FRUITS MEET FOR REPENTANCE
Matthew 3:7-8 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.
The most detailed description of John the Baptist is found in the Gospel of Luke. Here is his full story beginning with the angel of the Lord appearing to Zacharias promising him a son. Luke says that both Zacharias, and his wife Elizabeth, were well stricken in years and had no children. The angel prophesied that the birth of this son would bring joy and gladness to them and many would rejoice. His name would be John. He would be consecrated to the work of the Lord; his duty being to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Taken from Luke 1:5-17).
John the Baptist's calling was to prepare the world for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the Gospel of John we find that John the Baptist was sent from God...to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe (John 1:6-7). Concerning John the Baptist, Mark quotes both Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 when he writes, Behold I send My messenger before thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. His duty was to preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. The response to his preaching was that there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins (Mark1:2-5).
Of those that came to hear John, many were of the Jewish sects of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Pharisees were zealots for the rites, ceremonies and tradition of the elders, while the Sadducees were more to the other extreme, being similar to, what we refer to as deistic - believing in God but denying the existence of the soul and the resurrection. To most that came to John, his message was repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2). But to the Pharisees and the Sadducees, his message was stronger. He referred to them as a generation of vipers, indicating that they poisoned their religious principles and had a deadly influence on the Jewish nation - God's chosen people. Being so self-righteous, hardened, and hypocritical, John wondered why they were coming to him to flee from the wrath of God as punishment for disobedience.
To the Pharisees and Sadducees, John said, as quoted in the lesson text, Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance. They were told to bring evidence that was appropriate to prove their repentance was sincere. What would be considered appropriate fruits that would prove one's sincerity in repentance? How about forsaking sin and leading a life obedient to God's will. This would demonstrate one's sincerity. How about leading a humble, unselfish life given to serving the needs of others? This seemed to be the things the Pharisees and Sadducees were missing. Recognizing this, John the Baptist told them they needed fruits meet for repentance in their lives in order to be pleasing to God and worthy of His forgiveness. For these Jewish sects, it was obvious that they did not recognize their sinful lives.
From this example, we, too, can see the need to recognize the sin in our lives before we can seek God's forgiveness. It is not possible to repent from sins we fail to recognize in our lives. Repentance means to turn away from or to be converted from sinful ways. How do we recognize sin in our lives and our need for repentance? We must first know God's will. We must know how God expects us to conduct our lives. His Holy Word tells us the sinful things that we should not do as well as the good things we should do.
Paul tells us some of the "fruits" that should be in our lives in Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Can we find these Christian characteristics in our lives? When we sin against the will of God, we need to recognize them and immediately seek His forgiveness. In seeking God's forgiveness, we need to bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.