Matthew takes the time to give the basic purpose of John relative to the Christ in Verses 11-12.
John gives a few differences between himself and the Christ. Why would it be necessary for John to do provide such explanation?
It was necessary that the people hearing the preaching not mistake John for the Messiah. There is specific reason for this. If they attempt to glorify John with such adoration that is due to the Christ then the people actually do a harm to themselves. John can not bless them as the Lord could and therefore John must clarify that even though the preaching was impressive spiritually, because it is sourced from the Spirit, it is still about the Lord not about the Law of Moses, the blood line of Abraham, or the sustaining of the temple in Jerusalem (with all the connotations assigned it by the Jews).
What are the three things that distinguishes between John and the Christ?
Three distinctions are made by John concerning what is expected of the Christ that John is not offering.
- Baptism by the Holy Spirit
- Baptism through fire
- The burning of the refuse by a consuming fire
These three things bear significance to the entering into the kingdom of Christ (referred to many times as the kingdom of Heaven going forward by Matthew). Baptism by the Holy Spirit refers to the hearing and believing of the truth. As John tells us concerning the Holy Spirit and the truth:
1John 5:5 Who is the one overcoming the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
1John 5:6 This is the One coming through water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by the water only, but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the One witnessing, because the Spirit is the truth.
In order to have victory through faith (1 John 5:4) we must hear the word of God.
Rom 10:17 Then faith is of hearing, and hearing through the Word of God.
Baptism through fire refers to the testing of the soul that recognizes the need to obey the gospel of Christ. But will stand the tests that come through the world (Mark 4:3-9). A Christian, from the point of entering the church forward, is required to test themselves (2 Corinthians 13:5) to verify that Christ is in them. This is by the standard of the Word which can bring a refining fire to us so that the impurities can be removed from our souls.
Isaiah 48:10 Behold, I have refined you, but not with silver; I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction.
1Peter 1:7 so that the proving of your faith, much more precious than perishing gold, but having been proved through fire, may be found to praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation, because having been approved he will receive the crown of life which the Lord promised to the ones loving Him.
Zechariah 13:9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and I will refine them as silver is refined. And I will try them as gold is tried. They shall call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, It is My people, and they shall say, Jehovah is my God.
The consuming fire is the right and authority of the Lord to extinguish from the flock those that are not purified and perfected through the hearing and discipline of the Word.
Revelation 2:4 But I have against you that you left your first love.
Revelation 2:5 Then remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the first works. And if not, I am coming to you quickly, and will remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
2Corinthians 11:3 But I fear lest by any means, as the serpent deceived Eve in his craftiness, so your thoughts should be corrupted from the purity which is due to Christ.
Jude 1:23 But save others with fear, snatching them out of the fire, hating even the garment being stained from the flesh.
Should it be difficult to determine the promised Christ will be greater than a preacher in the wilderness eating locust and honey, and wearing rough camel hair garments?
That was certainly the expectation of many Jews. They wanted a leader in the promised Messiah that could establish the kingdom has they so selfishly envisioned it. They problem was they had to point back to the days of the glory of David and Solomon. The fault there was the warrior culture involved in the David’s reign and in Solomon’s was the introduction of much idolatry and profound national debt. The issue in the comment concerning, “He who is coming after me is stronger than me, of whom I am not able to lift The sandals”, is Christ comes in the strength of the Spirit and power of God. This is spiritual in nature. The significance of Johns practice and appearance is to mark the nature of the physical relative the kingdom of Christ. The physical is to be humbled before the spiritual with the church and every individual member of the church of Christ. Whether one is well off or with no assets at all, this rule is the same.
Luke 16:13 No servant is able to serve two lords; for either he will hate the one, and he will love the other; or he will cling to one, and he will despise the other. You are unable to serve God and mammon.
1Ti 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
1Ti 6:7 For we have brought nothing into the world, and it is plain that neither can we carry anything out.
Why would the people potentially mistake John as being equal to or greater than the Christ?
The chief priests and others at the temple tried to challenge Jesus with a question concerning the authority by which He performed miracles and taught the people (Mark 11:27-33). Jesus offered a question to be answered in order for Him to answer their question. It concerned the origin (authority) of the teaching of John. The Jews were hesitant to say any disparaging word about John because of the people’s belief that John was a prophet of God. Therefore, the people who believed in the preaching of John had some respect for the power of the word of the preaching. It was a part of John’s responsibility to show the people he was a forerunner of the Lord’s, preparing the way for the Christ.
Matthew 3:3 For this is he spoken of by Isaiah the prophet, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord! Make His paths straight!" Isa. 40:3
John says he is baptizing with water but the Christ baptizes with the Spirit and fire. Does this mean water is not a part of the baptism in the name of Christ?
Based on the accounts provided by Luke in the book of Acts (Acts 8:36, 38; Acts 10:47), water is absolutely a part of baptism in the name of Jesus (Romans 6:4) which is part of the plan for an individual’s salvation (Mark 16:16) according to that individual’s choice (Romans 6:17). John’s statement here is quoted twice in the book of Acts.
Act 1:4 And having met with them, He charged them not to leave Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father, "which you heard of Me;
Act 1:5 for John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days after."
Act 11:15 And in my beginning to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, as also on us in the beginning.
Act 11:16 And I recalled the Word of the Lord, how He said, John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
So what John was referring to was the dispensation of the Spirit of God by the Lord to enable the blessing of spiritual gifts for the building up of the church. Paul explains that these gifts are temporary when explaining the true purpose of the gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14). The usage of the gifts are expressly for the establishment and maintenance of faith (edification). But, one the full revelation of the gospel and law of Christ is completed then the gifts go away. It should also be remembered that the baptism of the Holy Spirit for these purposes only comes from the “laying on of hands” by an apostle. When the apostle John passed away, the last of the apostles, then the imparting of the gifts by the Spirit ended. There is also the concept of the gift of the Spirit promised by Peter.
Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized, each of you on the name of Jesus Christ to remission of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Some would have you believe that this is a promise that all “true” Christians receive the ability to perform spiritual gifts. This is actually a reference to the gift that all Christians receive upon entering into salvation. This gift is stated by Paul as being the grace of Christ related to us by the concept of the inheritance through the Lord.
Ephesians 1:13 in whom also you, hearing the Word of Truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also believing you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
Ephesians 1:14 who is an earnest of our inheritance, to the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Then we have the concept of baptism with fire. The context of John’s statement helps us understand what baptism with fire means. He mentions fire twice: Once concerning the tree that does not bring forth the expected fruit that is cast into fire and second concerning the chaff that is winnowed from the good harvest and burned in fire. So, the concept of baptism with fire is the point of separating the pure from the impure, holy from unholy, light from darkness, clean from unclean, acceptable from rejected, etc. This is accomplished by the light of the gospel. The pure and holy will love the love and come to it but those that can’t give up all for Christ will flee from the light to darkness.
John 3:20 For everyone practicing wickedness hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, that his works may not be exposed.
John 3:21 But the one doing the truth comes to the Light, that his works may be revealed, that they exist, having been worked in God.
How does the baptizing of John with water relate to the act of repentance for the Israelite?
The Law of Moses required the Israelite to undergo cleansing after certain situations required by the Law. Among these was the representation of displacing impurity. Also involved was the concept of washing away corruption. Another term associated with the cleansing with water is washing. The basic doctrine put forward by the Law of Moses to prepare for the kingdom of Christ is sanctification. This purpose of sanctification is to be made holy before the Lord. Someone that has violated or trespassed against the law of God to which they are subject must be sanctified. This includes water washing or cleansing under the Law of Moses. Without repentance, the sin will be committed again and the sanctification becomes null and vain. Without repentance from sin there can be no salvation.
Under what law does John baptize the people hearing and believing his message?
The people were being convicted concerning sin which is defined by law (Romans 3:20). The law to which the Jews hearing John’s preaching were subject was the Law of Moses. Therefore, the baptism (e.g. Leviticus 14 and Numbers 19) and preaching of confession and repentance was based on the Law of Moses. Baptism was nothing new to Israelite, or one who should have been quite knowledgeable of the Law. Baptism was involved in the act of washing the body after personal events distinguished in the Law or after events of corruption.
Were you baptized by Christ with the Spirit and fire?
In other words, when were you baptized in the name of Christ for the remission of all sins through the truth offered by the Spirit despite any antagonism to which you may be subjected along with sacrifices of things and relationships?
