2. The gospel of the kingdom, 3:1-4:25

i] The preaching of John the Baptist


John the Baptist arrives on the scene preaching the gospel in the wilderness of Judea. He is dressed in the garb of a prophet, and like a prophet, takes the religious establishment to task. Pointing beyond himself, he tells of the one more powerful, the bearer of God's Spirit and fire.


Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.


i] Context: See 1:1-17. The birth of Jesus and the preparation for his public ministry are dealt with by Matthew in chapters 1:1 to 4:25. After the prologue, Matthew sets the scene with the ministry of John the Baptist, ending with a summary of Jesus' early Galilean ministry, 3:1-4:25.


ii] Structure: The kingdom is at hand - John the Baptist:

John the preacher, v1-3;

John's person, v4-6;

John and the Pharisees and Sadducees, v7-10;

John speaks of the coming messiah, v11-12;


iii] Interpretation:

In the ministry of John the Baptist we are introduced to the gospel, the divine message concerning the coming kingdom of God. After four hundred years of silence, God speaks through a new prophet; he proclaims the coming of the long-awaited kingdom, and calls upon the people to repent.

This account of the ministry of John the Baptist, serving both to prefigure and announce the ministry of Jesus, takes a rather independent stance in Matthew's gospel; it serves to establish a continuity between the ministry of the Baptist and Jesus (note the similar words used by the two, eg.,"brood of vipers"). "For Matthew, the important thing is that the Baptist came prophesying the doom that awaited sinners and calling on his hearers to repent", Morris.


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 3:1

The prophetic forerunner to Jesus, the messiah, v1-12: i] The ministry of John the Baptist, v1-3. The long-awaited time having come, John the Baptist begins his prophetic ministry in the wilderness. John's presence in the wilderness authenticates this ministry. John's ministry focuses on the proclamation of a message, a message which concerns the coming of God's kingdom. Matthew uses a shorter version than Mark's "the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the gospel." John calls for repentance as a response to the proclamation that God's long promised kingdom has come. Repentance involves a turning around both in will and action. It is not so much a feeling sorry, or a turning from wrong behavior, but rather a turning toward God for mercy. If it is only the perfectly obedient who enter the kingdom, then who can be saved? Thus we cry, "Lord have mercy." In popular expectation, the kingdom was a political reconstruction of the state of Israel, a state free from the yoke of Roman. Yet, the coming kingdom, which is bursting in, even now, is more a dynamic force than a static entity. It entails the eternal and powerful reign of God in Christ. As for John's personal status, Matthew identifies him as a prophet; he is the one of whom Isaiah spoke, cf., Isa.40:3.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional; indicating a step in the narrative.

en + dat. "in [those days]" - Temporal use of the preposition; "during that time / at that time / ..." Vague temporal identification - the story has moved on some twenty, or thirty years.

IwannhV "John [the Baptist]" - Nominative subject of the verb "to come, appear." The name means "gift of Yahweh." The sense is "John who is called the Baptist."

paraginetai (paraginomai) pres. "came" - appeared, arrived. John appeared on the scene.

khrusswn (khrussw) pres. part. "preaching" - preaching, proclaiming, announcing. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of his coming; he came preaching.

en + dat. "in [the wilderness]" - Locative, expressing space / sphere.

thV IoudaiaV (a) gen. "of Judea" - The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / locative; "the wilderness located in Judea." The region of Palestine referred to here is probably the lower part of the Jordan valley around the Dead sea and up to the mountainous area to the west of the Dead Sea.


legwn (legw) pres. part. "saying" - Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "came", "came .... and said ...", or adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of his coming, "he came ..... saying."

metanoeite (metanoew) pres. imp. "repent" - The sense is not so much of remorse, regret, so not "to be sorry", but rather the word reflects the Hebrew / Aramaic word "to change direction", "to turn back." This is probably John's understanding, namely, a changed direction, a turning from a life lived without God toward God - possibly the wider sense of "to change one's mind." Remorse is a consequence, as is a change in conduct, but at its core the word concerns our attitude toward God.

