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Matthew 28
posted August 9, 2012

Revelation 13
posted August 16, 2012

The Preacher - February 25, 2005


Matthew Chapter Three

Sermon of the Week – February 25, 2005

The story of the third chapter of the gospel according to Matthew is the story of the preacher. "In those days cometh John the Baptist preaching. . ." Jesus said of John that he was the greatest. He was speaking of him as a prophet, so John according to Jesus was the greatest preacher who ever lived up to that time. Perhaps to find out why Jesus said he was so great, we need to examine some of John's preaching. John was known as, "a voice crying in the wilderness." John’s ministry did not begin in the synagogue or in the Temple; it began in the wilderness. We have changed God’s plan of preaching backwards. Jesus said, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel," and we say, "Come ye into the church and hear our preacher preach the gospel." Jesus said, “Go ye,” and we say, “Come ye.”

Now who would go out into the wilderness to hear the message of God? Everybody! Then went out unto him all Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region round about the Jordan. Some one has written: When you build a better mouse trap, build a better house, preach a better sermon, write a better book, the world will beat a path to your door though you build your house in the wilderness. If we pattern our preaching after John, the greatest of preachers, we will no doubt have the same reputation as John had, "the voice of one crying in the wilderness."


           One of the areas of John's preaching was the area of repen­tance. He said, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand."  If I had lived at that time and had been in charge of John's itinerary, the last place in the world I would have booked him would have been the wilderness of Judea. I would have told John that if he was going to preach on repentance you don't need to do it here. This is the holiest place in the world. The High Priest holes up in Jerusalem. The Temple is there. There are more syna­gogues in this area than anywhere else in the world. No one plays the ponies. There are no slot machines. There are no X‑rated movies. There are no drug pushers. There are no porno shops. On Friday night they roll in the sidewalks early and everybody is in services all day Saturday. There is more holiness per square foot, per square yard, per square heart than any place else in the world.

I would have told him that if he wanted to preach on repentance he should go to Rome or Corinth or Ephesus, one of the sin cities of the world. Don't preach it here. We don't need it. However, I seem to remember reading a verse where it says, "There came a man sent from God whose name was John." The reason John came to Judea with the message of repentance was because God had sent him.

I take my cue from this and say that the message of repentance needs to be preached in the holiest place of all today, namely the meeting places of the New Testament Church. Our message needs to be: “Repent ye, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand." Jesus preached repentance. Luke tells us that the Lord said, "Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish." He not only said it once he repeated it two verses later. In the book of Acts Peter told those who heard the gospel to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins and then in the next chapter told a similar audience to repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out. One man in the church at Samaria believed and was baptized and offered money to Peter and John so that he might have the power to perform miracles. Peter told him to repent therefore of this thy wickedness and pray the Lord if perhaps the thought of thy heart shall be forgiven thee. This man needed to pray for his evil thoughts. He not only had evil thoughts, but he was trying to get Peter and John to help him carry them out.

There are many preachers today in the New Testament Church who have some evil theological thoughts. They hear that most churches believe that salvation is a matter of simply asking Jesus to come into their hearts and presto they are saved. So these particular preachers say we need to re-think our beliefs. Then they go to the word of God to get help from the Apostles like Simon the Sorcerer. You can always find a loophole in the Bible like Balaam in the Old Testament that will give a reason to do what ever you want to do. To use a modern day phrase, it is easy to find a ONE LINER plan of salvation. How about this ONE LINER, “God be thou merciful unto me a sinner.” How about this ONE LINER, "Fear not only believe." Some are confident of salvation and use this very popular ONE LINER, "God is love."

John’s message was repent ye for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The kingdom of Heaven is the Church of Christ and it was established on the Day of Pentecost. Paul identifies the church in Colossians as people translated from darkness into the kingdom of the Son of His love. The church is not an earthly kingdom. The church originates from heaven. But, it must be remembered that there is a sense that it is yet to come. After the first missionary tour Paul and Barnabas told the new converts that with many tribulations they would enter into the Kingdom of God. In that sense the Kingdom is yet to appear. That day will come when Jesus comes. In view of the return of the Lord the need is just as great today as it was then, "Repent ye for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand."

John used a rock'em, shock'em, approach. He said, "Ye offspring of vipers." This was a very appropriate thing to call them when you consider that the Devil is the old serpent. He was calling them sons of the Devil even as Jesus would do later on when He said, "Ye are of your father, the Devil." Remember this term was not used on alien sinners. Both Jesus and John used scathing language on the hypocrites. A hypocrite is one who pretends to be something that he is not. The church needs that message today "Repent ye for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand."

Remember when John preached this message on repentance, Jesus said, "That is great preaching!" If your preacher preaches like John, he too will be regarded as a voice crying in the wilderness.


Another area where John had something to say was in the area of hell fire. Listen to him as he says, "His fan is in His hand and He will thoroughly cleanse His threshing floor. He will gather His wheat into the garner, but the chaff He will burn up with unquenchable fire." John stressed hell fire and Jesus said, "That is great preaching!" Will He not say the same if we warn men of hell?

Jesus said, "That hell was an unquenchable fire that burned where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched." One of the devices of the Devil is to convince people that we are too sophisticated to believe in hell. Hell is a polite curse word. Hell is a place where some people tell their friends to go. Hell is too lightly regarded by many. I heard one man tell another as he drove by one time, "Go to hell, will you?" The other replied to the driver as his car whizzed by, "Save room for me." One time on a television roast, a celebrity was told that he was going to hell. Everybody laughed. He was told that when he got there, they would put him on a spit and they would turn him around and around and roast him on all sides. Everybody laughed again. Then be was told that in hell there would not be even so much as one bottle of beer to cool him off. That really brought the house down. The day will come when it will not seem nearly as funny.

Many would agree with what one unbeliever said, "The preaching of hell puts the beak of a vulture on the dove of the Holy Spirit and the fangs of a snake in the mouth of the Lamb of God."  However it needs to be remembered that we still live in a First Century world. We eat First Century food. We drink First Century water. We worship a First Century Jesus. We belong to a First Century Church. I intend to go to a First Century Heaven. When I read in the First century Bible of a First Century hell, I don't know what to do with it, but remind people there it is.

            I do not enjoy preaching about hell any more than you enjoy hearing about it and neither did Jesus. He hated it so much that He was willing to die on a cross and suffer the torment of hell for us. He came to save us. If there is no hell, what is there to be saved from? John knew this and preached about hell. His question to the Pharisees and the Sadducees is a good question today. Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Put that question to any group of people today either in or out of the church. Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come and the answer comes through loud and clear. NOBODY! There is no wrath to come. God loves you there is no hell. And then John answered them, "Think not to say within yourselves we have Abraham to our Father." Think not to say within yourselves my name is on the roll book of the church and I’ve got it made. Think not to say within your selves I attend services most of the time and have earned the right to be saved.

           Jesus said that John was the greatest. If that is what Jesus called great preaching, we had better get with it. Rest assured, if your preacher preaches very many sermons on hell, he will be regarded in the same light of John. However, the preacher can take comfort in knowing that although he is a voice crying in the wilderness the Lord is saying of him, “THAT IS GREAT PREACHING!”


Another area where John, had much to say was in the area of BAPTISM. We are told that all Jerusalem and Judea went out to be baptized of John in the River Jordan. In John it is pointed out that John was baptizing at Aenon near to Salin because there was much water there. John moved his pulpit as close to the water as he could get it. He got so close that when the time came for people to make a decision they were close enough to get into the water without delay.

In a manner of speaking, many today get as far from the water as they possibly can. Many preachers believe that it is necessary for the remission of sins, but that belief does not play a prominent part in the proclamation of the Word. He keeps a low profile on the plan of salvation.

