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Matthew 3:11

The Power of the Master

11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:


My great grandmother used to tell me that children are to be seen and not heard. That was the old way of thinking and not necessarily bad. Children certainly had a lot more respect for their elders in her day than they do today.

Servants must also show a great deal of respect for their masters. A good servant knows how to be as inconspicuous as possible. They serve refreshments to guests in the master's home without stepping between the master and guest, without interrupting the conversation, and without attracting any attention to themselves.

A good modern example of servant behavior is to be seen in political campaigns. There are thousands of people working to make their candidate as well known as possible. These people have almost complete access to the various news media, yet, how many of those servants can we name? Most of them will never be heard of by the general public, because they try to focus attention away from themselves and toward their candidate.

John the Baptist was faced with the task of focusing his audience's attention on his Master who was an unknown at the time. His words were not only directed at the Sadducees and Pharisees, but at everyone who came, and they outlined two important differences between John and Jesus.

First, John said that his baptism was only an outward sign that the person had repented of his sins. Modern Christians might take this for granted, but in those days most believed that baptism would cleanse you of your sins, at least temporarily. The word "repentance", however, had nothing to do with cleansing. It meant that one would change their way of thinking and subsequently their actions. Water baptism is no remedy nor guarantee for anything.

On the other hand, Jesus would come with a baptism that worked on the inner man and was a guarantee of eternal life. He would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote that the Holy Spirit was given to us as the "earnest of our inheritance". An "earnest" is what is paid as a deposit or down payment to guarantee the purchase of something. Thus, Jesus would baptize with the power and authority to guarantee eternal life for those who believed in Him.

He would also baptize with fire. This is understood to belong to the baptism of the Holy Spirit and not separate from it. Matthew Henry explained this better than anyone. "They who are baptized with the Holy Ghost are baptized as with fire; the seven spirits of God appear as seven lamps of fire, Rev. 4:5. Is fire enlightening? So the Spirit is a Spirit of illumination. Is it warming? And do not their hearts burn within them? Is it consuming? And does not the Spirit of judgment, as a Spirit of burning, consume the dross of their corruptions? Does fire make all it seizes like itself? And does it move upwards? So does the Spirit make the soul holy like itself, and its tendency is heaven-ward. Christ says I am come to send fire, Lu. 12:49."

Secondly, John draws a comparison between his own worth and that of Jesus. The lowliest of servants unlatched, removed and carried the master's shoes. John confessed publicly that he was unworthy of even this most menial task in his service to Jesus. John had authority to immerse the people in a ceremonial outward show of faith, but Jesus had authority to completely change lives, to guarantee eternal life, even to baptize with the Holy Spirit, who is God Himself.

As I go into my prayer time today, I cannot imagine that I would be worthy to carry even John the Baptist's shoes. He was such an humble man and, according to Jesus, the greatest of the prophets. I am such a prideful and unworthy servant of my Christ, yet He has given me the "earnest of my inheritance." He has showered me with His grace and begun a fire within my heart that no man can quench.

What about you? Let's go to prayer today with humble thanksgiving and a joyful heart, for Jesus has guaranteed us eternal life.

Before The Throne:

Give thanks for the salvation that you have experienced through Jesus. Humble yourself before Him and confess your sins and your weaknesses. With a servant's attitude ask Him for your orders. When, where and how does He want you to serve? Ask Him to prepare your heart to serve Him without regard for your own wants or needs. Thank Him for the privilege of serving Him.

For Further Study:

(v.11)
** baptize. Mark 1:4, 8; Luke 3:3, 16; John 1:26, 33; Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16; Acts 13:24; Acts 19:4; ** but. Luke 1:17; John 1:15, 26-27, 30, 34; John 3:23-36; ** whose. Mark 1:7; Luke 7:6-7; Acts 13:25; Eph 3:8; 1Pet 5:5; ** he shall. Isa 4:4; Isa 44:3; Isa 59:20-21; Zech 13:9; Mal 3:2-4; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; Acts 2:2-4; Acts 11:15-16; 1Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27-28;

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