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why we should repent, namely, because the kingdom of heaven is near.

ouranwn (oV) "[the kingdom] of heaven" - [the kingdom] of the heavens. We could classify the genitive "of heaven" as adjectival, idiomatic / local, "the kingdom located in heaven." Yet, it is out of deference to his Jewish readers that Matthew shows respect toward the divine name by using the phrase "kingdom of heaven" rather than "kingdom of God." So, we could classify the genitive "of God" as adjectival, possessive, "the kingdom that belonging to God", but "kingdom" probably refers the eschatological reign of God, in which case the genitive would be classified as verbal, subjective; "the righteous reign of God." The kingdom of God / Heaven encompasses the dynamic reign of God through Christ, the realization of which brings eternal peace for those who yearn for this now / not yet reality. None-the-less, as Wanamaker explains, the kingdom of heaven / God represents both the domain and the dominion of God.

hggiken (eggizw) perf. "near" - has come near. The position of the verb in the sentence stresses the nearness of the kingdom; it "is at hand / approaches", "is bursting in upon us." Note how Matthew has John preach the same message / gospel as Christ, whereas both Luke and Mark have John preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (an example of early contextualization?).


Isaiah 40:3.

gar "-" - for. More reason than cause; providing authoritative support for John's ministry.

ou|toV pro. "This" - this one. The pronoun serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb to-be; "this man."

oJ rJhqeiV (eipon) aor. pas. part. "[is] he who was spoken of" - [is] the one spoken. The participle serves as a substantive.

dia "through" - Instrumental, expressing agency; "by means of."

tou profhtou (oV) gen. "the prophet [Isaiah]" - [isaiah] the prophet. Standing in apposition to "Isaiah".

legonteV (legw) gen. pres. part. "-" - saying. The NIV treats this participle as a pleonasm / redundant usage, but it may be treated as a genitive absolute, "when he said", or adjectival, attributive, genitive in agreement with Isaiah, "who said."

fwnh (h) "a voice" - a voice, sound. Usually treated as a hanging nominative, so NIV, but it is possible that "voice" stands as the subject of a verbless clause; "this is the voice." Possibly just "hark", BAGD, but something stronger is surely intended, possibly "this is the message."

bowntoV (boaw) gen. pres. part. "of one calling" - of the one shouting, calling out loudly [in the wilderness]. Although the participle is anarthrous (without an article) it is likely to serve as a substantive. The genitive may be adjectival, possessive, as NIV, although possibly ablative, expressing source/origin; "this is the message from the one calling / proclaiming in the wilderness."

eJtoimasate (eJtoimazw) aor. imp. "prepare" - make ready. Imperative expressing a command.

kuriou (oV) gen. "[the way] of the Lord" - [the way] of lord. The genitive is probably not verbal, objective, "prepare a way for the Lord", Cassirer, but adjectival, although not possessive, "the Lord's way", Berkeley, but rather epexegetic, the "way" in mind, although the specific sense is somewhat of a guess; "the road by which the Lord will come", Barclay. Note Heb. "Lord" = Yahweh.

euqeiaV adj. "[make] straight" - [make] straight [the paths of him]. Straight as compared to crooked. An image drawn from the Persians who revolutionized road building. A straight road enables a quick return of the messiah to Zion. "Make an expressway/highway for the Lord."

tribouV (oV) "paths" - A well beaten track.

autou gen. "for him" - of him. As with the genitive "Lord", it is probably not verbal objective; "beat out a pathway for him." It is more likely adjectival, not possessive, but rather again of definition; "straighten the paths by which he will come", Barclay. Note Heb. "the paths of our God."


ii] John's person, v4-6. John's food and clothing aligns him with Elijah the prophet. He stands above the spiritual softness and idolatry of the age and proclaims the coming "day of the Lord." Those wishing to enter the kingdom are asked to express their repentance outwardly in baptism. This involved being dipped or dunked in the river Jordan. Normall,y only Gentiles wishing to become Jews were baptized, but John demands that even Jews submit to this sign; the coming kingdom demands radical decision. Cf., Mal.4:5, indicating the return of Elijah prior to the coming of the Messiah.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional; indicating a step in the narrative.

autou gen. pro. "[John's clothes]" - [john himself had the clothing] of him. Intensive use of the personal pronoun, so "himself". "Had", eicen, is imperfect, durative, so "wore"; "John habitually wore / used to wear ...."

apo + gen. "[were made] of [camel' hair]" - from [hairs of a camel]. Expressing source / origin.

peri + acc. "around [his waist]" - [and] around [the waist of him a leather belt, and the food of him was locusts and wild honey]. Spacial; "around". It is interesting to note that some early manuscripts of Mark leave out "a leather girdle around his waist." It is possible that Matthew is alluding to 2Kings 1:8 and that the phrase was added to later versions of Mark. The question is, why leave it out?


tote adv. "-" - then. Temporal; "at that time."

exeporeueto (exporeuomai) imperf. "went out" - went out [to him]. The imperfect may imply repetition, ie., iterative, "were continually going out to him"; "came to him", TEV, "flocked to him", NEB.

pasa "all [Judea]" - [jerusalem and] all, every [judea]. Part of the nominative subject of the verb "went out." "Many people from Judea."

