Repent you Generation of Snakes! (Luke 3:1-6) John was tough on the “religious” ideology of people. Calling those people a generation of vipers (KJV) was a serious slap in the face. It’s a direct link to Genesis and the serpent deceiving Eve meaning they were descendants of the serpent, not God – exactly what Jesus later says. In their minds, they were chosen children of God. To God, they were a generation of snakes. Religious people can be poisonous.


by Pastor Delbert Young

Repent you Generation of Snakes! (Luke 3:1-6)


Sermon video

Repent You Generation of Snakes

Scriptures: Luke 3:1-2; Luke 3:3; Luke 3:7; Luke 3:8; Luke 3:9-10; Luke 3:11-14; Luke 3:7-8; Matthew 23:33; Matthew 23:36; Mark 1:15; James 1:26-27; Luke 3:4-6; Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:11-12

Luke chapter 3 would be around 29 AD only months prior to the beginning of the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Luke 3:1-2 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar – when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene – during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, THE WORD OF GOD CAME TO JOHN SON OF ZECHARIAH IN THE DESERT.

After 400 years of silence, since the prophet Malachi, God sent a prophet. The word of God came to John. Luke gives us seven names – five people in political power and two people in religious power. Then he said John son of Zechariah. The point is John was neither. John was not politically affiliated nor religiously affiliated. John was neither religiously correct nor politically correct. John didn’t come from politics or from religion. John came from the desert. John was different from anyone or anything seen before. John was in this generation but not of this generation. Let’s get an image of this preacher. Here’s what Matthew said.

Matthew 3:4-5 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.

John came in the spirit of Elijah, a great Old Testament prophet. He wore his Super Hero outfit made from woven camel’s hair and a big leather belt. He ate bugs and honey. He lived in the woods. John was intense and John was confident. As we are about to see, his message was “Repent!” Just looking at him would make me repent. I can hear him saying, “Repent! Repent!” His message was hard. “Take it or leave it.” His pulpit was the Jordan River and people came of this generation from the entire area to hear and be baptized by John. John was phenomenal.

Luke 3:3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, PREACHING A BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS.

Let’s take a good look at that verse. How did John say you acquire forgiveness of sins? Here’s what I need you to see. What did John preach a person must be baptized into? If it was a baptism of water, what are you baptized into? If it was baptism of the Holy Spirit, what are you baptized into? John preached a person must be baptized into repentance FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS.

“Repent” has become a “churcheese” (religious) word very misunderstood with a negative judgmental implication. So much so that seldom do we hear preachers preach about repentance. The Greek word is metanoia {met-an’-oy-ah} and means a change of mind and direction. It means change how you think about your sins. It doesn’t necessarily mean go to the altar, cry, and say, “I’m sorry.” John, nor Jesus, used altars and both preached repentance. If crying and saying, “I’m sorry” is all a person does, there’s no repentance.

I want us to get this. The word “repent” is one of the most beautiful words in our language. Repent brings a message of hope. It says things can change for you. When I preach about repentance, or when you read “repent” in the Bible, don’t go negative. It’s an amazingly wonderful teaching, not a negative one. “Repent” says your life can be better. It says every bit of bad in your life can change to good. What’s negative about that? Change how you think about your sins even if they don’t seem like sins to you. If it’s contrary to God’s word, it’s sin.

Repent is about hope and help and good change. You can get rid of the past. You can start over. How horrible it would be to not be able to start over and get rid of the garbage of life. So, “repent” is one of the most beautiful words in our language.

The drug addict can start over and have hope when they repent. The alcoholic can get a fresh start when they repent. You can repent about your finances, marriage, your parenting, the type child or student you are, how you treat people, even how you serve God. Repentance is the door of hope. There is no hope without repentance. There’s a way out of your dilemma. You don’t have to keep going down the road of destruction. What a beautiful word! Instead of repentance being a condemning negative word, it should be a word of hope and something we brag about doing.

We should continuously be repenting, so have you repented? You’re only playing a religious game if there is no repentance, which is exactly what John preached. You’re not fooling anyone and certainly not fooling God. Anyone can see if you’ve repented. Of what do you need to repent – addiction, a habit, how you treat your spouse, your finances, work ethic, gossip, anger? Young people, how do you obey your parents? What did you do on your date last night? Young people, if you will repent now, you will be amazed how much different and easier your life will be later. From what sins do any of us need to repent?

I’m going to jump a few verses to remain in context of John’s message of repentance, but we’ll come back to them.

