|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:1-14 The scope and design of John's ministry were, to bring the people from their sins, and to their Saviour. He came preaching, not a sect, or party, but a profession; the sign or ceremony was washing with water. By the words here used John preached the necessity of repentance, in order to the remission of sins, and that the baptism of water was an outward sign of that inward cleansing and renewal of heart, which attend, or are the effects of true repentance, as well as a profession of it. Here is the fulfilling of the Scriptures, Isa 40:3, in the ministry of John. When way is made for the gospel into the heart, by taking down high thoughts, and bringing them into obedience to Christ, by levelling the soul, and removing all that hinders us in the way of Christ and his grace, then preparation is made to welcome the salvation of God. Here are general warnings and exhortations which John gave. The guilty, corrupted race of mankind is become a generation of vipers; hateful to God, and hating one another. There is no way of fleeing from the wrath to come, but by repentance; and by the change of our way the change of our mind must be shown. If we are not really holy, both in heart and life, our profession of religion and relation to God and his church, will stand us in no stead at all; the sorer will our destruction be, if we do not bring forth fruits meet for repentance. John the Baptist gave instructions to several sorts of persons. Those that profess and promise repentance, must show it by reformation, according to their places and conditions. The gospel requires mercy, not sacrifice; and its design is, to engage us to do all the good we can, and to be just to all men. And the same principle which leads men to forego unjust gain, leads to restore that which is gained by wrong. John tells the soldiers their duty. Men should be cautioned against the temptations of their employments. These answers declared the present duty of the inquirers, and at once formed a test of their sincerity. As none can or will accept Christ's salvation without true repentance, so the evidence and effects of this repentance are here marked out.
Verse 10. - And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? Dean Plumptre's note here is interesting and suggestive: "The questions that follow are peculiar to St. Luke. They are interesting as showing that the work of the Baptist was not that of a mere preacher of repentance. Confession of sins followed naturally on the part of the penitents; that was followed, as naturally, by guidance for the conscience. St. Luke, as a physician of the soul, may well have delighted to place on record this example of true spiritual therapeutics." The same train of thought is followed out by Godet in his remark on the question contained in this verse: "It is the confessional after preaching." This little section (vers. 10-14), containing an epitome of questions placed before John by different classes of hearers touched by his soul-stirring preaching, is peculiar to our evangelist. It is clear that here, in the story of the ministry of the Baptist, Luke derived his knowledge of the details from an independent authority not used either by Matthew or Mark.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the people asked him,.... Not the same as in Luke 3:7 the Sadducees and Pharisees, for they seemed not to be at all affected with, and wrought upon, by the ministry of John; but rather were displeased with him, and turned their backs on him, and rejected him and his baptism; but the common people, that stood by; who hearing John speak of wrath to come, and of repentance, and fruits worthy of it, were filled with concern about these things, and inquire,
saying, what shall we do? either to escape the wrath and vengeance coming on the nation, and also eternal ruin and destruction; and Beza says, that in two of his copies, and one of them his most ancient one it is added, "to be saved", and so in two of Stephens's; which confirms the above sense, and makes their inquiry to be the same with the jailor's, Acts 16:30 or else their meaning is, what are the things we are to do, or the fruits we are to bring forth, the duties we are to perform, in order to testify the truth and genuineness of our repentance? which latter seems most agreeable.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
10-14. What shall we do then?—to show the sincerity of our repentance. (Also see on Mt 3:10.)
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