7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, 9 and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every three which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Brood of Vipers
Harsh words spoken by John to the religious leaders of his day. I am sure each morning that none of us wake up saying, “How can I be a viper today.” Yet, I have met people that it could honestly be said that they appear to wake up each morning with the attitude of a viper. Attempting to bit and infect all those around them with their harsh words and callous deeds.
Is this what John was referring to when he called these pious religious leaders a brood of vipers?
These religious teachers and leaders had heard that John was preaching in the wilderness of the Jordan River. Hundreds of people were flocking to see and hear this strange looking man dressed in simple attire who spoke such powerful words. It was their fear of the Rome and the Romes reaction to these events that prompted them to investigate. After all if the Romans should knock upon their door and demand a reason for this daily assembly of people, they needed to know who and what John was teaching and preaching.
As they came to the Jordan River, their hearts were moved by the powerful words spoken by John. Never in their lifetime had they heard one preach as John did. Their hearts were stirred toward repentance and baptism. Yet their pride, their love of power, their position of leadership among the people prevented their hearts from true repentances. Although many accepted the invitation for baptism, they came up out of the water with unchanged hearts.
Their deeds, their actions, their words in the coming months and years proved that true repentance had not taken place. So as they professed on one hand to have repented and become changed, John could see that within their hearts they were the same as before.
John shouts out, “You brood of vipers. Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Hey you who call yourselves leaders of the people. Why have you come if you refuse to truly repent and allow your heart to be changed? Do you think by just being baptized and professing to repent of your sins you will be saved.
Verse 8 begins the discourse or theme which will continue throughout the entire Gospel. It reads: “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.” Oh, how your actions prove who you really are. Our lips may say one thing, but our actions will clearly show who we truly are. We may say and do the right things when with our friends, neighbors and coworkers are near. But when they see us at a time when we would expect none of them to be around, what do our actions say then.
Recently I came across a good friend of mine. The opportunity to greet him had not presented itself, so he had no idea I was anywhere near. I considered him a good Christian and leader in his local church. But the actions I saw take place were of such that all I could do was stop and pray that God would send His Spirit to touch the heart of this man so that he would see how poorly, how unchristian like he had treated another. When he realized I was there, he was so apologetic, but of course the damage was done. I still love my friend dearly, but the fruit of his actions showed exactly where his heart truly is.
The religious leaders were much the same way. They professed to repent, but the actions of their lives showed that they truly hadn’t repented.
9 “and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ What a powerful beginning to a text. A whole sermon could be written on that one small sentence. How often do we say, “Well, I’m a Christian, I come from a Christian home and have good Christian parents. I have Christian friends and I do things other Christians do. So, I must be saved? Right?
Abraham was asked to accept the invitation to give up all that he had and travel to a distant land. There Abraham and the generations to follow him where to be an influence for good to all the peoples in every land. How could this possibly be?
In the ancient world, the land that was promised to Abraham was the crossroads of the world. Three major trading routs all made their way through the Promised Land. From the land that was given to the tribe of Benjamin one could travel south into Egypt and then into Africa. If one went north around the Mediterranean Sea they could get to Europe and if one traveled east, they would come to the Orient and India.
Why would God promise this land to Abraham and his decedents? Because God wanted them to tell the world of God’s goodness and grace. They were to be examples for the world to see on how a people led by God could be. Shining examples of God through His people to the people of the world. It was to make all the world want to become followers of the True God of Heaven.
The religious leaders failed to follow through and be the example they should be. They went after false gods and failed to listen to the prophets. Yet the religious leaders were sure that they were automatically saved because they were the seed of Abraham and heirs according to the promise.
Let me point out that we are not saved by our works. We are saved by grace through faith. However our works show that we have accepted God’s gift of grace.
Now John is telling these religious leaders, “Just because you are Abraham’s seed does not automatically qualify you to enter the kingdom of heaven.” John went on to say in verse nine “For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”
Very strong and powerful words spoken by this forerunner of Jesus. John is saying as forcefully as he can, “If you think you can do as you please just because you are of Abraham, think again. God raised up Abraham from among the many of the earth to be the proclaimer of His truths and if you fail to spread the message of God throughout the world, then he can raise up others to do the same. Even these gentiles that you call as worthless as stones can be raised up to proclaim the goodness of God.”
10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Those that live in an Aquarian society get such a rich blessing out of the studying scriptures that many of us have difficulty understanding. John was saying to this crowd of people that were well versed in their understanding of farming and its varied practices. If you are trying to make a living off a grove of fig trees and one of the trees refuses to bear figs, what do you do.? You cut it off at the root. Why because this tree that refuses to bear fruit is taking water and nutrients from the soil that could benefit the other trees. Is a tree cut down good for anything? No, not really except to be burned. And In its place, would it not be better to plant another tree that will bear fruit? It certainly would.
Christ used this same metaphor the night before his crucifixion when he said in John 15:1-8 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit he prunes that it may bear more fruit.” It is a beautiful passage and I invite you to read it.
John continued, But there is one coming . . .