Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father…
An awful ministry truly! The gospel concludes with benediction but it invariably begins with sword and fire. One of the first things that a true minister has to do is to destroy false hopes. It is thus that John did when he broke in thus rudely upon the traditional hopes of those who heard him. They were living securely in the facts that Abraham was their father, and their reasoning was that if Abraham was their father they themselves were necessarily good, and their moral position was invincible. John takes the roof off this house of refuge, and pours the Divine storm upon their heads. He throws down the walls within which they had enclosed themselves, and sends the floods of Divine judgment along the courses of their foundations. But there is a word of hope even in this storm of vengeance. John declares the possibility of repentance even on the part of a generation of vipers. The Christian teacher ought not to content himself with mere denunciation. Let him be faithful in describing the real character of those who hear him; but when he has done so, let him see that they do not die of despair, for want of the hopeful word of repentance. A severe thing this to say about Abraham was it not? The meaning is that hereditary piety is of no use; that we are not good simply because we have a good ancestry; and that as for mere history, God is able to make it out of the very stones under our feet.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
WEB: Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and don't begin to say among yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father;' for I tell you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones!