently magnificent for a powerful monarch. But, here it is not a literal road but a figurative one, or better a spiritual one, which leads to the spiritual awareness of who the Messiah is and His victory over sin, resulting in the restoration or reconciliation of the people to God. John paved the way of the Lord with the repentant, “changed” hearts of men and women.
This prophecy is also similar to the millennial roads referred to in Isa 11:16; 19:23; 35:8; 45:2; cf. Isa 62:10; 43:19.
Isa 35:8, “A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it.”
The millennial road is for God to come back to His people, to come to their aid. Yet, in the Gospels we recognize the true fulfillment in the ministry of John the Baptist as he spiritually prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus by calling for repentance.
In Isaiah 40:5, “the glory of the Lord will be revealed,” tells of the full weight of God’s glory in His presence and power, the revelation of who He is. Certainly, when the Lord comes back to establish His millennial reign the whole world will see it, and believers will experience it. Yet, the actual application of this prophecy is found in the ministry of John the Baptist and our Lord’s First Advent. John’s ministry was not building a road in the wilderness, filling up depressions, grading hills, and straightening hairpin curves; rather, he paved the way of the Lord with the changed lives of men and women.
Notice that John’s proclamation of the good news included his warnings of the bad news. He indicates that all have sinned. All need to come to repentance, a change in their thinking that results in a changed lifestyle as well. Then, having told the bad news, John went on to tell the good news that God would soon visit men with His salvation.
Yet, in Luke 3:6, we have, “all flesh will see the salvation of God.” “Salvation of God,” is SOTERIOS HO THEOS that uses the Genitive for THEOS that means, salvation belongs to God and is from God. He both possesses salvation and is the source of salvation for all of mankind. In addition, Salvation is given to mankind by the grace of God, as part of His grace plan for our salvation, Eph 2:8-9. The way we obtain God’s salvation is by faith in the completed work of Jesus Christ upon the Cross.
As Luke notes, “all flesh,” meaning all of mankind, “will see salvation.” In other words, all members of the human race will come to know God’s plan of salvation, whether they believe in it or not. Interestingly, Isaiah states in vs. 5, “Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together.” In these two passages, “the glory of the Lord,” is synonymous with the “salvation of God.” That is because in salvation, we see the total glory of God. As a matter of grace, salvation is entirely the work of God.
Salvation is the work of the Father in judging our sins, of the Son in being judged for our sins, and of the Holy Spirit in common and efficacious grace. This is why the way of salvation is faith in Jesus Christ, and faith alone with no works added to it. This is the message the people need to repent towards. They needed to change their thinking from a system of works for salvation, to a system of grace for salvation. When they would receive the salvation of God by faith in the light of His grace provision, they would “see” the revealed glory of God.
1 Chron 16:35, “Then say, ‘Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us and deliver us from the nations, to give thanks to Your holy name, and glory in Your praise’.”
Rom 3:20-22, “Because by the works of the law no flesh will be justified in his sight, for through the law is the knowledge of sin. But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe.”
Rom 3:28, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”
Rom 4:4-5, “Now to the one who works for salvation, his wages are calculated, not on the basis of grace, but on the basis of debt. But to him who does not work for salvation, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith receives credit for righteousness.”
Gal 2:16, “Nevertheless, knowing that a (spiritually dead) person is not justified by the works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law; because by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”
Rom 5:1, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our lord Jesus Christ.”
There is a point at which we see God for the first time. Deut 5:24, “Behold, the Lord our God has shown us His glory and His greatness.” You cannot see the greatness of God until you can see the glory of God. In these passages, seeing the glory of God is seeing the greatness of His grace plan for our salvation.
Heb 2:10, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.”
This is what John was preaching, as Paul also noted in Eph 1:17.
Eph 1:17, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.”
And because Rom 3:23 says that we all fall short of the glory of God, God has provided us the means to see, know and be His glory through Jesus Christ.
Psa 62:7, “On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.”
Psa 79:9, “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; and deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.”
Psa 85:9, “Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land.”
Isa 46:13, “I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion, and My glory for Israel.”
2 Tim 2:10, “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.”
Rev 19:1, “After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God’.”
