Luke 3

John the Baptist prepares the way. Jesus is baptized. Then the genealogy is laid out. He is the son of David and culminates God’s salvation history / story.

As I say in every chapter:

This commentary and entire website is for everyone, but it is mainly for those in oppressed or developing countries, where Christians cannot afford or have access to wonderful Study Bibles or commentaries. I hope it helps them.

This commentary and entire website is for everyone, but it is mainly for those in oppressed or developing countries, where Christians cannot afford or have access to wonderful Study Bibles or commentaries.

The translation is mine. I wrote it to learn what the Greek text really says. The translation tends to be literal, but complete literalism and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If readers don’t read Greek, they can ignore the left side of the tables. I include the language to check my work and for Greek readers, who can also check my translation.

If you would like to see other translations, please go to The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.

The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section of Scripture, for discipleship.

Links are provided for further study.

Let’s begin.

John’s Ministry Is Launched (Luke 3:1-6)

1 Ἐν ἔτει δὲ πεντεκαιδεκάτῳ τῆς ἡγεμονίας Τιβερίου Καίσαρος, ἡγεμονεύοντος Ποντίου Πιλάτου τῆς Ἰουδαίας, καὶ τετρααρχοῦντος τῆς Γαλιλαίας Ἡρῴδου, Φιλίππου δὲ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ τετρααρχοῦντος τῆς Ἰτουραίας καὶ Τραχωνίτιδος χώρας, καὶ Λυσανίου τῆς Ἀβιληνῆς τετρααρχοῦντος, 2 ἐπὶ ἀρχιερέως Ἅννα καὶ Καϊάφα, ἐγένετο ῥῆμα θεοῦ ἐπὶ Ἰωάννην τὸν Ζαχαρίου υἱὸν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ. 3 Καὶ ἦλθεν εἰς πᾶσαν [τὴν] περίχωρον τοῦ Ἰορδάνου κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν, 4 ὡς γέγραπται ἐν βίβλῳ λόγων Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου·

φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ·
ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου,
εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ·
5 πᾶσα φάραγξ πληρωθήσεται
καὶ πᾶν ὄρος καὶ βουνὸς ταπεινωθήσεται,
καὶ ἔσται τὰ σκολιὰ εἰς εὐθείαν
καὶ αἱ τραχεῖαι εἰς ὁδοὺς λείας·
6 καὶ ὄψεται πᾶσα σὰρξ τὸ σωτήριον τοῦ θεοῦ.

1 In the fifteenth year of the rule of Tiberius Caesar, the governorship of Pontius Pilate over Judea, the tetrarchy of Herod over Galilee, the tetrarchy of his brother Philip over Iturea and the region of Traconitis, and the tetrarchy of Lysanias over Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah, in the desert. 3 He went into all the surrounding region of the Jordan River, preaching the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it had been written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘Prepare the path of the Lord,
To make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled
And every mountain and hill shall be levelled,
And the crooked [paths] shall be straight,
And the rough paths smooth.
6 And all people shall see the salvation of God.’” [Is. 40:3-5]



You can google those rulers, but here are some basics to orient you.

Tiberias: he succeeded August Caesar (Octavian) in A.D. 14. The fifteenth year of his reign can be dated A.D. 28-29. After the death of Herod the Great in 4 B.C., his kingdom was divided between his sons:

Archelaus: he ruled over Judea, Samaria, and Idumea. After he died in A.D. 6, Roman prefects were assigned to those regions.  Pontius Pilate took over Judea from A.D. 26 to 36. An inscription confirms that he ruled over Judea.

Herod: He was tetrarch of Galilee in the north, who was also Herod the Great’s son and was co-named Antipas. He ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C. to A.D. 30. Herod was curious and confused about Jesus (Luke 9:7-9). The Pharisees used Herod’s name to spook Jesus to run away, but the Lord would have none of it, calling him a fox (Luke 13:31-32). Herod was in Jerusalem during the Passover during Jesus’ trial. Pilate sent Jesus to him because he found out Jesus was a Galilean and under Herod’s jurisdiction (Luke 23:6). He plied him with many questions, hoping to see a sign, but Jesus did not answer (23:9). Herod and his soldiers ridiculed him, dressed him in an elegant robe, and sent him back to Pilate (23:10).

Philip: He was Philip II, another son of Herod, and half-brother to Antipas, and was tetrarch over Iturea and Traconitis from 4 B.C. to 36 A.D.

Lysanius: he was not a son of Herod and was known only from this verse and an inscription with this name as a local ruler, during the reign of Tiberias Caesar.

Pontius Pilate: The Christian creeds remember him as the governor under whom Jesus Christ suffered (1 Tim. 6:13) (see the Apostles Creed). The NT calls him governor while other sources call him prefect (his official title). Pontius was his nomen (tribal name) and Pilate was his cognomen (family name). His praenomen (personal name) is nowhere recorded. He came to power in A.D. 26. He was an anti-Semite. He brought into Jerusalem the insignia of the Roman military bearing the image of Caesar. He planted armed Roman soldiers, disguised as civilians, among the populace. This may have been the historical occasion for Luke 13:1, which says that Pilate mingled Galilean blood with their sacrifices. It is surprising then that he felt pressure from the Jewish authorities to put Jesus to death. However, he could have believed his position in the empire was precarious; John 19:12 says that if he released Jesus he would be no friend of Caesar. The NT writers were eager to show that he was innocent in regards to Roman law. Yet the only way the Jewish Council could convict Jesus was to accuse him of claiming to be king. Pilate’s name does not appear in Judea after A.D. 36/37, and this indicates he was removed shortly after he slaughtered Samaritans on Mt. Gerizim (Holman’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary).

Luke is eager to show that these events were not hidden away in a corner. Paul to Festus: “For the king understands these matters, to whom I have been boldly speaking, for I am persuaded he has not missed anything, for this has not happened in a corner” (Acts 26:26). Christianity has an historical context. That’s why Luke names these rulers. Pagan religions of the day omit the historical contexts, or the historical context is unclear. Luke, who actually lived at a time when people believed in Zeus and Apollo and Isis and built temples for them, knew that these gods were detached from such earth-bound things like these rulers whom he names. Luke says no. Historical context is important for the veracity of Christianity. Later creeds will also name Pontius Pilate as the governor when Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead. Competing pagan religions did not care about such mundane facts. Christianity is different.


