Luke: Chapter 3 - Baptism

Bible Study @ Hurst Gospel Hall

Author: John Whitmarsh
Added: 2015-05-26





Verses 1-20 Johns ministry begins

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. 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? 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. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? 11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. 12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? 13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. 14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. 15 And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; 16 John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: 17 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable. 18 And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, 20 Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.

We have already encountered John the Baptist in the first chapter of Luke. We saw how that John was promised before he was born and then the circumstances surrounding his birth. By chapter 3 John had grown to become a man and commenced his ministry. No detail of his young years are given to us.


The overview for the passage:


1. Historical setting political and religious

2. The prophets message

3. The peoples response

4. The prophets reasoning

5. The prophets revelation

6. Herods sin

7. Our response


1.1 Historical setting political. It was the fifteenth year (so AD 29) of Tiberius, the Caesar of the time who remained in power until his death in AD 37. Pontius Pilate was the governor (procurator) of the province of Judea. Herod (Antipas) was the tetrarch of Galilee and Herod (Philip 1 and step brother to Antipas) was tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis (the history book tells us that he was tetrarch of Iturea, Gaulanitis, and Trachonitis). Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene.


1.2 Historical setting religious. Annas (the older man) and Caiphas were the high priests of the time.


What does all this tell us? We are given this detail as Luke was fastidious in giving the time that the events took place. Everything that he wrote was set forth in order (1.1 and 3). The date of the birth of the Lord Jesus is given by mention of the Caesar of the time and the census conducted by Quirinius. The lives of the Lord Jesus and John the Baptist are tied to a definite period of history to which historical records give their full agreement.


2. The prophets message (verses 2b-9)


   i)  The promised forerunner (Verses 2b and 3)


Malachi 3.1 was quoted, Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. The promise had been made 400 years before the event taking place and now John came with the word of God that had come to him. He preached the arrival of Gods salvation. He prepared the nation for the coming Messiah through repentance. He practiced the baptism of repentance for the remission, the forgiveness of sins. This was an outward act that declared an inward resolution. We were told a number of differences between Johns baptism and Christian baptism focussing on the fact that Johns baptism was for those who had a readiness to receive the Messiah whereas Christian baptism proclaims a present union with Christ.


   ii)  The prophecy fulfilled (verses 4-6)

Not only was Malachi 3.1 fulfilled when John commenced his public ministry but so too was Isaiah 40.3-5, The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. John was the voice crying in the wilderness. He was preparing the way for Gods son as a herald would before a monarch. Creation was called to be on a level path and every obstruction was to be torn down.


   iii)  The people forewarned (verses 7-9)

They were warned to flee from the wrath to come. They were warned to bring forth fruits that showed their repentance (verse 8a). They were warned against religious complacency (verse 8b). They were not to begin to say that Abraham was their father. There is a danger in our day of religious complacency. Britain has brought many benefits to the world and many would come to this our land as they recognise the stability of its constitution and sense of fairness and justice. Ours was known as Christian England but religious complacency has meant that a lot of this that was to our credit has disappeared. And yet some hold on to the notion of England being a Christian country and the heritage that we have. Heritage does not save. Religious heritage is not a guarantee of salvation or blessing. God was able to raise up children of faith in that day who had no connections with Abraham. It is only Gods power that produces spiritual life. Finally there was a word of warning to point to a coming accountability and judgment in verse 9. Judgment is coming and we need to be aware of that.


3. The peoples response (verses 10-14)

The question raised was what shall we do? True repentance is a matter of the heart and results in a change of everyday behaviour but a change in everyday behaviour does not necessarily mean that true repentance has taken place.

There were three groups of people who were affected by Johns words and asked the question

   i)  Common people (verses 10-11) were to share their clothing and their food

   ii)  Civil servants (verses 12-13) were to be honourable and faithful and not to abuse their fellow man

   iii)  Soldiers (verse 14) were to be marked by a lack of violence, and to engage in false accusation and to be content.


4. The peoples reasoning (verse 15)

The people wondered whether or not John the Baptist was the Christ. They had been moved by what they had heard and their expectation was raised.


5. The prophets revelation (verses 16-18)

John revealed the Messiahs character:

   i)  He has greater power than John

   ii)  His work is superior to Johns

   iii)  He is the final judge of all fan is in His hand

The Lord Jesus said this of John the Baptist, For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. Luke 7.28. John the Baptist had this to say of the Lord Jesus, This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. John 1.30 His birth was before the Lord Jesus but John 3 says this, Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.  He must increase, but I must decrease.  He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. The Lord Jesus is unique. He is the only one qualified to be the Saviour.


6. Herods sins (verses 19-20)

Herods reaction to Johns preaching stands in contrast to that of the enquiring and repentant crowd. Herods marriage was wrong on two counts:

   i)  Both he and his wife had left marriages to marry each other

   ii)  Leviticus 18.16 and 20.21 forbade their union

John also reproved Herod for other unspecified evil and immoral things. Herods reaction to the exposure of his sin teaches us many things. He struck out and the question must be asked, do we do that?