The Church, the Royal Family God, is called to eternal glory since Christ is seated in the place of glory. The formation of the Royal Family comes under the phrase, “being called to eternal glory,” 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Peter 1:3. This is the status of the Royal Family being called into eternal relationship with God through His plan of salvation.
Salvation Glory that Results in Resurrection Glory!
In our study of Luke’s Gospel we are currently noting what I call the “Preamble” to John the Baptist’s ministry in Luke 3:4-6, which is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Isa 40:3-5. In comparing the two, we have noticed a slight variation in the last phrase.
In Luke’s gospel it reads: “And all flesh will see the salvation of God.”
While Isaiah’s prophecy reads: “Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together.”
In comparing the two, we note that the “salvation of God” is equivalent to the “glory of the Lord,” that “all flesh will see.” And in fact, the Septuagint translation of Isa 40:5 already combines them and reads: “And they will see the glory of the Lord, and all flesh will see the salvation of God.” The translators of the Septuagint assumed that the subject of “all flesh will see together” was referring to “salvation,” as noted in Isa 52:10.
Isa 52:10, “The LORD has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God.”
The nameless subject in Isa 40:5b, which is noted by an “it” in italics, is defined by the Septuagint translators as “salvation.” In addition, through the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, Luke only used the last half of the Septuagint translation and utilized its translation to define the nameless subject as “salvation.” Therefore, we understand from Isaiah, that glory and salvation go hand in hand. As such, the revelation of God’s plan of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, as preached by John, is a revelation of God’s great glory.
This “Salvation Glory” is seen throughout the Scriptures, as we have noted above. But nowhere is it seen more prevalent than in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, which resurrection He has promised to those that believe. Read Luke 23:26-24:26.
Here, we see that in order for Jesus to enter into glory, the glory of His resurrection, He first had to suffer, (i.e. die) for our sins. Once Jesus paid for our sins upon the Cross, He then could enter into His glory of resurrection, ascension, and session at the right hand of God the Father. Once Jesus completed the work of salvation and entered into His resurrection glory, all who would believe upon Him would also be saved and entered into resurrection glory.
John 11:25, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies’.”
Rom 6:4, “Therefore, we have been buried with Him (Jesus Christ) through baptism into death (baptism of the Spirit) in order that, as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
1 Peter 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Phil 3:10-11, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Phil 3:20-21, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”
As such, the resurrection body is described in terms of glory, 1 Cor 15:43.
1 Cor 15:42-44, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”
Our resurrection body is “raised in glory,” because we are in the status quo of His victory upon the Cross that results in an everlasting union and life with Jesus Christ. Our resurrection will be part of the “First Resurrection,” of all believers throughout human history. The first resurrection is pictured in Scripture as a battalion pass-in-review, and is divided into four echelons, 1 Cor 15:20‑24.
1 Cor 15:20-24, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.”
The four companies in order of resurrection include: (See chart on our website).
1. Alpha Company: The resurrection of Christ, for He is “the first fruits of those that slept,” Mat 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20‑21; Acts 2:31‑34.
2. Bravo Company: The resurrection of the Royal Family of God at the end of the Church Age, John 14:1‑3; Phil 3:20‑21; 1 Cor 15:51‑57; 1 Thes 4:13‑18; 1 John 3:1‑2.
3. Charlie Company: The resurrection of the OT believers and Tribulational martyrs at the end of the Tribulation and at the Second Advent of Christ, Dan 12:13; Isa 26:19‑20; Mat 24:31; Rev 20:4.
4. Delta Company: The resurrection of the Millennial saints at the end of the Millennium, Rev 20:5.
Therefore, we will live forever in a state of glory. In 2 Thes 2:14, “The attainment of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,” refers to having a resurrection body exactly like His.2 Tim 4:18, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
3. John’s fiery preaching, vs. 7-14.
Luke 3:7, “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?”
