What does Luke 3:8 mean?
ESV: Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.
NIV: Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
NASB: Therefore produce fruits that are consistent with repentance, and do not start saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children for Abraham.
CSB: Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don't start saying to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones.
NLT: Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.
KJV: Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin 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.
It's sometimes said that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. That's oversimplified, but it raises the important difference between trying to earn one's salvation versus having a sincere interest in God. John the Baptist is not shy about calling out those who come to hear his preaching (Luke 3:7). Those who think the ritual of baptism can save them from God's judgment are desperately wrong. Rather, what people need is an attitude of humility and submission to God, demonstrated by repentance. Legitimate baptism is a public profession of someone who has chosen to turn from their sin. John encourages his audience to live in ways demonstrating sincere faith (Luke 3:10–14).
John also addresses the myth that merely being Jewish is enough to obtain God's favor. Or, that God's judgment was reserved for Gentiles alone. This is a topic Jesus would also address (John 8:39–40). The main purpose of John the Baptist's ministry is preparing people to understand the role of Messiah (Luke 3:4–6). Reminding them of the reality of sin, and the need for a right relationship with God, is key to that message.
Luke 3:7–22 is a relatively brief explanation of John the Baptist's ministry. John's preaching calls on people to repent and turn from their sins. At the same time, he is careful to declare that he is not Christ—John is only a herald of the Messiah. Luke's account quickly summarizes this message, John's conflict with Herod the Tetrarch, and the baptism of Jesus. Parallel accounts are found in Matthew 3, Mark 1:1–11, and John 1:19–34.
The early part of Luke's gospel shifts back and forth between the histories of Jesus and John the Baptist. Chapter 3 starts with historical and prophetic context about John. It then depicts some of John's interactions with local religious leaders. Luke gives only a brief description of Jesus' baptism. He also touches on John's criticism of Herod the Tetrarch, which would eventually result in John's execution (Matthew 14:10–12). The chapter ends with a genealogy of Christ.
Chapters 1 and 2 provided early history for both John the Baptist and Jesus. Chapter 3 establishes John's preaching ministry and its connection to Jesus Christ. The chapter ends with a genealogy which some believe runs through Mary's side of the family. Chapter 4 transitions from Jesus' baptism into His public ministry, by describing His fasting in the wilderness and temptation by Satan.
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
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