“Annas and Caiaphas”: They were the high priests and were from the ruling class of the priestly families, overseeing the temple and sacrifices and offerings. They also belonged to the Sanhedrin, the highest court and council of Israel. Annas (Luke 3:2; John 18:13, 24; Acts 4:6) ruled from A.D. 6-15 and succeeded in getting his five sons appointed chief priests and son-in-law Joseph Caiaphas (high priest from A.D. 18-36/37). Some have criticized Scripture because Luke 3:2 says because Annas and Caiaphas were joint high priests. In reply, however, the Romans deposed Annas, even though the high priest ruled for life. So it is best way to answer the question is that Annas was the power behind his son-in-law. Another explanation is that Annas was given the title of high priest out of respect, since he should have ruled for life. Finally, Ananias, one of Annas’s sons, was the high priest when Paul was brought before the him (Acts 23:2; 24:1). Family connections had their privileges, and these families ruled over the lucrative temple (Holman’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary).

“The list of rulers in Luke 3 reveals that two ways of ruling the world will come head-to-head. They rule through violence and fear; Jesus’ way shows the power of powerlessness and love” (Garland, p. 161).

“The word of God came to John”: this wording connects him to other OT prophets, who also received words from God (Jer. 1:2; Hos. 1:1; Joel 1:1; Jonah 1:1; Zeph. 1:1; Zech. 1:1).

“word”: The noun here is rhēma (pronounced ray-mah), and the rhē– stem is related to speaking, and the –ma suffix means “the result of.” So combined, the noun means a “spoken word” (though it does not always mean that in every context, or it is sometimes synonymous with logos). Here God spoke to John a general message to proclaim, within the parameters of the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin.


“baptism”: In Greek the noun baptism means to the dipping or plunging of an object, like a cloth in wine or to cool metal in water. See v. 7, for the verb.

“repentance”: it is the noun metanoia (pronounced meh-tah-noi-ah), and it literally means “change of mind.” But it goes deeper than mental assent or agreement. Another word for repent is the Greek stem streph– (including the prefixes ana-, epi-, and hupo-), which means physically “to turn” (see Luke 2:20, 43, 45). That reality-concept is all about new life. One turns around 180 degrees, going from the direction of death to the new direction of life.

Yes, repentance is wonderful as a foundation. In our context today, we should teach repentance to an audience where there may be the unrepentant and unconverted, but let’s not harangue the church with constant calls for them to repent. They need mature teachings. Too many fiery preachers never allow their churches to grow, but shriek about fire and brimstone (eternal punishment). Happily, this seems to be changing, and preachers bring up repentance, but also realize that there are many other doctrines in Scripture.

Word Study on Repentance

“forgiveness”: it comes from the Greek noun aphesis (pronounced ah-feh-seess), which means “release” or “cancellation” or “pardon” or “forgiveness.” Let’s look at a more formal definition of its verb, which is aphiēmi (pronounced ah-fee-ay-mee), and BDAG defines it with the basic meaning of letting go: (1) “dismiss or release someone or something from a place or one’s presence, let go, send away”; (2) “to release from legal or moral obligations or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon”; (3) “to move away with implication of causing a separation, leave, depart”; (4) “to leave something continue or remain in its place … let someone have something” (Matt. 4:20; 5:24; 22:22; Mark 1:18; Luke 10:30; John 14:18); (5) “leave it to someone to do something, let, let go, allow, tolerate.” The Shorter Lexicon adds “forgive.” In sum, God lets go, dismisses, releases, sends away, cancels, pardons, and forgives our sins. His work is full and final. Don’t go backwards or dwell on it.

Please read these verses for how forgiving God is:

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12)

And these great verses are from Micah:

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19, ESV)

What Is Biblical Forgiveness?

“sins”: it comes from the noun hamartia (pronounced hah-mar-tee-ah). A deep study reveals that it means a “departure from either human or divine standards of uprightness” (BDAG, p. 50). It can also mean a “destructive evil power” (ibid., p. 51). In other words, sin has a life of its own. Be careful! In the older Greek of the classical world, it originally meant to “miss the mark” or target. Sin destroys, and that’s why God hates it, and so should we. The good news: God promises us forgiveness when we repent.

Bible Basics about Sin: Word Studies

Human Sin: Original and Our Committed Sin


“words”: it is the Greek noun logos (pronounced loh-goss and is used 330 times in the NT). Since it is so important, let’s explore the noun more deeply, as I do in this entire commentary series.

The noun is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.

Though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. (Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level!) Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to make sense, also. Luke’s Gospel has logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.

People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, Luke-Acts is very charismatic, but it is also very orderly and rational and logical.

On the other side of the word logos, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true.

Bottom line: Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.

Luke quotes Is. 40:3-5, and chapter 40 in Isaiah turns a corner. Chapter 40-55 proclaim God grace and promises for deliverance. Is. 53 is clearly about Jesus the Messiah. I believe Isaiah saw a vision or special knowledge of the suffering of Jesus. “Moreover, using the language of Isaiah 40:3, Luke later describes the church as ‘the Way’ (Ac 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22)” (Liefeld and Pao, comments on vv. 4-6).

In any case, this is another passage about the Great Reversal (see Luke 1:52-56; 2:34). The kingdom of God overturns society and your own life. Jesus would cause the fall of the mighty and the rise of the needy, and the rich would be lowered, and the poor raised up. It is the down elevator and up elevator. Those at the top will take the down elevator, and those at the bottom will take the up elevator.

“shall be lowered”: it is the standard Greek verb for humbling people, too.

“salvation”: Luke quotes Isaiah. Since the theology of salvation (soteriology) is so critical for our lives, let’s look more closely at the noun salvation, which is sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah and used 46 times) and at the verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times).

Greek is the language of the NT. BDAG, which is considered the authoritative lexicon of the NT, defines the noun sōtēria as follows, depending on the context: (1) “deliverance, preservation” … (2) “salvation.”

The verb sōzō means “save, rescue, heal” in a variety of contexts, but mostly it is used of saving the soul. BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve,” and the sub-definitions under no. 1 are as follows: save from death; bring out safely; save from disease; keep, preserve in good condition; thrive, prosper, get on well; (2) “to save or preserve from transcendent danger or destruction, save or preserve from ‘eternal’ death … “bring Messianic salvation, bring to salvation,” and in passive mood it means “be saved, attain salvation”; (3) some passages in the NT say we fit under the first and second definition at the same time (Mark 8:5; Luke 9:24; Rom. 9:27; 1 Cor. 3:15).

Another rarer verb is diasōzō (pronounced dee-ah-soh-zoh and used 8 times), and the prefix means “through.” Here are the occurrences: Mark 14:36; Luke 7:3; Acts 23:24; 27:43-44; 28:1, 4; 2; 1 Pet. 3:20. It means what the regular verb does, but often to be rescued through and up to the very end, like Paul’s ship landing on Malta after going through the storm.

