Matthew 3: Questions and Answers

April 25, 2021 in Today's Q&A by TGV

Bible Study Guide/ Matthew 3, (40-BSG-3J)/ Questions and Answers

Note: Unless indicated otherwise, the — [Francis D. Nichol, Ed., The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1980), 5] – is abbreviated below as (SDA BC 5).


[1] Who was John the Baptist? (3:1) Apart from Jesus Christ, John the Baptist is probably the most theologically significant figure in the Gospels. John was that ‘voice crying in the wilderness.’ A forerunner of Jesus Christ (Mal 4:5). He was a prophet who is both a fulfillment of OT prophecies and a model of the OT prophets themselves (Mt 11:13–14; 16:14; 17:10–13).

“Jesus said of John that “among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet” (Luke 7:28). He was “more than a prophet” (see on Matt. 11:9). John’s influence with the people eventually became so great that Herod Antipas at first hesitated to harm him (Matt. 14:1, 5; Mark 11:32), and the Jewish leaders did not dare speak openly against him (Matt. 21:26; Luke 20:6).”—(SDA BC 5:295).

[2] Who prophesied in the Old Testament of the ministry of John the Baptist? (3) The prophet Isaiah. — “A voice of one who cries: Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord [clear away the obstacles]; make straight and smooth in the desert a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3, AMP)

[3] Is there a connection between John the Baptist’s Preaching (in Mt 3:7–12) and that of Jesus? Yes, consider the following parallels just in Matthew alone —

  • 3:7 (“brood of vipers,” escaping judgment) with Mt. 12:34; 23:33;
  • 3:8 (repentance) with Mt. 11:20–21; 12:41;
  • 3:8, 10 (producing good fruit) with Mt. 7:16–20; 12:33; 21:41, 43;
  • 3:9 (children of Abraham) with Mt. 8:11–12;
  • 3:10b (fruitless tree cut down and burned) exactly repeated in Mt. 7:19;
  • 3:11–12 (judgment by fire) with Mt. 5:22; 13:40–42, 50; 18:8–9; 25:41;
  • 3:12 (grain gathered into the granary) with Mt. 13:30.

[4] What is ‘the kingdom of Heaven?’ (3:2) “This is an expression unique to Matthew’s gospel. Matthew uses the word “heaven” as a euphemism for God’s name—to accommodate his Jewish readers’ sensitivities (cf. 23:22). Throughout the rest of Scripture, the kingdom is called “the kingdom of God.” Both expressions refer to the sphere of God’s dominion over those who belong to Him. The kingdom is now manifest in heaven’s spiritual rule over the hearts of believers (Luke 17:21); and one day it will be established in a literal earthly kingdom (Rev. 20:4–6)” — (NKJV MacArthur Study Bible, 2nd Edition/ Mt 3:2)

“In the other Gospels, and in the Epistles, it is replaced by the corresponding expression the kingdom of God; and, in certain isolated cases, we find the modified expressions the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13), the kingdom of Christ and of God (Eph. 5:5), the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:11), God’s heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:18). The kingdom referred to in all these expressions is a real kingdom, a community, that is to say, consisting of a king and his subjects. The king is God, and hence the expression ‘the kingdom of God.’ But God is in Christ; and hence the kingdom is ‘the kingdom of Christ and of God.’ Christ spoke of it as belonging to Himself. ‘My kingdom,’ said He, ‘is not of this world’ (John 18:36). Christ is thus the King, the ‘King of kings’ (Rev. 17:14).” – [James Morison, A Practical Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1899), 28].

[5] What further insight did Jesus share with His hearers about this ‘kingdom?’ – “Christ made it clear that the kingdom He established at His first advent was not the kingdom of glory (see DA 234). That would only be, He said, “when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him” (Matt. 25:31). Nevertheless, Jesus admitted before Pilate that He was indeed a “king” (John 18:33–37); in fact, this was His purpose in coming into this world (John 18:37). But He explained further that this “kingdom” was “not of this world” (John 18:36). The kingdom He came to establish “cometh not with observation,” but is a reality within the hearts of those who believe in Him and become the sons of God (Luke 17:20, 21; cf. John 1:12)” – (SDA BC 5:295).