hJ pericwroV (oV) "region" - [and all] the neighborhood. Part of the nominative subject of the verb "went out."

tou Iordanou (oV) gen. "of the Jordan" - The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "region"; "the whole Jordan region", Berkeley. "People ..... from all over the Jordan valley flocked to him", Barclay.


exomologoumenoi (exomologeomai) pres. part. "confessing" - [and they were baptized in the jordan river] acknowledging, confessing [the sins of them]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "baptize", but may also be treated as adverbial, of manner, or temporal. The present tense probably serves to indicate that the action of confessing proceeds the main verb, baptize, although speech is by nature durative. The word is being used of a public acknowledgement; "they declared openly their state of loss in the sight of God."

ebaptizonto (baptizw) imperf. pas. "he was baptizing" - they were immersed. The word carries the sense "immersed", either partially, or wholly, so "dipped", or "dunked". The literal sense is common in the NT, but also often used figuratively: immersed in suffering, teaching, or the Holy Spirit. The word is usually translated "baptized" and so the context must determine whether a literal, or figurative sense is intended.

uJp (uJpo) + gen. "by [him]" - Instrumental, expressing agency, by John's action, but possibly under his supervision.

en + dat. "in [the Jordan River]" - Locative, expressing space; "in the River Jordan."


iii] John and he Pharisees and Sadducees, v7-10. It is unclear whether the religious leaders were just observers, or wanted to demonstrate their eager anticipation of the coming kingdom. John, in true prophetic style, asks them cynically, "who suggested that you would escape the coming wrath?" John knows well that the religious leaders think they are prime candidates for the kingdom, but unless they produce the "fruit" of repentance (reliance on the mercy of God) they will not be allowed to enter. God doesn't need the "stones" (= descendants) of Abraham for the kingdom community. God can gather in ordinary common stones (outcasts, Gentiles). The coming day of the kingdom is both a day of blessing and a day of wrath. The coming wrath is already at work; the axe is chopping out the dead wood. Those caught up in merit religion must produce the fruit of repentance. If they don't cry out for mercy, then they are damned.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional and so best left untranslated.

idwn (eidon .... oJraw) part. "when he saw" - seeing. The participle is adverbial, temporal, "when ....", as NIV.

pollouV (poloV) adj. "many" - Accusative direct object of the participle "seeing". It is interesting that "many" of the religious elite came to hear John.

twn Farisaiwn kai Saddoukaiwn gen. "of the Pharisees and Sadducees" - The single article indicates that this is a single group made up of ..... The genitive is adjectival, partitive. Both groups were nomist, believing that a faithful adherence to the law promoted the appropriation of the promised covenant blessings. The difference between the two groups lay in the law's extent: the Sadducees limited the law to the Old Testament, whereas the Pharisees added their traditions, which traditions served more as an extension to the Old Testament law than an interpretation of it. It is only natural that both the Pharisees and the Sadducees resented Jesus' teaching that righteousness in the sight of God rests on divine grace appropriated through faith and not works of the law.

ercomenouV (ercomai) pres. part. "coming" - The participle serves as the complement of the direct object "many", standing in a double accusative construction; "he saw many .... coming."

epi + acc. "to" - Here possibly conveying purpose, ie., why they came, namely, to be baptized, cf. BAGD epi "of purpose, goal, result."

autou gen. pro. "-" - [the baptism] of him. The genitive is best treated as adjectival, possessive (rather than verbal, subjective); it was John's rite of initiation through washing / immersing / dunking / dipping, as opposed the other versions that existed, eg., the Jews used water to initiate Gentile converts.

autoiV dat. pro. "[he said] to them" - Dative of indirect object.

gennhmata (a) "brood" - offspring, family, children.

ecidnwn (a hV) gen. "of vipers" - The genitive is adjectival, relational.

uJpedeixen (uJpedeiknumi) aor. "warned" - [who] showed, informed, made known, warned. The sense seems to be that the religious leaders only want to escape divine judgment, but more may be implied. It is possible that John is being cynical; "Who told you that you could escape from the punishment God is about to send", TEV - the "you could escape" is a guess. "Can it actually be the case that you have been persuaded to believe that the divine judgment is near, and are stirred to endeavor to escape it?" TH.

