But he that cometh after me - Or, I coming after me, who is now on his way, and will shortly make his appearance. Jesus Christ began his ministry when he was thirty years of age, Luke 3:23, which was the age appointed by the law, Numbers 4:3. John the Baptist was born about six months before Christ; and, as he began his public ministry when thirty years of age, then this coming after refers to six months after the commencement of John's public preaching, at which time Christ entered upon his.
Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear - This saying is expressive of the most profound humility and reverence. To put on, take off, and carry the shoes of their masters, was, not only among the Jews, but also among the Greeks and Romans, the work of the vilest slaves. This is amply proved by Kypke, from Arrian, Plutarch, and the Babylonian Talmud.
With the Holy Ghost, and with fire - That the influences of the Spirit of God are here designed, needs but little proof. Christ's religion was to be a spiritual religion, and was to have its seat in the heart. Outward precepts, however well they might describe, could not produce inward spirituality. This was the province of the Spirit of God, and of it alone; therefore he is represented here under the similitude of fire, because he was to illuminate and invigorate the soul, penetrate every part, and assimilate the whole to the image of the God of glory. See on John 3:5; (note).
With fire - Και πυρι . This is wanting in E. S. (two MSS. one of the ninth, the other of the tenth century) eight others, and many Evangelistaria, and in some versions and printed editions; but it is found in the parallel place, Luke 3:16, and in the most authentic MSS. and versions. It was probably the different interpretations given of it by the fathers that caused some transcribers to leave it out of their copies.
The baptism of fire has been differently understood among the primitive fathers. Some say, it means the tribulations, crosses, and afflictions, which believers in Christ are called to pass through. Hence the author of the Opus Imperfectum, on Matthew, says, that there are three sorts of baptism,
He observes farther, that our blessed Lord went through these three baptisms:
St. Chrysostom says; it means the superabundant graces of the Spirit. Basil and Theophilus explain it of the fire of hell. Cyril, Jerome, and others, understand by it the descent of the Holy Spirit, on the day of pentecost.
Hilary says, it means a fire that the righteous must pass through in the day of judgment, to purify them from such defilements as necessarily cleaved to them here, and with which they could not be admitted into glory.
Ambrose says, this baptism shall be administered at the gate of paradise, by John Baptist; and he thinks that this is what is meant by the flaming sword, Genesis 3:24.
Origen and Lactantius conceive it to be a river of fire, at the gate of heaven, something similar to the Phlegethon of the heathens; but they observe, that when the righteous come to pass over, the liquid flames shall divide, and give them a free passage: that Christ shall stand on the brink of it, and receive through the flames all those, and none but those, who have received in this world the baptism of water in his name: and that this baptism is for those who, having received the faith of Christ, have not, in every respect, lived conformably to it; for, though they laid the good foundation, yet they built hay, straw, and stubble upon it, and this work of theirs must be tried, and destroyed by this fire. This, they think, is St. Paul's meaning, 1 Corinthians 3:13-15. If any man build on this foundation (viz. Jesus Christ) gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. - If any man's work be burnt, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as By Fire. From this fire, understood in this way, the fathers of the following ages, and the schoolmen, formed the famous and lucrative doctrine of Purgatory. Some in the primitive Church thought that fire should be, in some way or other, joined to the water in baptism; and it is supposed that they administered it by causing the person to pass between two fires, or to leap through the flame; or by having a torch, or lighted candle, present. Thus have those called Doctors of the Church trifled. The exposition which I have given, I believe to be the only genuine one.
Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear - The word translated here as “shoes” has a signification different from what it has in our language. At first, in order to keep the feet from the sharp stones or the burning sand, small pieces of wood were fastened to the soles of the feet, called “sandals.” Leather, or skins of beasts dressed, afterward were used. The foot was not covered at all, but the sandal, or piece of leather or wood, was bound by thongs. The people put off these when they enter a house, and put them on when they leave it. To unloose and bind on sandals, on such occasions, was formerly the business of the lowest servants. The expression in this place, therefore, denotes great humility, and John says that he was nor worthy to be the servant of him who should come after him.
Shall baptize you - Shall send upon you the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is frequently represented as being poured out upon his people, Proverbs 1:23; Isaiah 44:3; Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-18. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the same, therefore, as the sending of his influences to convert, purify, and guide the soul.
The Holy Ghost - The third person of the adorable Trinity, whose office it is to enlighten, renew, sanctify, and comfort the soul He was promised by the Saviour to convince of sin, John 16:8; to enlighten or teach the disciples, John 14:26; John 16:13; to comfort them in the absence of the Savior, John 14:18; John 16:7; to change the heart. Titus 3:5. To be baptized with the Holy Spirit means that the Messiah would send upon the world a far more powerful and mighty influence than had attended the preaching of John. Many more would be converted. A mighty change would take place. His ministry would not affect the external life only, but the heart. the motives, the soul; and would produce rapid and permanent changes in the lives of people. See Acts 2:17-18.
