Luke 3:7 Then said he [John] to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
3:8 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.
3:9 And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
John does not sound like the evangelists we have today! His appeal, if you can say he even had one, was not very cordial. John did have a burden for souls. So much so, that he did not want to lull anyone into a fatal sense of false security. His burden was so deep, that he wanted them to know that baptism is not just about getting wet, but about truly washing away your past. Repentance is a turning away from sin, and just like a groom must fall in love with his bride before the wedding, as he forsakes all others, so must the one being baptized forsake his love affair with sin and the world before being baptized. John was being faithful not only to God but even to those he preached to. He ended up getting his head literally chopped off, because he loved Herod so much that he would not lie to him and help him feel comfortable in his sin. Likewise today, we must overcome the temptation to lessen the guilt of those who trample God’s law and still want to be baptized. When we do lessen their guilt we are doing no favor to them or God or even ourselves.
The gospel is now opposed on every side. Never was the confederacy of evil stronger than at the present time. Spirits of evil are combining with human agencies to war against the commandments of God. Tradition and falsehood are exalted above the Scriptures; reason and science above revelation; human talent above the teaching of the Spirit; forms and ceremonies above the vital power of godliness. Grievous sins have separated the people from God. Infidelity is fast becoming fashionable. “We will not have this man to reign over us,” is the language of thousands. God’s ministers must lift up the voice like a trumpet, and show the people their transgressions. The smooth sermons so often preached make no lasting impression. Men are not cut to the heart, because the plain, sharp truths of the word of God are not spoken to them.
Many of those who profess to believe the truth would say, if they expressed their real sentiments, What need is there of speaking so plainly? They might as well ask, Why need John the Baptist have said to the Pharisees, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” [Matthew 3:7.] Why need he have provoked the anger of Herodias by telling Herod that it was unlawful for him to live with his brother’s wife? He lost his life by speaking so plainly. Why could he not have moved along without incurring the anger of Herodias?
So men have argued, till policy has taken the place of faithfulness. Sin is allowed to go unrebuked. When will be heard once more in the church the voice of faithful rebuke, “Thou art the man”? [See 2 Samuel 12:7.] If these words were not so rare, we should see more of the power of God. The Lord’s messengers should not complain of their efforts’ being fruitless until they repent of their love of approbation, their desire to please men, which leads them to suppress the truth, and to cry, Peace, when God has not spoken peace.
Would that every minister of God realized the holiness of his work and the sacredness of his calling. As divinely appointed messengers, ministers are in a position of awful responsibility. In Christ’s stead they are to labor as stewards of the mysteries of heaven, encouraging the obedient and warning the disobedient. Worldly policy is to have no weight with them. Never are they to swerve from the path in which Jesus has bidden them walk. They are to go forward in faith, remembering that they are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. They are not to speak their own words, but the words that One greater than the potentates of earth has bidden them speak. Their message is to be, “Thus saith the Lord. –Gospel Workers, p. 149-150