Here we see a difference between Luke’s gospel and Matthew’s, Mark does not include this narrative. Luke states generally that John spoke to the “crowds,” OCHLOS, while Matthew says he addressed only the Pharisees and Sadducees, Mat 3:7, “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
“Brood of Vipers,” uses the Greek Noun GENNEMA γέννημα that means, “that which is produced or born, offspring, progeny, or generation.” It comes from the noun from GENNAO, “to give birth to, beget, or involving generation,” that is from GINOMAI that means, “to become.” Interestingly, GENNEMA is only used for “offspring,” in railings against the Pharisees, Mat 3:7; 12:34; 23:33; Luke 3:7, as the “offspring of vipers,” translated “brood of vipers.”
The variant GENEMA is used for “fruit” or the “generation of the vine” meaning “grape juice or wine,” in Mat 26:29; Mark 14:25; and Luke 22:18, that our Lord would not drink again of until His Second Advent, and in 2 Cor 9:10, translated “harvest” but meaning Divine Good Production.
Therefore, we have a stark contrast in the application of this word from those who lead others astray from faith in the Lord, to the completed work of the Lord upon the Cross or His Divine Good Production, as well as ours.
GENNEMA used regarding the Pharisees and Sadducees is linked with “vipers, ECHIDNA, ἔχιδνα that means, “a poisonous snake,” named as the viper or adder in Mat 3:7; 12:34; 23:23: Luke 3:7. ECHIDNA focuses on the evil, dangerous character of the creature in contrast to the more common word for snake, OPHIS. John might have borrowed this phrase from Isaiah.
Isa 59:5, “They hatch adders’ eggs and weave the spider’s web; He who eats of their eggs dies, and from that which is crushed a snake breaks forth.”
The only other time this word is used, is for the literal snake that bit Paul in Acts 28:3. Therefore, “brood of vipers,” figuratively means the offspring of pervious snakes, and therefore, the offspring of the false teachers of false doctrines that led the Israelites astray from knowing their Messiah.
The serpent is an emblem of the devil, Gen 3:1; Rev 12:9, 14-15, and Jesus not only repeated John’s words, Mat 12:35; 23:23, 33, but He interpreted the words, and told them plainly that they were “the children of the devil,” John 8:44. The Jewish rulers well deserved this name, for they poisoned the religious principles of the nation, and accomplished the crucifixion of the Son of God
“Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come,” gives us the imagery of snakes desperately fleeing from a wild-fire. Here, it means who told you the truth about salvation to avoid God’s judgment to come including the judgment of condemnation to the eternal Lake of Fire. It gives us the principle that impending judgment is the alternative to repentance. John’s baptism, like that of Moses at the Red Sea, 1 Cor 10:2, was a way of escape from destruction, if rightly used.
The “wrath to come,” ORGE MELLO, is Hades and the eternal Lake of Fire for those who do not believe in Jesus Christ. Prophecy foretold that Messiah’s times would be accompanied with wrath, Isa 63:3-6; Dan 7:10-26. ORGE is also used figuratively in Rev 14:10; 16:19, regarding God’s future wrath or judgment upon the unbeliever in the image of drinking wine in a simile to “brood of vipers.”
Rev 14:9-11, “Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name’.”
Revelation 16:19, “The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath.”
As Luke is writing for Gentile ears, and Matthew Jewish, Luke wants to warn all people, both Jew and Gentile, as all who do not believe will endure the “wrath to come.” But, Matthew is addressing the head of the snake, the religious leaders who are rejecting God’s Messiah and keeping the people from seeing / knowing Him too.
Luke 3:8-9 and Matthew 3:7-10 are virtually identical, although Matthew is broken down into 3 verses while Luke just 2.
Luke 3:8-9, “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. 9“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.”
Mat 3:8-10, “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9and do not suppose that you can 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. 10The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
These verses now change from the viewpoint of the unbeliever to the believer, as it discusses “fruit in keeping with repentance,” that means Divine good production post salvation.
We begin with “therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” Here, Luke and Matthew use the analogy of “fruit bearing,” that is Divine Good Production, (DGP), or the Fruit of the Spirit, Gal 5:22-23, to play off of the “offspring / fruit generation” of vipers in vs. 7. Here, the DGP is that “in keeping with repentance.” The Greek reads AXIOS HO METANOIA that means, “worthy of, deserving, fit, good enough, or suitable” for “repentance,” METANOIA. We noted METANOIA in vs. 3, and it carries the same meaning here of a change of heart, that is the change of thinking in the context of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. So, Luke is saying, if you have changed your way of thinking regarding the Messiah for salvation, now you should live in the new life that He brings, and live worthy of this new life you have. In other words, since your sins have been forgiven by Christ, you should no longer live a sinful lifestyle, but instead live in the righteousness you have been made in Christ. We should live our lives worthy of the holiness and righteous of God, cf. Eph 4:1; 2 Thes 1:11.
