Matthew chapter 3

John the Baptist prepares the way. He says Jesus Christ will baptize us with fire. Then John baptizes Jesus Christ.





VERSE 1. In those days, John the Baptizer came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying,

John the Baptizer. He is a picture of godly zeal.

the wilderness of Judea. This was a barren region east of Jerusalem, descending to the Dead Sea.


VERSE 2. “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”

the Kingdom of Heaven. That is, “the Kingdom of God.”

In those days, out of their reverence, most devout Jewish people avoided saying the word “God.”

Even in our day, some devout Jewish people avoid writing the word “God.” Instead, they write “G-d.”


VERSE 3. For this is he who was spoken of by Isaiah the prophet, saying, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make the way of the Lord ready! Make his paths straight!”

The voice of one. In the kingdom of God, the voice of the majority is rarely consistent with the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Rather, the leading of the Holy Spirit is usually heard from a few solitary individuals. They are almost never famous. They are almost never the people in front of congregations or on TV or the radio.

Rather, they are the quiet prayerful ones that most people ignore.

The prophets foresaw the arrival of a messenger who would prepare the way for the Messiah. Read more »


VERSE 4. Now John himself wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.

clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. John’s garb is the same as what the prophet Elijah wore …

2 Kings 1:8. They answered him, “He was a hairy man, and wearing a leather belt around his waist.” He said, “It’s Elijah the Tishbite.”

locusts. Most people are nauseated by the idea of eating insects. However, human digestion is suited for it. Scientists say we have a digestive enzyme called chitinase, which is only used for digesting insect shells.


VERSE 5. Then people from Jerusalem, all of Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him.


VERSE 6. They were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.


VERSE 7. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for his baptism, he said to them, “You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

many. At first blush, it might seem that the religious leaders were accepting John as a prophet. However, the verses that follow indicate that their motives were not sincere.

Pharisees and Sadducees. These two groups were the religious leaders. They disagreed about pretty much everything. In the New Testament, they are almost always the bad guys.

  • Pharisees. They were into show and pageantry and power. They accepted the resurrection of the dead.
  • Sadducees. Powerful aristocrats in Jerusalem. They followed the letter of the law. They were legalists. They rejected the resurrection of the dead, because it is not in the Torah.

offspring of vipers. John the Baptist is insulting them. He is calling them the children of poisonous snakes.


VERSE 8. Therefore produce fruit worthy of repentance!

worthy of repentance. An inner feeling of sorrow was not enough. John called people to turn their sorrow into action and change their lives.

What does repentance mean for us Christians? Most Christians say it is an inner feeling of sorrow. However, John the Baptist would not let us get away with that. He would require us to turn inner sorrow into actions and change our lives.


VERSE 9. Don’t think to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.


VERSE 10. “Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down, and cast into the fire.



Summary: Jesus Christ baptizes us with fire. What does that mean? Does he baptize us with the fire of suffering? Or is it the fire of the Holy Spirit?


VERSE 11. I indeed baptize you in water for repentance, but he who comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit [and with fire].

When the Holy Spirit is in your life, you will have FIRE. Are you on fire for the LORD God? If not, how can you get on fire? Read more »

he who comes after me is mightier than I. The mighty John the Baptist knew that he was nothing, compared with Jesus Christ. He saw his purpose as pointing people to Jesus Christ …

John 3:30. He must increase, but I must decrease.

John 5:35. John was a lamp that burned and gave light.

baptize you in the Holy Spirit. Most translations say “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” What does that mean?

[and with fire]. Many translations include this phrase. The Greek word for “fire” is πυρί (“pyri”). It means fire, trials. In Scripture, the word fire is often used figuratively in expressions such as “the fire of God.” Figuratively, it means strife, trials, the eternal fire. So what does it mean?

  1. Does Jesus Christ baptizes us into suffering?
  2. Does Jesus Christ baptize us into the Holy Spirit?

1. Does Jesus Christ baptizes us into suffering?

  • If we use the figurative meaning of the word “fire,” it seems as though Jesus baptizes us into suffering. Does Jesus baptizes us into trials and troubles and suffering? Let’s assume so for the moment.
  • If so, perhaps the function of those troubles is to purify us (like heating metal purifies it) so that we become enlightened.
  • If so, then those unpleasant realities are not inflicted upon us as punishments. Rather, God would salvage good out of them (see Romans 8:28).
  • However, does God deliberately send trials our way, so as to refine us? Or are trials going to happen anyway, and God somehow turns them to our benefit?
  • And what, if anything, does baptism have to do with it?
  • Perhaps baptism gives us the grace to become enlightened by our trials. Humans are fallen. We are cruel to each other. Therefore there will always be trials.
  • Perhaps baptism gives us the grace to have the trials enlighten us. Rather than our being bogged down in despair about the trials.
  • Despair is the opposite of hope. Hope is Jesus. We are baptized into Jesus. So baptism gives us the hope we need to make it through the trials and emerge stronger.
  • If we follow this line of thinking, we arrive at the conclusion that to grow close to God, we must suffer. However, it seems rather sadistic.
  • Many people hold the opinion that suffering is necessary for growth in godliness. Howevever, we are not convinced that suffering is necessary. Perhaps in our human condition, suffering is inevitable. But is seems unlikely that eternal salvation is contingent upon our own suffering.
  • For my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways declares the LORD.

2. Does Jesus Christ baptize us into the Holy Spirit?

  • In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit arrives in the form of fire, and alights onto the assembled believers. They are filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, rush out into the streets and begin preaching Jesus Christ. Their words are heard as if spoken in dozens or hundreds of languages simultaneously. In moments, 5,000 people come to faith in Christ and get baptized.
  • Is this the baptism of fire? It would seem so.
  • However, John said Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit AND fire. John did not say the Holy Spirit would would appear in the form of fire.

and. The Greek word is καί (“kai”). It means: and, even, also, namely. In this sentence, its grammatical duty is that of a conjunction. You may recall that conjunctions are for connecting words and phrases and clauses.

  • It is possible that the Greek word “kai” is simply associating the two expressions with each other: Holy Spirit (who is) fire. It is like a nickname: Joe “the” Plumber.
  • The New Testament has many nicknames for the Holy Spirit: water, wind, fire, oil, dove.


VERSE 12. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor. He will gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.”




VERSE 13. Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.

the Jordan. That is, the Jordan River.


VERSE 14. But John would have hindered him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?”

I need to be baptized by you. Standing in the presence of Jesus Christ, even the mighty John the Baptist knew he was lost and blind.


VERSE 15. But Jesus, answering, said to him, “Allow it now, for this is the fitting way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him.

this is the fitting way. Baptism was for sinners to repent. Since Jesus Christ had never sinned, he had no need to be baptized. However, baptism was a way for him to identify with sinners. His baptism was part of God’s plan of salvation for the world.


VERSE 16. Jesus, when he was baptized, went up directly from the water: and behold, the heavens were opened to him. He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming on him.

Jesus … Spirit of God. Where is the Holy Trinity defined or alluded to in the New Testament? Here are the verses we found.


VERSE 17. Behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

a voice out of the heavens … beloved Son. Where is the Holy Trinity defined or alluded to in the New Testament? Here are the verses we found.

Matthew 17:5. While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them. Behold, a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”

with whom I am well pleased. God the Father was well pleased with Jesus Christ. As we envision the limitless love and compassion of God the Father, we imagine him saying the same of you!


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RESOURCES: Summary, Outline, Memorize, Commands, Spirituality

Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.


Author: todd

At Explore the Faith, I share insights into the Bible and theological writings. If you like what I write, become my partner by donating. Help me reach the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.