The New Life Mission

Sermons

Subject 22 : The Gospel According to LUKE

[Chapter 3] (Luke 3:1-17) Acknowledge Yourself As a Sinner, Then…

(Luke 3:1-17)
“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying:
‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make His paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough ways smooth;
And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’’
Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’’ So the people asked him, saying, ‘What shall we do then?’ He answered and said to them, ‘He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.’ Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than what is appointed for you.’ Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, ‘And what shall we do?’ So he said to them, ‘Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.’ Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, saying to all, ‘I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.’”
 
 
Our Salvation Was Being Fulfilled through Jesus Christ in the World History
 
Today I would like to share with you the Scripture passage from verse 1 through 17 in Luke’s Gospel chapter 3. According to the passage, the history of Jesus Christ was unfolding with the world history. The history of Jesus Christ did not originate from ancient myth or anything like that. It started in the Word of God and His prophecies with clear historical background. The evidence for this is what Luke, one of the Jesus’ disciples, wrote in Luke 3:1-2 as, “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.” Here, Luke is recording the work of God in detail in a chronological form. It is written that the Word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias in the wilderness, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests.
The story of Jesus Christ, including His birth, did not spread by word of mouth like legends. The history of Jesus Christ was based on actual history and His work began in history. Jesus came to the world to do His work while Pontius Pilate was governing Judea and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee.
Therefore, we shouldn’t treat the Word of God as a folk tale or just a religious myth. Myth was written to glorify any country or family. The ancestor of the Parks in Korea is said to have hatched out of a large egg, which is a myth. There are many other similar myths to this. These are all for them to mystify their ancestors and to praise themselves.
 
 
Jesus Christ Is the One Who Existed in the History of the World
 
When we look at the history of Judea around the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, she was a colony of Rome. Israel was under the colonial rule of the Roman Empire. God put Caesar Tiberius as a Roman Emperor and Pilate as the governor of Judea when Jesus Christ and John the Baptist were fulfilling the ministry of human salvation. At that time, John the Baptist was already working, and Jesus Christ was about to save people from the sins of the world. Our Lord actually came to this earth, and He was about to work as He determined to save people from sins through the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
The writer of Ben Hur wanted to challenge the admiration of people all over the world for Jesus Christ and prove that Jesus was a fictitious figure who originated from groundless Jewish myths. He challenged to save people in the world from such fiction. After he traveled with archeologists and invested his own money to do some research on the time period when Jesus Christ was alive, he found so many evidences of historical Jesus and finally knelt down before God acknowledging that Jesus is alive and He is the Savior to all human beings. He started out his research to disprove the Bible as a groundless story, but he ended up kneeling before Jesus and confessing his faith in Him.
As such, the Bible is the Book of Truth recording the history of Jesus within world history. The Bible is telling us that Jesus Christ is the Savior, who came into the history of human races. That is why Luke 3:2 says, “While Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.” Zacharias is a descendent of the High Priest Aaron. That the word of God came to John the Baptist means he reached the age that he could carry out the duties of the High Priest on earth. That is why John, the son of Zacharias, went into the entire region around the Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
 
 
What Does Luke Say about John the Baptist?
 
