Matthew 3:2
For the kingdom of heaven is at hand. There seems to be evidence that Judaea was in a very low moral condition when John the Baptist appeared. Ceremonial religion took the place of practical righteousness, rabbinical rules covered personal indulgence and iniquity, luxury enervated the wealthy, and restlessness led to crime among the masses. It was a time when a moral reformation was needed, and John was, first of all, a national reformer. What John sought was the national repentance - the change of mind of the nation (compare Jonah's preaching to Nineveh). He dealt with individuals, not in relation to their private concerns, but as representatives of the nation; so we find that he convicts of the sins of classes, not of personal sins. From this point of view John's work can be effectively compared with that of the ancient prophets (e.g. Elijah), who Were essentially national reformers. Those old prophets had demanded national repentance as a preparation for some special manifestation of the delivering or restoring power of God. The revelation of grace could not come unless men were morally prepared to receive it. So John pleads that the Messianic manifestation is close at hand, is at the doors; and there should be readiness to receive it. Illustrate by the Eastern custom of demanding that the roads should be repaired when an Eastern king proposed to visit a district.

I. WE CLAIM REPENTANCE BECAUSE GOD WILL JUDGE, Our plea is the sinfulness of sin, the certain consequences of sin, the future judgment on sins. "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." This is right for the individual. Partly right. But even for the individual it may be doubted whether the revelation of Divine grace is not a more truly humbling force. "A sense of blood-bought pardon soon dissolves a heart of stone."

II. JOHN CLAIMED REPENTANCE BECAUSE GOD WILL SAVE. The "kingdom of heaven" is the manifestation of God's delivering grace and power, the fulfilment of the national hope. He says, because God is gracious, therefore repent. The apostle ventures to declare that the "goodness of God" should "lead to repentance." And that is true to human nature, though doctrinal theologies have tended to obscure the truth. Love is the great melting, humbling power. God's redemption is the true convicter of sin. - R.T.







Repent ye.
of Jesus was distinguished as a prophet.

I. The PREACHER. Powerful and faithful.

II. The DUTY enforced. "Repentance.'

III. The PLEA by which it is enforced. The kingdom of heaven is nigh.

(T. Heath.)

I. A GENERAL VIEW OF THE CHARACTER, OFFICE, AND MINISTRY OF THE BAPTIST. It was preparatory to setting up the gospel kingdom.

II. The appropriate CONNECTION BETWEEN REPENTANCE AND ANY PART IN THE KINGDOM of heaven, between spiritual conviction of sin and the realized advent of Him who is to deliver us from its guilt and power. The results of such preaching: —

1. Humiliating convictions of sin.

2. It makes ready for the reception of saving faith.

(D. Moore, M. A.)

I. The CHARACTER OF THE PERSONS to whom John's exhortation was addressed (Luke 3.) Many of them were soldiers and publicans, or Roman tax-gatherers, generally notoriously wicked. But many of them were brought to a temporary repentance (Luke 3:10-14). The bulk of them were professedly members of the Jewish Church (Luke 3:15), and among them many of their two great sects — Sadducees and Pharisees.

II. WHAT THIS EXHORTATION IMPLIES. Repentance — after-thought and consideration; hence arises conviction, humiliation, etc. A change of mind and heart (Matthew 3:7-10; Luke 3:7-14; 2 Corinthians 7:10, 11). This doctrine is equally necessary to be inculcated upon us.

III. The MOTIVES by which the exhortation is enforced. The gospel dispensation is come (Luke 1:78, 79). And thus is a foundation laid for repentance. Jesus is exalted to give repentance (Acts 5:31).

(Joseph Benson.)

1. Repentance is generally made the child of fear; both John and Christ pressed people to repent because something good and happy was coming. This is true to our nature; men would rather turn their conduct by an expectation of good than by denunciation of evil. Fear is repellent, hope is an attraction; coldness hardens, warmth softens. Let man see a future near he likes and he will leave the past.

2. What God means when He says "Repent." It is not remorse, sorrow, conviction, but a change of mind. You want a great change before Christ comes.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)His sermon was an exhortation to repentance and a holy life.

I. REPENTANCE IS THE FIRST INTROMISSION INTO THE SANCTITIES OF CHRISTIAN RELIGION. The Lord treads upon no paths that are not(1) hallowed and made smooth by the sorrows and cares of contrition;(2) cleared of the impediments of sin by dereliction, and the succeeding fruits of emendation.

II. His BAPTISM DID SIGNIFY by a cognation to their usual rites and ceremonies of ablution and washing Gentile proselytes, that the Jews had so far receded from their duty and that holiness which God required of them by the law, that they were in the state of strangers.

