2008-12-24 / Religion

Are you spreading the gospel for Christ?

Sunday School Lesson Rev. James Temples

Luke 3:7-18

As Luke (Luke 1:1-4) wrote the gospel that bears his name, the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16) used him to introduce the individuals who were the major players in the unfolding divine drama of the eternal plan of salvation for the lost human race.

Little is recorded in the form of biographical information regarding these individuals. The growing up years of John the Baptist, and Jesus, himself, are condensed into two sketches. Of John, he wrote, "And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel." Luke 1:80. After recording the visit to Jerusalem (Luke 2:41-51), "the beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14) wrote of Jesus, "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." Luke 2:52.

The next scene that Luke pictures takes place by the Jordan River. Luke 3:3. No details are given to indicate the way that the crowd was attracted to this, seemingly, remote place. However, we are given the source of his message — "the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness." Luke 3:2c.

Luke wrote that John "came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins…" Luke 3:3. This message echoed the proclamations of the prophets of old. Luke 3:4-6. The attire of John, also, brought to mind the prophets that had come to the nation in the past — "And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leather girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey." Matthew 3:4.

The message of John was addressed to all people, and, specifically to the religious leaders. "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?" Luke 3:7; Matthew 3:7. John gave a directive to all. "Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance…" Luke 3:8.

The ability to trace their personal background to the man, Abraham, was seen as a kind of badge of honor to the members of the Jewish nation. Deuteronomy 7:6. This fact was — and is — important. However, this ancestry did not prove any kind of great personal right into the presence of the heavenly father — the creator of the universe. This argument must have been used by the hearers of John. He declared "…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." Luke 3:8b.

Since John was preaching in the uninhabited area, there were many trees nearby. He used that setting as a point of declaration of the divine attitude toward sin. "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." Luke 3:9.

The meaning and details of this picture were not lost to these hearers. Recognizing the need for some kind of personal action, a question was asked. "And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?" Luke 3:10. The actions described would cut across the grain of human selfishness and self-centeredness. "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." Luke 3:11. Yes, this directive was taught in the Old Testament law, but had been neglected by the teachers of that day.

Their teachers of the law had developed a very complex system of extra laws that must be observed for the individual to be in their good graces." Certain groups were easily excluded from their religious club. One of these groups was the publicans — those who collected taxes for the despised Roman government. Luke 18:10-14. However, many of these people listened to the message of John the Baptist. Their hearts were touched by the words that they heard. "Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you." Luke 3:12, 13; 19:1-10.

Since these people lived in an area that was under Roman rule, soldiers were part of the landscape. Some of these men seemed to have little or no regard for these subjects. They were permitted to force people to carry loads and perform any other task that would be to their personal benefit. Matthew 5:41. Some of these Gentiles — non-Jews — listened to the message preached by John. Their hearts were touched by the words that they heard. It seems as if some of them would pillage and openly steal from the people, under the pretense of their lack of funds. "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." Luke 3:14.

The words that came to the ears of these hearers seemed to have quickened an inner sense of the coming of the messiah. This teaching had been part of the individual and national background for centuries. "And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ or not…" Luke 3:15. He answered their — spoken or unspoken — question, and pointed them to the coming one. Luke 3:16, 17. Have you accepted Jesus Christ into you life? Please do so, today.

Rev. James C. Temples' Sunday School Lesson has appeared in the Early County News each week since 1967. A native of Early County, Rev. Temples taught in public schools 32 years and 10 years at Southeastern College of Assemblies of God, in Lakeland, Florida. He also served as pastor and evangelist during those years. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 1569, Auburndale, Fla. 33823; 863-965-0157. Email: jctjet@aol.com.

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