This Sunday's Gospel reading is Matthew 3:1-12 and contains the story of John the Baptist and his encounter with the Pharisees and Sadducees,
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” ’
Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
John judges the Pharisees and Sadducees as perhaps not ready for his baptism and warns them that if they do not bear the fruit one expects from a truly repentant heart, then they will face the punishment from God, a trip to the unquenchable fires of Hell.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’
Scary stuff for them, but shouldn't we also take heed of John's warning?
Matthew Henry in his Commentary brought things into the present when he studied these same verses,
(1.) There is a wrath to come; besides present wrath, the vials of which are poured out now, there is future wrath, the stores of which are treasured up for hereafter.
(2.) It is the great concern of every one of us to flee from this wrath.
(3.) It is wonderful mercy that we are fairly warned to flee from this wrath; think—Who has warned us? God has warned us, who delights not in our ruin; he warns by the written word, by ministers, by conscience.
(4.) These warnings sometime startle those who seemed to have been very much hardened in their security and good opinion of themselves.Al Mohler in a commencement address this past Friday warned the newest ministers of today to take heed as well,
"Ministers of Christ: Never settle for the comfortable but false existence of the religious professional. Preach the Word, proclaim the Gospel, herald the truth that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Be humble, take courage, be not afraid. You go with the prayers and the hopes of this faculty who have taught you, this congregation who has loved you, and Christians far beyond this place.Remember this: His winnowing fork is in his hand — and so are you."
All of us who have been baptized have a great responsibility to ourselves and to others, and that is to share the Gospel of Jesus to an unbelieving world and to "bear fruits worthy of repentance".
Heaven help us if we don't.