[6] What is implied by the phrase…. ‘Prepare the way of the Lord?’ (3:3) – By using these words, John “announces the imminent arrival of its king. The figure of speech employed represents the preparations to be made in advance of the announced coming of the king. When an Oriental monarch intended to visit parts of his realm he would dispatch messengers to each district to be visited, announcing his anticipated visit and summoning the inhabitants to prepare for his arrival. The local inhabitants of each district were expected to “prepare” the highway over which he would travel, inasmuch as little was ordinarily done to maintain roads. In some Oriental lands it is still customary to repair the roads over which the king or some other celebrity is about to travel.” – (SDA BC 5:296).

“In Isaiah 40:3, this prophecy refers to the Lord’s restoration of His people to their land following the exile. Later, it became part of messianic expectations. Both uses involve restoration and reconciliation. Matthew appropriates this prophecy in reference to Jesus, who now comes to lead His people out of sin. The command is a direct message of repentance.” — (Faithlife Study Bible, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Mt 3:3)

[7] What is implied by the phrase…. “Make His paths straight?” (3:3) – “Inasmuch as “the kingdom of God is within” those who become its subjects (Luke 17:21), the work of preparation must obviously be done in their hearts. Straightening the crooked places of men’s hearts is therefore the preparation of which John here speaks. This is why John preached a “baptism of repentance” (Mark 1:4), literally, a “baptism of a change of mind” (see on Matt. 3:2). The high places of human pride and power were to be cast down (Luke 3:5; DA 215).” – (SDA BC 5:296).

[8] What kind of Clothing were worn by the Baptizer? “This same John’s garments were made of camel’s hair, and he wore a leather girdle about his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.” (Matthew 3:4, AMP)

[9] Why did the Baptizer dress so strangely? (3:4)  — “The same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins” (Matthew 3:4). John was not dressed in fancy and expensive clothes. “The long shaggy hair of the camel, from which a coarse cheap cloth is made, [is] still worn by the poorer classes in the East” (Barnes). The leather belt (girdle) “is seen around the body of the common laborer” (Ibid.). John’s dress does not instruct preachers to dress slovenly in tattered clothes. Rather, it admonishes preachers to not be given to large and expensive wardrobes and to not appear in the pulpit in flashy attire which reflects the glamour and glitz of show-time instead of the seriousness and spirituality of the message they are to proclaim.” – [John G. Butler, Analytical Bible Expositor: Matthew, (Clinton, IA: LBC Publications, 2008), 41].

[10] What kind of Food did he eat? (3:4) Locusts and wild honey. — Locusts were common food in the Middle East. Leviticus 11:20–23 identifies four varieties that are clean and good to eat.

  • NOTE: Clean and Unclean Flying Insects — “All winged insects that go upon all fours are to be an abomination to you; Yet of all winged insects that go upon all fours you may eat those which have legs above their feet with which to leap on the ground. Of these you may eat: the whole species of locust, of bald locust, of cricket, and of But all other winged insects which have four feet shall be detestable to you.” (Leviticus 11:20–23, AMP)

“John’s appetite was very spartan. Locusts and wild honey (locusts were often dipped in the honey) were the food of the poor, but this food adequately nourished the body (locusts may not be appetizing to the western palate, but they are still eaten in the east). John’s diet was indeed spartan and showed spiritual discipline. He was not overweight from giving himself to the appetite of the flesh. Such a lifestyle in eating habits does not appeal to many in our materialistic age, of course; but the lifestyle of our day does not produce men like the John the Baptist either. Spiritual service can suffer when fleshly appetites are not disciplined faithfully.” – [John G. Butler, Analytical Bible Expositor: Matthew, (Clinton, IA: LBC Publications, 2008), 41].

[11] Who came to John (to the wilderness) and why? — “Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the country round about the Jordan went out to him; And they were baptized in the Jordan by him, confessing their sins.” (Matthew 3:5–6, AMP)

They ‘went out to him’ —- “The form of the Greek verb implies continued action—the people “kept on going out.” The crowds kept coming to see and hear John and to be baptized by him. The fact that people kept on coming testifies to the glowing reports carried back by those who had already heard him. The fact that they were willing to drop their work and go for miles out into the wilderness bears witness to the magnetic drawing power of the message he bore.” — (SDA BC 5:297).

[12] What mode of baptism was employed by the Forerunner of Christ? Baptism by immersion?