2 Thes 1:11, “To this end also we pray for you always that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power.”
As such, true repentance is evidenced by a change of character, (not mere good works in an effort to earn salvation). “Fruits of repentance” are evidences that one has turned from the ways of death to receive the life-giving salvation of God. God forgives; therefore, we repent in gratitude. Yet, this change in character can only come about by God’s transforming Spirit and your post-salvation renewing of the mind through Bible Doctrine being resident within your soul.
Then Luke states, “and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’.” This begins with Semiticism for “do not even begin to think.” “Say to themselves,” reminds us that many times people deceive themselves to quiet their consciousness from the condemning thoughts of judgment they deserve. It tells us that the Israelites should not “rest on their laurels.” In other words, just because they are Israelites, in the lineage of Abraham, does not guarantee them salvation and eternal life. It does not guarantee that they are “children of God,” and have a free pass to heaven and God’s Kingdom. Israelites, as do Gentiles, must accept God’s plan of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, in order to receive eternal glory, by being “born again,” John 3:3.
John 3:3, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’.”
That is why he goes on to say, “for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.” In Aramaic, the words stones and children produce a pun. Yet, the fact is God does not need the Israelite people to populate His kingdom. He can find children anywhere, because He is God. Yet, He has given the Israelites a unique opportunity as a chosen race. But that opportunity only comes to fruition when they accept God’s plan for their salvation glory. That is the change of thinking that is necessary for the Jew. They have to change their thinking regarding their unique opportunity as physical children of Abraham, to accept Jesus Christ as their promised Messiah to become spiritual children of Abraham, just as the Gentile believer also becomes. That is what Paul was saying in Rom 9:5ff., “not all Israel is Israel.”
Rom 9:6-8, “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” 8That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.”
Unfortunately, the Jews believed, and still believe today, that they had a favored position with God and took pride in being Abraham’s children. John denounced the concept of nationalistic or racial privilege and proclaimed that God would base His judgment on a person’s volition, not his lineage. Therefore, everyone who repents and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior becomes a child of God and is spiritually Abraham’s child, Gen 17:5; John 1:12; 8:39; Rom 4:12-16; 8:14; Gal 3:6-9, 26; 6:15.
Gen 17:5, “No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.”
John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
Heb 2:10, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.”
Rom 4:16, “For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”
Rom 8:14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
John repeated this message, and Jesus reiterated it, Mat 8:11-12, “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Next, in vs. 9, we have a warning of Divine Discipline coming against the people because of their lack of repentance demonstrated by Divine good production. In John’s day, trees that did not produce were useless. They were cut down and used for firewood. Here we have a dual warning, one of personal Divine discipline for reversionistic believers who do not produce Divine Good, and one of national discipline for the nation that does not produce Divine good. Here, John is compared to a farmer who chops down useless trees and who winnows the grain to separate the wheat from the chaff, vs. 17.
“Indeed the axe (AXINE only used here and Mat 3:10) 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.”
“Root” is the Noun RHIZA, ῥίζα that means, “root, source, shoot, or offspring,” so the analogy of “brood or offspring” of vipers continues. That is, those without Divine Good Production.
“Trees,” is the noun DENDRON where we get our word rhododendron from, and is used figuratively, first in the plural, then in the singular for reversionistic and unrepentant believers, as well as reversionistic and unrepentant nations.
The imagery here is clearly one of judgment, cf. Isa 10:33–34; Ezek 31:12; Dan 4:14, both present and continual judgment, and does not refer to the final judgment but rather to the discipline of God occurring due to the arrival of God’s kingdom and the lack of repentance thereof.
“Every tree that does not bear good fruit,” speaks of no DGP in their life. These will be “cut down and thrown into the fire,” i.e., used as fuel or a motivating factor for others to repent with good works, which is similar to what our Lord said in John 15:2a, 6.