Luke introduces John the Baptist by quoting from the Book of Isaiah, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make His paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough ways smooth;
And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
Luke 3:4-6 says John the Baptist went into the entire region around the Jordan and preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. “Repent, the brood of vipers!” he cried out the baptism of repentance like this. Repentance is turning from the wrong ways. “You are going in the wrong way. You walked away from God serving the idols and drifting farther and farther away from God. If you keep walking in the wrong way and do not turn around, you will surely perish. Turn away from the path. Turn back to God’s path.” His message was something like this.
The Prophet Isaiah said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make His paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled
And every mountain and hill brought low.’”
What was he talking about? He was prophesying the coming of the Christ. In other words, John the Baptist told the Israelites to repent and to be washed from their sins by quoting the prophecy of Isaiah. Through the baptism of repentance by John the Baptist and the gospel of the water and the Spirit, all human races were meant to turn away from evil and be washed from sins. From now on whoever believes in the gospel of the water and the Spirit receives the salvation from sins and becomes God’s people.
All people were born from Adam and lived based on their instinct that only gives birth to sin. However, there have been different classes in the world. India, for example, has class system. Not to mention India, Confucianism was dominant in Korea in the past. According the Confucianism, man is the sky and woman is the ground. High-class people were treated with respect, but people in the lower class were neglected.
Jesus Christ, however, turned everything around. He came to wash away all the sins of the human race, and everybody can turn away from the wrong paths and receive salvation by believing Jesus Christ as their Savior. Whoever receives the remission of sins equally become the people of God. This is the truth that the Bible tells us here. “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6). Before Jesus Christ came to the earth, the lowly were always lowly and the lofty were always lofty. But, everybody can equally be saved when he or she believes the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
 
 
Christianity Abolished the Confucianistic Notion of Man Being Sky and Woman Being Ground
 
However, there are still some people who have such notions. Is that true? Aren’t women human beings? They are same humans. They are more detail-oriented. Women seem weaker outwardly, but in reality their motherly instinct makes them stronger than men. Most men die when they starve for ten days. Women can go without food for ten days and some can survive without food for forty days. Some Christians drink only water and survive forty days of fasting, which is impossible from the scientific aspect. People die after starving for forty days.
Anyway, such a mislead ideology or class system were removed when the Lord came. In other words, the coming of the Lord made them collapse. That is how everyone and all flesh will see the salvation of God. Brothers and sisters, before the Lord came to this earth, John the Baptist was born. John the Baptist came ahead of Jesus Christ and preached the baptism of repentance and baptized Jesus as the Old Testament prophesied.
The proof of their repentance was to come to be baptized by John the Baptist. Then what does John’s baptism of Jesus mean? It was to pass over the sins of the world onto the body of Jesus once and for all. On the other hand, people were baptized as a profession of their spiritual vows that they had turned away from their wrong paths and come back to God. Therefore, according to Luke 3:7-9, John the Baptist shouted to people, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Would you feel okay if I called you ‘brood of vipers’? What we preach is so mild compared to John’s message. He talked about what is more fundamental. We are fundamentally “a brood of vipers!” Among all poisonous snakes, vipers are the most deadly. “Brood of vipers! Children of Satan! Repent!” He pointed out the most fundamental problem by saying so.
As a matter of fact, those who are not born again, are ruled by the evil spirits. Consequently, they are spiritually no different from vipers. So we should watch out for them. They appear as human but the inside of their hearts is the slave to evil. He said to Jews, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’” They had to repent and turn around not to be subject to the curse. They had to come to God.
John the Baptist cried out, “Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees, and therefore, do not just say you would come back to God, but bear the fruit suitable for the repentance. Leave what is wrong and return to God.” He is telling them to abandon their idols, stop suppressing others, stop being bossy, stop stealing, turn away from all evil and come to God. Swearing to turn away and showing remorse only verbally cannot be true repentance. It doesn’t make any sense. When John the Baptist said, “Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire,” the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” (Luke 3: 9-10)
Let’s look at verses from 10 through 14 in Luke 3. “So the people asked him, saying, ‘What shall we do then?’ He answered and said to them, ‘He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.’ Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than what is appointed for you.’ Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, ‘And what shall we do?’ So he said to them, ‘Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages’” (Luke 3:10-14).
Brothers and sisters, whoever wants to return to God should give up his or her evil practices. “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” Those who claim they believe in God, but still do evil things such as suppressing others and killing people, are not genuine believers of God.
When people become born-again, they may still be hysterical, but they are no longer able to do evil since they lost the ‘venom’ that used to be in their hearts. They just have momentary emotional surges. What the Lord said is all correct. He didn’t just talk about these things; He also let us leave what was wrong in our hearts and come back to God. So whoever comes back to the Lord has to share their clothes with those who have none. Do you practice this? We should do the same thing with food.
“Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than what is appointed for you.’” He was saying they shouldn’t overcharge people and put the extra money into their pockets. “Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, ‘And what shall we do?’ So he said to them, ‘Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.’” Soldiers used to take people’s possessions any time they wanted to. John the Baptist told them to be content with their wages and not to intimidate people.
Brothers and sisters, John the Baptist is so great. There were no such prophets in the history of Israel as powerful as him. People started to think he might be the Messiah whom the Old Testament was talking about.
Most of God’s servants delivered messages from God, but John the Baptist was scolding people, “Repent, brood of vipers!” as soon as he started his ministry. Anyway, John the Baptist preached the baptism of repentance to people saying, “Brood of vipers, repent and come back to God.” This made people think that he was the Messiah. Luke 3:15 says, “Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not.” “There was no prophet like him in the past. He must be the Messiah.” As people whispered to each other, John the Baptist heard them.
So he answers them in Luke 3:16-17. “John answered, saying to all, ‘I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”
He said, “I am baptizing you with water, and this baptism is for you to repent and come back to God from serving gentile idols and walking in the wrong paths. But a Person mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”
 