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - Dative of indirect object.

fugein (feugw) inf. "to flee" - to escape. The infinitive forms an object clause / dependent statement, indirect speech, expressing the content of the warning.

apo + gen. "from" - Expressing separation; "away from."

thV melloushV (mellw) pres. part. "the coming" - about to (expressing a sense of immediacy). The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting by describing "wrath", "a wrath which is coming" = "the imminent judgment of God."

orghV (h) "wrath" - Used of divine wrath. The word, when used of God, "is not the emotion of anger, but that part of his divine holiness that actively repudiates that which is unholy in his creatures", Mounce.


oun "therefore" - Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion.

poihsate (poiew) aor. imp. "produce" - do, make. Here, the aorist indicates a specific act is required, namely to "bear fruit."

karpon (oV) sing. "fruit" - Accusative direct object of the verb "make" = "produce". The singular implies that "works" plural is not in John's mind, but rather a changed life, a new heart, orientation... eg., the one who has received mercy will be merciful, such is befitting of their repentance.

axion adj. "worthy / in keeping with" - worthy, befitting. The adjective is probably attributive, limiting "fruit", "produce worthy fruit", although it could be viewed as the accusative complement of "fruit", standing in a double accusative construction; see Culy, Lk.3:8.

thV metanoiaV (a) gen. "of repentance" - This genitive is probably adjectival, epexegetic, limiting / modifying "fruit" by specifying the "worthy fruit" in mind, "namely, the fruit of repentance." Olmstead suggests it serves as the genitive complement of axion, "worthy". "Prove the sincerity of your repentance by your life and conduct", Barclay.


mh doxhte (dokew) aor. subj. "do not think" - [and] do you not suppose, presume. A subjunctive of prohibition; "Do not fool yourselves", "do not give yourself false hope by saying ......" TH.

legein (legw) pres. inf. "you can say" - to say. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the negated verb "presume"; "do not presume to say", ESV. Olmstead suggests a dependent statement, indirect speech, but what they "think, suppose" (dependent statement of perception!) is not "to say to yourselves", but "we have Abraham as our father."

en "to [yourselves]" - within [yourselves]. Local, expressing space, metaphorical, although better adverbial, modal, expressing manner, modifying the infinitive "to say", so Olmstead.

patera (pathr eroV) "father" - [we have abraham] ancestor. Accusative complement of the direct object "Abraham." They are kidding themselves, if by claiming Abraham as their ancestor, they have weight with God. "Do not cherish the thought that you have Abraham for a father", Rieu.

gar "-" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why they should not so presume.

uJmin dat. pro. "[I tell] you" - [I say] to you. Dative of indirect object.

oJti "that" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what John is telling them.

ek + gen. "out of" - [god is able] from [these]. Expressing source / origin.

liqwn .... tekna "stones .... children" - Possibly a play on words since both words use the same consonants in Hebrew; cf., Moule p186.

egeirai (egeirw) aor. inf. "can raise up" - to raise up [children]. Complementary infinitive, completing the sense of the verb "can / is able." Semitic idiom, "cause to be born."

tw/ Abraam dat. "for Abraham" - to abraham. Dative of interest, advantage.


hdh adv. "already" - even now. Temporal adverb. The position of this word at the beginning of the Greek sentence serves to give it an emphatic sense.

keitai (keimai) "-" - [the ax] is laid. Divine judgment is about to fall on God's historic people; "To cut down the trees at the roots", TEV.

proV "at" - Spacial; in this particular use of the preposition, linear motion is combined with a punctiliar sense.

twn dendrwn (on) gen. "[the root] of the trees" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

oun "and" - therefore. Drawing a logical conclusion / inferential.

pan (paV pasa pan) "every" - all, every [tree]. "Every tree" is the subject of the verb "cut down" and "thrown". As "tree" is without an article, the adjective is "every", expressing "any tree that does not ...."

mh poioun (poiew) pres. part. "that does not produce" - not producing. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting, "tree".

kalon adj. "good" - Edible, sweet [fruit].

ekkoptetai (ekkoptw) pres. pas. "will be cut down" - is cut down. Most likely a use of the divine passive, "God will cut it down ..." The NIV has opted for a future tense, given that John is speaking of the future, but it may also be gnomic, a generalization.

pur "the fire" - [and is thrown into] fire. A symbol of hell imaged by the ever-burning rubbish tip outside Jerusalem.


iv] The Baptist speaks about the coming messiah, v11-12. Matthew wants to emphasize the preparatory and limited nature of John's ministry, compared to the ministry of Jesus; John only baptizes "with water for repentance." The act of baptizing with water is in reference to, or in connection with, repentance. It expresses outwardly the act of repentance - the turning to God for mercy and thus, the resultant cleansing of forgiveness. Jesus' baptism, on the other hand, is "with the Holy Spirit and with fire." The outpouring of the Spirit is the great sign of the dawning of the new age of the kingdom - the Messianic Age when God will come and visit his people and dwell with them. Pentecost serves to illustrate the dawning of this new age. As for the "fire", it may represent "the Spirit's fire," ie., "fire" serves to image the Spirit's coming upon God's new kingdom community. Yet, "fire" is usually understood in the terms of judgment and that's certainly the point emphasized in verse twelve. The coming Messiah will judge his people; he will separate the "chaff" from the "wheat"; he will separate the goats from the sheep; he will remove the false child of God from the true child of God. So, now is the day to repent, to turn and be saved.

