These small group studies of Matthew contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, teaching points, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Matthew 3 Inductive Bible Study – Discussion Questions and Teaching Points
Matthew 3 Outline
I.John the Baptist’s Ministry (1-12)
II.John Baptizes Jesus (13-17)
I. John the Baptist’s Ministry (1-12)
Why would John preach in the wilderness? Who would be listening to him there?
What was the core teaching of John’s message?
What does it mean that the “kingdom of heaven is at hand?”
What was John’s key mission?
Why was John’s clothing and diet important? Are there any lessons we can learn from John in this?
What did “John’s baptism” signify?
Why was John so aggressive toward the Pharisees/Sadducees? Didn’t he want them to repent as well?
What does verse 9 mean? What is John’s point?
What is the warning in verse 10? What important lesson can we learn from this?
Who is the latter part of verse 11 referring to? What does it mean that He will baptize with fire?
What else do we learn about the Messiah in verse 12?
Mark 1:1-11 – More information about John the Baptist.
John 1:19-34 – More information about John the Baptist.
John 3:22-36 – He must increase and I must decrease passage about John the Baptist.
John 1:29-34 – John’s statement about Christ.
2 Kings 1:8 – Elijah wore a garment of camel hair and a leather belt.
Some of these points are taken from my study in Mark which you can find at https://www.calligraphyforgod.com/biblestudy/mark1-1-11.html
1. John the Baptist’s lifestyle – He did not go the biggest cities or the capital city Jerusalem to take his message. Instead he preached in the wilderness. Why? I am not sure I know the answer to this question. This is where God had called him to do ministry. He relied upon the power of God’s Word to draw people. He never used gimmicks. He simply preached to whoever would listen. The message he preached was from God and this drew many people out from the city to listen to him. A lesson for us is that wherever God has called you to share His words, do it faithfully and He will use it to accomplish His purposes. The people who went to listen to John were willing to travel to do so. They didn’t sit in air conditioned rooms with padded seats. They were willing to sacrifice because they believed the message John was teaching was important. God’s Word is powerful. It changes people’s hearts. It transforms. It convicts. It inspires. It draws. You don’t have to rely on anything else to draw people.
2. In addition, John wore camel’s hair, a leather belt, and ate locusts and honey. Clearly this clothing and diet was special or Matthew would not have mentioned it. This shows us he led a secluded and even rough life, perhaps because of a vow he had taken. We do know his father said he would not drink wine, which would indicate maybe he would take the Nazarite vow. While it is not necessary to live like that for everyone, there are a few characters in the Bible such as Elijah that live similarly. It is almost like a lifelong fast, ridding themselves of temptations of more luxurious living and practicing self-control and discipline to focus on the Lord and the ministry given to them. Interestingly, locusts are very nutritious and are 60% protein compared to 20% protein content of chicken and beef. John led a very rustic and simple life. His clothing would probably be considered out of fashion and too simple. I know many of you may be getting hungry now, but his diet was also abnormal to most of the people in the world. I think the point is that he didn’t need luxuries. He didn’t focus on “eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage” like most people. His food was just a means to sustain him, nothing more. What can we learn from this? John was goal-driven. He wasn’t easily distracted. He put the top priority on the most important things, namely his service to God. It was almost like John’s entire life was a fast (cutting out everything extraneous) so that he could devote himself 100% to serving God.
Application – Understand that a simple life of devotion to the Lord is joyful. We should be content with whatever we had. John lived an EXTREMELY simple life. Some might consider that his standard of living was too poor. No permanent home, no luxurious foods (except locusts), no fancy meals, no expensive clothes, no ipods, no iphones, no plasma flast screen tvs. Do you think he was satisfied? Why could he be satisfied with this kind of simple life? He was satisfied because God satisfied Him. We don’t need things to make us happy. We need a strong relationship to the Lord.
3. John the Baptist’s message – John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Basically he told people to repent of their sins. If they were willing to do so, they could be baptized as a public symbol of their faith in God and the new direction in their life. According to verse 11, this baptism was just with water, not the Holy Spirit. Just like for Christians now, this water baptism is only an outer sign. For us it is a sign of what the Holy Spirit has done in our hearts. For them it is a sign of their repentance and God’s forgiveness. John’s message was simple. It wasn’t complicated. At the same time, he was bold. He was bold to call the Pharisees what they were. He was also bold to warn Herod about living with his brother’s wife. Basically John was a truth speaker. He didn’t sugar coat things and had not desire to tickle people’s ears or make them feel comfortable. He said what needed to be said.
Application – I think John’s simple message is very refreshing. Today most sermon’s, Bible studies, messages, etc. are knowledge based. Too often Bible teachers or preachers may even feel a sense of pride when they can rattle off all kinds of obscure facts about a passage that most people don’t know (give example of George Mueller’s sermon). But knowledge has the tendency to puff up. Would you say John’s message was focused on knowledge? If not, what? Remember in Matthew 28:18-20, what did Jesus command the disciples? He commanded them to teach their disciples to obey all that He commanded. Obedience is what God is looking for, not knowledge. Most of the time, we know what we should do as believers. If someone doesn’t know what to do, it is normally a simple matter to read a few verses which are easily understood and then we know what to do. The question is, are we going to obey it or not?
