Matthew 3:12

It is not possible to think that John could have referred to what we call "hell-fire" - the punishment-fires of the next life. And we need have no definite opinions concerning the nature of that fire in order to understand John's figure here. Speaking of Messiah's actual present work in souls, he calls it a "baptism of fire," and he further remarks on its severity and continuity. His baptism of water was but of a temporary and symbolical character. Christ's baptism of fire would be permanent and spiritually real - a fire that would go on burning until all the world's evil was burned up. As illustration, note that "every year all effete substances that have served their purpose in the old form are burnt up in the autumn fire of nature, and only what has promise of life and usefulness passes scatheless through the ordeal. This flaming besom of nature's fire sweeps from sight in the most obscure nooks, as well as in the most open places, the impurities of death and decay, in order to prepare the stage for fresh life and new growth."

I. THE SEVERITY OF CHRIST'S WORK. Apparently John's seems to be more arresting and severe; but really it does not prove to be so. There is all the difference between "washing off" and "burning out." The very forces themselves, "water," "fire," suggest the distinction. Repentance seems severe; the after-time resolute dealing with sin and rooting it out is much more severe. Christian keeping on is much more stern than Christian beginning. Illustrate by the Book of Revelation. The living Christ is actually present in his Churches, and at work, making them altogether white; and all the forces, famine, war, commotions, disease, etc., are the fires in which he is burning away the dross, and making the silver shine perfectly white. He were no true friend of sinners if he withheld necessary severity.

II. THE CONTINUITY OF CHRIST'S WORK. What is presented to thought is, that nothing will check or stop the Divine fire-cleansing. That it will stop when its work is done is assumed. The fire will keep on consuming as long as there is anything to consume, but no one conceives evil to be eternal. Christ will burn on until his burning work is needed no more. - R.T.

Whose fan.
Humanity yields its twofold crop, its wheat and chaff, and keeps its terrible capacity of mixing chaff and wheat together, making them look alike. A sifter needed. — Something, then, is watered to lift the cover, to unveil the reality, to expose the things that we do and the persons that we are. Whether we want Him or not, He comes "whose fan is in His hand."

Realize, too, that the sifting work must be done not only for the truth's sake and for God's sake, but for the sake of the foolish people themselves — for the welfare of the world. Otherwise the world, cheated by the delusion, would go from bad to worse, and be deluded to destruction.

Christ prepares the way for His own great reckoning to come, by setting foreshadows of His sifting work around us where we are. Life itself moves on with the fan in its hand. So into this medley where you live there springs suddenly some new-comer. It is a providence of God. A contagious disease escapes quarantine and breaks out in the town. There is a wreck on a reef off the shore. On a Western river great waterfloods sweep away scores of houses and lives. A hundred human bodies are crushed and burned in a mass in some building. You are not hurt; but as the report strikes man after man in the neighbourhood, if you could look underneath the masks which some people from pride or policy keep over their real selves, would you not see always two sorts of men revealed? In one there is apathy, and in another there is sympathy. Here are the two sorts of men disclosed. Before, you could not have told which was which; all looked alike; but in the threshing-floor of God the winnowing has begun.

One family that you know, overtaken by misfortune, is paralysed or embittered, and goes down. Another, struck by the same blow, summons its interior strength, is sweet-tempered, hopeful, and courageous, and as it descends in style rises in spiritual stature. The season why prosperity seems to enlarge some persons and belittle others is not so much that it actually alters their dimensions as that it publishes what their dimensions are. It is a shaking of the fan.

Now and then a sharp question of right or wrong is thrust in upon a whole community in palpable shape — a question of public justice or oppression, of fair dealing between capital and labour, of chastity in literature or decency in art, of commercial honour, temperance in drinking, political integrity. Everybody must take sides, openly in act or virtually in secret choice or feeling. This new truth has the fan in its hand. It sifts your gay society, getting souls in position for their judgment. At certain historical epochs great characters arrive. They utter one of these great truths, and stand out or fight for it. They are not judges of men, but sifters of men. Every one of them has a fan in the hand.