7. Our response

We have seen the crowds response to the words of John. We have also seen Herods. What is our response to:

   i)  the challenge of the gospel of Gods Son

   ii)  the exposure of our sin and waywardness before God

   iii)  the coming of Gods Son initially as the suffering servant and ultimately as the Judge and Ruler of all

   iv)  the call of repentance and faith (see acts 20.27)

   v)  the offer of eternal life

   vi)  obedience in baptism

   vii)  faithfulness in walk and witness for the Lord Jesus

   viii)          bearing fruit in our lives for God and allowing Him to develop the character of Christ in us


Verses 21-38 The Lord Jesus is baptized

21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, 22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. 23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli, 24 Which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Janna, which was the son of Joseph, 25 Which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Amos, which was the son of Naum, which was the son of Esli, which was the son of Nagge, 26 Which was the son of Maath, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Semei, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Juda, 27 Which was the son of Joanna, which was the son of Rhesa, which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the son of Salathiel, which was the son of Neri, 28 Which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Addi, which was the son of Cosam, which was the son of Elmodam, which was the son of Er, 29 Which was the son of Jose, which was the son of Eliezer, which was the son of Jorim, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, 30 Which was the son of Simeon, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Jonan, which was the son of Eliakim, 31 Which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David, 32 Which was the son of Jesse, which was the son of Obed, which was the son of Booz, which was the son of Salmon, which was the son of Naasson, 33 Which was the son of Aminadab, which was the son of Aram, which was the son of Esrom, which was the son of Phares, which was the son of Juda, 34 Which was the son of Jacob, which was the son of Isaac, which was the son of Abraham, which was the son of Thara, which was the son of Nachor, 35 Which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala, 36 Which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech, 37 Which was the son of Mathusala, which was the son of Enoch, which was the son of Jared, which was the son of Maleleel, which was the son of Cainan, 38 Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.

So who is this Jesus?

This was a title of a film made by actor Russell Boulter from ITVs the Bill. Its still available on DVD at around 8 and if you havent seen its well worth watching! This is the same question we may be asking ourselves tonight. In fact some of us may have been asking this question through these studies in the book of Luke so far, so hopefully tonight we will go some way to answering that question!


1. The Baptism v 21


The Lord Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist. For some people the baptism of the Lord Jesus mystifies them and catches them by surprise. John was one such. In approaching John, John was taken by surprise as he regarded the Lord Jesus to be a unique person and certainly greater than himself. In fact John felt that it should have been the other way around. The reason for this was that his baptism was a baptism of repentance and signified the washing away of sins, however, in coming to John to be baptised, the Lord Jesus said to John, Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness. (Matthew ch 3 v 15). The people came confessing their sins and seeking forgiveness, but the Lord Jesus as He was baptised had no sins to confess - it must have been strange to see one go down into the water and not a word pass His lips. He simply submitted to the will of His Father and ultimately through His willing submission He would go on to the cross where He would secure everlasting forgiveness for those who would come to God through Him. Have we got the forgiveness of sins? The story is told of a priest who came to a lady to grant her absolution. What do you mean? she asked. The priest explained that he was going to forgive her sins. The lady asked him if she could see his hands and when she saw that there were no nail prints she said, Sir, the one who has forgiven all my sins has nail prints in His hands.


2. The Beloved Son v 22


Thirty years had passed by since the birth of the Lord Jesus, and thirty years which we know very little about, except for a small amount of detail in the early chapters of Matthew and Luke. He had worked as a carpenter in Nazareth and we feel sure that everything that He made was made to perfection. At the end of the thirty years as He was baptised, the heavens were opened as He prayed, and the Holy Spirit descended in bodily shape like a dove upon Him. We note here that The Lord Jesus was in perfect harmony and communion with his Father. Then the voice came from Heaven which is one of two most powerful statements describing the Lord Jesus given by God the Father, Thou art or You are My Beloved Son; in Thee or in You I am well pleased. This could never be said of any man other than the Lord Jesus! Not one flaw, mark, stain, foot, word, thought out of place. Stunning. He is unique! He is the Fathers Beloved Son and everything about Him has brought absolute delight to His Father! Its because of who He is, that He has been able to do what he has done. He has been able to deal with the question of our sin. He died and rose again and secured for us forgiveness forever, if we will come to God through the Lord Jesus and repent of our sins.


3. The Birth Certificate vs 23 - 38


There are two genealogies recorded for us in the Bible in relation to the Lord Jesus. Both demonstrate His right to the throne of His father David. Matthew goes back to Abraham the father of the nation of Israel, where as Luke goes right back to Adam. Luke reminds us of Adam and humanity and how sin affected the whole human race, but the seed of the woman, the Lord Jesus came as the last Adam to deal with the question of sin. Your birth certificate is important to you, it is essential so that you can get access to a range of goods and services you will need in life. In AD70 when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans led by Titus the son of Vespasian, all the genealogical records were lost except for what was recorded in the Bible. Today Jews can trace their ancestry back to New Testament times but not before that. The Lord Jesus ancestry is given right the way back to Adam. However, there is one man, one day, who is currently in Heaven awaiting that day, who will return and will have the right to take up the throne of his father David, even the Lord Jesus and no one can take away His right and authority. The question remains, are we ready for His coming, because its getting closer. It is getting uncomfortably close for those who know Him not but excitingly close who know Him. Do we trust in the Lord Jesus for salvation? And if we are, are we obedient to Him in baptism and our walk with Him?


We do not have to be left behind. Who is this Jesus? Gods beloved Son who made a way back to God from the dark paths of sin and by doing so manifested His love for us.


Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.


O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints and angels song.


Why walk away from the love of God?