By Ellen Ceely
“He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’ And the crowds asked him, ‘What then shall we do?’ And he answered them, ‘Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.’ Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than you are authorized to do.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.’” - Luke 3:7-14
Of all the names John uses to call people, I think “You brood of vipers!” might be the most colorful he could’ve chosen! Sometimes the words in the Gospels sound so harsh and cruel. I can’t imagine sitting in church and having someone call me a viper! But John is so very careful with his words and chooses them deliberately. Here, I believe he chose his words to get the attention of those who had gathered to be baptized.
John wants the people to understand that getting baptized doesn’t save them any more than relying on being a descendant of Abraham will save them. He makes it clear that God can raise up children of Abraham from the stones lying about the river if he needs to.
So, is John telling the crowds that their works will save them? Is he saying that good deeds will get them into heaven? No. He’s telling them that their actions should match their words. John wants the people to be ready for when Jesus appears. Are they sons and daughters of Abraham? Good. Now bear fruits worthy of repentance. The point is that if you truly believe and trust in God, then the way you act toward others will match your fine words and lofty ideals.
As we look for the coming of Christ in the season of Advent, let us remember that our faith in him doesn’t stop at mere faith. Our faith in Jesus transforms our way of thinking and that in turn transforms our actions. True faith and repentance from sin is revealed in a life that acts in accordance with who God is.
Spend some time in prayer today asking God to shine a light on any area of your life that you’re refusing to let him transform. Our actions follow what’s in our mind and heart. Is there something you’re doing or failing to do that needs to change? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
The Resurrected Life: Making All Things New - The Bible promises that those who are in Christ are "new creatures." But how does that transformation take place? This unique small group Bible study provides a space in which we can discover what it truly means to live a new life. As we listen, we'll learn how the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything - for us. Begin the journey to new life today!
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