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JOHN THE BAPTIST SPEAKS TO THOSE
RESTING IN CHURCH ATTENDANCE!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Saturday Evening, October 21, 2006
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 3:9-10).


Here is a very plain sermon from John the Baptist. Notice what a great number came to be baptized by John.

“Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan” (Matthew 3:5).

Most of those who came to John wanted to be baptized. Luke speaks of “the multitude that came forth to be baptized” (Luke 3:7). And Luke tells us that John

“said…to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke 3:7).

Dr. John R. Rice said,

John the Baptist called unconverted people “generation of vipers.” Every preacher ought to preach so to any who wish to be baptized without first repenting and trusting Jesus…In doubtful cases, preachers should, like John the Baptist, refuse to baptize those who show no evidence of repentance… Preachers are not required to baptize all who apply for baptism. Either the preacher himself, in unusual cases, as did John the Baptist and as did Philip in the case of the eunuch (Acts 8:37), should pass on whether the man shows evidence of having trusted Christ, or a group of Christians assembled should pass on that matter as did the Jewish Christians who came with Peter to the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:47). The custom of having a congregation approve the converts for baptism is thus scriptural (John R. Rice., D.D., The King of the Jews: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary on Matthew, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1980 reprint, p. 57).

“In doubtful cases, preachers should…refuse to baptize those who show no evidence of repentance” (ibid.). “John the Baptist called unconverted people ‘generation of vipers.’ Every preacher ought to preach so to any who wish to be baptized without first repenting and trusting Jesus” (ibid.).

Was John the Baptist wrong to call them a “generation of vipers”? I do not think so. I think he was pointing out their natural depravity. John the Baptist knew that man is a depraved creature. He knew that an unconverted person is “alienated and enemies in your mind” (Colossians 1:21). This is a description of every unconverted person – “alienated and enemies in your mind.” The unconverted man is alienated from God. The Greek word translated “alien” means “cut off.” W. E. Vine, a great expositor of Bible words, said that the Greek word “alienated” means that the unconverted man is “in a threefold state of alienation – [cut off] from the commonwealth of Israel, [cut off] from the life of God, and from God Himself” (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966 reprint, p. 45).

The unconverted man or woman stands, cut off from the promises of Israel, cut off from the life of God, and cut off from God Himself.

But then the Apostle says that you are not only alienated, cut off from God, but that you are “enemies in your mind” (Colossians 1:21). The fact that you are cut off from God by inbred sin, which comes from Adam, and has been passed down to all mankind, makes you a natural enemy of God,

“For to be carnally minded is death…Because the carnal mind [the fleshly, unconverted mind] is enmity against God” (Romans 8:6-7).

Commenting on Romans 8:7, The Reformation Study Bible says,

“Hostility to God. Pure anti-God hostility…is the real mind-set of everyone [before conversion]. The natural [unconverted] person regards God as his enemy” (The Reformation Study Bible, Ligonier Ministries, 2005, comment on Romans 8:7, page 1625).

However much you may deny it, the Scriptures say that the unconverted mind is actually hostile toward God. You may protest that this is not true, but your very mind shows the truth of it. You have your own prejudices against God. Your mind will not accept what God has said in Scripture, and you will not come to Jesus, and fall at His feet; you will not submit to Him as Saviour and Lord. Put it down as a true axiom, whatever details and differences there may be in your case, the raw fact that you do not seek Christ, and will not come to Him for salvation, shows how deeply true that verse is; your carnal mind is hostile to God, against God. When God so clearly and lovingly tells you to come to Christ, you will not do it. The reason you will not come to Christ is because you are hostile, your heart, in its depraved condition, does not want Christ. Thus, you are a natural enemy of God, if (and I may say, especially if) you refuse to come to Christ. Such a refusal of Christ is a dead giveaway that your mind is hostile toward Jesus, no matter what “word games” you may play, trying to prove that you are not an enemy of Christ.

Some may say, “But, I don’t want to be Christ’s enemy.” If you are sincere in saying that, then come out and throw yourself at the feet of Jesus – and He will grant you the blessings of salvation at once!

The moment a sinner believes,
   And trusts in his crucified God,
His pardon at once he receives,
   Redemption in full through His blood.
(“The Moment a Sinner Believes” by Joseph Hart, 1759).

But there are some here who will not believe and trust Jesus, who will not receive Christ’s pardoning redemption, although the very moment he comes to Jesus, in that very moment of time, “The moment a sinner believes.” “His pardon at once he receives, Redemption in full through His blood.”

But, if you go on in your inward hostility toward God, just as many of those did who came down to the River Jordan to watch John baptizing that day, is it not right that John calls you as well, a “generation of vipers”?

But now we approach the text itself, in Matthew 3:9-10. And here we find three enlightening statements which John preached, and we will discover that much he said applies directly to some of you.

I. First, those from a Christian background often remain unconverted.

This is a very sad thing, but experience and Scripture show that it is true. Look at verse nine. Stand and read it aloud. Jesus said,

“And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father…” (Matthew 3:9).

You may be seated. These Jewish people were depending on their ancestry to save them. I hope with all my heart that you will not make the same error. Yet I fear that some of you do make this foolish blunder.