There is no privacy for character in the universe. The righteousness of God has arranged it that we shall live surrounded by a system of detectives and exposures, and all the uniforms and costumes and cosmetics and masks and escapes of that public stage, society, will not baffle them. This life is the beginning, though not the end, of judgment.

It is inwrought benignantly into the silent and steady operation of the truth. Truth itself is a dividing power.

To me it establishes faith, and makes the awful doctrine of retribution reasonable, to see the law wrought into the whole fabric of Nature around us and the very constitution of man. Even in the orchards and gardens there is a visible economy of discrimination, of rejection, of judgment. Bad fruit drops off and is cast away by the same hand that gathers and garners the good. Sow chaff and grain together if you choose; the chaff rots, while the vital seeds sprout and grow and yield "some thirty, some sixty, some an hundred." Why not so when we come up to the immortal wheat?

(Bishop Huntingdon.)

1. Christ is the universal Judge; "His fan is in His hand." He possesses authority, discrimination, and impartiality, — the three grand qualifications for this office.

(M. Henry.)

I. In the Christian Church there is a MIXTURE of nominal and real Christians. Parable of the Tares. Of the Wedding Garment. Judas. Ananias and Sapphira. The false are the careless or indifferent. The self-righteous or sentimental; the hollow-hearted or hypocritical. The true are penitents, believers, new creatures.

II. The Head of the Church KNOWS THE TRUE CHARACTER OF ALL its members. Seven churches of Asia. "I know thy works." Intimate and exact knowledge of His own people.

III. The Head of the Church WILL SEPARATE the precious from the vile. By His doctrine — providential dealings — Satanic temptations — fire of persecution.

IV. THE FINAL DOOM of all the mem-bets of the Church will correspond to their character. The wheat to the garner, The chaff to the fire.

1. Examine yourselves.

2. Prepare for judgment.


I. The Two GREAT CLASSES into which the world is divided. Two only. In the eyes of men many. Either believers or unbelievers. No third class.



IV. The portion of those WHO ARE NOT CHRIST'S.

(J. C. Ryle.)

By the wheat is evidently intended those whose characters are useful; by the chaff those who are worthless. Wheat is valuable because it answers the purpose of the cultivator, which is to produce food for himself and others; so those persons are useful who answer the ends for which God has placed them here. God has placed us here to glorify Him: —

1. By our exercising suitable dispositions towards Him;

2. By cultivating every virtue;

3. By our doing good to others.From this description of the wheat we may easily infer the character of those who resemble the chaff.

1. If those are the wheat who exercise suitable dispositions towards God, those are the chaff who are without such dispositions.

2. If those are the wheat who are seeking the perfection of their nature, then those are the chaff who neglect to seek it.

3. If those are the wheat who labour for the temporal and spiritual welfare of their fellow-creatures, those are the chaff who live chiefly to please themselves.

4. If those are the wheat who glorify God by believing in Christ, then those are the chaff who remain in unbelief.

5. To which of these two classes do we belong?

(B. W. Noel, M. A.)Good and evil are really different in kind, absolutely and intrinsically, essentially and in the nature of things:

I. By the free choice of will, and the practice consequent upon such a choice, real virtue or vice can be acquired.

II. Every man is as to his moral character what his own behaviour and practice make him. By as certain and determinate a distinction as wheat and chaff are, of their real and proper natures, different from each other.

III. God in all His commandments really desires to bring men by the habitual practice of virtue to a state by which they can become capable of His eternal happiness in the enjoyment of His unchangeable favour. Therefore the good must be separated from the evil surely and thoroughly, if we would win salvation.

(Samuel Clarke, D. D.)

And let me remind you how like the chaff is to the wheat, how like the mere professor is to the saint. Of what colour is the chaff? Precisely the same as that of the wheat. And what is its form? Exactly that of the wheat. And where is it found? Not blowing about the highway, but in close contact with the wheat. It is upon us that this sifting trial is to pass; and it matters not how perfect may be our resemblance to the saints, if there be a resemblance and nothing more.

(P. B. Power.)

