And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?…
The Baptist's answer to the question of the people, "What shall we do?" is exceedingly remarkable if we consider that John's mission was to prepare the way for Christ. If this question were put to many amongst ourselves, who profess to lead men to Christ, they would answer — "You can do nothing. All works of men in your unreconciled state are displeasing to God. You can in no way, by any works of your own, further your own salvation. It is the worst of errors to think so." But the Baptist, filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb, gives an answer implying the very reverse. It is — "You must do something. You must do what is in your power. You can, at least, give food and raiment to the poor starving creatures around you. Begin with this. If you begin thus with denying your selfishness, God will soon show you a more excellent way — the way of grace in His Son. But till that Son comes and reveals Himself to you, do what your hand finds to do. Do some good to your fellow-creatures. The way for you to obtain mercy is to be merciful." Now, in saying this, did St. John in the least degree swerve from his mission of preparing the way for Christ by preaching of repentance? No, not for a moment. When the people asked him what they were to do to avoid the wrath to come, it was a plain sign that God had touched their hearts with some degree of repentance, and this repentance was no repentance at all unless it cut at the root of their selfishness, and every unselfish, self-denying act would deepen it. Notice, also, that St. John said this to the masses. Instead of saying to them, "You have little to give, and so God will excuse you from contributing," he says to them, "Whatever you have that you do not absolutely need, give it." Looked at in this light, the words are very strong, very searching. If they make such a demand on the crowds, what do they make on the few who have abundance of this world's goods? Of course such words as these of the Baptist are to be understood in the light of common sense: men are not to give, to enable others to be idle. The best commentary on the passage, according to , is 2 Corinthians 8:13, 14.
(M. F. Sadler, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?