1. In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,Dove
2. and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

The translation of the Greek word “metanoeo” by “repent” has been called by competent Bible scholars such as J.T. Rotherham the worst translation in the New Testament! This word comes from two Greek words, “meta,” which means “after,” and “noeo,” which means “to be minded.” What John was exhorting people to do was to be after-minded. What does this mean?

To have the aftermind means in essence to be settled on a course of action so that no matter what may happen in the future nothing will change you from your predetermined course. John wanted people to make up their minds to follow God, and to do it in such a way that no matter what that ended up costing them in the future they would never back down on their decision. This is what he meant when he called them to be after-minded. A good English word for this kind of thing might be “submission.” Those who are truly submitted to God will follow Him no matter what. That is what John wanted these people to make up their minds to do.

3. For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the LORD,
Make His paths straight.’”

This tells us who John was. Notice that it does not say that he was Elijah!

4. And John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.

Remember that John was of a priestly line, and would have had a perfect right to dress in the prestigious garments of a priest. He, however, chose to attire himself in these crude garments. This was to emphasize his separation from the corrupt priesthood that prevailed in Israel. In God’s eyes, however, he was still a priest, but a priest who was actually fulfilling the teaching role that God had always had in mind for them.

5. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him

Note that the people flocked to him. This wasn’t something easy to do either…they had to come out into the wilderness to find him! Not exactly like going to a Billy Graham crusade in some downtown stadium. But they were eager to hear what he had to say!

6. and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.

This baptism identified them as being after-minded people. Note that the confessing of sins does not mean that the purpose of baptism was to wash away sins. As part of their submission to God they admitted their sinful past. Yet we must not confound baptism with the forgiveness of these sins. Sins are only washed away by grace through faith!

7. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8. “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance,

Notice that it is John who first rejects the Pharisees, not the other way around. They had been abusing their power and position for years, and earned the strong censure brought against them. But they are not given up on, only urged to submit, as the others were doing. Swallowing their pride in the face of John’s statement would be difficult, but I’m sure some of them did.

9. “and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.

“Raise up” here refers to raising in resurrection. The Lord did not need living representatives of Abraham to fulfill His promises to him for He could raise up Abraham’s descendants at any time He liked!

10. “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Note carefully that it is the corrupt religious leaders who are spoken of as the tree here, not the nation of Israel itself. John is not predicting the end of Israel as a nation, but rather the end of those corrupt men as its leaders.

11. “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He Who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Here we have water baptism compared with Spirit and fire baptism. Notice that water baptism is to submission or after-mindedness. Repentance is an equally bad translation of the noun form of “metanoeo,” “metanoia.” This word means submission or after-mindedness. Anyone who was water baptized by John was declaring his readiness to submit to God.

Notice that it is Christ who baptizes WITH the Spirit. There is no baptism OF the Holy Spirit.

If baptism means “immersion,” then why would God immerse His people in fire? Does God want to torture His people before saving them as the doctrine of purgatory teaches? No, baptism does not mean immersion, but rather identification. The word did indeed start off meaning “to dip,” but it took on a technical sense later in its usage. The word was used in the dyeing industry for when a white cloth was dipped into a colored ink. From then on the cloth was permanently identified with whatever dye it was merged with, whether red, purple, or any other color. This permanent identification of a white cloth with a colored dye was called a baptism. Thus the idea of baptism is one of an identification that results in a merger, and not merely of a dipping or immersion.

12. “His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

This, of course, is future, and refers to what God will do in the Kingdom.

13. Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.
14. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”
15. But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.

Many who believe water baptism washes away sins have been puzzled as to why Jesus needed to be baptized. When we understand that the water symbolized submission, we know that Christ was identifying Himself as being submissive to God, not as a sinner who needed to have His sins washed away.

16. Then Jesus, when He had been baptized, came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.
17. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Many assume that this was the voice of God. But God is a spirit, and has no voice. This voice was produced by a miracle and speaks for God, even though it is not the voice of God. God is not a man, after all, and the only part of God That has vocal cords is Jesus Christ Himself. Yet Christ was standing right there, so we know it was not Him speaking. Yet the passage is very specific, and tells us that this was a voice FROM heaven, and not the voice OF God. We might call it the “The Miracle of the Voice.”