 
John the Baptist Witnesses Jesus
 
John the Baptist declared, “I am not worthy of even tying and loosing His shoelaces. I am such an incapable man, but a Man with greater ability is coming; He is so able that He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Baptism has the meaning of ‘washing’ and it is said that Jesus Christ will wash us with the Holy Spirit and fire. Here “baptizing you with the Holy Spirit” refers to the event that happens in the hearts of believers when they believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit and receive the remission of sins. God gives the Holy Spirit as a gift and puts a seal on the hearts of those whose sins were removed by sincerely believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. In other words, those who believe that the Lord washed their sins clean with the gospel of the water and the Spirit receive the Holy Spirit as a gift. That is why we may not feel with our senses even though the Holy Spirit has come into our hearts.
But the Holy Spirit in our hearts makes us become God’s people. So those of us who believe in the righteousness of God are called Christians. God gives the Holy Spirit to people who belong to Christ, and He gives fire to those who do not. Fire refers to the judgment. Our Lord loved the world so much that He came to this earth, took our sins to make us sinless, died on the Cross and rose again from the dead. However, those who do not believe this He will baptize with fire. That is why it is said Jesus will baptize people with the Holy Spirit and fire. For those who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit He will adopt them as God’s children and bless them, but those who do not believe He will punish with fire. This is what ‘baptizing with the Holy Spirit and fire’ means. Those who receive the Holy Spirit believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit and they are happy people. On the other hand, those who receive fire from God are cursed people.
Luke 3:17 says, “His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” When all people were under the judgment because of sins, Jesus Christ came to this earth, was baptized by John the Baptist, died on the Cross and rose again from the dead to save us all once and for all. Jesus Christ gives the Holy Spirit, eternal life and all other blessings to those who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit; He punishes with the fire of hell those who do not believe.
“His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor.” In the past people used to put the grain in a stone mortar before threshing with a flail, and winnowed up and down; then the wheat stayed and the chaff fell out of the winnow. The Lord will gather the wheat into His barn and burn the chaff with unquenchable fire. The Lord is the Judge of all sinners. The Lord is the Savior who saved us all from the sin of the world, the Creator who made us, the loving God who always loves us, and the Shepherd who will always lead us with love. But to those who make God a liar, consider Him evil and disbelieve God, He will punish them as the Judge. The Man whom John the Baptist introduced as mightier than him was Jesus Christ. He is the Judge who will save all believers and make every believer equal; but He will punish unbelievers with fire. Therefore, believing in Jesus Christ is not a matter of choice. Everybody must believe in Jesus Christ.
 
 
Who Is Jesus Christ?
 