As noted throughout this commentary on Luke-Acts, the noun salvation and the verb save go a lot farther than just preparing the soul to go on to heaven. Together, they have additional benefits: keeping and preserving and rescuing from harm and dangers; saving or freeing from diseases and demonic oppression; and saving or rescuing from sin dominating us; ushering into heaven and rescuing us from final judgment. What is our response to the gift of salvation? You are grateful and then you are moved to act. When you help or rescue one man from homelessness or an orphan from his oppression, you have moved one giant step towards salvation of his soul. Sometimes feeding a hungry man and giving clothes to the naked or taking him to a medical clinic come before saving his soul.

All of it is a package called salvation and being saved.

Word Study on Salvation

What Is the Work of Salvation?

How Do We Respond to God’s Salvation?

GrowApp for Luke 3:1-6

A.. John proclaimed the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. How has forgiveness of sins changed your life?

John Baptizes and Preaches to the Crowds (Luke 3:7-14)

7 Ἔλεγεν οὖν τοῖς ἐκπορευομένοις ὄχλοις βαπτισθῆναι ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ· γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν, τίς ὑπέδειξεν ὑμῖν φυγεῖν ἀπὸ τῆς μελλούσης ὀργῆς; 8 ποιήσατε οὖν καρποὺς ἀξίους τῆς μετανοίας καὶ μὴ ἄρξησθε λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς· πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν Ἀβραάμ. λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι δύναται ὁ θεὸς ἐκ τῶν λίθων τούτων ἐγεῖραι τέκνα τῷ Ἀβραάμ. 9 ἤδη δὲ καὶ ἡ ἀξίνη πρὸς τὴν ῥίζαν τῶν δένδρων κεῖται· πᾶν οὖν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται.

10 Καὶ ἐπηρώτων αὐτὸν οἱ ὄχλοι λέγοντες· τί οὖν ποιήσωμεν; 11 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς· ὁ ἔχων δύο χιτῶνας μεταδότω τῷ μὴ ἔχοντι, καὶ ὁ ἔχων βρώματα ὁμοίως ποιείτω.

12 ἦλθον δὲ καὶ τελῶναι βαπτισθῆναι καὶ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτόν· διδάσκαλε, τί ποιήσωμεν; 13 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς· μηδὲν πλέον παρὰ τὸ διατεταγμένον ὑμῖν πράσσετε.

14 ἐπηρώτων δὲ αὐτὸν καὶ στρατευόμενοι λέγοντες· τί ποιήσωμεν καὶ ἡμεῖς; καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· μηδένα διασείσητε μηδὲ συκοφαντήσητε καὶ ἀρκεῖσθε τοῖς ὀψωνίοις ὑμῶν.

7 And so he was saying to the crowds coming to be baptized by him, “You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance! And don’t begin to say among yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father!’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children of Abraham from these stones! 9 Even now the axe is plied to the root of trees, and therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into fire!”

10 And the crowds were asking him, saying, “And what then should we do?” 11 In reply, he began to say, “He who has two coats should give to the person who doesn’t have one. And the one who has food should do the same thing!”

12 And tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He said to them, “Don’t collect more than what has been ordered to you!”

14 And even soldiers asked him, saying, “What should also we do?” He said to them, “Don’t extort and don’t oppress! Be satisfied with your wages!”



John used harsh language to the crowds. Isaiah referred to ancient Israelites as reptiles (59:5), so John was fitting in with the OT prophets. Jesus himself called religious leaders a brood of vipers (Matt. 23:33). Be cautious about using such harsh language one-on-one in private conversations! I heard of someone on youtube standing up in a large church and rebuking a pastor who was not known for preaching Scripture as a fiery Baptist or Pentecostal would. That so-called “prophet” was completely out of order. Prophetic words must be done decently and orderly and in a community context of other people who can judge the prophecy or revelation; the context is a close-knit community, not some wandering prophet who rebukes publicly because he has a fiery temperament (1 Cor. 15:40). John the Baptist was speaking to a crowd of people and now a subset of them who came to his ministry. The crowd flow went to him. He did not break into a synagogue and interrupt and shout and piously hold up a Torah scroll.

“baptized”: it is the verb baptizō (pronounced bahp-tee-zoh), and it means “to dip in or under water”; it can refer to being “soaked in wine” (BDAG). It is related to the verb baptō, which means “to dip in water”; it is related to the Latin verb immergere or immerse. One can dip cloth in dye or a bucket in the well to draw water—those illustrate baptism. It can even be used of a ship that sank (Liddell and Scott).

“warned”: the verb is hupodeiknumi (pronounced hoo-poh-dake-noo-mee). In some contexts, it means “show, prove, set forth.” The basic stem deik– means “to show.” “Who showed you to flee from the coming wrath?” In this context, however, it means “warn.”

The wrath of God is coming. Wrath means “judicial reckoning.” God does not fly off the handle and lose his temper. No, picture him as an English judge with a white wig on. Let’s learn a lesson. It took hundreds of years before God judged his people, the ancient Israelites. He sent numerous prophets to warn them about the coming judgment. But they refused to repent, except a remnant. His judgment-wrath came by deporting them, but he allowed a remnant to return to the land of Israel, seventy years later.

God’s wrath is judicial.

It is not like this:


But like this:


That is a picture of God in judgment.

The Wrath of God in the New Testament

Do I Really Know God? He Shows Wrath

The Wrath of God in the Old Testament

Everyone Shall Be Judged by Their Works and Words

Word Study on Judgment

Bible Basics about the Final Judgment

In this case, John is warning of the judgment of God, if God’s people reject their Messiah. They did—at least national Israel did in their leaders—and God placed them and Judaism (temple) under judgment (Luke 19:41-45; 21:20-24; 23:26-31; Matt. 21:33-45), though numerous individual priests (Acts 6:7) and thousands of Jews of Jerusalem and Judea converted (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 21:20). God loves people, but he is not enamored with systems. Now the gospel has been handed over to the Gentiles (and some Messianic Jews) to spread the gospel around the globe, well outside the tiny nation of Israel. The church—not Israel—is the main focus of God’s strategy to reach the planet with the gospel. Judaism cannot do this. Its days are (obviously) in the past.


“fruit”: in so many cases with humans in Scripture, the noun means behavior. Repentance, as noted in v. 3, must be a 180-degree turn around. Please do not believe the foolishness that says God does not require a change of heart that does not work out into righteous behavior. God requires righteous behavior. All the old things must drop off like dead leaves, and good leaves must grow. It can take time in some lives, but change must come. At times the new growth, new life, pushes off the dead leaves.