John 15:2a, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away…”
John 15:6, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”
This “burning” is not Hades or the Lake of Fire, but God’s discipline towards those who do not produce the Fruit of the Spirit, Gal 5:22-23, which is spoken about in John 15, where the positive believer can produce fruit, more fruit, and much fruit.
Therefore, these analogies are first speaking of God’s Divine discipline on the reversionistic believer. They do not lose their salvation, but they are disciplined and can be taken out under the 3rd stage of Divine discipline, 1 Cor 11:30, “For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.”
Interestingly, as the positive believer can produce three tiers of Divine good production, (fruit, more fruit, and much fruit), the reversionistic believer can suffer three tiers of Divine discipline, (weak, sick, and a number sleep). In addition, below John is questioned three times and gives three answers on how the people can produce Divine good.
John the Baptist gives this same warning as our Lord did in John 15, to the believer(s) who does not produce DGP after believing in Jesus Christ as the promised Savior-Messiah. That is why he goes on to answer the questions of various people as to “what they should do,” in vs. 10-14, now that they are saved.
This also has the backdrop of God’s judgment on the nation of Israel that rejected His Son as their Savior. As you know, the unbeliever can never produce Divine good. And, as a nation of predominate unbelievers or reversionistic believers, God will take out the nation of Israel under the 5th Cycle of National Divine Judgment, as noted in Lev 26:14‑38, which He did to Israel in 70 A.D., and replaced with a fruit baring tree, i.e., the Gentile nations, cf. Luke 6:43-45; 13:6-9.
The nation of Israel had not been productive and judgment was going to be their portion. John was telling the people of Israel that if they did not bring forth fruit, the axe would come down on the root of their tree.
Jesus said in Mat 21:43, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.”
The Lord Jesus Christ is saying the same thing to the church today in the United States of America.
“Already now the messianic banquet has begun (Luke 14:15–24), and the judgment is taking place. The invited guests are being excluded, and the outcasts are now invited in their place. Indeed the last are becoming first, and the first are becoming last (13:30). The barren fig tree is now experiencing its final hour (13:6–9). Unless there is repentance, it will be cut down (13:9). Compare Rom 11:17f., for a Pauline parallel.” (New American Commentary)
Therefore, failure to repent invites catastrophe: “Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.” The privilege of Jewish heritage was plainly not enough. John, or better God, demanded a strong sense of Divine good production to avert the possibility of a terrible judgment that would “sever” their roots. John’s message was drastic and clearly offensive to many Jewish traditionalists who thought they were good enough; just as many churchgoers do today!
Nevertheless, when John saw the people were repentant, he baptized them and expected them to give some evidence of their sincerity. The application of vs. 7-9, is seen in vs. 10-14, which is unique to all the gospels.
“And the crowds were questioning him, saying, ‘Then what shall we do?’”
“Then what shall we do,” is in the Aorist, Active, Subjunctive Mood of the common verb POIEO, “to do, produce, accomplish, etc.” It was a deliberate real question the people were asking John. In this construction, they were not asking questions of fact, but of possibility or means. They were not asking “what or who,” but “how and where.” They were grappling within their thoughts, “how do we produce this fruit?”
Understandably, John’s words were upsetting to the crowds. That is why they were continually “asking” him (Imperfect of EPEROTAO, “ask for, inquire, etc.), to correct their mistaken view on salvation, (i.e., salvation is being born a Jew), and to define their post salvation repentance further.
John answers some of their questions in vs. 11-14 in a practical sense. Luke uses three examples of John’s recommendations for Divine good production.
Principle: Truly repentant / believing people want to know what they should do in their new spiritual life.
“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’.”
The “tunic,” CHITON, χιτών was not the outer garment, cape / coat like apparel. It was the inner garment or shirt, maybe even a “long johns” type of apparel. It is used in Mat 5:40; 10:10; Mark 6:9; 14:63; Luke 3:11; 6:29; 9:3; John 19:23 twice; Acts 9:39; Jude 1:23.
In John 19:23 we see the difference, as the soldiers divide, Jesus’ outer garment into four pieces, but cast lots for His tunic because it was seamless.