Baptized. Gr. baptizō, “to dip,” “to immerse.” Baptizō was used of immersing cloth in dye, and of submerging a vessel in order to fill it with water. It was also used metaphorically of bloody wounds received in a fight, as in Aeschylus of dyeing (literally, “baptizing”) a man in the red dye of Sardis. Baptizō was also used of a man drowning, as it were, in debt.

The meaning of the word itself, together with specific details of the narrative in the Gospels, makes it clear that John’s baptism was administered by immersion. John the evangelist emphasizes the fact that John the Baptist “was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there” (John 3:23). Furthermore, all four Gospel writers note that most, if not all, of John’s ministry was carried on in the immediate vicinity of the Jordan River (Matt. 3:6; Mark 1:5, 9; Luke 3:3; John 1:28). Had John not baptized by immersion he would have found sufficient water almost anywhere in Palestine.

The same was apparently true also of Christian baptism, for in the description of the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch it is noted that both the one baptizing and the one baptized “went down … into the water” and came “up out of the water” (Acts 8:38, 39). Had pouring or sprinkling been permissible, the eunuch, instead of waiting until they “came unto a certain water” before requesting baptism (v. 36), might have offered Philip water from his flask. “— (SDA BC 5:297).

[13] What is the implication of baptism by immersion? – “Only immersion accurately reflects the symbolism of the baptismal rite. According to Rom. 6:3–11 Paul teaches that Christian baptism represents death. To be “baptized,” Paul says, is to be “baptized into his [Christ’s] death” (v. 3), to be “buried with him by baptism into death” (v. 4), to be “planted together in the likeness of his death” (v. 5), to be “crucified with him” (v. 6). Paul then concludes, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin” (v. 11). Obviously, pouring and sprinkling are not symbols of death and burial. Paul makes his meaning doubly clear by pointing to the important fact that coming forth from baptism symbolizes being “raised up from the dead” (v. 4). It is evident that the writers of the NT knew only of baptism by immersion.” — (SDA BC 5:297).


  • It is also well established that the mode of proselyte baptism was immersion. The regulations required that the entire body be covered with water (see Talmud ‘Erubin 4b, Soncino ed., p. 20; Yebamoth 47a, 47b, Soncino ed., pp. 311, 312). Finds at Qumrân and in Cairo (see pp. 53, 54, 90-92) reveal that the Jewish sect known as Essenes baptized themselves daily by immersion, symbolically washing away their sins. Qumrân is in the “wilderness of Judaea,” where John preached.
  • It is apparent that the Jews who flocked to John in the wilderness understood the meaning of the rite and considered it an appropriate procedure. Even the representatives of the Sanhedrin sent to question John did not challenge the rite of baptism itself, but only John’s authority to perform it (see John 1:19–28).
  • That the rite of Christian baptism is simply a symbol and does not convey divine grace, is evident throughout the NT. Unless a man believes in Jesus Christ (Acts 8:37; cf. Rom. 10:9) and repents of sin (Acts 2:38; cf. ch. 19:18), baptism can be of no value to him. In other words, there is no saving power in the rite itself, apart from faith in the heart of the one receiving the rite. From these and other considerations it is clear that infant baptism is a meaningless procedure so far as the salvation of the child is concerned. Baptism can become meaningful only when the child is old enough to understand salvation, faith, and repentance.
  • Although the Jews recognized the validity of proselyte baptism, the rite was only for Gentile converts to Judaism. That John required it of the Jews themselves—even of their religious leaders—was the striking aspect of his baptism. Furthermore, he considered his baptism only preparatory to the baptism to be administered by Christ (Matt. 3:11). Unless the Jews accepted John’s baptism and the subsequent baptism of the Holy Spirit by Jesus Christ, they were no better than the heathen. Their descent from Abraham would avail them nothing (Matt. 3:9; cf. John 8:33, 39, 53; Rom. 11:21; Gal. 3:7, 29; James 2:21; etc.). — [Francis D. Nichol, Ed., The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1980), 5:297–298].

[14] What did John call the Pharisees and Sadducees? (3:7) “Brood of vipers!

[15] What is a viper and how dangerous are they? – (3:7) “Vipers are a large family of snakes; the scientific name is Viperidae. The family Viperidae includes adders, pit vipers (like rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and copperheads), the Gaboon viper, green vipers and horned vipers.

