7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
It’s very neat how John puts these two baptisms side by side – they seem to be the two sides of the same coin. The baptism of repentance – turning away from the sin that separates us from God – and the baptism with the Holy Spirit – immersing ourselves in relationship with God. The core of sin is rejection of God, expressed in actions that harm ourselves and others. Turning away from sin only makes sense when it’s paired with turning to God.
When I see the two together it seems obvious that repentance needs to be as deep as my relationship with God, whose Spirit isn’t just with me – he’s in me – filling every part of me. Whatever is in me will be expressed as fruit. The fruit of the sinful nature or the fruit of repentance which should be the same as the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:19-25).
But it’s also significant that John could only go part of the way. It’s Jesus who began the deep-down transformation and renewal of all creation that begins with the Holy Spirit living in and transforming each of his followers. He’s not just pruning the sin trees we used to be. He’s transforming us into Spirit trees bearing Spirit fruit.
Thank you, Jesus. You change everything. I want to produce your fruit today. I want to be useful grain, not chaff. I want to be part of what you’re doing to renew all things, and I want that to start with you renewing me.
Written by David Cornell