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Mat 3:1-6     What two words in Mat 3:1 describe the two-fold ministry of John?  See also Mat 3:6.  Where did he preach and baptize?  What is the significance that a message like that of John’s comes from “the wilderness”?  Do such messages arise from those who are surrounded by the world and the things of the world?  What was the first word of the message he preached?  See Mat 3:2.  What does it mean to repent?  Note: the Greek word for repent is not the same as the word to be sorry; it means rather to change one’s mind or heart.  Why does he say in Mat 3:2 that it was necessary for people to repent?  What did Matthew understand John’s ministry as accomplishing?  See Mat 3:3.  What do Mat 3:2 and 3 teach us about the way we are to prepare ourselves to be citizens in God’s kingdom?  From our vantage point looking back, what did John mean by the kingdom of heaven, and that it had come near?  Was that the popular notion of what people were expecting in regard to the kingdom of heaven coming near?  Is it possible for God’s kingdom, such as the people were expecting that would deliver them from their physical oppressors, to be established apart from the spiritual kingdom for which John prepared the way?  See Pro 5:22, Joh 8:34, 2Pe 2:19.  What is significant about Matthew’s description of John in Mat 3:4?  See 2Ki 1:8, Zec 13:4, Mal 4:5.  Are locusts really edible or good for food?  See Lev 11:20-23[1].  What was the effect of John’s uncompromising preaching?  See Mat 3:5-6.  What do these verses teach us about the extent to which John’s ministry touched people’s lives?  See also Acts 18:24-25, 19:1-3.

Mat 3:7-10   Who were the Pharisees and Sadducees?[2] Who would represent their counterparts in today’s religious circles?  What did John refer to them as?  Although religious in appearance, what does such an image communicate about their true parentage?  See Rev 20:2.  Was Jesus’ estimate of them any different?  See Mat 23:33; cf. John 8:42-44.  What was John’s question to them in Mat 3:7?  What does it indicate about their spiritual complacency?  Is that like their modern counterparts?  What was the source of their spiritual smugness, and its deceptive result in their lives?  See Mat 3:9, John 8:33,39.  Is that also like their modern counterparts?  Is it our correct understanding of doctrine, our physical ancestors, or belonging to the right religious group that establishes us in a right relationship with God?  Is the mark of true repentance that one feels sorry for his sins?  See 2Co 7:9-10.  What is the mark of true repentance?   See Mat 3:8.  Even if one has a correct understanding of doctrine, descends from a godly heritage, and belongs to a conservative, Bible-believing denomination (as did the Pharisees), what did John say would be the end of those who do not bear good fruit?  See Mat 3:10.  Is “cut down and thrown into the fire” a good thing?  Is it just a loss of rewards?  See Mat 3:12.  Read Luk 13:6-9.  Different trees bear different fruit, and the quality of fruit differs even within the same variety from tree to tree and place to place; beyond the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) what fruit would the Master expect to find us individually bearing according to our unique creation and life circumstances?  Does our tree bear the good fruit that He for whose sake we are planted is looking for, or the worthless fruit of a plant whose root is wild and has “a mind of its own” instead of “the mind of Christ” (1Co 2:16)?  Cf. Isa 5:1-6, 1Co 6:19-20, Heb 6:7-8.  Have we, as individuals, developed and do we use the unique gifts, talents and resources that have been given to us with a view towards the pleasure of Him for whose sake we are planted, or with the view that the fruit we bear is for our own use and to be enjoyed by us?  What unique gifts, talents and resources has the Lord given you, and what are you doing with them that is for the Father’s pleasure?

1. The Arabs prepare for food the thorax of the locust, which contains the great wing muscles. They pull off the head, which as it comes away brings with it a mass of the viscera, and they remove the abdomen (or “tail”), the legs and the wings. The thoraxes, if not at once eaten, are dried and put away as a store of food for a lean season.  (ISBE)

2. Pharisees were members of one of the most important and influential religious and political parties of Judaism in the time of Jesus. There were more Pharisees than Sadducees (according to Josephus, Ant. 17.2.4 [17.42] there were more than 6,000 Pharisees at about this time). Pharisees differed with Sadducees on certain doctrines and patterns of behavior. The Pharisees were strict and zealous adherents to the laws of the OT and to numerous additional traditions such as angels and bodily resurrection.  The Sadducees controlled the official political structures of Judaism at this time, being the majority members of the Sanhedrin. They were known as extremely strict on law and order issues.  (NET Bible Study Note).  The Sadducees held only the first 5 books of Moses as authoritative, and rejected the resurrection, angels, and other beliefs held by the common people and the Pharisees.  Cf. Mat 22:23-32, Acts 23:6-8.

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