Bock on 3:8a: “The Baptist says there is an appropriate product of repentance. Submitting to baptism from John is a commitment before God to change one’s life, while awaiting the approach of God’s salvation” (vol. 1, p. 304)

What Is Righteousness?

8 Righteousness of the Kingdom

The Fruit of Righteousness

“in keeping” it could be translated as “worthy.” Produce fruit worthy of the reality of repentance or God’s work in your life. He wants to work in you to look more like Christ (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 4:24; Phil. 3:10).

“stone” and “children” play on words: In Aramaic the word for children is bny’ and for stones ‘bny’ (Bock, on 3:6, p. 309). John was probably speaking Aramaic, though the pun would have been lost on Luke’s Greek readers.

In any case, the point is that we must not rest on your chosen status. Back in the Neo-charismatic days, young people walked around with T-shirts saying “the Chosen Generation.” Maybe, but it came across as arrogant, because generations come and go, and one is no better than the other, in God’s eternal perspective. He takes them in their own historical context. Yes, the Jews could claim they had Abraham as their father—and the Scriptures from Moses throughout all the devotional Psalms and the rest of the Wisdom Literature and histories, so they were enlightened with the true God’s truths. But God does not care one bit about the past when people get sloppy and lazy about their lives now. “My ancestry has five generation of preachers!” But if you don’t live righteously in the present, so what? God can raise up many preachers from the stones around you.

“repentance”: see v. 3 for more comments.


Picture yourself as a tree. If you don’t produce good fruit, then it has to be cut down. Luke repeats this sobering truth in 6:43-45 and 13:6-9. Pray that God would pluck the bad fruit from your tree and cause good fruit to grow in your life.

Begin a series on the gifts of the Spirit:

1. Gifts of Spirit: Word of Wisdom

Begin a series on the fruit of the Spirit:

1 Fruit of the Spirit: Love


John tells them what repentance looks like in practical terms. Don’t miss this truth. God will give you practical things to do, to show your repentance. You may have to sell your luxurious possessions that you bought to show off to your neighbors. You will have to leave behind your corrupt friends (and maybe when you grow up in him he may call you back to share your conversion story, as you went from darkness to light). You will have to give up your old life in the sex industry and addiction to porn. God will deliver you from chemical dependency.

“tax collectors”: Please read more about them at his link:

Quick Reference to Jewish Groups in Gospels and Acts

In addressing John as “teacher,” they were showing him deep respect (Bock on 3:12, vol. 1, p. 312).


“ordered”: it comes from the verb diatassō (pronounced dee-ah-tahs-soh), and it means “order, direct, command, arranged.” So the tax collectors were ordered to collect this or that percentage, and they should not skim money from the top or misinform the people that the percentage was higher than it really was.


“soldiers”: probably local law enforcement and not member of the Roman army from foreign parts. However, if they were part of the Roman army, they may been taken from the local region; they might have been Jews (Liefeld and Pao, comments on v. 14).

“extort”: it comes from the verb diaseiō (pronounced dee-ah-say-oh), and it literally means “a violent or thorough shaking.” So it could be translated “don’t shake down” the people.

“oppress”: it is the verb sukophanteō (pronounced soo-koh-fan-teh-oh, and we get our word sycophant from it, but the meaning has altered over the centuries.) In this context the verb means, “accuse falsely, annoy, harass, oppress.” In Luke 19:8 it means “extort.” The verb appears only here and in Luke 19:8.

“satisfied”: it is the verb arkeō (pronounced ar-keh-oh), and it means in the active sense “be enough, sufficient”; and in the passive voice with the dative (as here), it means, “be satisfied or content with.” Passages where it is used: Active: Matt. 25:9; John 6:7; 14:8; 2 Cor. 12:9; Passive: Luke 3:14; 1 Tim. 6:8; Heb. 13:5; 3 John 10, and only in those verses. Paul also uses it with the prefix aut-, which means “sufficiency, contentment, or self-sufficiency” (2 Cor. 9:8; 1 Tim. 6:6, and only in those two verses). And Paul uses the adjective once: autarkēs (pronounced ow-tar-kayss). In Phil. 4:11 he has learned to be “content” or “self-sufficient.” Therefore, in Paul’s uses of the words, he says that he does not depend on people, but on God, so we too should not depend on humankind, but on God.

“wages”: it is the noun upsōnion (pronounced oops-owe-nee-own), and it means “wages, pay, salary, compensation.” It appears here and Rom. 6:23; 1 Cor. 9:7; 2 Cor. 11:8, so four times in the NT.

GrowApp for Luke 3:7-14

A.. John spoke of an axe being laid to the roots of trees that don’t bear good fruit. What are some of the sins and habits that God has cut off from your life? How has his cutting activity benefitted you?

B.. John told various classes of people how to show deeds of repentance. What are some visible, practical steps you have done to show the fruit or outworking of repentance?

John Is Not the One (Luke 3:15-18)

15 Προσδοκῶντος δὲ τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ διαλογιζομένων πάντων ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν περὶ τοῦ Ἰωάννου, μήποτε αὐτὸς εἴη ὁ χριστός, 16 ἀπεκρίνατο λέγων πᾶσιν ὁ Ἰωάννης· ἐγὼ μὲν ὕδατι βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς· ἔρχεται δὲ ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ· αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί· 17 οὗ τὸ πτύον ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ διακαθᾶραι τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ καὶ συναγαγεῖν τὸν σῖτον εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην αὐτοῦ, τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ. 18 Πολλὰ μὲν οὖν καὶ ἕτερα παρακαλῶν εὐηγγελίζετο τὸν λαόν. 15 While the people were expecting and everyone was reasoning in their hearts about John, whether he might not be the Messiah, 16 John replied, saying to all of them, “I baptize you with water. But someone more powerful than I is coming, whose sandal straps I am not big enough to loosen! He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire! 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear out his threshing floor and gather together the wheat into his storehouse, but he shall burn the chaff with unquenchable fire!” 18 With many other things John was exhorting and preaching good news to people.


In his commentary on Acts, Keener produces a table to show the continuity between Luke and Acts and the fulness of the Spirit:

1.. The Spirit descends on Jesus at his baptism (Luke 3:22), and Jesus baptizes in the Spirit (Luke 3:16).

2.. Both Jesus and his followers are praying when the Spirit comes (Luke 3:21; Acts 1:14).