You may think that your godly parents’ salvation somehow will somehow be transferred to you. That’s what some of those Jews thought. They said, “We have Abraham to our father.” Ah, but what good did that do them? You may have had a deacon as your father. You may have godly Christian parents. You may have been brought by them to church while you were a child.  I know that is true of some of you. But how does that help you? Regeneration must be experienced by each generation – just as though each one had been raised in a pagan home. Joseph Hart, who wrote the hymn I quoted a moment ago, was raised in a very godly home. But it did him little good. He gradually departed from the church of his parents, and became an open enemy of Jesus. It was not possible for him to change his own wicked heart. Only the grace of God could do that. Thankfully, after a long and bitter struggle, Joseph Hart submitted – and came to Christ. It was such an instant conversion that many people in London were astonished by how quickly God changed the man's heart. But Joseph Hart knew how quickly that final change took place in his conversion. And so, he wrote,

The moment a sinner believes,
   And trusts in his crucified God,
His pardon at once he receives,
   Redemption in full through His blood.

Although Hart was raised from birth in a gospel preaching home and church, he was not converted until “The moment” (his words) that he came to Jesus by faith and found “Redemption in full through His blood.”

And I say to you, no matter how long you have been in the church, no matter how many Bible verses you have memorized, no matter how long you have attended church each Sunday, there will never be any salvation for you unless you experience for yourself that crisis. A crisis conversion is the only kind found in the Bible. All the great preachers across the centuries had to go through this crisis – for a crisis conversion is the only kind that will turn you from damnation to salvation. And the crisis of conversion always occurs instantaneously. Although there is usually a period of awakening first, the actual conversion comes suddenly and unexpectedly, as Joseph Hart pointed out when he said, “The moment a sinner believes…His pardon at once he receives.” Though you may have been in the church for many years, your hard and rebellious heart must be broken up by God. Then you will experience true crisis conversion, as the Apostle Paul did, as Augustine did, as the great Reformers and pioneer missionaries did. Oh, may it be so for you as well. For those raised in the church have no more hope of salvation than a drug addict or a prostitute – unless their eyes are opened, and they come to Christ in a moment of crisis!

II. Second, those from non-Christian homes may be converted,
while children of the church remain lost.

Look again at Matthew 3:9. Let us stand and read it aloud.

“And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matthew 3:9).

You may be seated.

Dr. Gill said the “stones” may refer to the Gentiles and the “half-Jew” Samaritans who were present, or Christ may have been referring to the stones in the River Jordan, where he was baptizing. I personally lean toward the first view, for we read in the parallel passage in Luke 3 that Roman soldiers were among those who were saved and baptized that day (see Luke 3:14). It is as though John the Baptist was telling the Jews, these rough Roman soldiers, with cruel hearts of stone, would be converted, that “God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” And that is exactly what happened. Most of those Jewish people remained a “generation of vipers” (Matthew 3:7). But wicked publicans and sin-hardened soldiers came and took their place (Luke 3:12-14).

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that some who are raised in the church will remain lost – while others, who come from non-Christian homes, become true spiritual children of the patriarch Abraham.

A little later Jesus spoke of this strange phenomenon even more clearly when He said,

“Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham…in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:11-12).

Note carefully what Christ said in another place in Matthew. Pay careful attention to Christ’s warning, for He is certainly speaking to unconverted young people in the church by application. Christ said,

“Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43).

They will come from the east and west, and the church will be taken from those who were raised in it, but remained unconverted,  and God will give it to those who have come in - from the east and the west! It is sad to think of this, but that is exactly what will happen to those who go on refusing to come to Christ.

III. Third, those with a Christian background who remain unconverted,
will, at last, be cast into Hell fire.

Please stand and read verse 10 aloud.

“And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 3:10).

You may be seated. The trees here refer by application to those raised in the church. Those Jews who were raised in religion, almost never experienced a crisis conversion that would bring forth good fruit in their lives. And so it is with young people who have been a long time in the church without experiencing a deep, heart-felt crisis conversion to Christ Jesus. If that describes you, I warn you, you will one day soon be

“hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 3:10).

“And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).

“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment”
      (Matthew 25:46).

To every unconverted young person I give this solemn warning from the mouth of Christ Himself. You must humble yourself, and come to Him by faith, or else “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 3:1-9.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Ye Must Be Born Again” (by William T. Sleeper, 1819-1904).


THE OUTLINE OF

JOHN THE BAPTIST SPEAKS TO THOSE
RESTING IN CHURCH ATTENDANCE!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


“And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 3:9-10).

(Matthew 3:5; Luke 3:7; cf. Acts 8:37; cf. Acts 10:47;
Colossians 1:21; Romans 8:6-7)

I.   Those from a Christian background often remain unconverted,
Matthew 3:9a.

II.  Those from non-Christian homes may be converted, while children
of the church remain lost, Matthew 3:9b, 7; cf. Luke 3:12-14;
Matthew 8:11-12; 21:43.

III. Those with a Christian background who remain unconverted, will,
at last, be cast into Hell fire, Matthew 3:10; 25:30; 46.