Just as God revealed his purposes in advance to his prophets in ancient Israel (Amos 3:7; compare Is 41:22-29; 42:9; 43:9, 19; 44:7-8, 24-26; 45:21; 46:10; 48:6), God sent John the Baptist to prepare Israel for his climactic revelation in history. John was a wilderness prophet proclaiming impending judgment; for him repentance (Mt 3:2, 6, 8) was the only appropriate response to the coming kingdom (3:2), its fiery judgment (3:7, 10-12) and its final judge, who would prove to be more than a merely political Messiah (3:11-12). Given the widespread view in early Judaism that prophecy in the formal sense had ceased (Keener 1991b:77-91), John's appearance naturally drew crowds (3:5). (Modern proponents of the view that miraculous gifts have ceased have not been the first people in history surprised when God's sovereign activity challenges their presuppositions; see Judges 6:13; Deere 1993.)
The warnings in this passage serve two functions for Matthew's persecuted readers: judgment against persecutors both vindicates the righteous they oppress and warns the righteous not to become wicked (Ezek 18:21-24). Matthew's tradition probably mentioned the "crowds" in general (compare Lk 3:7), but Matthew focuses in on a specific part of the crowds: Pharisees and Sadducees (Mt 3:7). Like a good pastor, Matthew thus applies the text to the needs of his own congregations: their Pharisaic opponents were spiritual Gentiles (3:6, 9). Yet later chapters in this Gospel warn Matthew's audience that they can also become like these Pharisees if they are not careful (24:48-51; compare Amos 5:18-20).
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your free trial.
Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. You’re already logged in with your Bible Gateway account. The next step is to enter your payment information. Your credit card won’t be charged until the trial period is over. You can cancel anytime during the trial period.
Click the button below to continue.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your subscription.
You’ve already claimed your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate of $3.99/month, click the button below.
Try Bible Gateway Plus, a brand-new service that lets you experience Bible Gateway free of banner ads! It also gives you instant access to over 40 Bible study and inspirational devotional books, including the NIV Study Bible. With Bible Gateway Plus, you can experience and understand God's Word in life-changing new ways, without the distraction of ads. Try it free for 30 days—you can cancel at any time. Following your 30-day free trial, Bible Gateway Plus is only $3.99/month.