It is said in Luke that “with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.” (Luke 3:18 NASB). What gospel does Luke or John the Baptist refer to if Jesus had not yet died or risen?
The text of the Gospel of Luke 3:7-20 tells us about the powerful preaching of the gospel of the kingdom of God by John the Baptist.
“He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’ ”
John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them. But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.” (NASB)
The message preached by John was clear and direct. He warned his listeners of hypocritical religion – “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.”
John urges his listeners to bear fruit worthy of their faith in God and not to rely on their Jewish heritage and that they are Abraham’s followers. Today, just as it was then, repentance has become very superficial, and religion a hypocritical one. Like John’s listeners, we rely on the fact that we are Christians or come from Christian families, while our deeds deny God. No matter how beautiful the tree is, if it has no fruit, it will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
John exhorted his listeners to bear fruit worthy of their repentance, that is, to live the Word of God in their lives. John’s message was Christ: “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
How different was the life and message of John from the materialism so dear to our hearts. John preached the grace of God that warns us to flee from the coming judgment when Christ will cleanse the field completely and gather His wheat into the barn — that is, the believers, and the chaff — the unbelievers, will burn in an unquenchable fire.
John the Baptist preached the good news of God’s grace and how in Christ Jesus you can be baptized with the Holy Spirit and live your life for God.
Translated by Olya Trikolich