So, we see that people might have had multiple shirts in their possession, and if they come across someone who does not even have one, to share their surplus with them.
“To share with him” is the Aorist, Active, Imperative, for a command, of the verb METADIDOMI, μεταδίδωμι that means, “give over, impart, share, or bestow.” It comes from the root verb DIDOMI that means, “give, give out, hand over, etc.,” with the prefix of the preposition META that means, “with.”
John taught the importance of sharing one’s substance with those less fortunate. He specifically mentioned clothing and food (BROMA), but he no doubt had other needs in mind as well. The message is those who have are to share with those who have not. The Bible is full of commands to care for the less fortunate. Therefore, we see that unselfishness and generosity are “fruits worthy of repentance.” Cf. 2 Cor 8:13-15; James 2:15-17; 1 John 3:17.
“And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, ‘Teacher, (DIDASKALOS) what shall we do?’ (same construction as in vs. 11), 13And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than what you have been ordered to’.”
Now going from the general population and sharing with others, Luke notes that John got specific in his responses, in this case regarding tax collectors, (TELONES), who were Jews that were most hated by the Jews because of their allegiance to the Romans, and thought to be sinful because some were unscrupulous in collecting tax money and charging high taxes; more than the government mandated. For other references to tax collectors see Luke 5:27, 29–30; 7:29, 34; 15:1; 18:10–13; 19:2. Notice that Jesus chose Levi, a.k.a. Matthew, as one of His disciples / Apostles.
Therefore, the repentant tax collectors, no doubt, came with their question because of the guilt they felt. They knew they were defrauding the people, and their consciences, along with their feeling of ostracism condemned them. So they asked, how can we produce fruit that is worthy of our salvation.
The simple answer was, “be honest in all your transactions and accountings.” John considered fair and honest business practices and generosity with their wealth as the major fruits of repentance.
It is interesting that he does not tell them, or the soldiers below, to do something, but rather to stop doing something that was sinful. Many times when we say no to sin, especially when it would affect someone else negatively, we are actually producing Divine good towards them. It really is the concept of “loving your neighbor.”
Remember, repentance is a way of life, not a one-time event. It is not the fruits of repentance as efforts to earn salvation, but rather as concrete, practical evidences that a life had been touched and moved by the mercy and grace of God. The fruits of repentance were not the fruits of legalism, but of a relationship between God and you, the forgiven one.
An example of the right application of this is seen in the encounter Jesus had with the Tax Collector Zaccheus in Luke 19:1-16.
“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’.”
“Soldiers,” is actually a verb here. The Present, Middle, Participle in the Nominative case that acts like a noun of STRATEUOMAI, στρατεύομαι that means, “serve as a soldier or serve in the army.” It is used 7 times in the NT, and this is the only one that potentially meant an actual soldier. All the other uses are figurative, typically of believers fighting inside the angel conflict. From the context of this verse, it seems that these are actual soldier employed by the government.
Some think this refers to Roman soldiers who would be Gentiles and absolutely not Jews, others think they were Jewish soldiers in the employment of the Sanhedrin or King Herod Antipas, perhaps to assist with the tax collections. Assuming Roman soldiers, we see John’s baptism drawing from Jews and Gentiles alike, cf. Luke 7:1-9, with a message for both Jews and Gentiles.
Regardless, as to what type of soldiers they were, John’s response to them was similar to those for the tax collectors since they also had opportunity to defraud and torment the people. His response was threefold:
1. “Do not to take money from anyone by force,” which is the Aorist, Active, Subjunctive of the Verb DIASEIO διασείω that means, “extort by force, blackmail, take money by terrifying someone,” or literally “to shake thoroughly.” It is only used here in Scripture. Our English slang expression “shake down” possesses the same connotation. It means to not extort or blackmail by applying your authority over someone.
