John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
“WHAT SHOULD WE DO THEN?” the crowd asked.
— Luke 3:7-10
Many Christians think of John the Baptist as being the crazy, hardcore, fire and judgment preacher because of his hard words. However, John the Baptist’s hard words are considered as “the good news” (or “the gospel”) according to Luke 3:18.
I believe John enjoyed calling his listeners a “brood of vipers” as much as a doctor enjoys telling his patients “you have a terminal illness”. Both are hard and uncomfortable to tell people; but both are necessary in order to have the hearers ask “what should I do then?”
In love, John was exposing the disease of sin before offering the cure of repentance and salvation.
This passage has at least a twofold application:
1) When presenting the good news (or “gospel) of Jesus Christ, don’t try to bypass the hard words in order to skip to the “good stuff”. It won’t work! Warn sternly of the dire need for Jesus before presenting Jesus. Don’t attempt to administer the cure of salvation before revealing the disease of sin.
2) Whenever you are confronted or convicted at any point in the gospel, understand that the appropriate response is to ask “what should I do then?” and listen to what God says. The goal isn’t to be beaten down with condemnation, but rather to be lifted up with hope and restoration in repentance.
Heavenly Father, I pray that you would give me the boldness to speak the truth about sin in love and conviction to those you would put in my path. Help me to show people their dire need for you so that they would cling to you. I also pray that you would reveal to me areas in my own life in which I need to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Show me what I should do. In Jesus Name, AMEN!