THE MINISTRY OF CHRIST (DEALING WITH ULTIMATE DESTINY) IS FAR SUPERIOR TO THAT OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
It is easy for spiritual leaders to get too full of themselves. They can imagine that their popularity and their large following equates to personal significance and indispensability. John the Baptist never made that mistake or crossed that line when it came to people comparing his ministry (that of the Forerunner) to the ministry of the Promised Messiah (the True Light). He testified that his baptism was merely symbolic while the ministry of Christ dealt with life and death issues – with regeneration and cleansing by the Holy Spirit or the eternal fire of God’s wrath. Will you be found to be among the wheat or the chaff when it comes to the winnowing of the Last Days? Those Jewish leaders who prided themselves on their physical descent from their father Abraham are going to be sorely disappointed when they are exposed as lacking the type of genuine repentance that leads to salvation.
(:15) PRELUDE – CURIOUSITY ABOUT JOHN THE BAPTIST VS CHRIST
“Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he might be the Christ,”
The Jews had experienced a dead period of over 400 years in terms of prophetic revelation. It is no surprise that with the coming of such a powerful figure as John the Baptist, they start asking the question of his true identity.
Apparently John was doing his job in pointing people to Christ because the discussion was all about the identity of this Christ.
I. (:16) CONTRAST IN BAPTISMS BETWEEN JOHN AND CHRIST
“John answered and said to them all,”
A. Symbolic Baptism Administered by John with Water
“As for me, I baptize you with water;”
B. Superiority of Christ vs Humility of John the Baptist
‘but One is coming who is mightier than I,
and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals;’”
John 3:30 – Jesus must increase; I must decrease
C. Supernatural Baptism Administered by Christ in connection with the Holy Spirit and Fire
“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Jesus will immerse people in the ultimate reality – not just dealing with symbols
MacArthur: What he’s saying here is the One who is coming, the coming One, the stronger One, the mightier One, the One I’m not even worthy to untie His sandals, that One will do things that only God can do. Only God can immerse you in the Holy Spirit. Only God can immerse you in fire.
Alexander Maclaren (Expositions of Holy Scripture [Baker], Luke, p. 76) Either we shall gladly accept the purging fire of the Spirit which burns sin out of us, or we shall have to meet the punitive fire which burns up us and our sins together. To be cleansed by the one or to be consumed by the other is the choice before each of us.
Lenski: one en (dative of means – “in connection with”) connects the Spirit and fire and thus regards the two as one concept which as one is also placed over against the one water. . . judgment is never conceived as a baptism; baptism and baptizing always mean cleansing and never destruction. This view assumes that “fire” is always a sign of judgment and destruction; but see the refiner’s fire in Mal. 3:2, 3; and fire as an image of purification in Zech. 13:9; Isa. 6:6, 7; 1 Pet. 1:7, and the “spirit of burning,” taking away filth in Isa. 4:4. Clearest of all, Pentecost, the fulfillment of John’s prophecy, has the two combined: the Spirit and cloven tongues of fire as the visible manifestation of the Spirit.
II. (:17) CONDEMNATION ADMINISTERED BY CHRIST AT HIS SECOND COMING AS HE SEPARATES THE WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF
A. Described in General
“And His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor,”
The interval between Christ’s Two Comings is skipped over and John goes immediately to describe the mission of the Messiah as one to whom the Father has committed all judgment
Steven Cole: When a farmer harvested his crop, he would thresh the grain with a heavy sledge that separated the kernel of wheat from the outer shell or chaff. Then he would take a shovel-like winnowing fork and throw the wheat and chaff into the air when there was a breeze. The chaff would blow to the side, while the heavier wheat would fall to the ground. The chaff would be swept up for burning.
MacArthur: And I want to point something out to you in verse 17. You see that verb “to thoroughly clear, “to thoroughly clear,” that’s very interesting in the Greek. That is a verb diakathair. That’s what we call a hapax legomena in the Greek, which means it’s the only time in the New Testament this word is used. It’s a very…it’s a very unusual word, and it is a rare word, this being its only usage. What it means is no traces are left, nothing is left. Everything is dealt with. The separation is complete. That is to say nobody is left out. The separation will take place completely. You either fall in the pile of grain, or the pile of chaff. You are either barned with the grain, which means you go into the glories of heaven, or burned with the chaff which means you go into the terrors of hell.
B. Described with Respect to Ultimate Salvation
“and to gather the wheat into His barn;”
Cf. Psalm 1:4
C. Described with Respect to Ultimate Condemnation
“but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Lenski: If the wicked were to be annihilated, the fire would burn itself out; instead it will never be quenched, it simply cannot be, it will burn on eternally as an eternal punishment for the wicked.
(:18) POSTLUDE – CONTINUING PREACHING MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
“So with many other exhortations also he preached the gospel to the people.”
G. Campbell Morgan: Somehow we are missing a vital element in our message from Christ if we fail to understand that the call to repentance must always precede the call to confidence in the redeeming Lord.
Liefeld: That John not only “exhorted” the people but “preached the good news” shows that grace accompanies the warning to flee from judgment.