With fire - This expression has been variously understood. Some have supposed that John refers to the afflictions and persecutions with which men would be tried under the Gospel; others, that the word “fire” means judgment or wrath. According to this latter interpretation, the meaning is that he would baptize a portion of mankind - those who were willing to be his followers - with the Holy Spirit, but the rest of mankind - the wicked - with fire; that is, with judgment and wrath. Fire is a symbol of vengeance. See Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 61:2; Isaiah 66:24. If this is the meaning, as seems to be probable, then John says that the ministry of the Messiah would be far more powerful than his was. It would be more searching and testing; and they who were not suited to abide the test would be cast into eternal fire. Others have supposed, however, that by fire, here, John intends to express the idea that the preaching of the Messiah would be refining, powerful, purifying, as fire is sometimes an emblem of purity, Malachi 3:2. It is difficult to ascertain the precise meaning further than that his ministry would be very trying, purifying, searching. Multitudes would be converted; and those who were not true penitents would not be able to abide the trial, and would be driven away.
The light of the glory of God must fall upon us. We need the holy unction from on high. However intelligent, however learned a man may be, he is not qualified to teach unless he has a firm hold on the God of Israel. He who is connected with Heaven will do the works of Christ. By faith in God he will have power to move upon humanity. He will seek for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. If divine power does not combine with human effort, I would not give a straw for all that the greatest man could do. The Holy Spirit is wanting in our work. Nothing frightens me more than to see the spirit of variance manifested by our brethren. We are on dangerous ground when we cannot meet together like Christians, and courteously examine controverted points. I feel like fleeing from the place lest I receive the mold of those who cannot candidly investigate the doctrines of the Bible. 1SM 411.1
Those who cannot impartially examine the evidences of a position that differs from theirs, are not fit to teach in any department of God's cause. What we need is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Without this, we are no more fitted to go forth to the world than were the disciples after the crucifixion of their Lord. Jesus knew their destitution, and told them to tarry in Jerusalem until they should be endowed with power from on high. Every teacher must be a learner, that his eyes may be anointed to see the evidences of the advancing truth of God. The beams of the Sun of Righteousness must shine into his own heart if he would impart light to others. 1SM 411.2
No one is able to explain the Scriptures without the aid of the Holy Spirit. But when you take up the Word of God with a humble, teachable heart, the angels of God will be by your side to impress you with evidences of the truth. When the Spirit of God rests upon you, there will be no feeling of envy or jealousy in examining another's position; there will be no spirit of accusation and criticism, such as Satan inspired in the hearts of the Jewish leaders against Christ. As Christ said to Nicodemus, so I say to you, “Ye must be born again.” “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:7, 3). You must have the divine mold before you can discern the sacred claims of the truth. Unless the teacher is a learner in the school of Christ, he is not fitted to teach others. 1SM 411.3Read in context »
“And now also,” said the prophet, “the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” Not by its name, but by its fruit, is the value of a tree determined. If the fruit is worthless, the name cannot save the tree from destruction. John declared to the Jews that their standing before God was to be decided by their character and life. Profession was worthless. If their life and character were not in harmony with God's law, they were not His people. DA 107.1
Under his heart-searching words, his hearers were convicted. They came to him with the inquiry, “What shall we do then?” He answered, “He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.” And he warned the publicans against injustice, and the soldiers against violence. DA 107.2
All who became the subjects of Christ's kingdom, he said, would give evidence of faith and repentance. Kindness, honesty, and fidelity would be seen in their lives. They would minister to the needy, and bring their offerings to God. They would shield the defenseless, and give an example of virtue and compassion. So the followers of Christ will give evidence of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. In the daily life, justice, mercy, and the love of God will be seen. Otherwise they are like the chaff that is given to the fire. DA 107.3Read in context »
God does not send messengers to flatter the sinner. He delivers no message of peace to lull the unsanctified into fatal security. He lays heavy burdens upon the conscience of the wrongdoer, and pierces the soul with arrows of conviction. The ministering angels present to him the fearful judgments of God to deepen the sense of need, and prompt the cry, “What must I do to be saved?” Then the hand that has humbled in the dust, lifts up the penitent. The voice that has rebuked sin, and put to shame pride and ambition, inquires with tenderest sympathy, “What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” DA 104.1
When the ministry of John began, the nation was in a state of excitement and discontent verging on revolution. At the removal of Archelaus, Judea had been brought directly under the control of Rome. The tyranny and extortion of the Roman governors, and their determined efforts to introduce the heathen symbols and customs, kindled revolt, which had been quenched in the blood of thousands of the bravest of Israel. All this intensified the national hatred against Rome, and increased the longing to be freed from her power. DA 104.2
Amid discord and strife, a voice was heard from the wilderness, a voice startling and stern, yet full of hope: “Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” With a new, strange power it moved the people. Prophets had foretold the coming of Christ as an event far in the future; but here was an announcement that it was at hand. John's singular appearance carried the minds of his hearers back to the ancient seers. In his manner and dress he resembled the prophet Elijah. With the spirit and power of Elijah he denounced the national corruption, and rebuked the prevailing sins. His words were plain, pointed, and convincing. Many believed him to be one of the prophets risen from the dead. The whole nation was stirred. Multitudes flocked to the wilderness. DA 104.3Read in context »
“By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; ...for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” [Hebrews 11:5.] GW 54.1
To such communion God is calling us. As was Enoch's, so must be their holiness of character who shall be redeemed from among men at the Lord's second coming. GW 54.2Read in context »