4. John the Baptist’s mission – His mission was simple. We see his mission in verse 3. It was to point people to Christ. It was to prepare their hearts for the coming Messiah. In today’s world, many people are concerned about their legacy. What was his legacy? His legacy was that more people would follow Jesus. He labored his whole life, but not for himself. He didn’t care about being popular. He didn’t care about his own reputation. He didn’t care about hanging on to his own followers. His mission was all about Jesus. What is your mission? Our mission is the same. Our job is to point people to Christ. Our job is to reflect the light of Christ to a dark world. Our job is to be a herald telling people that Jesus has come and that He is coming again. We want the people around us to be ready when He does.
5. John the Baptist’s boldness – We see this character trait in verse 8. One thing that always stands out to me when I read about John is his simple, clear, and bold message. His words were powerful. He struck right to the heart of the matter. He wasn’t afraid of offending people. He wasn’t worried about their reaction (and the religious leaders did hate him). He called the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers”. What do you think about this? Were these words offensive? Should have spoken more kindly? In fact, John realized that being politically correct wouldn’t help anybody. If he flattered the religious leaders, that would just stoke their ego even more and increase their false sense of security. Matthew 3:7-10. Basically John is the opposite of 2 Timothy 4:3, which tells how in the end times people will accumulate teachers for themselves who will tickle their ears. He was not an ear-tickler. So should we talk like this? In reality we probably shouldn’t normally. The reason is that John was a prophet. He had authority from God and was likely also divinely led by the Spirit to understand the hearts of the spiritual leaders. For us it may be less clear if the people we share with are sincere or not. There are times to rebuke strongly and there are times to be gentle. We need to pray for discernment to know when such strong statements are necessary. What is the lesson for us? Application: Speak the truth. Share the gospel accurately and straightforwardly. Do not be scared to offend people with the message. Remember also Paul who said he became all things to all men. Do not intentionally offend others, but neither should we flatter them or tolerate unbiblical views. The basic facts of the gospel (what are they?) are clear and simple. Anyone can share them. Why can we be bold? Because it is the power of God. We are on the side of the truth so we have nothing to fear.
6. John the Baptist’s character – What can we learn about his character from these verses? In addition to what we have discussed above, I believe we can see one of the key aspects of his character, humility. He rightly recognized that Jesus was far superior to him. He realized that he didn’t deserve to even be associated with Jesus as a slave (slaves were normally the ones who untied people’s sandals upon entering a home). He did not claim to be Jesus’ peer or equal or even a lowly servant. See cross-references. As we learned in our study of John, John the Baptist willingly endorsed Jesus’ ministry even when it meant that his was shrinking. He uttered the famous line, “He must increase. I must decrease.” This is interesting when we take his humility and boldness together. Nowhere do we see that John’s humility made him weak. He willingly spoke out against sin wherever he saw it. Yet he did not do so in a prideful, self-righteous way. Rather it was his humility in realizing that God’s truth alone should govern our lives that forced him to speak about these things. He was bold not because of any power of his own, but because he recognized that he didn’t have power while God’s Words do.
7. John reminds the people that they are not saved at birth – See verse 9. He recognized that just because a person was a Hebrew, it didn’t mean they had a relationship to God. One’s race didn’t guarantee salvation. In recognizing and preaching against this mistake, John went against the grain of the prideful Jews who looked down on all others and considered that they would be saved because of their heritage. Application – Know that being in a Christian family doesn’t save you. As I have mentioned before, God doesn’t have any grandchildren. We will all be held personally responsible for our own actions and choices in God’s sight. This is especially applicable to Chris and I who come from Christian families, but also applicable to all of you who one day have children. You need to teach them to understand that they have to make a decision for themselves. Train and teach them so they know all they need to know to make the right decision to serve God with their lives.
8. John reminds the people that their lives should be fruitful – We see this in verse 10. A good tree is a person who has been saved and changed by God. If that is true, there will be evidence of that in the way of a changed life. Application – Examine our own lives to see if we have fruit or not. John said that the ax is at the bottom of the tree ready to chop it down and throw it into the fire if that tree doesn’t bear good fruit. I’m assuming none of you want to be chopped down and thrown into hell. If that is the case, we should evaluate our own lives, not based on a past decision of faith, but based on our life right now, based on our actions right now. Are we living a life for God? Are we living in sin? If we are living in sin, we need to repent, which means real change.
II. John baptizes Jesus (13-17)
1. Here we see that at the start of His ministry, Jesus went to John to be baptized. Since baptism was associated with repentance, why did Jesus do it? There could be several reasons, though since Jesus didn’t tell us we can’t know for sure.
A. To identify with us as a man – Jesus’ was not an elitist. He didn’t come as a master, a boss, or a noble. He came as one of us. Many of the things he did demonstrated his humanity for all to see.
B. To connect with John’s ministry – This was a way to show respect for John for his service and make a connection for John’s disciples to begin following Jesus.
C. To make a public statement that He intended to follow God – While there was no repentance shown since He didn’t sin, His baptism was a public statement of His submission to God and plan to follow God fully.
D. To be an example to us – If even Jesus, who never sinned, was baptized, how much more should we!
2. God the Father put a public stamp of approval upon Jesus and His ministry. This would be a pleasant reminder to Jesus of His Father’s approval. But more than that it was evidence to all the people that Jesus was truly the Son of God. They couldn’t very well claim that Jesus was just a man when God said this out loud in front of so many people. Interestingly, in John 12:29, God makes a similar statement. In that case many people found excuses not to believe it was God talking. This shows that even if God were to speak forth from the heavens, many people would refuse to believe it. That is how far the human race has fallen.
3. These verses show us the Three members of the Trinity.
More to come soon
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