What does Matthew 3:11 mean?
ESV: “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
NIV: I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
NASB: As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
CSB: "I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove his sandals. He himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
NLT: I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am — so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
KJV: I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
Verse Commentary:
Isaiah 40:3 was meant, in part, to predict the coming of John the Baptist. His primary role was to prepare the way for the coming of the long-promised Messiah, the one he has said would bring God's kingdom to earth. In prophesying the arrival of that kingdom, John has urged his listeners to repent of their sins and be publicly baptized by him in the Jordan River as part of their commitment to live faithfully to God (Matthew 3:1–2).

Now John makes clear again that he is not the Messiah. His baptism is not the same as that of the One who is coming after him (Acts 18:25; 19:3–6). John says his baptism is for repentance, turning from sin to live in faithfulness to God. All who want to be spared from God's wrath must repent, but eternal salvation requires that change of heart be tied to faith in Christ (John 3:16–18).

John describes the One to come as mightier than he is. John knows he was sent by God to proclaim God's message, but he does not believe himself in any way equal to the Messiah. In fact, John says he is not even worthy of carrying the Messiah's sandals (Mark 1:7). This was quite a statement at this time in history, when sandal-clad feet were especially filthy and thought to be dishonorable. Only the lowliest servant would be asked to carry sandals, and John understands himself to be unworthy of even that position in service to Jesus.

The baptism ushered in by Christ will be different from John's baptism of repentance. John declares the Messiah will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. This would likely have been exciting news to John's Jewish listeners. In Jewish minds, the Holy Spirit had been absent from Israel for generations. The fact that the coming Messiah would baptize those who had repented with the Holy Spirit would have been a promise of great power to come. It would also have been a mysterious statement.

Jesus, of course, did send the Holy Spirit to baptize believers after His resurrection on the day of Pentecost. The evidence of the Holy Spirit on that day included "tongues of fire" that rested above each person (Acts 2). John's reference to fire here may have referred to a purification that would come with Messiah's baptism.
Verse Context:
Matthew 3:1–12 introduces John the Baptist, preaching and baptizing in the wilderness of Judea near the Jordan River. John, dressed in camel hair and a leather belt in the style of the prophet Elijah, has a simple message: repent because the kingdom of heaven is coming. Crowds come from miles around, including even Israel's religious leaders. John calls those leaders vipers and warns that Messiah will bring the wrath of God against the unrepentant. The Messiah will baptize the repentant with the Holy Spirit and fire. The trees that do not bear fruit, spiritually speaking, will be cut down and burned.
Chapter Summary:
Matthew introduces John the Baptist as a fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3. He is the voice crying in the wilderness as he prepares the way for the Lord. John calls the crowds who travel to hear him to repent from their sins. The kingdom of heaven is close! He also warns of God's judgment, specifically on Israel's spiritually-barren religious leaders. Finally, the Messiah he has been speaking of arrives and insists that John baptize Him. When he does, the heavens break open, the Holy Spirit comes to rest on Jesus, and the voice of God the Father says Jesus is His Son and that He is pleased with Him.
Chapter Context:
Matthew's story of Jesus jumps forward several decades from the moment when His family settled in Nazareth. This passage finds John the Baptist preaching about repentance in the wilderness and baptizing those who are willing. Crowds come from all around to hear John preach in the look and style of Elijah, including Israel's religious leaders. John warns them of God's coming judgment on those who do not truly repent. Jesus arrives and insists that John baptize Him. As Jesus emerges from the water, the heavens break open, the Holy Spirit descends to rest on Jesus in dove-like form, and the voice of God declares that Jesus is His Son. After this baptism, Jesus will be led into the desert to be tempted by Satan, in chapter 4.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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