Matthew 3:8
Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
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(8) Fruits (better, fruit) meet for repentance.—The English version is ambiguous and not happy, suggesting the thought of the “fruit” as preparing the way for repentance. The thought is, however, “by coming to the baptism you profess repentance; bring forth, therefore, fruit worthy of repentance—i.e., of a changed heart and will.”

Matthew 3:8. Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance — That is, a change of temper and behaviour, answerable thereto; forsake, as well as confess, your sins, and let the integrity, regularity, holiness, and usefulness of your lives, manifest the sincerity of your repentance. It is a metaphor taken from trees, which discover what quality they are of by the fruits they bear; in allusion to which, pious men are called trees of righteousness, Isaiah 61:3; and their works, fruits of righteousness, Php 1:11. Let it be observed, further, that as the original word, μετανοια, here rendered repentance, properly signifies a change of mind, from the approbation and love of sin to an aversion and hatred to it, in consequence of a deep conviction of its evil nature and destructive tendency; (see on Matthew 3:2;) so, wherever this is, there will, of course, be an entire reformation of life, a ceasing to do evil, in all respects, according to the knowledge and ability of the penitent, and a learning to do well. Hence it is styled repentance from dead works, Hebrews 6:1; and repentance unto salvation not to be repented of, 2 Corinthians 7:10; that is, such as is not reversed by any voluntary returning or relapsing into our former sins. And, seeing God is unchangeably holy, and must for ever hate all sin with a perfect hatred, it is certain, from his very nature, that he cannot be reconciled to or have communion with the sinner, till a change be wrought in his spirit and conduct, and he cease from the commission of known iniquity. For a change there must be in God or man; and, since God’s nature is immutable, and it cannot be in him, it must of necessity be in man. Now it is evident, both from reason and experience, that confession of sins, a present sorrow for them, and displeasure against them, with a warm resolution to forsake them, are by no means always attended with this change, and, therefore, that these alone cannot be fruits meet for repentance. And O, how necessary was this admonition for the men of that age, who placed their repentance, as Dr. Lightfoot observes, in a mere verbal confession of their sins; and is it not equally necessary for too many of our own age?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.Bring forth therefore fruits ... - That is, the proper fruits of reformation; the proper evidence that you are sincere. Do not bring your cunning and dissimulation to this work; do not carry your hypocrisy into your professed repentance, but evince your sincerity by forsaking sin, and thus give evidence that this coming to Jordan to be baptized is not an act of dissimulation. No discourse could have been more appropriate or more cutting.

Fruits - Conduct. See Matthew 7:16-19.

Meet for repentance - Fit for repentance; appropriate to it the proper expression of repentance.

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.

You come here and thrust yourselves into a crowd of penitents, but this is not enough, true repentance is not a barren thing; neither are your leaves of external profession a sufficient indication of it, you must bring forth the fruits of holiness, fruits that may answer the nature of true repentance. The proper products of habits are called their fruits; thus we read of the fruit of sin, and the fruit of righteousness.

Fruits meet (answerable to amendment of life)

for repentance are works that are the proper product of repentance, or justly answering an external profession of repentance. As faith, so repentance, without works is dead. 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.

{3} Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

(3) True repentance is an inward thing which has its seat in the mind and heart.

Matthew 3:8. Οὖν] Deduction from what precedes. In your impenitent condition you cannot escape from the wrath; proceed then to exhibit that morality of conduct which is appropriate to the change of mind as its result. Instead of your unrepentant condition, I require of you a practical repentance, the hindrance and opposition to which arises from your overweening conceit as children of Abraham (Matthew 3:9). What John here requires applied, indeed, to the people in general, but was especially appropriate to their scholastic leaders.

τῆς μετανοίας is governed by ἄξιον (Acts 26:20); on καρπὸν ποιεῖν, like עֲשׂוֹת פְרִי (occurring likewise in Greek writers), borrowed from fruit-trees, comp. Matthew 7:17 f. al.; καρποποιός, Eur. Rhes. 964; καρπ. is collective, Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9; Php 1:11.Matthew 3:8. ποιήσατε οὖν, etc. “If, then, ye are in earnest about escape, produce fruit worthy of repentance; repentance means more than confession and being baptised.” That remark might be applied to all that came, but it contained an innuendo in reference to the Pharisees and Sadducees that they were insincere even now. Honest repentance carries amendment along with it. Amendment is not expected in this case because the repentance is disbelieved in.—καρπὸν, collective, as in Galatians 5:22, fruit; the reading in T. R. is probably borrowed from Luke 3:8. The singular is intrinsically the better word in addressing Pharisees who did good actions, but were not good. Yet John seems to have inculcated reformation in detail (Luke 3:10-14). It was Jesus who proclaimed the inwardness of true morality. Fruit: the figure suggests that conduct is the outcome of essential character. Any one can do (ποιήσατε, vide Genesis 1:11) acts externally good, but only a good man can grow a crop of right acts and habits.8. meet for repentance] “Answerable to amendment of life.” (Margin.)Matthew 3:8. Ποιήσατε, produceκαρπὸν ἄξιον, worthy fruit) Orige[122] remarks, that in St Matthew worthy fruit is required in the singular number from the Pharisees and Sadducees; whereas, in St Luke, worthy fruits are required in the plural number from the people. I do not myself see what difference it makes in the matter. The singular καρπὸς, fruit, is often used collectively; and in the preaching of St John it may be opposed to barrenness: in the plural number, it implies fecundity. Men are here represented as trees; and the fruit is, therefore, their repentance.—τῆς μετανοίας, of repentance) Construe these words with καρπὸν.[123] Thus, in Acts 26:20, we read ἄξια τῆς μετανοὶας ἔργα.—μετάνοια, repentance, is an entire change of character,[124] and a renunciation of all that is evil, by which renunciation we wish that evil void or undone.

[122] rigen (born about 186 A.D., died 253 A.D., a Greek father: two-thirds of the N. Test. are quoted in his writings). Ed. Vinc. Delarue, Paris. 1733, 1740, 1759.

[123] Bengel would apparently render the passage thus: worthy fruit of repentance; and so in the passage immediately cited from the Acts, worthy works of repentance. E. V. has, in the one passage, fruits meet for repentance; in the other, works meet for repentance.—(I. B.)

[124] This scarcely expresses the original “transmutatio mentis.” Ainsworth gives us the first signification of MENS—“That part of the rational soul which is the seat of natural parts and acquired virtues.”—(I. B.)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.)
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