3.. The Spirit descends (Luke 3:22; Acts 2:33)

4.. There is a visible manifestation with the Spirit (a dove in Luke 3:22; tongues of fire in Acts 2:3).

5.. The ensuing public ministries open with sermon that introduce these for the rest of the book (Luke 4:18-27; Acts 2:14-40).

6.. Hardship and opposition follow Spirit-empowerment (Luke 4:1, 14; Acts 4:7-8).

Source: Craig Keener, Acts, New Cambridge Bible Commentary (Cambridge UP, 2020), p. 111.


The people back then were expecting the Messiah. Revival is coming today. By the time you read this post, it may already be here in various spots. God sovereignly moves on tender and open hearts, like the hearts in the people who took the journey out to the Jordan River to listen to a harsh and abrupt prophet-preacher.

“reasoning”: it comes from the verb dialogizomai (pronounced dee-ah-loh-geez-oh-my, and our word dialogue is related to it). It goes deeper than another verb for thinking, nomizō (pronounced noh-mee-zoh). The log– stem has a wider intellectual or mental sense to it, and the prefix dia– just means “thorough” or “continuous.” The Greeks could add –iz– to a word and change it into a verb. It means to “consider, ponder, reason, discuss, argue.” Sometimes it is translated as “wonder” in this verse, but that is too aesthetic or emotional—but no firm objections to that word choice from me!


“baptize”: it is immersion or plunging, as noted in v. 3. Jesus shall immerse the people with the Holy Spirit and fire. This happened in Acts 2:1-4.

“Spirit”: He is the third person of the Trinity. After Pentecost, he is sent into the hearts of everyone who repents and confesses Jesus was Lord. He causes these repentant people to be born again. They can also have a subsequent infilling of the Spirit (Acts 2:4, 4:8, 31; Eph. 5:17).

“fire”: it means that God purges his people and puts his word in them, so they have to share it. Here is Jeremiah’s testimonial: “But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore of his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Jer. 29:9). Also see Is. 4:4, Zech. 13:9, and Mal. 3:2-4 for more images of burning and purging.

Holy Spirit and fire may be a concept that goes together as a unit, so it’s the Holy Spirit-fire or the Holy-Spirit-and-fire. The Spirit baptism / immersion purifies like a fire.

Here are some of my posts on a more formal doctrine of the Spirit (systematic theology):

The Spirit’s Deity and Divine Attributes

The Personhood of the Spirit

Titles of the Holy Spirit

The Spirit in the Life of Christ

Here is Jesus baptizing disciples with the Spirit and fire:

1 And when the Feast of Pentecost had fully come, all of them were together in that one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there was a sound like the rush of an extra-strong wind. The whole house was filled where they were sitting, 3 and tongues as fire were seen by them, were distributed among them, and settled on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them inspiration to speak and declare. (Acts 2:1-4, my tentative translation)

Baptized in the Spirit: What Does It Mean?

These OT passages speak of an eschatological outpouring of the Spirit:

until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. (Is. 32:15, ESV)

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants. (Is. 44:3, ESV)

26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezek. 36:26-27, ESV)

And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord God. (Ezek. 39:29, ESV)

“And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit. (Joel 2:28-29, ESV)

In the previous three passages, the promise was given to Israel. In Joel’s prophecy, the Spirit is poured out in all flesh or all of humanity. Each of those above passages speak of obeying the law of God and living righteously. Now this obedience comes from the inside out and by the power of the indwelling Spirit. Don’t let any teacher tell you that you don’t have to worry about living righteously. You absolutely do. So does right believing lead to right living? Partly, but not entirely, because anyone who believes right could also live wrong. True right living is done by the overflow and outflow of the Spirit in conformity to Scripture.

The Spirit in the Old Testament

“big enough”: it is the adjective hikanos (pronounced hee-kah-noss), and it can mean, depending on the context, “sufficient, adequate, large enough … fit, appropriate, competent, able, worthy.” I could have translated it as “not qualified” or “not sufficient enough,” but “big enough” has a modern feel to it. You can go with the other ones, if you want to.


The grain has been gathered from the fields. Jesus is about to toss it up in the air. The chaff is lighter and will be blown away, while the wheat grains are heavier and will fall straight down. Yet the chaff will accumulate off to the side, and it has to be cleaned up from the threshing floor. It can be used for fuel in the fire. The wheat is the righteous, while the chaff is the wicked. This is a strong image with forceful, sobering words.

“Unquenchable fire” is often used in Scripture to describe, not eternal fire in the afterlife, but temporal judgment on wicked nations (e.g. Jer. 4:4; 7:20; 17:27; 21:12; Ezek. 20:47, 48; see Is. 1:31; Amos 5:6). So “unquenchable” does not mean eternal, but that no human can extinguish it

“unquenchable”: it is the adjective asbestos (pronounced as-behs-toss, and we clearly get our word asbestos from it), and it can also be translated as “inextinguishable.” However, the -able suffix is not there in Greek. So it could also be translated “unquenching” or “inextinguishing.” In any case, the metaphorical fire says humans can’t put it out. Only God can.

Unquenchable is also the adjective asbestos (pronounced as-behs-toss, and we clearly get our word asbestos from it), and it can also be translated as “inextinguishable.” However, the -able suffix is not there in Greek. So it could also be translated “unquenching” or “inextinguishing.” In any case, the metaphorical fire says humans can’t put it out. Only God can.

Note that it is his threshing floor and his wheat. The chaff is not his. The metaphor of throwing away chaff or stubble is found in the OT, particularly when the OT was produced over the centuries in an agrarian society: Ps. 1:4; 35:5; Is. 41:15-16; and so on. The stubble is burned up: Mal. 4:1).

“fire”: other verses speak of outer darkness (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). So some ask: how can the fire, which produces light, coexist with farthest or outer darkness? They cannot. Therefore, some interpreters conclude that punishment in the afterlife takes on different dimensions: fire in one place, and darkness in another. Still another interpretation is possible.

Charismatic theologian J. Rodman Williams (d. 2008) says fire and darkness are just metaphors, which cannot be taken literally, for separation from God and punishment:

These two terms, “darkness” and “fire,” that point to the final state of the lost might seem to be opposites, because darkness, even black darkness, suggests nothing like fire or the light of a blazing fire. Thus again we must guard against identifying the particular terms with literal reality, such as a place of black darkness or of blazing fire. Rather, darkness and fire are metaphors that express the profound truth, on the one hand, of terrible estrangement and isolation from God, and on the other, the pain and misery of unrelieved punishment. It is significant that Jesus in His portrayals of darkness and fire often adds the statement “There men will weep and gnash their teeth.” This weeping and gnashing … vividly suggests both suffering and despair. So whether the metaphor is darkness or fire, the picture is indeed a grim one, even beyond the ability of any figure of speech to express.

