LIFE GROUP DISCUSSION: Week of January 28th, 2018



SCRIPTURE – Matthew 3:1-12



I. Introduction

In this sermon we talked about how John the Baptist introduced the one who is “mightier than I” by describing His three-fold vocation.


II. Unify v. 11    “he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”

A brief history of “where God is” from creation to Pentecost, where the followers of Jesus were baptized by the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus said they would be.

Genesis 1-3 à Exodus à Joel 2:28-29 à John 3:11 àActs 2:2-4

God goes from being “out there” to being upon and in the followers of Jesus when they are baptized with his Holy Spirit.

“I believe that what John is saying about the vocation of Jesus here, is that what God has desired for humanity since he first breathed life into us, will be made possible by Jesus.”


III. Purify v.11 “he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

“He does not dwell on the axe alone or the tree that is cut down, burned and thrown into the fire, or the wrath to come, but also speaks of the remission of sins, the removal of punishment, righteousness, sanctification, redemption, adoption and community, a partaking of the inheritance and an abundant supply of the Holy Spirit.  For to all these remedies John implicitly pointed when he said, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” At once, by this very figure of speech, John witnessed to the abundance of grace.  He did not say “He will give you the Holy Spirit” but “he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Then to specify the volatile and uncontrollable quality of divine grace he adds, “and with fire.”     John Chrysostom

“Fire is appointed for the material element, which in itself is neither wicked nor evil but powerful and able to purify from evil.  For the power of fire is deemed to be beneficial and strong, destructive of evil things and preservative of what is better.  This is why fire is associated with wisdom by the prophets.  For this reason also, when God is called ‘a consuming fire,’ this is to be understood as a term and symbol not for evil but for power.”  Theodore of Heraclea


IV. Justify v.12   “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat    into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Justify definition – To set right. To execute justice.   To say that Jesus will justify the world is to say he will set the world to rights. He will bring about justice.

“John’s description of Jesus’ task challenges all attempts to characterize his ministry in a manner that leaves the world as it is.”  Stanley Hauerwas

“The world today does not want to hear about God’s judgment of the world. Even within the Church, we don’t want to hear or think about God’s judgment of the world.  It is uncomfortable to preach.  It is uncomfortable to listen to.  And yet a Gospel message that skips over the judgment of God is a Gospel message in which Jesus is fine with the world the way it is.  Which isn’t good news at all.”

“The new age begun in this man requires that the chaff of our lives be burned away.  That fire, the fire of the Holy Spirit, is the fire of a love so intense that we fear its grasp.  Yet it is the love unleashed in Jesus’ life – the life into which we are baptized – that, as Paul tells us in Romans 6, frees us from the sin revealed through the law but from which the law cannot itself deliver us.  A people freed by love, which is Jesus himself, can live with the joy that comes from no longer being subject to the fear of death.”  Stanley Hauerwas



 What did the Holy Spirit speak to you during the service?

“Baptism with the Spirit” is a theologically loaded word! Was it helpful to view this concept through the lens of unity with the Father?  How does this complement or distract from other ways that you have understood the meaning of these words?

At a minimum, to be Baptized with the Holy Spirit points to unity with the Father.  What other purpose does being baptized with the Holy Spirit serve in the life of a believer.

Can you think of any practical ramifications for men and women to be the living and breathing temples of God?

John Chrysostom stated that John the Baptist added “with fire” to “specify the volatile and uncontrollable quality of grace.”  Volatile is not necessarily a word that we would normally associate with grace.  Why not? How might we understand grace as volatile?  Specifically, how might we understand stand being Baptized with the Spirit as a volatile act of grace?

Theodore of Heraclea made point to say that fire was to be understood as a symbol for power rather than evil. Why are we tempted to shy away from fiery images in scripture?  Is it possible that our culture has come to understand wrath as something evil, rather than something powerful? 

How have you seen the fire of God, in your life, as something “destructive of evil and preservative of what is better”?

Why is a Gospel that “leaves the world as it is” not a Gospel at all?

John the Baptist uses agricultural imagery to communicate the way in which Jesus will justify the world.  How would you go about explaining this aspect of Christ’s vocation to someone who was interested in hearing?