I have seen a field here, and a field there, stand thick with corn — a hedge or two has separated them. At the proper season the reapers entered; soon the earth was disburdened, and the grain was conveyed to its destined resting-place, where, blended together in the barn or the stack, it could not be known that a hedge had ever separated this corn from that. Thus it is with the Church. Here it grows, as it were, in different fields, and even, maybe, by different hedges. By and by, when the harvest is come, all God's wheat shall be gathered into the garner, without one single mark to distinguish that once they differed in outward circumstantials of form and order.


Esaias, Isaiah, Jesus, John
Galilee, Jerusalem, Jordan River, Judea
Barn, Burn, Burned, Burning, Chaff, Clean, Cleanse, Clear, Clearance, Fan, Fire, Floor, Fork, Garner, Gather, Gathering, Grain, Granary, Instrument, Purge, Store, Storehouse, Thorough, Thoroughly, Threshing, Threshing-floor, Throughly, Unquenchable, Waste, Wheat, Winnowing, Winnowing-shovel
1. John preaches: his office, life, and baptism.
7. He reprimands the Pharisees,
13. and baptizes Jesus in Jordan.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Matthew 3:12

     2309   Christ, as judge
     4524   threshing-floor
     4542   wheat
     4550   winnowing
     4826   fire
     5583   tools
     6026   sin, judgment on
     9512   hell, experience

Matthew 3:1-12

     8168   way, the

Matthew 3:1-15

     5098   John the Baptist

Matthew 3:3-15

     5098   John the Baptist

Matthew 3:11-12

     2366   Christ, prophecies concerning
     3120   Holy Spirit, descriptions
     4324   dross
     5224   barn

February 14. "He Shall Baptize You with Fire" (Matt. Iii. 11).
"He shall baptize you with fire" (Matt. iii. 11). Fire is strangely intense and intrinsic. It goes into the very substance of things. It somehow blends with every particle of the thing it touches. There are the severe trials that come to minds more sensitive, to the minds that have more points of contact with what hurts; so that the higher the nature the higher the joy, and the greater the avenues of pain that come. And then there are deeper trials that come as we pass into the hands of God, as we
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth

The Baptism in Fire
'He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.'--MATT. iii. 11 There is no more pathetic figure in Scripture than that of the forerunner of our Lord. Lonely and ascetic, charged to light against all the social order of which he was a part, seeing many of his disciples leave him for another master; then changing the free wilderness for a prison cell, and tortured by morbid doubts; finally murdered as the victim of a profligate woman's hate and a profligate man's perverse sense of honour:
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The Dove of God
'He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him.' MATT. iii. 16. This Gospel of Matthew is emphatically the gospel of the Kingdom. It sets forth Jesus as the long-promised Messiah, the Son of David. And this conception of Him and of His work, whilst it runs through the whole of the Gospel, is more obviously influential in shaping the selection of incidents and colouring the cast of the language, in the early portion. Hence the genealogy with which the Gospel begins dwells
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The Herald of the King
'In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2. And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3. For this is He that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. 4. And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 5. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The Baptism of Jesus
'Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 14. But John forbad Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me? 15. And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered Him. 16. And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: 17.
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of Heaven is at band.--MATT. iii. 2. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.--MATT. iv. 17. "Whereupon, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: but shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Qentiles, that they should repent and torn to God, and do works meet for repentance."--ACTS xxvi. 19,20. In the mouths of three
Catherine Booth—Godliness

John the Baptist's Person and Preaching.
(in the Wilderness of Judæa, and on the Banks of the Jordan, Occupying Several Months, Probably a.d. 25 or 26.) ^A Matt. III. 1-12; ^B Mark I. 1-8; ^C Luke III. 1-18. ^b 1 The beginning of the gospel [John begins his Gospel from eternity, where the Word is found coexistent with God. Matthew begins with Jesus, the humanly generated son of Abraham and David, born in the days of Herod the king. Luke begins with the birth of John the Baptist, the Messiah's herald; and Mark begins with the ministry
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Jesus Baptized by John in the Jordan.
(Jordan East of Jericho, Spring of a.d. 27.) ^A Matt. III. 13-17; ^B Mark I. 9-11; ^C Luke III. 21-23. ^b 9 And { ^a 13 Then} ^b it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came { ^a cometh} ^b from Nazareth of Galilee, ^a to the Jordan [Tradition fixes upon a ford of Jordan east of Jericho as the place where Jesus was baptized. It is the same section of the river which opened for the passage of Israel under Joshua, and later for Elijah and Elisha. This ford is seventy or eighty miles from Nazareth]
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