One further word: both darkness and fire refer to the basic situation of the lost after Last Judgment. However, we have already observed that there will be degrees of punishment; hence in some sense the darkness and fire will not be wholly the same. Some punishment will be more tolerable than other punishment: some people will receive a greater condemnation, while some (to change the figure) will be “beaten with few blows” [Luke 12:48]. Thus we should not understand the overall picture of the state of the lost to exclude differences in degree of punishment. Even as for the righteous in the world to come, there will be varying rewards, so for the unrighteous, the punishment will not be the same. (Renewal Theology, vol. 3, 470-71).

For the record, Williams does not believe in annihilationism (or terminalism or conditionalism) or universal reconciliation (or restorationism) (see the three links, below in a three-part series.

If you want to take the images of darkness and fire literally, you may certainly do so. It’s up to you. It should be noted that Jesus says nothing about the fire lasting for eternity here.

Please read a three-part series, each of which has plenty of Scriptural support:

1. Hell and Punishment: Eternal, Conscious Torment

2. Hell and Punishment: Terminal Punishment

3. Hell and Punishment: Universalism

Personally, I believe that the topic of punishment in the afterlife is secondary or nonessential, so I like this saying:

“in essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love).”


“exhorting”: It is the verb parakaleō (pronounced pah-rah-kah-leh-oh). Let’s look at the verb more expansively, so you can get a clearer idea of its meaning. It is related to the Greek noun paraklēsis (pronounced pah-rah-klay-sees). The Greek in the Gospel of John is paraklētos (pronounced pah-rah-klay-tohss) (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:6). The three related words can mean the following things, depending on the context—or they can mean all of them at the same time: “counselor / counsel,” “advocate (defense attorney),” “helper / help,” “comforter / comfort,” “encourager / encouragement,” and “intercessor / intercession.” Here in v. 18 the verb means “to strongly and strenuously urge with words.” He preached hard.

“preaching good news”: as noted in previous verses in Luke, the phrase is one verb in Greek: euangelizō (pronounced eu-ahn-geh-lee-zoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). Eu– means “good,” and angel means “announcement” or “news”; and izō is the verb form. (Greek adds the suffix -iz- and changes the noun to the verb and we do too, as in “modern” to “modernize”). Awkwardly but literally it means “good-news-ize,” as in “Let’s ‘good-news-ize’ them!”

So with John’s hard message, he also preached good news. The Messiah was about to appear. But it also seems the good news included repentance and acts that demonstrate repentance.

GrowApp for Luke 3:15-18

A.. What wheat has God grown in you, and what chaff has he burned off of you?

B.. Has someone ever had to exhort you (urge you with strong words)? How did you respond?

Herod Locks John in Prison (Luke 3:19-20)

19 Ὁ δὲ Ἡρῴδης ὁ τετραάρχης, ἐλεγχόμενος ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ περὶ Ἡρῳδιάδος τῆς γυναικὸς τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ καὶ περὶ πάντων ὧν ἐποίησεν πονηρῶν ὁ Ἡρῴδης, 20 προσέθηκεν καὶ τοῦτο ἐπὶ πᾶσιν [καὶ] κατέκλεισεν τὸν Ἰωάννην ἐν φυλακῇ. 19 Herod the tetrarch, being convicted by John for Herodias, the wife of his brother, and for many bad things which Herod had done, 20 added even this to everything else—he locked John up in prison.



Herod the tetrarch (see v. 1) divorced his first wife and married his niece Herodias, who was also the wife of his half-brother Philip I (Matt. 14:3; Mark 6:17). This Philip did not rule and was different from Philip II. The law of Moses prohibited a man from marrying his brother’s wife (Lev. 20:21; cf. Lev. 18:16).

Luke spends little time with John’s arrest. You will need to read Matt. 14:1-12 and Mark 6:14-19 for more details. Rulers can be unjust, when they attack just and righteous people.

Mark 6

Mark 14

GrowApp for Luke 3:18-19

A.. How have you prayed for people persecuted by unjust rulers? Which organizations have you signed up for and get their emails, so you can pray?

The Baptism of Jesus (Luke 3:21-22)

21 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ βαπτισθῆναι ἅπαντα τὸν λαὸν καὶ Ἰησοῦ βαπτισθέντος καὶ προσευχομένου ἀνεῳχθῆναι τὸν οὐρανὸν 22 καὶ καταβῆναι τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον σωματικῷ εἴδει ὡς περιστερὰν ἐπ’ αὐτόν, καὶ φωνὴν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ γενέσθαι· σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα. 21 And so it happened that while all the people were being baptized, when Jesus also was being baptized and was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit in bodily appearance as a dove came upon him. And a voice from heaven sounded: “You are my beloved Son! I delight in you!”


This is a nice “family photo” of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. See v. 22 for more comments on the Trinity and some links.


Here we have contemporaneous action. Jesus so identified with the people that while they were being baptized, so was he. Was he baptized for forgiveness of sins, when he was proclaimed to be sinless (John 8:45-46; Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:21-22; 1 John 3:5)?

Commentator Morris writes: “Since Luke depicts Jesus as without sin it is not obvious why he should have undergone baptism. But Jesus saw sinners flocking to John’s baptism. Clearly he decided to take his place with them. At the outset of his ministry he publicly identified himself with the sinners he came to save” (comments on vv. 21-22).

8. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Was Sinless

Jesus was in the water. He set the example for us.

Basics about Water Baptism

He was not baptized for the forgiveness of sins, as the voice from heaven confirms. Rather, his baptism accomplished these truths:

First, this was his ministry launch. The Messiah was here for those who had eyes to see and ears hear. Second, his baptism was a public consecration by God, and a public declaration of God’s love and acceptance and delight in his Son. The crowds did not get that declaration, so his declaration was unique. Consecration means to be set apart from the unclean and common. Third, however, Jesus also identified with the crowds, as noted. He was about to become the people’s sacrificial offering (2 Cor. 5:21), so he had to get down in the water to show he too was a human. Fourth, he put his stamp of approval on John’s ministry (BTSB).

But there’s a fifth reason that is relational.