2. “Nor accuse anyone falsely,” which is also in the Aorist, Active, Subjunctive but this time of the Verb SUKOPHANTEO συκοφαντέω that means, “accuse falsely, defraud, slander, blackmail, or extort.” It is only used here and in Luke 19:8. It comes from SUKO, “fig,” and PHAINO, “show or declare.” It came from ancient Greek when there was a famine of the figs, and certain people were put in charge of making sure the figs were not exported illegally. They became known as the “fig informers,” SUKOPHANTEO. Later, it was used in the Greek in the form of “blackmail” by public officials, but it could refer to any effort by a person who seeks to oppress or extort someone with false charges or threats. False accusation was also a favorite approach by many soldiers who acted as troublesome informers on frivolous or false grounds. So, John condemns the custom of blackmailing those with money by acting as informers and false accusers against them. In addition, this is where we get our English word “sycophant” from, which is a “servile, fawning, or obsequious person who flatters somebody powerful for personal gain.”
This and the others mentioned above are part of the seven abominable sins the Lord hates, Prov 6:16-19, “There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, 18A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, 19A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.”
3. “And be content with your wages,” that uses the Present, Passive, Imperative of the Verb ARKEO, ἀρκέω that means, “be enough, sufficient, and be satisfied or content with.” It is linked with “wages,” OPSONION meaning their “pay, compensation, or salary.” The soldiers in that day were paid very little. Similar to our soldiers today compared to other professions. They were not to add to their wages by pillage or extortion. Instead, they were to be content with what the Lord had provided them, and not to lust for more leading to further sin, cf. Mat 28:12.
ARKEO, “content,” is used 8 times in the NT with the underlying theme of being “satisfied,” due to having trust in God your Heavenly Father who provides for and protects you, cf. Mat 6:25f.; 2 Cor 12:9; 1 Tim 6:8; Heb 13:5.
Mat 6:25, “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
2 Cor 12:9, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
1 Tim 6:8, “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.”
Heb 13:5, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’.”
OPSONION ὀψώνιον for “wages,” is used only 4 times in the NT, here and in Rom 6:23, to show what the “wages of sin” are, (i.e., death), and in 1 Cor 9:7; 2 Cor 11:8, in regard to how the “soldier,” that is the Pastor/Teacher or missionary, should earn their wages; from the church.
1 Cor 9:7a, “Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? …”
But the message John is giving these soldiers is to be content with the salary that they earn and not be greedy and use their power to take money unjustly from others. Do not extort. Do not bully. Do not cheat others using the authority of the state. Do not use weapons to take from people; rather, be content with your wages.
Notice that in the case of the tax collectors and soldiers, John does NOT tell them to vacate their profession, only to act and operate honestly with integrity. They could remain in their vocations and serve God. In addition, positions of authority and wealth are neither to be exploited nor to be used as instruments of oppression. Power is to be used to help, not oppress. Money is to be used as a means of imitating God’s generosity and of demonstrating true thankfulness to God.
And remember 1 Tim 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
And 1 Tim 3:3, “Do not be addicted to wine or pugnacious (aggressive, confrontational, and quarrelsome), but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.”
As our Lord said in Mat 7:20, “So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
The Westminster Confession of Faith says, “Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man’s duty to endeavor to repent of his particular sins, particularly.” Therefore, repentance causes us to examine our own lives with specificity. We must think about how we use our callings, our positions, and our privileges to either help or hurt, to sin or pursue righteousness.
In summary, “The genuinely repentant one who has turned from his sin to God acts like the God who has changed him. Because God has been generous in His mercy to those who repent, they are merciful in return by being generous in meeting the needs of others. God expects this reciprocal action from those who have received His mercy. (See the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Matthew 18:23-35.)” (Complete Biblical Library)
Chuck Swindoll notes, “Luke 3:7-14 insists that we understand repentance, for if we do not understand repentance then we do not accurately understand the Christian life. As Martin Luther put it in his ninety-five theses, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” In the Christian life we enter into a life of repentance, a life of ever turning toward that celestial city. Repentance is a wonderful Christian discipline.” (Christ-Centered Exposition)
Therefore, John was identifying the crooked things that had to be made straight, if a highway was to be prepared for the Lord’s coming, cf. vs. 4-5. As James noted in James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
4. John preaches the Gospel and coming of Jesus’ ministry, vs. 15-18.
“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.”
Here, we see that John through his preaching created a sense of expectations in the heart of the people for the coming of the Christ. Our ministry should do the same!
