Advent - Covenant Renewal (Luke 3:7ff)
Israel’s Covenant Renewal (Luke 3:7-18)
So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 3:8 “Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’ . . . I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I. . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 3:18 So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people.
John declared the “gospel” to Israel by a ritual washing, exhorting them to be what Israel should be, and by testifying of Christ to come. Like many prophets before, he called for the renewal of Israel (Ez. 37). However, the leadership of Israel rejected this (Lk. 7:30). If we would be part of the Renewed New Covenant Israel, we must know that:
1) Being in a covenant family is not enough (vv 3-9). Is there anyone deluding into saying, “We have Abraham for our father,’ as though that is sufficient? John refutes this (3:8). We may enter into a culpable covenant relationship by birth (graciously), but we must mature to “bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (3:8). There can be no presumption nor rejection of the covenant.
2) Acting in our best interest is not enough (vv 10-14). We must act like a renewed people in generosity (v 11) and justice. This requires ceasing from the corruptions, such as theft in the case of baptized IRS men (tax collectors) (v 12-13). It means not using your power to take “money from anyone by force,” or participate in falsehood for gain (v 14). It is to be “content” rather than use your position and power selfishly.
3) Receiving sign is not enough (15-18). Israel (including the leadership) should have followed John’s voice crying in the wilderness in the sign of baptism (Lk. 7:30). But accepting such preparation is insufficient if it does not lead to the One (Christ) (Acts 19:5). John promised that He “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (v 16). In the same way our participation in Church “actions,” such as baptism, worship, and communion are insufficient if they are not realized in faith in Christ by the power of the Spirit.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more