Peter was Jesus’s lead apostle, and no doubt he observed this principle operating in his Lord’s life:

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.” [Prov. 3:34]

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

James was Jesus’s (half-)brother and he too saw the same virtue being lived out in his Lord’s life:

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (Jas. 4:10)

I believe that to fulfill all righteousness, Jesus had to temporarily submit and humble himself before John and his baptism of repentance ministry, before Jesus’s own ministry could be launched. Recall that Phil. 1:5 says: “rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.” John proclaimed that the one coming after was mightier than he was, and so he was surprised when his superior cousin came down into the water. To “fulfill all righteousness” (emphasis added), Jesus had to be baptized by John, in order first to humble himself and second in order to be exalted. Yes, Jesus was fully righteous, but he had to pass the humility test, just as he had to pass the temptation that Satan was about to throw at him in the wilderness. Jesus passed both tests. Then at the end of his life he had to pass the trial by death. Phil. 1:6 says: “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” He passed this test too. Therefore his Father resurrected him, and at his Son’s ascension the Father was about to exalt him to the highest heavens, next to his own throne, where he is now seated.

Finally, Phil. 2:9-11 affirms:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

It all began with Jesus humbling himself before his cousin in water baptism, whose ministry would not be as long-lasting and far-reaching as Jesus’s ministry. Now Jesus was exalted to the highest heaven, all because he humbled himself first.

4. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Took the Form of a Servant

Luke is the only Gospel writer who says Jesus was praying (HT Bock, p. 337, comment on 3:21). Prayer is a special emphasis in his Gospel, at critical moments in Jesus’ life: choosing the twelve (6:12); right before Peter’s confession (9:18); at the transfiguration (9:29); and in Gethsemane (22:41). The message: if Jesus prayed at critical junctures in his life, so should we.

Once again:

8. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Was Sinless

“praying”: I noticed here seemingly for the first time that Jesus was praying before, during and after his baptism. I wonder whether people pray around their time of baptism. Now let’s take an expansive look at the verb (and noun), to pray and prayer. As noted in Luke 1:10, and elsewhere throughout this commentary series, it is the very common verb proseuchomai (pronounced pros-yew-khoh-my) and appears 85 times. The noun proseuchē (pronounced pros-yew-khay) is used 36 times, so they are the most common words for prayer or pray in the NT. They are combined with the preposition pros, which means, among other things, “towards,” and euchē, which means a prayer, vow and even a mere wish. But Christians took over the word and directed it towards the living God; they leaned in toward him and prayed their requests fully expecting an answer. It is not a mere wish to a pagan deity.

Prayer flows out of confidence before God that he will answer because we no longer have an uncondemned heart (1 John 3:19-24); and we know him so intimately that we find out from him what is his will is and then we pray according to it (1 John 5:14-15); we can also pray with our Spirit-inspired languages (1 Cor. 14:15-16). Pray!

What Is Prayer?

What Is Petitionary Prayer?

What Is Biblical Intercession?

“opened”: it is the standard verb for opened up, but the reality is different: heaven itself was opened. God opened it.

Bible Basics about Heaven


“came upon”: this is the standard verb and adverb “come” and “upon.” The Spirit is often said to “fall on” and “come upon” people.

Baptized, Filled, and Full of the Spirit: What Does It All Mean?

“bodily”: it is the adjective sōmatikos (pronounced soh-mah-tee-kohss, and our word somatic comes from it). It means “bodily.” So the dove’s appearance was bodily, but the Spirit simply took that bodily form.

“appearance”: it is the noun eidos (pronounced ay-dohss), and it means “form, outward appearance” (Luke 3:22; 9:29; John 5:37); “kind” (1 Thess. 5:22); “seeing, sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Those are the only verses where the noun appears.

“beloved”: it is the adjective agapētos (pronounced ah-gah-pay-tohss), and it means “beloved” or “dear.” It can be used of children, friends, fellow-Christians (1 Cor. 4:17; Col. 4:14; 3 John 2, 5, 11). Of the Messiah it has the strong connotation of “only beloved” (Matt. 3:17; Luke 3:22). I believe the Shorter Lexicon is a little off on the latter meaning and right on about the former one. That is, the adjective can mean that we too have God’s love. We too are well-pleasing to God after we repent and receive the baptism for the forgiveness of our sins. Are we well pleasing and beloved of God before our repentance? No, not in the same way. Yes, God loves people before they are born again (John 3:16), but God’s judicial wrath also remains on them until they repent and ask for his forgiveness (John 3:36).

“Son”: Let’s briefly look into systematic theology. Jesus was the Son of the Father eternally, before creation. The Son has no beginning. He and the Father always were, together. The relationship is portrayed in this Father-Son way so we can understand who God is more clearly. Now he relates to us as his sons and daughters. On our repentance and salvation and union with Christ, we are brought into his eternal family.

6. Titles of Jesus: The Son of God

When Did Jesus “Become” the Son of God?

Quick teaching about the Trinity in the area of systematic theology. The Father in his role as the Father guides the whole of creation and the plan of the ages. The Son carries out the plan, notably by being born as a man, humbling himself, taking the form of a servant (Phil. 3:7-8). He humbled himself so deeply and thoroughly that he died a death on the cross, the instrument of the death penalty.

However, the Father and Son are equal in their essence or nature. The Father is fully God and the Son is fully God, in their essence. Phil. 2:6: Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to hold on to, but he surrendered the environment of heaven and took the form of a servant.

Boiled down:

Function or role: the Father is over the Son in his incarnation and role in the redemptive plan

In their essence or essential nature: Father and Son are equal.

The Trinity: What Are the Basics?

The Trinity: Why Would God Seem So Complicated?

The Trinity: What Are Some Illustrations?

The Trinity: What Does He Mean to Me?

4. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Took the Form of a Servant

Athanasian Creed + Commentary

The announcement about the Son refers to Ps. 2:7: “You are my Son, and today I have begotten you.” No, Jesus was not begotten at his baptism, but it refers to the relationship between the Father and Son. The Psalm is an anointing psalm for the king. Jesus was being anointed by the Spirit. Also, Is. 42:1 says, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights.”

“delight”: it comes from the Greek verb eudokeō (pronounced yew-doh-keh-oh), and the prefix eu– means “good” or “well,” and the stem dok– can mean “to think, believe, suppose, consider.” How do we combine the prefix and the stem? First, in some contexts it means, “consider good, consent, resolve” (Luke 12:12; Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 5:8; Col. 1:19; 1 Thess. 2:8). Further, in other contexts it means “be well pleased, take delight (Matt. 3:17; 12:18; Luke 3:22; 1 Cor. 10:5; 2 Pet. 12:17); or “delight in, approve, like” (2 Cor. 12:10; 2 Thess. 2:12; Heb. 10:6, 8). So God thought well of his Son Jesus. The Father loved and liked his Son. The Father took delight in and approved of his Son. See Ps. 2:7 and Is. 42:1 for further study.