John told the Lord he was unworthy to baptize Jesus. That feeling of unworthiness should always be with us all. When Peter saw the great multitude of fishes he caught at the command of Jesus he fell down before him and said, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man.” When Jesus told a centurion He would come to his house the centurion said, “I am not worthy that Thou should come under my roof.” The gospel song says would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I? The word worm has been changed in some songbooks to read such a ONE as I. One woman told me once, “Sir, I am no worm. I am a son of God.” That may be, but we need to be humble enough to remember that the prediction of the death of Jesus on the cross in Psalms 22 has Jesus saying, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” And then this statement, “I am a WORM and no man” If Jesus considered Himself a worm when He died on the cross for me, who am I to strut around saying I am no worm even though by the grace of God I am a son of God.

A curious thing about the baptism of John is that Jesus was one of the people that he baptized. Why did Jesus do it? It is said that He did it to fulfill all righteousness. Another way to look at it is Jesus knew that everyone else was doing it. There are all kinds of sinners. Many different kinds had heard the message of John on repentance. The total must have been a staggering amount. Jesus was baptized because He wanted to be numbered with the transgressors. He has been numbered with the transgressors in other ways. He is numbered with the transgressors in death. He tasted of death once for every man. He is numbered with the transgressors in temptation. He was tempted in all point like as we are and yet without sin. Paul amplifies this when he tells us in Second Corinthians: “Him who knew no sin was made to be sin that we may be made the righteousness of God through Him.” At the beginning of His ministry He was numbered with the transgressors at His baptism and when He died on the cross we are told then are there crucified with Him two other malefactors, one on the right hand and another on the left and the scripture was fulfilled; “He was numbered with the transgressors.” Luke tells us Jesus was numbered with the transgressors on the cross so that we who obey His commands may be numbered with the saints in the Lamb’s book of life on the Day of Judgment.

When we come to Christ for salvation, believing in Him as the crucified Son of God, raised up from the dead and that He is able to save us from all sin; when we are buried with Him in that watery grave and contact His blood rising to walk in a newness of life, we can be assured that we will be numbered among those who are sinless on the Day of Judgment.

Remember the inspired writer tells us when Jesus was baptized He came up straightway out of the water and the heaven was opened unto Him and God said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” The heaven was opened unto Him. Is that not true for us today? At the moment that we believe, repent and are baptized the heaven is opened unto us.

This is only a sample of the preaching of John, but it gives us some idea of what kind of a preacher he was. Remember Jesus said of him, "There hath not arisen a greater than John." If your preacher preaches what John preached, he will share the same reputation and be a voice crying in the wilderness. But Jesus will say, "That is great preaching!"


One more thing about the preaching of John and that is that Jesus said, "He that is but least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he."

Any preacher today is a greater preacher than John if he is true to the Word of God. No matter how young, no matter how inexperienced, no matter how little in talent; if he preaches the Word, he is a greater preacher than John. He is a greater preacher than John, not because of talent, or practice or learning, but because he has a greater message. John could never tell anyone what Peter told them on the Day of Pentecost. John baptized no one into anyone's name. John knew nothing about the Second Coming. There was so much that John could never preach, but we can today. If we are faithful in the proclamation of that Word, Jesus will say of us even as He said of His forerunner, "THAT IS GREAT PREACHING!"

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is yet one more important thing to say about the preaching of John. He was the forerunner of Jesus. He went before Him to prepare the way. Jesus needed a forerunner. Today we are the forerunners of the Lord. Remember the parable Jesus told about the great supper? A certain man made a great supper and he bade many: And he sent forth his servant at suppertime to say to them that were bidden, "Come for all things are now ready." Jesus does not preach to the people Himself, but He sends us to go before Him and tell the people, “Repent ye for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It is our responsibility to prepare the way of the Lord and make His paths straight. It is our duty to proclaim the message; the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.

But then we also have a forerunner, remember what the word of God says about our forerunner in Hebrews five. Jesus ascended into heaven as a forerunner for us. Our forerunner has said He has gone to prepare a place for us. Think about it. Our forerunner has gone to heaven and we are soon to follow. When we think of our forerunner in heaven we know that He has announced to the inhabitants of glory that we are soon to follow.