In the Fifteenth Year of Tiberius Cæsar and under the Pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas - a Voice in the Wilderness
THERE is something grand, even awful, in the almost absolute silence which lies upon the thirty years between the Birth and the first Messianic Manifestation of Jesus. In a narrative like that of the Gospels, this must have been designed; and, if so, affords presumptive evidence of the authenticity of what follows, and is intended to teach, that what had preceded concerned only the inner History of Jesus, and the preparation of the Christ. At last that solemn silence was broken by an appearance,
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

The Baptism of Jesus: Its Higher Meaning.
The more we think of it, the better do we seem to understand how that Voice crying in the wilderness: Repent! for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,' awakened echoes throughout the land, and brought from city, village, and hamlet strangest hearers. For once, every distinction was levelled. Pharisee and Sadducee, outcast publican and semi-heathen soldier, met here as on common ground. Their bond of union was the common hope of Israel' - the only hope that remained: that of the Kingdom.' The long winter
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

The Baptism with the Holy Spirit.
One of the most deeply significant phrases used in connection with the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures is "baptized with the Holy Ghost." John the Baptist was the first to use this phrase. In speaking of himself and the coming One he said, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire" (Matt. iii. 11). The second "with" in this passage is in italics. It is
R. A. Torrey—The Person and Work of The Holy Spirit

Conversion --Human Agency In
What part and responsibility pertain to the human will in this matter? Before we leave the subject of conversion, it is important that we consider and understand this question also. For on this point also grievous and dangerous views and practices prevail. Human nature tends to extremes. Here too, there is a tendency to go too far, either in the one direction or the other. There are those, on the one hand, who virtually and practically make this change of heart and of nature a human work. They
G. H. Gerberding—The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church

The Present, a Dispensation of Means.
We have seen that the carnal, sinful nature of the child unfits it for the kingdom of heaven; that, therefore, there must be a change in that nature, even the birth of a new life, and the life of a new creature, before there can be either part or lot in the kingdom of God. We have also expressed our firm conviction that it is the good and gracious will of God in Christ to bestow upon the poor sin-sick and unholy child the Grace needed to so change it as to make it a partaker of His great salvation.
G. H. Gerberding—The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church

Oration on the Holy Lights.
Oration on the Holy Lights. The Oration on the Holy Lights was preached on the Festival of the Epiphany 381, and was followed the next day by that on Baptism. In the Eastern Church this Festival is regarded as more particularly the commemoration of our Lord's Baptism, and is accordingly one of the great days for the solemn ministration of the Sacrament. It is generally called Theophania, and the Gospel in the Liturgy is S. Matthew iii. 13-17. The Sunday in the Octave is called meta ta phota (After
St. Cyril of Jerusalem—Lectures of S. Cyril of Jerusalem

Power --Its Source
In vain do the inhabitants of London go to their conduits for supply unless the man who has the master-key turns the water on; and in vain do we think to quench our thirst at ordinances, unless God communicates the living water of His Spirit.--Anon. It was the custom of the Roman emperors, at their triumphal entrance, to cast new coins among the multitudes; so doth Christ, in His triumphal ascension into heaven, throw the greatest gifts for the good of men that were ever given.--T. Goodwin. To
Dwight L. Moody—Secret Power

My Beloved is White and Ruddy, the Chiefest among Ten Thousand.
My Well-beloved, replies the Spouse, is white by His purity, innocence and simplicity. He is ruddy by His charity, and because He has chosen to be dyed and purpled in His own blood. He is white by His frankness, ruddy by the fire of His love. He is chiefest among ten thousand, that is to say, He is above all I have chosen and preferred Him to every other. His Father has chosen Him above all the children of men as His Beloved Son in whom He is well pleased (Matt. iii. 17). In short, if you would know,
Madame Guyon—Song of Songs of Solomon