“In a state of expectation,” is the Present Active, Participle in the Genitive Masculine of PROSDOKAO προσδοκάω that means, “wait for, look for, anticipate, expect.” In the Greek it meant, “waiting for something in suspense.” In our verse, it means they had hope in the sense of confident expectation that “the Christ,” HO CHRISTOS, was coming and they were eagerly waiting for Him. Just as John’s listeners had a heightened sense of expectation waiting for the 1st Advent of the Christ: Savior, Messiah, King, so too should we be expectantly looking for His return, Mat 24:50; Luke 12:46; 2 Peter 3:10-14; cf. 1 Cor 1:7; Phil 3:20.
“All were wondering in their hearts,” is similar to Mary’s pondering in Luke 1:29, the people were, “considering, pondering, and deliberating,” DIALOGIZOMAI, “in their hearts,” KARDIA – right lobe of the soul, if John was “the Christ,” CHRISTOS – the anointed One.
John’s reply in vs. 16-17, is noted in all the gospels; Mat 3:11-12 that is almost verbatim to Luke; Mark 1:7-8, that is more abbreviated; and John 1:19-27, 33 that expands on the overall scene.
“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’.”
Here we see that John’s humble response teaches of Christ’s ministry towards the Church and all peoples.
John’s “answer” APOKRINO, was No!, I am not, using certain terms regarding his ministry compared to Jesus’ ministry, (i.e., I baptize you with water, He with the Holy Spirit and judgment). John also states Jesus’ authority over John by saying, “One is coming who is ‘mightier’ than I,” using the Adjective ISCHUROS ἰσχυρός that means, “strong, powerful, mighty, able, forcible, or vehement.” It come from the Noun ISCHUS, “strength, power, forcefulness,” that tells us that Jesus as God is endowed with or possesses power which He applies towards mankind in all that He does. He has all the power necessary and all the ability to do what His Sovereignty is able to do, especially judge mankind.
“I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals,” is an idiom similar to our saying, “I don’t hold a candle compared to Him.” “Fit,” is the Adjective HIKANOS ἱκανός that means, “sufficient, adequate, considerable, fit, competent, able, worthy, etc.” It was a statement of humility and unworthiness in the presence of absolute holiness, power, and authority.
Then John identifies Jesus’ greater ministry, power, and judgment, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (HAGIOS PNEUMA) and fire (PUR).”
Both of these baptisms are one of seven mentioned in the NT, as noted above under vs. 3, and are two of the four “Real Baptisms,” along the Baptism of Moses and the Baptism of the Cross. “Real Baptism” means there is an actual identification with something that has significance. The other three baptisms, (by John, Jesus’ own baptism, and with Water), are called Ritual Baptisms, and none of these are extant at the present time. They are representative identifications in which water is used as a training aid to represent some principle of doctrine. Water represents something else in a ritual baptism, and the person going into the water must have knowledge of the meaning of the water and ritual. Therefore, John’s Baptism with water had the water representing the Kingdom of God / the Kingdom of Heaven. But the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” and “with Fire” are actual identifications with something, as we will see. No representative is used.
It is worthy to note that the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” although given credit to the Holy Spirit elsewhere in the NT, is said by Luke via John the Baptist, to be a baptism that Jesus would perform as the agent of the baptism, the Greek language also identifies this, as we will note next. So, the Baptism with the Holy Spirit is a work that Jesus performs, as is the Baptism with Fire, which we will note below.
In our passage, the Greek word for “with,” is the Dative Preposition of EN. In this verse, and 1 Cor 12:13 that also speaks of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, EN is a Dative of Means. In other words, the Holy Spirit is the instrument or means by which the agent, (Jesus Christ), uses to baptize. See Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, pg. 374. As such, “with” is a good translation. In addition, the prophecy that John makes in this verse, is fulfilled in the Church Age, as noted 1 Cor 12:13.
1 Cor 12:13, “For by (means of) one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” Jesus Christ is the unnamed agent in this verse. Therefore, in this baptism we see the unity of the Trinity to perform the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
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Includes: (Verses 17-38)
- The Doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit
- Doctrine of the Baptism with Fire
- The Doctrine of the Eternal Lake of Fire / Hell