men ...... de "[I baptize ........] but [after me comes one ...]" - Establishing an adversative comparative construction; "on the one hand ..... but on the other ..."

en "with [water]" - [I baptize you] in / with, by [water]. An instrumental sense is probably intended, as NIV, but the locative "in" is also possible. The same construction is used of Jesus who will immerse "with, by" or "in" the Holy Spirit, with the instrumental sense still more likely, although the locative, "into the sphere of the Holy Spirit", certainly makes sense.

eiV + acc. "for [repentance]" - into, to / for [repentance]. Probably of reference / respect; "with respect to repentance." Luke leaves out eiV metanoian, "to repentance", indicating that Matthew maybe adding a bracketed comment with regard John's baptism, ie., John's baptism is a water-baptism that concerns repentance and as such is significantly different to Jesus' baptism. Fenton suggests that Matthew is drawing a distinction between John's baptism and Christian baptism, but Christian baptism is still primarily an outward expression of repentance. Possibly as a sign / token / proof / evidence of repentance, but certainly not in a causal sense, "with a view to" = "to bring about / so that you will repent", ref. Wallace 370. Olmstead suggests a final sense is intended, expressing the purpose of John's baptism.

opisw + gen. "after" - [but the one coming] after [me]. Temporal preposition. Referring to the one who proclaims the gospel "after" John.

oJ ... ercomenoV (ercomai) pres. part. "comes one who" - the one coming [after me]. The participle serves as a substantive.

iscuroteroV (iscuroV) comp. adj. "[is] more powerful" - [is] stronger. Predicate adjective. Obviously spiritually stronger. The sense may be that Jesus has more authority, or that he is more important than John.

mou gen. "than I" - of me. Genitive of comparison; "than me."

bastasai (bastazw) inf. "to carry" - [of whom I am not worthy the sandals] to remove, pick up, carry. The infinitive may be classified as complementary, completing the sense of the verbal phrase ouk eimi iJkanoV, "I am not worthy", or epexegetic of the predicate adjective iJkanoV, "worthy", explaining in what sense John is not worthy, qualified, fit, competent, ....

kai "[he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit] and [fire]" - The presence of the conjunction "and" implies that "will baptize" has two objects, namely, "the Holy Spirit" and "fire". Given verse twelve, the fire is likely to be the fire of judgment, but it may well be the fire of suffering - Jesus refers to his own suffering as a baptism. Some commentators think that "fire" modifies "the Holy Spirit" ie., "will baptize with the fire of the Holy Spirit." The first option seems best, but note Acts 2:3.


ou| gen. rel. pro. "his" - of whom [the winnowing fork is in the hand of him]. The genitive is probably best treated as adverbial, of reference / respect; "with respect to him (the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire) the winnowing fork is in his hand." Luke's syntax is interesting in that he uses infinitives for "he will clean out" and "he will gather", probably expressing purpose, so we end up with "in order to clean out ...... and in order to gather ...... his winnowing fork is in his hand." Either way, the point is clear; as a farmer separates the wheat from the chaff, so Christ will separate the righteous from the wicked.

autou pron. gen. "his [hand]" - The genitive is possessive; it is "his" hand, threshing floor and wheat. Some manuscripts have "his barn", but it is not his "chaff".

diakaqariei (diakaqarizw) fut. "he will clear" - [and] he will clean out [the threshing floor of him]. The prefix makes the point "clean out / clear away completely / every speck of rubbish removed."

kai "-" - This conjunction joins the clearing and gathering clauses. Probably performing its normal coordinating function, but here it may be epexegetic, "namely / that is".

sunaxei (sunagw) fut. "gathering" - he will gather together [the wheat of him into the barn]. "He will store the wheat in his barn and the husks in a fire that never goes out", CEV.

katakousei (katakaiw) fut. "burning up" - [and the chaff] he will consume. The prefix indicates completion, "he will consume completely."

asbestw/ dat. adj. "unquenchable" - inextinguishable. "A fire that never goes out", TEV.

puri (pur puroV) dat. "with [unquenchable] fire" - The dative is taken by the NIV as instrumental, but locative is a possibility, "in".


Matthew Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]