The baptism and the Father’s endorsement “signals ‘the beginning of Jesus’ messianic ministry, but not of messiahship.’ It represents ‘divine empowerment, not divine adoption.’ At the commencement of Jesus’ ministry, he is praying, the heavens open, the Spirit descends on him, and God announces that he is the beloved Son. At the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus prays, the temple veils splits, he commits his spirit to his Father (23:32, 45-46), and a centurion acknowledges that he is righteous (23:47)” (Garland on 3:22).

“In Acts, this term becomes a messianic title for Jesus, the ‘Righteous One’ (Acts 3:14-15; 7:52; 22:14). He is the ‘Righteous One’ because he did not seek to serve or save himself but was completely obedient to his Father” (Garland, comment on 3:22).

GrowApp for Luke 3:21-22

A.. Jesus was in prayer during his baptism. Have you been baptized yet? What was your experience like?

B.. God announced from heaven that his Son was beloved and he took delight in him. Do you believe this about yourself after your salvation and repentance? How would this biblical truth transform your life?

Genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:23-38)

23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,

the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat,

the son of Levi, the son of Melki,

the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,

25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos,

the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,

the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath,

the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein,

the son of Josek, the son of Joda,

27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa,

the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,

the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melki,

the son of Addi, the son of Cosam,

the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,

29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer,

the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat,

the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon,

the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,

the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,

31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna,

the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,

the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse,

the son of Obed, the son of Boaz,

the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,

33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram,

the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,

the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob,

the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,

the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,

35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu,

the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,

the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan,

the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,

the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,

37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch,

the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,

the son of Kenan, 38 the son of Enosh,

the son of Seth, the son of Adam,

the son of God.


I pasted this list from the New International Version, since I did not want to type out all the names, and my translation would be just like theirs (if I did not miss a name)!


Moses’ genealogy is presented before he launched into his ministry to lead his people to freedom (Exod. 6), so also Luke follows this biblical precedence, before Jesus is anointed at his baptism, which empowers him to lead his people towards freedom (Liefeld and Pao, p. 96).

You can click on the links in this section for more commentary on the genealogy.

Luke traces Jesus ancestry all the way back to Adam, probably to show that Jesus identifies with the whole human race (Liefeld and Pao, p. 96). This explanation certainly fits the global commission which Jesus will place on his followers (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8). (Liefeld and Pao do not spend much time on Luke’s genealogy)

The main point of the genealogy is that Jesus fits in to the flow of God’s dealing with Israel and all of humanity. He is the apex and culmination of God’s redemptive history and salvation story. It all points to him now.

If you want to see how this genealogy can be reconciled with Matthew’s, please see this post:

Reconciling Matthew’s and Luke’s Genealogies: Mission: Impossible?

The two genealogies can be harmonized, as that link shows.

But there is a larger issue for the Christian reader. Small variations should not mean that one’s faith becomes brittle so that it snaps in two. In the larger story of God, Jesus descends from David and fits into the OT narrative, from Adam through Abraham, the patriarchs, David and a long list of kings.

Please see my post on the massive numbers of agreements in the four Gospels.

14. Similarities among John’s Gospel and the Synoptic Gospels

Celebrate the similarities; don’t snap in two over the differences. The overall story line is secure and reliable.

No, the two genealogies in Matthew and Luke do not have pagan roots, but a biblical source.

Luke’s Birth Narrative: Pagan Myth or Sacred Story?

GrowApp for Luke 3:23-38

A.. If your ancestry is full of scoundrels, how do you honor them by talking about God’s redemption and love that he may have shown them before they died? Or should you move past the past and look to your redeemed life and his future for you and your descendants?

B.. How do you respond if your ancestry has many godly people in it? Have you felt something get transmitted from them to you? What?

Summary of Luke 3

Five themes are spelled out in Luke 3. These themes have more the story about Jesus and the kingdom of God forward, the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus in Luke 24.

First, John’s ministry is launched, and he too introduces the Great Reversal (vv. 4-6) (see Luke 1:46-56; 2:34). The kingdom of God is counter-cultural, for it overturns the normal flow of society, like the rich and powerful will always be in control. Not so in God’s kingdom. And this reversal is still being worked out and will continue to be worked out until Jesus establishes his throne.

Second, John was born to be the forerunner and announce the Messiah. He will also lead the way from the temple religion. He preached a simple message of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. No one has to offer animal sacrifices, particularly when Jesus would become the ultimate and final sacrifice.

Third, Jesus’s baptism is the launch of his ministry, and the Father approved and liked and loved and took delight in him. This public announcement was important, whether the people at the time understood it or not (compare John 12:28-29). For sure, Luke’s readers understood it.

Fourth, John gives practical ways to show deeds in keeping with repentance. This was part of the counter-cultural message of the kingdom. No more business as usual. However, the prophets of old also preached righteous living. So John was carrying on their ministry, in the history of God’s dealing with his people. The difference between his ministry and that of his forebears is that they assumed the royal lines and leaders were permanent, while John looked past them to the Messiah, who was about to enter Jerusalem as the new king (Luke 19:28-40) and to fulfil the old Sinai Covenant with his New Covenant and establish his own Passover supper (Luke 19:19-20).

Fifth, through Luke’s genealogy, Jesus is once again shown to be the descendant of David and the patriarchs. He fulfills prophecies.

See my post on the Messianic prophecies, which has a table of them:

Messianic Prophecies


Bock, Darrel L. Luke 1:1-9:50. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 1 (Baker, 1994).

—. Luke 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 2. (Baker 1996).

Culy, Martin M., Mikael C. Parsons. Joshua J. Stigall. Luke: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Baylor UP, 2010).

Fitzmyer, Joseph A., SJ. The Gospel according to Luke, I-IX. Vol. 28. The Anchor Bible. (Doubleday, 1981).

—. The Gospel according to St. Luke, X-XIV. The Anchor Bible. Vol. 28A. (Doubleday, 1985).

Garland, David E. Luke. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. (Zondervan, 2011).

The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).  The Greek text in the table comes from the Nestle-Aland 28th ed, available here:

Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Eerdmans, 1997).

Liefeld, Walter L. and David W. Pao. Luke. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. (Zondervan, 2007).

Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. (Eerdmans, 1978).

Morris, Leon. Luke. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. (IVP Academic, 1988).

Stein, Robert H. Luke: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture. The New American Commentary. Vol. 24. (Broadman and Holman, 1992).

Works Cited


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