Jesus Christ is the Creator, who made the whole universe. Creation is to make something out of nothing. Jesus Christ is the Creator of the universe. He is the Creator of man. When people left God because of their sins and weaknesses, Jesus the Creator came down with human flesh through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. God clothed Himself with a human body and came down to earth to save us. He has saved us by taking away all our sins at once through the baptism He received from John the Baptist, dying on the Cross, and being resurrected from death. The Lord saved us in such a complete and well-thought-out way, and He commanded us to preach the gospel.
That is why John the Baptist cried out to people, “Brood of vipers, repent! Repent and turn to God. Stop the evil practices and come back to God.” Receiving the remission of sins is impossible for those who pretend to believe the righteousness of Jesus and take advantage of others with lies. They cannot receive the washing of their sins because they do not admit their wickedness. Those who do not acknowledge their sinfulness and imminent judgment of God for their sins cannot receive the remission of sins because they are not even aware of their sins. Even though the Lord cleansed all our sins with the gospel of the water and the Spirit, they still go to hell because they don’t admit their sins. They are going to hell because of their arrogance not to admit their sins and God’s Law. There are some people who obstinately do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior even though they know Jesus Christ, who came by the water and the Spirit. They believe in Jesus, but the salvation doesn’t take root in their hearts. Why is that? It is because they are not ready yet. They are supposed to admit that they are going to hell because they do not acknowledge their sins or believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, but they don’t.
God gave everyone a conscience and the conscience convicts each and every one before God. It is like saying, “You are damned to hell.” Even if we are not fully aware of God’s Law or the Word of Truth, our conscience knows that we are destined to go to hell. But there are people who do not have an ounce of conscience. How could they receive the remission of sins if they don’t admit their sins while they are claiming they believe in the righteousness of God? They don’t think they are sinners. That is why so many people believe in Jesus as their Savior and hear the gospel of the water and the Spirit, but cannot receive the remission of sins because they think they are not sinners.
Brothers and sisters, here is the difference between those who have received the remission of sins and those who haven’t. Hearing the same gospel message of the water and the Spirit at the same time, some people believe in the gospel and receive the remission of sins. Others are not ready in their hearts and cannot receive the remission of sins. John the Baptist said, “Brood of vipers, repent!” but some of us do not know if they are brood of vipers, for they do not believe God’s Word. But they should know that they are the very brood of vipers John the Baptist talked about.
The descendants of Adam and Eve are born sinners because their common ancestors Adam and Eve had committed sin against God. The Bible says that all men became sinners through one man’s sin (Romans 5:18). Everybody is born with twelve different sins and keeps committing hideous sins for the rest of their lives. We should admit this. We are the beings who cannot but commit so many sins. We commit sins throughout our lives.
Therefore we should know that we go to hell because of the sins of our ancestors as well as because of our own sins. We should acknowledge this fact. We should admit that we as well as our ancestors would go to hell. Is it right or not? That’s absolutely correct. Those who have an upright heart before God admit that they are sinners and try hard to meet with the Lord. They get to receive the remission of sins and the Holy Spirit by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
Brothers and sisters, I want you to believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. But there still are so many people who say, “I am not going to hell. What sins do I have that deserve that? I am not the kind of person who goes to hell.” Those who say such things would still go to hell even if they met Jesus, or someone could bring Jesus right in front of them. Why would that be? It is because they do not admit their sins and they think they are sinless even though they have sins intact in their hearts. Because of this they cannot receive the remission of sins even when they believe in Jesus as their Savior and the gospel of the water and the Spirit. How can they be saved if they claim that they do not have sins before the Lord and that they would not go to hell? Do you agree with me? How can we save someone from drowning if he is not even in the water yet? How can anybody drag him out of the water? Do you think he needs a savior? No, he doesn’t.
That is why we need to know our sins before God and admit first that we are going to hell because of our sins. Evangelist Byungki Ahn once told me that before he was born again, he used to pray in the taxi not to die from a car accident since he would go to hell because of his sins if he died then. That is the right attitude of heart to have.
Before I received the remission of sins, I also used to think that I would go to hell when I die. I wasn’t too bad compared with other people who were in a similar situation. But I knew that I would go to hell because of my sins then. I admitted it before God. I went to church for the first time to ask God to forgive my sins because I knew I would go to hell. I was dying of tuberculosis, so I had to solve my problem of sin before God since I might die anytime soon. At that time I didn’t know much about Jesus. I only knew that He died on the Cross on behalf of sinners. Even though I didn’t know how to pray, I said this prayer in the church sanctuary: “Jesus, I heard that You will remove sins if I believe in You. I believe in You now. I am bound to die and I believe in You before my death. Please remove all the sins in my heart. I am not asking for a glorious life in Heaven after my death, but just remove my sins, please.”
That is how I put my first foot in the church building. Since then I gradually learned more about God’s Word and His Law, and became a real sinner. Ten years later, I came to understand the gospel Truth of the water and the Spirit and received the remission of sins by believing in the genuine gospel.
The Lord is God who gives the Holy Spirit to those who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. But at the same time, He is God who punishes those who do not believe in Him. Because of this reason, in Luke 3:1-17, Luke is writing about who the Lord is, who the John the Baptist is, and how we should believe in the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, we should abandon evils, but it’s not easy. Even so, we should have at least the repentant heart that understands and admits what is wrong. We have to have the heart that knows that we are doing something wrong and the heart that is willing to come back to God. If we have any abusive minds towards anybody, we should repent of that. Do you follow me? We should believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, for He took away all our sins through His baptism and His death on the Cross. That is the only way we can receive the Holy Spirit. That is the way to become God’s children. We will receive everlasting life. We will gain eternal life and enjoy everlasting blessings.
 
