Luke 3:17
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.
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(17) He will throughly purge . . .—The better MSS. give, throughly to purge, and to gather.

3:15-20 John the Baptist disowned being himself the Christ, but confirmed the people in their expectations of the long-promised Messiah. He could only exhort them to repent, and assure them of forgiveness upon repentance; but he could not work repentance in them, nor confer remission on them. Thus highly does it become us to speak of Christ, and thus humbly of ourselves. John can do no more than baptize with water, in token that they ought to purify and cleanse themselves; but Christ can, and will baptize with the Holy Ghost; he can give the Spirit, to cleanse and purify the heart, not only as water washes off the dirt on the outside, but as fire clears out the dross that is within, and melts down the metal, that it may be cast into a new mould. John was an affectionate preacher; he was beseeching; he pressed things home upon his hearers. He was a practical preacher; quickening them to their duty, and directing them in it. He was a popular preacher; he addressed the people, according to their capacity. He was an evangelical preacher. In all his exhortations, he directed people to Christ. When we press duty upon people, we must direct them to Christ, both for righteousness and strength. He was a copious preacher; he shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God. But a full stop was put to John's preaching when he was in the midst of his usefulness. Herod being reproved by him for many evils, shut up John in prison. Those who injure the faithful servants of God, add still greater guilt to their other sins.See the notes at Matthew 3:11-12. 16. John answered—either to the deputation from Jerusalem (see Joh 1:19, &c.), or on some other occasion, simply to remove impressions derogatory to his blessed Master which he knew to be taking hold of the popular mind. (Also see on [1556]Mt 3:10.)

saying unto them all—in solemn protestation. So far from entertaining such a thought as laying claim to the honors of Messiahship, the meanest services I can render to that "Mightier than I that is coming after me," are too high an honor for me. Beautiful spirit, distinguishing this servant of Christ throughout!

one mightier than I—"the Mighter than I."

See Poole on "Luke 3:16" Whose fan is in his hand,.... See Gill on Matthew 3:12 {3} Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.

(3) The gospel is the fan of the world.

Luke 3:17. See on Matthew 3:12.17. fan] Rather, winnowing-fan. The Latin vannus, a great shovel with which corn was thrown up against the wind to separate it from the chaff.

his floor] Rather, threshing-floor. The word is the same as that from which our halo is derived, since the threshing-floors of the ancients were circular.

the chaff] The word includes straw and stubble. We find similar metaphors in Psalm 1:4, “the ungodly … are like the chaff;” Malachi 4:1, “all that do wickedly shall be stubble;” Jeremiah 15:7, “I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land.” So far as the allusion is to the separation of good from evil elements in the Church we find similar passages in Matthew 13:30; 1 John 2:19, &c. But it may refer also to the destruction of the evil elements in a mixed character, as in Luke 22:31, “Simon … Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.”

into his garner] Comp. Matthew 13:30, “gather the wheat into my barn.”

burn] Rather, burn up.Verse 17. - Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner. But not only, taught John, was Messiah's work to consist in baptizing those who sought his face with the mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire, there was another terrible aspect of his mission. The useless, the selfish, the oppressor, and the false-hearted, - these were to be separated and then destroyed. When will this separation and subsequent destruction take place? The separation will begin in this life. The effect of the revelation of a Savior would be to intensify at once the antagonism between good and evil. Between the followers of Christ and the enemies of Christ would a sharp line of demarcation be speedily drawn even here; but the real separation would only take place on the great day when Messiah should judge the world; then would the two classes, the righteous and the unrighteous, be gathered into two bands; condemnation, sweeping, irresistible, would hurry the hapless evil-doers into destruction, while the righteous would be welcomed in his own blessed city. The imagery used is rough, but striking. It was taken, as is so much of Oriental teaching, from scenes from the everyday life of the working world around them. The theater is one of those rough Eastern threshingfloors on the top or side of a hill, so chosen for the purpose of having the benefit of the wind. The actor, a peasant employed in winnowing. "Not far from the site of ancient Corinth," writes a modern traveler in Greece, "where the peasants in many of their customs approach near to Oriental nations, I passed a heap of grain which some laborers were employed in winnowing: they used for throwing up the mingled wheat and chaff, a three-pronged wooden fork, having a handle three or four feet long. Like this, no doubt, was the fan, or winnowing-shovel, which John the Baptist represents Christ as bearing" (Dr. Hackett, quoted by Dr. Morrison, on Matthew 3:12). The fan thus described would throw up against the breeze the mingled wheat and chaff; the light particles would be wafted to the side, while the grain would fall and remain on the threshing floor. With fire unquenchable. This image in itself is a terrible one; still, it must not be used in the question of eternity of punishment. The tire is here termed "unquenchable" because, when once the dry chaff was set on fire, nothing the peasants could do would arrest the swift work of the devouring flame. All that is here said of the condemned is that they will be destroyed from before the presence of the great Husbandman with a swift, certain destruction. If it points to anything, the imagery here would hint at the total annihilation of the wicked; for the flames, unquenchable while any chaff remained to be consumed, would, when the rubbish was burnt up, die quickly down, and a little heap of charred ashes would alone mark the place of its burning. But it is highly improbable that any deduction of this kind was intended to be drawn. The Baptist's lesson is severely simple. Fan - floor - purge

See on Matthew 3:12.

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