Question: “I totally understand and believe that salvation is completely by the work of Christ (His death burial and resurrection) …but I am a little at odds when I have to explain Mathew Chapter 3 to people who say there it is John is telling the Pharisees & Sadducee’s to change their lives in order to be saved. Pastor could you explain to me what John was telling everyone when he was baptizing them in the Jordan and especially what he said to the Pharisees & Sadducee’s when he calls them a brood of vipers?”
Answer: First off, thank you so much for your patience regarding an answer. I am still getting the hang of the question and answer format. It is demanding on my time. I’m glad to give you a clear answer here.
- Yes, the word in Matthew 3:2 for “repent” is the Greek word “μετανοέω” which is “metanoeō”. Strong’s defines this as, “to think differently or afterwards, that is, reconsider (morally to feel compunction): – repent.”
- John’s call here is not regarding salvation. He is proclaiming to the people that the kingdom of Heaven (Christ’s earthly reign, which will not come to pass until the Second Coming) is “at hand”, which is to say “drawing near”.
- The Jewish people needed to change their mind about how they would access the kingdom of Heaven. It is not because they are Israeli in familial descent nor is it by the keeping of the law as the religious leaders (Scribes, elders, chief rulers, Pharisees, and Sadducees) taught. Instead, it is by believing on Jesus Christ as their Messiah; Who would pay for all their sins on the cross of Calvary and rise again three days later.
- John baptized people who were receptive to his call to prepare for the kingdom of Heaven. This is not the same baptism which a believer does today. This baptism did not save a person. It was a public confession to John’s call; get ready for the kingdom of Heaven!
- The Pharisees (“separate ones”) and the Sadducees (“righteous ones”) did not desire to prepare for God because they had been devoured by their own self righteous positions in Israel. This is why John demands them to show fruit that proves their repentance and preparation for the kingdom of Heaven. John is able to discern their true intent (self righteousness and criticism) and asks them to show any kind of work that indicates acceptance and preparation for the kingdom of Heaven. The calls them vipers because they are working against what God is setting up through Jesus. All the gospels show the religious leaders of Israel working against God and even holding a trial to falsely condemn Jesus Christ as sinful!
Many people try to take this passage and apply it to salvation. Repentance is required for a person to be saved. They must change their mind about what they are trusting in and place their faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Matthew 3:1-17 does not talk about the salvation of a soul. It addresses the preparation of the kingdom of Heaven. Once Jesus began His public ministry He taught about how to get in. Belief in Him and Him alone is what is required for access into the kingdom of Heaven. I hope this helps you, brother!