(1)To be treated themselves as Gentile proselytes

(2)by baptism

(3)and a new state of life

(4)before they could be accepted by the Messias

(5)or admitted to His kingdom.

(Jeremy Taylor.)

I. SINCERE. Though God is merciful He is not fallible, nor will He take the odour of sacrifices, or the incense of words in lieu of a solid, laborious virtue.

1. It is absolutely necessary to abandon the vice.

2. The thought of heaven should bring moral fortitude. The repentant soul should be great in purpose, rapid in action, unshaken in constancy.

II. TIMELY. It must take place at such a period as will enable us to make a real sacrifice of unlawful enjoyment to a sense of Christian duty.

1. Satiety is often mistaken for repentance. Many give up the offence when they have lost all appetite for its commission.

2. Change of body is mistaken for change of mind. He who quits a vice that has become unnatural to his period of life deems himself a progressive penitent, and believes he is receding from pleasure because pleasure is receding from him.

III. CONTINUOUS. If only a year of life remains let that be a whole year of repentance.

IV. JUST. In making

(1)restitution or

(2)compensation for the injuries committed.

V. The soul of a penitent man should be as FIRM AGAINST FUTURE RELAPSE as it is sorrowful for past iniquity.

(Sydney Smith.)

I. TRUE SIGHT OF SIN IS REQUISITE TO TRUE REPENTANCE.

1. A man that does repent must see and know his sins.

2. Must be grieved and humbled for them.

3. He must loathe himself.

4. He must be ashamed of his sin. So long as a man walks in the dark, he does not blush, he is not ashamed, though his clothes be ragged and torn, because he is in the dark; but if he come to the light, then he blushes.

5. He must acknowledge his sins.

6. He must labour to undo his sins.

II. REPENTANCE IS A FRUIT OF FAITH.

1. Tears of repentance flow from the eye of faith.

2. So also repentance flows from love. Love is the cause of grief.

III. IT IS ONE THING FOR A MAN TO BE PRICKED IN HEART, AND ANOTHER FOR A MAN TO REPENT.

1. A man, a malefactor, when he sees what shall become of him, wishes that he had never done it.

2. A man may be broken down with the weight of sin, yet his soul may not be thawed or melted. When you take a staff and break the ice with your hands, though you break it in one place, it freezes in another; but when there is a thaw, it melts and breaks everywhere.

3. A man may have more sorrow, grief, repentance in the ore, yet have none that is well refined.

4. It is one thing for grief, sorrow, and repentance to be more in view, sense and noise; and another thing to be more in spirit, and in profit.

(Wm. Bridge.)

Sometimes, nay, often, a church or a nation lies like a ship becalmed on the tropic sea. The air around it is heavy with pestilence and with death. The heat and the stagnation bring forth a brood of contemptible vices. Then some rushing storm-centre comes sweeping across the waters, and gathers into its bosom all the thunders of the lurid sky, lashes into fury the lazy elements, torments the putrescent waves into spray and foam, whirls the ship along with the noise of waterspouts, kindles electric fire upon its masts, making the ship's crew pale their features with fear — drunken, or slumbering, or careless as they are. And even such a storm-centre of moral force was St. John the Baptist. For a brief time be cleared the air of a religion heavy with imposture, but it was too late. A few pure souls prepared by him had listened in the hush which followed to the voice of Christ; but the heavy pall of formalism and insincerity fell again upon the nation, fold by fold, and when the hurricane burst upon it once more, it was not the purifying storm of spiritual regeneration, it was the tornado of final destination.

(F. W. Farrar.)

There are thousands of persons who are given to what may be called the reverie of repentance. There are thousands of persons who feel sad that they are such wicked creatures. Really they feel that it is too bad. They at times fall into a minor key. Perhaps, if they are educated to music, they sit down to the piano, and play touching airs, and sing of the wickedness of the heart till tears flow down their cheeks. They pity themselves that they are so pitiable. How much repentance is there in all this? Is there any definiteness in it? Does the man say, "I am as proud as Lucifer? " Not a word does he utter on that subject. Does the man say, "I am meanly selfish"? Oh, no; he only says, "I am sin-sick." Does the man say, "I am unscrupulous, I am untrustworthy, I give way to debauch in this direction, and to animal appetites in that "? Does the man follow the example of that surgeon who, when called to dress a wound, probes it in all directions, and cleanses it thoroughly before he binds it up? Does he sit down and explore his heart with a searching, minute examination? No; he does not want to go particularly into it. He merely wants to have a feeling of regret in view of his general sinfulness.

(H. W. Beecher.)

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