Confessing or Feeling
“Then went out to him
Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about
Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their
sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of
vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Mt.
3.5-8). It should be noted very closely that there were two
distinguishable groups of people mentioned in this passage.
They had different motives for petitioning John for baptism
and his response to them was in accord with those motives.
The common people who came to John came confessing their
sins. They felt to be sinners, acknowledged their sins, were
ashamed of them and expressed an intention and desire to
turn from them. In short, they gave evidence of repentance.
Our Lord pointed out as proof of the publican’s gracious
state the fact that he smote upon his breast and cried out
to God for mercy. He felt his sins and acknowledged his sins
publicly. Those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness”
are in a blessed condition. Those who feel their sins do so
because they are born of God. Those people who came to John
with these feelings and expressions were baptized by him in
the river Jordan.
Many (not all) of the Pharisees and Sadducees came to John
with a very different motivation. They were “fleeing from
the wrath to come.” They did not come with repentant hearts,
but with a desire to escape future punishment. Their reason
came not from their hearts, but purely from reason. It may
have been that they were “covering all their bases,” as we
might say today; they wanted to make sure they had done
whatever was necessary to stay out of hell, and were wanting
to include John’s baptism in their calculations - just in
True repentance of sin is as sure an evidence of the grace
of God in the heart as there can be. Fleeing from the wrath
to come is evidence of nothing more than having sense to
know that fire is hot and wanting to escape it.