"Because I have Lived So Many Years"
Monday, 20.--We embarked between three and four in the morning, in a very small, inconvenient sloop, and not a swift sailer; [38] so that we were seven hours in sailing what is called seven leagues. About eleven we landed at St. Helier, and went straight to Mr. Brackenbury's house. It stands very pleasantly, near the end of the town; it has a large, convenient garden, with a lovely range of fruitful hills, which rise at a small distance from it. I preached in the evening to an exceedingly serious
John Wesley—The Journal of John Wesley

The King's Herald.
"On Jordan's banks the Baptist's cry Announces that the Lord is nigh; Awake and hearken, for he brings Glad tidings of the King...." When the Saviour of the world was about to enter upon His public ministry, the Jewish nation was startled with the cry, "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (S. Matt. iii. 2). Such was God's call to His people of old time, to prepare themselves to take part in the fulfilment of the promises, on which their faith and hopes were founded. The fulness of the times had come;
Edward Burbidge—The Kingdom of Heaven; What is it?

The Synoptic Gospels
ALL the gospels describe the sufferings and death of Christ with a minuteness which has no parallel in their narratives of other events of His life, and they all, to a certain extent, by references to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy or otherwise, indicate their sense of its meaning and importance. This, however, reveals the mind of the evangelists rather than that of the Lord. It is in His life, rather than in the record of His death itself, that we must look for indications of His mind.
James Denney—The Death of Christ

Repentance and Restitution.
"God commandeth all men everywhere to repent."--Acts xvii. 30. Repentance is one of the fundamental doctrines of the Bible. Yet I believe it is one of those truths that many people little understand at the present day. There are more people to-day in the mist and darkness about Repentance, Regeneration, the Atonement, and such-like fundamental truths, than perhaps on any other doctrines. Yet from our earliest years we have heard about them. If I were to ask for a definition of Repentance, a great
Dwight L. Moody—The Way to God and How to Find It

Christ's Priestly Office
Q-35: HOW DOES CHRIST EXECUTE THE OFFICE OF A PRIEST? A: In his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us. 'Now once in the end of the world has he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.' Heb 9:96. What are the parts of Christ's priestly office? Christ's priestly office has two parts - his satisfaction and intercession. I. His Satisfaction; and this consists of two branches. [1] His active
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

The First Ministry of the Baptist.
(LUKE III.) "Hark, what a sound, and too divine for hearing, Stirs on the earth and trembles in the air! Is it the thunder of the Lord's appearing? Is it the music of his people's prayer? "Surely He cometh, and a thousand voices Shout to the saints, and to the deaf and dumb; Surely He cometh, and the earth rejoices, Glad in his coming who hath sworn, I come." F. W. H. MYERS. The Preaching of Repentance--His Power as a Preacher--His Message--Warning of Impending Judgment--The Wages of Sin Thirty
F. B. Meyer—John the Baptist

From the Birth to the Ascension of Jesus.
The Four Gospels. The Story of this Period. It is common to designate this period as the "Life of Christ," meaning the time he spent on earth. There is, however, no scripture life of Jesus. The gospels do not claim to present such a life. They do, however, give us a vast amount of material and though different in purpose and consequently in content, they do present the same general picture of Jesus. The matter of arranging the material in an orderly way presents much difficulty. If a topographical
Josiah Blake Tidwell—The Bible Period by Period

The Security of Contemplatives Lies in their not Ascending to High Things if Our Lord Does not Raise Them. The Sacred Humanity must be the Road
1. There is one thing I should like to say--I think it important: and if you, my father, approve, it will serve for a lesson that possibly may be necessary; for in some books on prayer the writers say that the soul, though it cannot in its own strength attain to this state,--because it is altogether a supernatural work wrought in it by our Lord,--may nevertheless succeed, by lifting up the spirit above all created things, and raising it upwards in humility, after some years spent in a purgative life,
Teresa of Avila—The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus

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