And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Luk 3:3
Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Luk 3:7-9
John the Baptist urged all Israel to repent of sin, in preparation for the coming of Messiah! Messiah is coming again, and in preparation for His coming, the Spirit is saying to the churches, Repent of sin! If the Jews who would not repent could not escape the wrath that is to come, by saying, I am a child of Abraham; let not the Christians who will not repent think that they will escape the wrath that is to come, by saying, I am an evangelical or a member of a certain church.
Repent means to turn around, to turn aside from, to go in a different direction. The man who has repented of sin is the man who does not do that sin or walk in that path anymore. That is what he means when he says, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” The one who prays a sinner’s prayer, but who lives the same way as the world — I am sorry, the Scripture teaches that that man has not repented. Can there be salvation without repentance? Theologians debate that, but I believe the Scripture teaches that repentance and a changed life is evidence of salvation.
John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” Luk 3:16-17
Jesus is not only the Lamb of God, who saves His people from their sins, but He is also the Separator: “His winnowing fan is in His hand.” When wheat stalks are brought in from the field, the grain is what is desired to be saved, not the stalks and chaff, the grain husks. So threshers winnow the grain. They toss it into the air, and the chaff, since it is light, is blown away by the breeze, while the grain falls down again.
But the fact of the matter is, in order to bear fruit worthy of repentance, we need to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. This is why verse 16 precedes verse 17. We cannot walk free of sin and walk in the LORD’s ways by the strength of the flesh.
“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” Eze 36:27
But let us not be deceived: not one counterfeit Christian will remain attached to Him. Trust, but then also obey. Let the word of the LORD be our rule for faith and practice, and not the word of man.