Rejection of Religious Ritual and Ancestral Heritage. v.7-8a
Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (8) 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.
Repentance necesitates a rejection of religious ritual as something that we depend upon for salvation.John was experiencing a certain segment of people coming to see him to be baptized.
John’s baptism is somewhat different than the baptism that Jesus commanded the disciples to do once people had accepted Christ as Savior. The scripture teaches that the baptism that we do in the local church is a picture of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It is a picture being dead to sin and alive to Christ because of the inner transformation of the Holy Spirit in regeneration.
John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. John was having these jewish people be baptized the way a gentile convert would do when they decided to follow judaism. This would have been a shocking admission for those in that culture. They were saying that their sin was so bad that they were willing to admit that they were as far from God as a pagan gentile. People were coming to be baptized as a symbol of repentance, but John was warning them not to do the symbol without the reality being true. Apparently some of them were not doing it with this kind of seriousness. They were hoping that an outward expression could keep them from doing the inward work of repentance of heart.
Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (8) Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance…Luke 3:7
The symbol was only meaningful if the reality that the symbol represented was true. If there was true repentance, there would be good works that followed that true change of heart. More on that in the coming verses.
John continues in his preaching to warn them against depending on their heritage to replace genuine repentance. Look at the rest of verse 8:
“…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.”Luke 3:8b
Just like ritual can not replace genuine repentance, neither can your heritage. It has been said that “God has no grandchildren.” God requires all men everywhere to repent and trust in Christ alone for salvation. Being Jewish was no justification for living in sin. Being Jewish did not make them right with God.
Going to church, reading the Bible, praying regularly, teaching a Sunday School class, taking the Lord’s Supper, getting baptized, giving to the church or some other charitable community, going to confession, praying to Mary, journeying to Mecca, going on a missions trip, feeding the poor…. will not make you right with God or get you into heaven. There is no ceremony or religious practice that substitutes true repentance of the heart.
Being the child of a missionary, nun, priest, pastor or rabbi will not do it either. To be right with God we must repent on our own and place our trust in Jesus Christ.
What religous practice are you tempted to believe is a substitute for repentance?