All vipers are venomous and have long, hinged fangs. Generally more venomous vipers are in tropical areas, particularly South America and Africa.

Vipers in general tend to have enzymetic venom that affects general tissues. It causes intense swelling, pain and necrosis, which is cell death and decay. It also functions as an anticoagulant. Death usually occurs from a dramatic collapse in blood pressure. All viper bites should be treated seriously and medical attention should be paid.”  —[Source: Facts About Vipers/]

[16] Confronting the Religious Leaders of the day by labeling them “Brood of Vipers!” sounded  a little harsh, don’t you think? Why would a Minister of the Gospel use this kind of language?

Though the phrase is a generic insult; it allude to the Jewish leaders’ cunning. Compare Jesus’ use of this expression later in Matthew’s gospel (Mt 12:34; 23:33).

“Here John perceives some kind of hypocrisy that leads him to unleash a verbal attack against these particular Pharisees and Sadducees. He follows his accusation (v. 7) with a command (v. 8). He then anticipates their objection (v. 9) and responds with a stern warning (v. 10). Their hypocrisy presumably involves their pretending to support his ministry. The NIV correctly translates “coming to where he was baptizing” (literally, coming to the baptism) rather than “coming for baptism” (NASB). “Brood” is more literally offspring. By calling them “vipers,” John refers to their shrewdness and to the danger they pose to others. Possibly an indirect allusion to the evil caused by the original serpent (Gen 3) appears as well.” — [Craig Blomberg, Matthew, The New American Commentary, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 22:77–78].

[17] What illustration shows the necessity of fruit bearing? —  “And already the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:10, AMP)

“No one had any trouble understanding this language in those days. When a tree or vine did not bear fruit, it was eventually cut down to make way for a tree or vine that would bear fruit. The language of John the Baptist, indicating the axe was already laid at the root of the tree, showed the imminency of the axe doing its work on non-fruit bearing trees. This illustration pictured the perilous situation of these religious leaders who did not exhibit the fruit of repentance. Lacking in fruit, judgment was imminent for them. They would soon be cut down and cast into the “fire” of hell.” – [John G. Butler, Analytical Bible Expositor: Matthew, (Clinton, IA: LBC Publications, 2008), 44–45].

[18] Why was Jesus baptized? — “But Jesus replied to him, Permit it just now; for this is the fitting way for [both of] us to fulfill all righteousness [that is, to perform completely whatever is right]. Then he permitted Him.” (Matthew 3:15, AMP)

“It was not fitting or proper to baptize Jesus in acknowledgment of personal sins, for He had no sins of which to repent. But as our example it was both fitting and proper for Him to accept baptism (see DA 111)”

“At His baptism Jesus laid aside His private life; He was no longer simply a perfect man among men—He was henceforth to engage in His active, public ministry as their Saviour. Christ’s submission to baptism by John was the seal that confirmed John’s ministry and placed Heaven’s stamp of approval upon it.” — (SDA BC 5:302).

[19] Matthew, Mark, and Luke mention three things that took place after the baptism of Jesus. What are they? –

  • The heavens were opened;
  • John saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove/ and alighting on Him;
  • A voice from heaven spoke, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:16, 17; cf. Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).

[20] Compare the role of the Holy Spirit at Jesus’ baptism with our New Birth!

  1. Matthew 3:16 (NKJV) — 16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.
  2. John 3:5–8 (NKJV) — 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
  3. Romans 6:3–6 (NKJV) — 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.

Although Jesus was baptized with others (on that day in the Jordan), His baptism was unique — for He was baptized as the Messiah! However, though Jesus’ baptism was singular, it still is related to our baptism, because the Messiah is the representative of God and man. According to Mark 1:11, a voice from heaven acknowledged Him as God’s beloved Son. According to Galatians 3:26 all believers are sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ Jesus!

Jesus did not receive baptism as a confession of guilt, but He identified Himself with the penitents of Israel who were responsive to the preaching of John (DA 111). Thus He took the steps that we are to take, doing the work that we must do. The baptism of Jesus was important because of His role in carrying out the plan of God in both judgment and redemption. It underscores baptism’s deep significance for His followers.


THE END: God bless you as you read this Study Guide and share with others.

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