7 John spoke to the crowds coming to be baptized by him. He said, “You are like a nest of poisonous snakes! Who warned you to escape the coming of God’s anger? 8 Live in a way that shows you have turned away from your sins. And don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘Abraham is our father.’ I tell you, God can raise up children for Abraham even from these stones. 9 The ax is already lying at the roots of the trees. All the trees that don’t produce good fruit will be cut down. They will be thrown into the fire.” 10 “Then what should we do?” the crowd asked. 11 John answered, “Anyone who has extra clothes should share with the one who has none. And anyone who has extra food should do the same.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” 13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” John told them. 14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” John replied, “Don’t force people to give you money. Don’t bring false charges against people. Be happy with your pay.”
“You brood of vipers.” No, I don’t think I would have been quite as direct as John.
But when it comes to sin, it’s probably best to call it what it is. Sin deceives (like the serpent in the garden). Sin is poisonous and deadly (like a viper).
So where will “the salvation sent from God” (v6) come from? Clearly not from simply being one of Abraham’s descendants. (He’s just labelled them the offspring of a viper.) Repentance is important. Acting on repentance is even more important. But it doesn’t come from these either. We need to look to the messiah who baptises with the Holy Spirit (v17).
There’s still an awful lot of confusion in Australia about where salvation comes from. Many people believe that going to church will do it. Or doing good things. Or just being a nice person.
I don’t like to offend people. But if I’m nice and uncontroversial about sin and salvation, perhaps I’m aiding these confusions and deceptions. Maybe I need to be a bit more direct like John.
But I might still hold off calling people a “brood of vipers” for now.
Written by David Cornell