7 “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:7-8 ESV)
John the Baptist confronted the hypocritical Pharisees and the Sadducees who came to him. He called them snakes. He also announced to them that they were facing the judgment of Almighty God.
John them commanded the religious leaders to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” What did this statement mean?
The command to bear (ποιέω; poieō) means to construct or accomplish something. What was to be accomplished was the bearing of spiritual fruit (καρπός; karpos). John used the word fruit to refer to the religious leaders’ actions, deeds, or works.
That this fruit John spoke of was godly in nature and behavior is found in the word repentance (μετάνοια; metanoia). Repentance meant a change within the inner soul of an individual. It meant to regret, and feel remorse for what one has done, or what has not been done but should have been.
Repentance, then and now, refers to a change of thinking, feeling and choosing regarding sin. True believers in Christ are to turn from their sin. Concurrently, they are also to turn to God with a trust in, commitment to, a dependence upon and a worship of Him alone through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
“The call for repentance on the part of man is a call for him to return to his creaturely and covenant dependence upon God,” writes one commentator. “Repentance is not just a feeling sorry, or changing one’s mind, but as a turning around, a complete alteration of the basic motivation and direction of one’s life.”
This was why John demanded baptism as a sign of this repentance. Repentance was not only for obvious sinners, but also for the self-righteous Jews. John’s baptism was an act of turning from sin and placing oneself at the mercy of the Lord of heaven and earth (Matt. 3:1-2; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:1-8; Acts 13:24; 19:1-4). Like John, Jesus also called for sinners to repent of their sins (Matt. 4:17; 11:20; 12:41; Mark 1:15; Luke 5:32; 10:13; 11:32; 13:1-5; 15:1-10; 16:30; 17:1-3; 24:47). Their message was the same.
“Understandably, these Pharisees became concerned when John the Baptist came calling for all the Jews to be baptized for the forgiveness of sin (Mark 1:4). Surely at least some Jews, they thought, such as the Pharisees, would not need to be baptized because of their holiness. That explains why the Pharisees were associated with the group of people sent from Jerusalem to investigate John the Baptist’s practice. He would need divine authority to make such an audacious claim that even the Pharisees needed baptism (John 1:24–25),” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.
Repentance is acknowledging that you do not have a claim upon God. It also means to submit yourself to God without excuse or attempted self-righteous justification (Luke 18:9-14).
Have you repented of your sins and by faith received Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord (John 1:12-13)? Are you evidencing your repentance by godly attitudes and behavior (Titus 2:11-13)?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!