|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:7-12 To make application to the souls of the hearers, is the life of preaching; so it was of John's preaching. The Pharisees laid their chief stress on outward observances, neglecting the weightier matters of the moral law, and the spiritual meaning of their legal ceremonies. Others of them were detestable hypocrites, making their pretences to holiness a cloak for iniquity. The Sadducees ran into the opposite extreme, denying the existence of spirits, and a future state. They were the scornful infidels of that time and country. There is a wrath to come. It is the great concern of every one to flee from that wrath. God, who delights not in our ruin, has warned us; he warns by the written word, by ministers, by conscience. And those are not worthy of the name of penitents, or their privileges, who say they are sorry for their sins, yet persist in them. It becomes penitents to be humble and low in their own eyes, to be thankful for the least mercy, patient under the greatest affliction, to be watchful against all appearances of sin, to abound in every duty, and to be charitable in judging others. Here is a word of caution, not to trust in outward privileges. There is a great deal which carnal hearts are apt to say within themselves, to put aside the convincing, commanding power of the word of God. Multitudes, by resting in the honours and mere advantages of their being members of an outward church, come short of heaven. Here is a word of terror to the careless and secure. Our corrupt hearts cannot be made to produce good fruit, unless the regenerating Spirit of Christ graft the good word of God upon them. And every tree, however high in gifts and honours, however green in outward professions and performances, if it bring not forth good fruit, the fruits meet for repentance, is hewn down and cast into the fire of God's wrath, the fittest place for barren trees: what else are they good for? If not fit for fruit, they are fit for fuel. John shows the design and intention of Christ's appearing, which they were now speedily to expect. No outward forms can make us clean. No ordinances, by whomsoever administered, or after whatever mode, can supply the want of the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire. The purifying and cleansing power of the Holy Spirit alone can produce that purity of heart, and those holy affections, which accompany salvation. It is Christ who baptizes with the Holy Ghost. This he did in the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit sent upon the apostles, Ac 2:4. This he does in the graces and comforts of the Spirit, given to those that ask him, Lu 11:13; Joh 7:38,39; see Ac 11:16. Observe here, the outward church is Christ's floor, Isa 21:10. True believers are as wheat, substantial, useful, and valuable; hypocrites are as chaff, light and empty, useless and worthless, carried about with every wind; these are mixed, good and bad, in the same outward communion. There is a day coming when the wheat and chaff shall be separated. The last judgment will be the distinguishing day, when saints and sinners shall be parted for ever. In heaven the saints are brought together, and no longer scattered; they are safe, and no longer exposed; separated from corrupt neighbours without, and corrupt affections within, and there is no chaff among them. Hell is the unquenchable fire, which will certainly be the portion and punishment of hypocrites and unbelievers. Here life and death, good and evil, are set before us: according as we now are in the field, we shall be then in the floor.
Verse 8. - Bring forth therefore (vide supra) fruits; fruit (Revised Version). The plural is due to a false reading taken from the parallel passage of Luke - it regards the various graces of a good life as so many different fruits (Matthew 21:43); the singular, as one product from one source (Galatians 5:22). The term used here (ποιεῖν καρπόν), and frequently, lays more stress on the effort involved than διδόναι καρπόν, simple "yielding" (Matthew 8:8), or φέρειν, "bearing" in the course of nature (Matthew 7:18; Mark 4:8; John 15:4, 5, 8, 16). The preacher requires a repentance which produces results. Meet for (cf. Acts 26:20). Though strictly meaning "suitable to" ("answering to," Authorized Version margin; cf. Tyndale, 'be-longyng to"), the phrase might to-day be understood as "suitable to produce." John really means that true repentance has fruit which belongs to its proper nature, and which is alone "worthy of" it (Revised Version). Repentance (τῆς μετανοίας). The article is either generic (Authorized Version and Revised Version; cf. Acts 11:18 and probably Acts 26:20); or equivalent to "your" (Revised Version margin). If the latter, the following sentence shows that it is still said in good faith. (For repentance, cf. ver. 1, note.)
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Bring forth therefore fruits,.... That is, if you are truly penitent, if you have a proper sense of sin, and true repentance for it, do such works as are suitable to it, and will show the genuineness of it; for
fruits meet for repentance are the same as "works meet for repentance", Acts 26:20 and as a tree is known by its fruit, so repentance is known by good works; these are the fruits and effects of repentance, and which are proofs with men of the sincerity of it. Those which follow upon evangelical repentance are such as are mentioned in 2 Corinthians 7:11. Now let it be observed, that John insisted upon repentance, and a good conversation, attesting the truth of it as necessary prerequisites to the ordinance of baptism; and so Peter first urged repentance; and then proposed baptism, Acts 2:38 from whence one should think it may be rationally and strongly concluded, that none but truly repenting sinners, and such who have given proofs that they are so, are to be admitted to this ordinance.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
8. Bring forth therefore fruits—the true reading clearly is "fruit";
meet for repentance—that is, such fruit as befits a true penitent. John now being gifted with a knowledge of the human heart, like a true minister of righteousness and lover of souls here directs them how to evidence and carry out their repentance, supposing it genuine; and in the following verses warns them of their danger in case it were not.
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