 
That Is Why We Need to Teach People about Their Sins Before We Preach the Gospel of the Water and the Spirit
 
We also need to teach people that the wages of sin is death. The ‘wage’ here is something you get for what you did. If you worked as a hired hand for a day, you will receive the amount of money that is worth your work. ‘The wages of sin is death’ means, therefore, people with sins face spiritual death and judgment of fire. We should know this and we should acknowledge it. God said so. God said that the wages of sin is death and the law brings wrath (Romans 4:15, 6:23).
However, He also said, “The free gift of God is the eternal life.” You may know the passage from John 3:16 that goes, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Brothers and sisters, we should trust God’s love and know it. We had no way to go but to hell, but the Lord had compassion on us and loved us. Because we were about to suffer the eternal curse, God took pity on us, loved us and saved us from the condemnation and sins.
The Lord Himself came down to this earth for those who were damned to live under the eternal curse: He was baptized to take over our sins; He was punished and crucified for us; and He rose again from the dead. He took all the pain we were supposed to get and paid the price in our stead to save us. The Lord is telling us this. You and I should believe in this. The coming of the Lord to this earth, the baptism of repentance by John the Baptist, and the Lord’s salvation through the gospel of the water and the Spirit are all for you and me. Those are for all men and for every single one of us.
Brothers and sisters, please repeat after me. “The Lord has come for me. He came down to this earth to save us, from sins and punishment. I was bound to go to hell. But the Lord has saved me.”
“I was about to go to hell but the Lord has saved me with the gospel of the water and the Spirit. I believe. I do believe that the Lord loves me. Thank You, Lord.” Why are we doing this as if we were in an elementary school? The reason we are doing this is because we need to remind ourselves of this in our hearts by faith. From a spiritual aspect, we might be as little as first graders. Or we may be kindergarteners or even toddlers in the spiritual world.
The Lord has saved us with the water and the blood, and He is the one who baptizes all human races with the Holy Spirit and fire. He is God who baptizes believers with the Holy Spirit and non-believers with fire. I thank God for doing so.