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The Mightier Messiah

October 22, 2017 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Savior Verse: Luke 3:15–3:17


Luke 3:15-17

Theme: Jesus Christ gives the Holy Spirit to those who repent and judgment to those who do not.

I. Christ Is Reflected in His Servants3:15

A. Our Ministries Should Stir Interest in Christ 

  • The ministry of John was a ministry that endured a great number of people over many months of preaching.
  • According to the previous verses, his message didn’t change – it remained consistently calling on sinners to repent and turn from their sin to prepare for the imminent arrival of the Messiah.
  • His ministry and the ministry concerns of Jesus proved to be the same – their preaching was the same, as was their burden for the lost.
  • In our text we are told the “while the people were in a state of expectation” – there was an awareness of John’s credibility – cp. Luke 20:4
  • “expectation” [προσδοκάω] – refers to “giving thought to something that is coming” – “to wait” or “to expect”
  • The people of listened to John’s message were brought to an interest level that caused them to be in anticipation – they were truly interested in Christ coming.
  • This demonstrates that John’s passion was the promotion of Christ; he preached Christ, pointed to Christ, submitted to Christ, and lived the priorities of Christ.  

B. Our Ministries Should Stir Inquiries of Christ

  • This was so consistent that there was suspicion on the part of the crowd that John was himself the Messiah – “… and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ …”
  • This was understandable as they saw something that Jesus ultimately described as the greatest man that had ever lived – cp. Luke 7:28
  • As these “suspicions” continued to be murmured about, John repeatedly denied them – cp. John 1:19-20; John 3:28.
  • The power of his life and testimony – both unspoken life and spoken message was so Christocentric that people couldn’t help but associate him with the Christ – this is the very desire that we ought to have.
  • Our great honor is to so represent Christ that people understand that we are Christians – cp. Acts 11:26
  • Since God’s commitment is to bring us into conformity to Christ, the greater the resemblance that we possess to Christ, the greater the glory that God the Father receives for the work of grace in our lives.
  • John was so closely invested in the glory of the Christ that people couldn’t help but think they were one in the same!
  • Oh for such Christlikeness!


  • How does your service to Christ stir interest in Christ by others? 
  • Is your Christlikeness an appropriate representation of Christ? 
  • In what ways could your life better reflect the nature of Christ?

II. Christ Is Superior to His Servants3:16

A. Christ Is Superior to Our Worthiness

  • John’s awareness of the superiority of Christ caused a startled reaction – “John answered and said to them all, ‘As for me, I baptize you with water, but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals …”
  • John is not dismissing the significance of his work, his calling, his faithfulness to the will of God in his life, or of his service to God – his statement does not in any way belittle what or who he is.
  • Rather, the focus is NOT on him but on the infinitely superior glory of the Messiah; he doesn’t need to make the Messiah glorious by belittling himself, he is belittled when compared to the glory of Christ.
  • He declares that the “One … coming … is mightier than I …” [ἰσχυρός] – stronger in every way – superior physically, mentally, and spiritually
  • He then declares that the Messiah is so worthy, that John – considered by God to be the greatest one born to women – is “not fit” [ἱκανός] to do the most menial and common of chores for Him.
  • This demonstrates that it is a great privilege to do what would humiliate a person of prestige – “… to untie the thong of His sandals” – a task reserved for the lowliest freshman on the roster of slaves – it was a menial, humbling, entry level duty usually followed by the washing of the feet.
  • The heart of the true servant of Christ is to refuse to receive honor from those who you are trying to get to follow Christ – but there is a constant attempt to point them back to Him – cp. John 3:29-30.

B. Christ Is Superior to Our Works

  • This is further seen in the works that the Messiah performs in comparison to the works that servants of Christ perform.
  • John declares that “I baptize you with water, … He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
  • The two aspects of Christ’s ministry mentioned here correspond to the two advents that are given to us in Scripture.
  • Like many Old Testament prophets, John brought the two aspects of Jesus comings together for the simple reason that the intervening church age was not revealed either to him or to the other Old Testament prophets.
  • The statement that Jesus would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit …” refers to the 1st Advent which would focus on the process of redemption – that work that would provide sinners the ability to be reconciled to God through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit – cp. John 3:17
  1. This is the “converting” work of Jesus – whereby we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as the earnest payment of our ultimate redemption – cp. John 16:13; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4; Ephesians 1:13-14.
  2. This is something that God had definitively promised to provide Israel regarding the fulfillment of the New Covenant – cp. Joel 2:28; Ezekiel 36:25-26.
  3. Since Israel rejected her Messiah, the provision of the Holy Spirit would be provided to the Church – a demonstration of the width of the mercy of God – cp. 1 Corinthians 12:13
  • The second issue that is raised here by John deals with the 2nd Advent of Christ and will be fulfilled at that time – the “condemning” work of Christ – “… He will baptize you with … fire”
  • Despite the efforts of some to assert that this refers to the same thing as to being baptized by the Holy Spirit because of the “tongues as of fire …,” this refers to the priority of Jesus Christ when He comes in judgment.
  • The context of v. 16 clearly identifies fire as the means of judgment.
  • In v. 9, the trees that do not produce good fruit are cut down and “thrown into the fire.”
  • In v. 17, the chaff will be “burned up … with unquenchable fire” – again a clear reference to condemnation.
  • Thus, John is saying that the baptism that Jesus will conduct with reference to the ungodly is a “baptism with fire.”
  • 7. Hence, John is saying that by baptizing with water, he is calling for people to prepare for the judgment that will be executed by the Messiah – who work is clearly more significant than what John does.


  • In what ways do you demonstrate the worthiness of Christ in your daily activities? 
  • How does your awareness of Jesus’ intentions to both bless saints and judge sinners affect you? 
  • What is the difference between self-deprecation and the exaltation of Jesus? Does this difference matter in your spiritual life?

III. Christ Is Faithful to His Servants3:17

A. Christ Is Faithful to Personally Judge

  • John’s message continues to prompt expectation and urgency – “His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor …”
  • Note that it “is in His hand” – indicating that He is:
  1. Ready to judge
  2. Equipped to judge
  3. Willing to judge.
  • Dealing with sinners is not something that is delegated to another, but is the personal stewardship of the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge all men – cp. Romans 2:5-8; John 5:22-29.

B. Christ Is Faithful to Perfectly Judge

  • His purpose is “… to thoroughly clear His threshing floor …”
  • The idea of “thoroughly clear” [διακαθᾶραι] is “to make something free of something unwanted,” to “purge” or “clean out.” 
  • Jesus is going to leave no trace of wheat or chaff behind; His judgment will be “thorough” – leaving no one out or exempted.
  • He will “gather the wheat into His barn” – a reference to the entry of saints into the glory of Heaven – cp. Matthew 13:30
  • “… but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” – a reference to eternal punishment away from God – cp. Matthew 41, 46
  • There is a tragic end to the path that prefers one’s sin to the blessings that comes from repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. 
  • Instead of a shallow, half-hearted attempt to placate God’s wrath through dressing oneself up with religious formality and duty, God calls on sinners to truly repent and believe causing a dramatic conversion from sin’s domination to displaying the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit.


  • How does the imminent return of Christ impact your life?
  • The destination of the “chaff” to “unquenchable fire” ought to motivate us to do what?
  • How should the prospect of being “gathered … into His barn” influence us?

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