Who does Christ baptize and how, with the Spirit and fire?
Christ baptizes all those that will hear the gospel invitation of obedience to His law of faith and grace.
1 Corinthians 1:2 to the assembly of God which is in Corinth, those having been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called-out saints, with all those calling on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours:
1 Corinthians 12:13 For also we all were baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, even all were given to drink into one Spirit.
2 Thessalonians 1:11 For which we also continually pray concerning you, that our God would deem you worthy of the calling, and would fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness, and work of faith in power,
2 Thessalonians 1:12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 4:14 If you are reviled in the name of Christ, you are blessed, because "the Spirit of God and of glory rests on you." Truly, according to them, He is blasphemed; but according to you, He is glorified.
What is the winnowing fork of the Christ?
The winnowing fork is the tool used by the farmer to separate the grain from the husk or chaff. Christ separates the harvested fruit or grain from the refuse which is to be burned by the truth of the His word. The parable of the sower is an excellent illustration of the difference the Word has on the hearts of individuals (Luke 8:9-15). The test of the follower of God is the respect and love of the word of God.
John 8:31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, If you continue in My Word, you are truly My disciples.
The one who rejects the Word is doomed to the fire but the one who obeys the commands is harvested unto life.
John 12:48 The one who rejects Me and does not receive My Words has that judging him: the Word which I spoke, that will judge him in the last Day.
John 12:49 For I did not speak from Myself, but He who sent Me, the Father, He has given Me command, what I should say, and what I should speak.
John 12:50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Then what things I speak, as the Father has said to Me, so I speak.
What does the threshing of the wheat in the barn represent?
This represents the occasion of a soul’s acceptance or rejection of the gospel invitation to call on the name of the Lord. In accepting and obeying the gospel, we commit ourselves to the service of the Lord and surrender all to the Lord. We accept the Lord as the foundation of our existence in totality or reject Him and the full reforming of our mind, heart, and soul.
1 Peter 2:4 to whom having drawn near, a living Stone, indeed having been rejected by men, but chosen by God, precious;
1 Peter 2:5 you also as living stones are being built a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
In separating the wheat from the chaff, why is it important for the separation to be accomplished?
The Lord demands that His people be separate and holy from the people of the world. The people of the world are under the power of the evil one and reject the will of God (Ephesians 2:1-3). The has to be change in the one who submits to God so that person is coming out of the world and its ways. Paul wrote to Corinth very clearly the dividing of a soul that belongs to Christ from all things in and of the world.
2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership does righteousness have with lawlessness? And what fellowship does light have with darkness?
2 Corinthians 6:15 And what agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever?
2 Corinthians 6:16 And what agreement does a temple of God have with idols? For you are a temple of the living God, even as God said, "I will" dwell in them and "walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people."
2 Corinthians 6:17 Because of this, "come out from among them" "and be separated," says the Lord, "and do not touch the unclean thing," and I will receive you.
2 Corinthians 6:18 "And I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons" and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.
Why would the chaff be burned?
This is the material that was rejected during the time of harvest. Burning the material means there is no other worthy use for it.
What does the burning of the chaff represent?
It represnts those souls that reject the saving grace of God through Christ. If someone is not willing to fully submit to God, then they are living in sin without sanctification or cleansing through the truth of the Spirit. These are destined for destruction.
Revelation 20:15 And if anyone was not found having been written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the Lake of Fire.
Hebrews 10:26 For if we are willfully sinning after receiving the full knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice concerning sins,
Hebrews 10:27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and "zealous fire being about to consume the adversaries."
Why is the fire unquenchable?
Once the judgment comes then the fire of God’s wrath is promised to never end.
Isaiah 66:24 And they shall go out and see the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against Me; for their worm shall not die, nor shall their fire be put out; and they shall be an object of disgust to all flesh.
Mark 9:43 And if your hand offend you, cut it off. For it is profitable for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go away into Hell, into the unquenchable fire,
Mark 9:44 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not put out.
Hebrews 12:28 For this reason, receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us have grace, by which we may serve God pleasingly, with reverence and awe;
Hebrews 12:29 for also, "Our God is a consuming fire."