Luke 3:10
And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
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(10) And the people asked him . . .—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.

Luke 3:10-14. And the people asked him, What shall we do then? — To avoid the judgments of God. He answereth, He that hath two coats, &c. — Be careful, not only to observe the ceremonies of religion, but to attend to the great duties of justice, mercy, and charity. The sum of all is: Cease to do evil, learn to do well: these are the fruits worthy of repentance. Then came also publicans — A set of men whose office it was to collect the taxes which the Romans had imposed on the Jews, and to pay them to others, who were called the chief of the publicans; and these people, being generally persons of an infamous character for their injustice and oppression, applied themselves to John, under a strong conviction of their guilt, and said, Master, what shall we do? — Namely, to testify the sincerity of our repentance. And he said, Exact no more than is appointed you — As if he had said, I do not require you absolutely to quit your employment, but take care that, in levying the taxes, you compel no man to pay you more than his just proportion of the sum which you are allowed by the law to raise. And the soldiers applied themselves to him on the same occasion, saying, What shall we do? — The Baptist’s sermons were so affecting, that they impressed men even of the most abandoned characters, such as the private soldiers in all countries commonly are. And he said, Do violence to no man — Commit no violence on any man’s person or property. “The word διασεισητε properly signifies, to take a man by the collar and shake him; and seems to have been used proverbially for that violent manner in which persons of this station of life are often ready to bully those about them, whom they imagine their inferiors in strength and spirit; though nothing is an argument of a meaner spirit, or more unworthy that true courage which constitutes so essential a part of a good military character.” — Doddridge. Neither accuse any falsely — Do not turn informers, and give false evidence against innocent persons, in order that with the protection of the law you may oppress them, and enrich yourselves with their spoils. The word συκοφαντειν, which we render, to accuse falsely, answers to the Hebrew עשׂק, and signifies also to circumvent and oppress. And be content with your wages — Live quietly on your pay, and do not mutiny when your officers happen not to bestow on you donations and largesses to conciliate your favour. It is well known the word οψωνιοις, here rendered wages, signifies provision, or food; but, when applied to soldiers, it is generally used to signify the pay that was allotted for their subsistence. It appears that the soldiers who now addressed the Baptist were not heathen, but Jews; otherwise one part of his advice to them would certainly have been, that they should relinquish idolatry, and embrace the worship of the true God. To account for this it must be observed, that it was the custom of the Romans to recruit their armies in the conquered provinces, and, as the Jews did not scruple to engage in a military life, many of them may now have been in the emperor’s service. Or, we may suppose that after Judea was made a province, the Romans took into their pay the Jewish troops which Herod and his son Archelaus had maintained. See Macknight.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.What shall we do, then? - John had told them to bring forth fruits appropriate to repentance, or to lead a life which showed that their repentance was genuine. They very properly, therefore, asked how it should be done, or what "would be" such a life. 10-14. What shall we do then?—to show the sincerity of our repentance. (Also see on [1548]Mt 3:10.)Ver. 10,11. Although the preaching of the law doth not immediately conduce to work in us faith in Christ, yet mediately it doth, as it brings men to cry out, as those Acts 2:37, Men and brethren, what shall we do? or as the jailer, Acts 16:1-40, Sirs, what shall we do to be saved? John preaching God’s terrors hath this effect upon the people, they ask him, What shall we do then? The Baptist’s answer may seem a little strange to those who do not consider, that it amounts to the same with Daniel’s counsel to Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 4:27, Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; and what John had said, Luke 3:8, Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance. Our Saviour said much the same, Luke 11:41, Give alms of such things as ye have; and Peter commandeth, 1 Peter 4:8, Above all things have fervent charity among yourselves; for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Solomon saith it covereth all sins, Proverbs 10:12. The people’s question was, What shall we do? What are the fruits meet for repentance, that is, truly indicative of repentance? To this now John answereth, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none. Which must not be interpreted, as obliging every one that had two coats to give away one; but as instructive of us, that ceremonies and ritual performances, in which that age abounded, would not serve their turn, but true and real good works, relieving the poor to their ability, out of their superfluities, from obedience and love to God; not merely pitying them, and saying to them, Go ye and be ye clothed, or be warmed; not saying Corban, and thinking that would excuse them from relieving their parents, or other poor people, but according to their ability relieving them. John doth not here countenance Anabaptist levelling, he only cautions them against Pharisaical hypocrisy, trusting to external privileges, such as having Abraham to their father, or some ritual and ceremonial performances, while in the mean time they neglected the weighty things of the law, of which Christ hath taught us that mercy is one. 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.

And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
Luke 3:10-11. Special instructions on duty as far as Luke 3:14 peculiar to Luke, and taken from an unknown source.

οὖν] in pursuance of what was said Luke 3:7-9.

ποιήσωμεν] (see the critical remarks) is deliberative. On the question itself, comp. Acts 2:37; Acts 16:30.

μεταδότω] namely, a χιτών.

ὁ ἔχων βρώματα] not: “qui cibis abundat,” Kuinoel, following older commentators. The demand of the stern preacher of repentance is greater; it is that of self-denying love, as it is perfected from the mouth of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.Luke 3:10-14. Class counsels, peculiar to Lk. Two samples of John’s counsels to classes are here given, prefaced by a counsel applicable to all classes. The classes selected to illustrate the Baptist’s social preaching are the much tempted ones: publicans and soldiers.10–14. Answer of the Baptist to the Multitude

10. What shall we do then?] Rather, What then are we to do? Compare the question of the multitude to Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37) and that of the Philippian jailor (Luke 16:30).Luke 3:10. Τί οὖν ποιήσομεν; what then shall we do?) This is a characteristic mark of a soul, which is being converted, Acts 2:37; Acts 16:30.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. Asked (ἐπηρώτων)

Imperfect tense, indicating the frequent repetition of these questions.

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