Introduction: How would you like Jesus to say that there “is no one
greater” than you? Not likely, you say? Our study this week is about
someone for whom this is true. Jesus said about John the Baptist,
“among those born of women there is no one greater than John.” Let’
jump into our study of Matthew and see what lessons Matthew has for
us through John the Baptist!

  1. Repent

    1. Read Matthew 3:1-2. What did John mean when he said, “the
      kingdom of heaven is near?” (He could not have been
      talking about the end of time, otherwise he would be a
      false prophet. Given the context, he was talking about
      heaven coming to earth in the form of Jesus.)

      1. I can understand “repent” in the context of the end
        time judgment and the righteous going to heaven, but
        how does it make sense in the context of Jesus coming
        to earth?

    2. Read Matthew 3:3 and Isaiah 40:3-4. How many persons are
      referred to in Matthew 3:3 (not including Isaiah)? (John
      the Baptist, he is the “voice of one.” Jesus is “the
      Lord.” His listeners are those making the paths straight.)

      1. What light does this shed on the call to repent
        because Jesus is coming? (The best way to prepare for
        Jesus is to decide the time has come for change. The
        decision to do something different makes it easier
        for Jesus’ message to enter your heart (make the
        paths for Jesus straight and level).

    3. Read Matthew 3:4. Camel hair coats are desirable today. Is
      the message that John is a well-dressed guy who eats an
      organic diet? (Read 2 Kings 1:8 and Zechariah 13:4. These
      texts tell us that John was wearing the traditional garb
      for a prophet. Once again, we see Matthew adding to the
      bona fides of Jesus through John’s testimony.)

    4. Read Matthew 3:5-8. Why does John not call for the
      religious leaders to be baptized, but rather calls for
      them to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance?” (This
      is consistent with the idea we discussed earlier, that
      coming to Jesus involves a decision that you need to
      change. John calls them “vipers,” warns of an approaching
      wrath, and says you need to change.)

    5. Read Matthew 3:9-10. What does God expect of us? (He is
      not satisfied with our religious affiliation. He wants us
      to be productive Christians. These religious leaders
      cannot rest on their relationship to Abraham. They must
      understand that change is needed.)

      1. Does the reference to producing fruit mean that works
        are essential to salvation? (Let’s discuss that

  2. Baptism

    1. Re-read Matthew 3:6 and read Matthew 3:11. Notice that sin
      confession and baptism go together. Why is that?

    2. Read Colossians 2:11-12. What is the Christian equivalent
      of circumcision? (Baptism.)

    3. Read Colossians 2:13-15. When John speaks of repentance
      and baptism, what is his goal? I asked earlier, “why do
      confession and baptism go together?” (It is because they
      are the new circumcision, they are your acceptance of
      grace, your participation with Jesus in His death and

    4. Have you heard of products that are “ready” for the next
      level of technology: “cable-ready” or “digital ready,” to
      use old examples? When John said that he was baptizing to
      make the way easier for Jesus, I think he was talking
      about making the people ready for grace. What do you

    5. Have you heard Christians say that you must be sure that
      every sin is confessed so that you can be saved? Do you
      think that salvation turns on ferreting out every sin and
      confessing it? Does that strike you as a form of works –
      works that make it important to have a good memory?

      1. Would a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit make a good
        memory unnecessary?

    6. Look again at what John says to the religious leaders who
      he calls “vipers.” Re-read Matthew 3:7-10. John calls what
      must be bad people to “produce fruit in keeping with
      repentance.” That seems like a call for works, but given
      what we have just studied, what does it seem to mean now?
      (It sounds like an attitude recognizing the need for
      change and a willingness to accept grace. It is someone
      who is open to understanding that baptism is the way in
      which we die for our sins and rise to new life.)

    7. Let’s go back and re-read Colossians 2:11. What does it
      mean to put off the sinful nature? (Circumcision removed
      some skin. Thus, it was symbolic of putting off the sinful
      nature. Accepting grace should result in a changed nature.
      To better understand this, read Colossians 3.)

    8. Read Matthew 3:13-15. Is John right that Jesus should be
      baptizing him instead of the other way around?

      1. If so, why is it that Jesus has John baptize Him?
        Specifically, what does Jesus mean by “it is proper
        for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness?”
        (This is the bridge between the sanctuary service, in
        which the killing of an animal for the remission of
        sin pointed to Jesus, and the new system of remission
        of sin through baptism. In the sanctuary system an
        animal represented Jesus. In the system of grace,
        Jesus represents us. Recall that Colossians 2:11-12
        tells us that we die and are raised “with Him” when
        we are baptized? In this way Jesus’ words that what
        He is doing “is proper … to fulfill all
        righteousness” makes sense.)

    9. Read Matthew 3:16-17. Why do you think Matthew includes
      this event in his story? (The entire Godhead is together,
      Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God the Father. Have any doubt
      about the divinity of Jesus? Both God the Father and the
      Holy Spirit endorse Him and what He is doing!)

  3. The Temptation

    1. Skim Matthew 4:1-7 and read Matthew 4:3 and Matthew 4:6.
      On what point does Satan challenge Jesus? (Satan
      challenges whether Jesus is the “Son of God.”)

    2. Re-read Matthew 3:17. What does this teach us about our
      God and our temptations? (God the Father specifically
      strengthens Jesus on the very point on which Satan

      1. If you are willing, do you think God will do any less
        for you?

    3. Read Matthew 4:8-10. Why didn’t Satan tempt Jesus to
      steal, curse, slander or covet? (Because those are not the
      central issue in the life of a Christian. The central
      issue is whether you trust God. The history of the Jewish
      people was trusting idols or other nations and not
      trusting God. That centrality of that issue has not
      changed today.)

  4. Ministry

    1. Read Matthew 4:12 and Matthew 4:17. Jesus has taken over
      the message of John the Baptist. Why did God allow John’s
      message to be cut short? Didn’t John still have productive
      work to do? (This is the point we just discussed. The
      central issue in our life is whether we will trust God.)

    2. Read Matthew 4:18-22. Instead of choosing new disciples,
      why not rescue John – since there was no one better than
      him and he was an experienced preacher? (Logic says to use
      John. But, the life of faith says that we will accept
      God’s decisions in our life.)

      1. Notice that Jesus calls specific people. What does
        that mean to you?

    3. Read Matthew 4:23-25. How can you duplicate Jesus’ method
      of evangelism? Or, is that not possible? (Re-read Matthew
      3:5. John the Baptist did not need to perform miracles to
      attract people to him. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to
      show us what we should do to bring people into our life to
      share the message.)

      1. Why didn’t John perform miracles? (Once again, this
        has to do with the sovereignty of God. We need to be
        grateful for the opportunities that we are given to
        advance the gospel. Not everyone advances the gospel
        in the same way.)

    4. Friend, do you need change in your life? Are you willing
      to trust God’s direction for your life? Why not repent
      right now and open your heart to the changes God wants in
      your life?

  5. Next week: The Sermon on the Mount.