Luke 3:7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “YOU BROOD OF VIPERS! Who warned you to flee from the COMING WRATH?

Luke 3:8 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.

Luke 3:9-10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce GOOD fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

How would you like to have John as your pastor? We will deal with how John directed them shortly, but how is God directing us? Who in context constitutes a brood of vipers? It’s inclusive of but way beyond the Jew. The context of you brood of vipers is legalistic religious people who will not repent. For people who will not repent, there is always a coming wrath that will chop you down and burn you alive.

Not repenting will cut down every tree that does not produce GOOD fruit. The point is there is no repentance unless there is obvious fruit. Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. The way you know you repented is by fruit. “I’m sorry” is not good fruit. “I’ll do better” is not good fruit. Name any fruit tree you like. The fruit the tree produces is obvious. When we actually repent, it’s obvious.

The people said “What should we do then?” Make it clear, so John did.

Luke 3:11-14 John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely – be content with your pay.”

Here’s the point. There are obvious issues in our lives that are sin. Obviously, some people were consumed with greed – the man with two tunics. John said don’t be greedy. Share with the needy. The tax collectors obviously took more than required. Stop doing that. The soldiers obviously were shaking people down threatening with arrest unless people gave them money. John said fix the obvious.

What’s obviously wrong in your life? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. You know what it is. What’s God telling you right now to repent of. It’s chopping down and burning you alive? It’s sin. I’m not saying it’s adultery or something like that. I am saying it is contrary to God’s word and you know it. Repent, fix it, and produce some good fruit. God doesn’t want a little fruit, or wormy fruit. He wants good fruit. John said, “As an outward sign of your inward repentance, come into the water and I will baptize you” and multitudes went into the water. Let’s read verses 7-9 again from The Message.

Luke 3:7-8 When crowds of people came out for baptism because it was the popular thing to do, John exploded: “BROOD OF SNAKES! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snake skins is going to deflect God’s judgment? It’s your life that must change, not your skin. And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as ‘father.’ Being a child of Abraham is neither here nor there—children of Abraham are a dime a dozen. God can make children from stones if he wants. What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.”

John was tough on the “religious” ideology of people. Calling those people a generation of vipers (KJV) was a serious slap in the face. It’s a direct link to Genesis and the serpent deceiving Eve meaning they were descendants of the serpent, not God – exactly what Jesus later says. In their minds, they were chosen children of God. To God, they were a generation of snakes. These were people who could quote their ancestry by name all the way back to Abraham. In their minds, being descendants of Abraham alone would save them. They were circumcised the eighth day! They were in covenant, they thought. John said not so. It’s not your skin. It’s your life. They were poisonous people injecting their legalistic religious ideology poison into people. Jesus later said in the temple – their “church” – to those exact religious people,

Matthew 23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

Matthew 23:36 I tell you the truth, all this will come upon THIS GENERATION.

John prophesied of a coming wrath upon Israel. So did Jesus. Within one generation, forty years, the entire religious system, the temple, and entire area was desolated exactly as John and Jesus preached. Why? They did not repent. The temple was destroyed and tens of thousands of those “seed of Abraham” died at the hands of Rome. Here’s the point. Religion alone will not forgive you of your sin. There must be repentance you can see producing the obvious fruit.

What is your fruit? Do you come to church because it’s the popular thing to do? How has your life changed? Are you only religious? Then how can you escape the damnation of hell? Or, are you producing fruit keeping with repentance? What is your life producing for the kingdom of God? Jesus said,

Mark 1:15 The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: REPENT YE, and believe the gospel.

There is no real belief without repentance. Jesus despised bad religion and as we already know and will see even more, legalistic religion was his largest deadly enemy. It should be ours too. It’s when people love their rules more than they love God. It’s when righteousness is determined by your rules and traditions rather than God’s word. It poisons people with false security. It’s full of judgmental people, hate, and hypocrisy. It’s bad worthless religion. James the half brother of Jesus said,

James 1:26-27 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, HE DECEIVES HIMSELF AND HIS RELIGION IS WORTHLESS. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Religion will deceive you. God wants us to hold our tongues in judging others and love people, which will keep us from being polluted by the world. That’s pure religion. Honestly, how are we doing? Those John addressed thought they were just fine. John said brood of snakes.

Luke 3:4-6 As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The Crooked ROADS SHALL BECOME STRAIGHT, THE ROUGH WAYS SMOOTH. And all mankind will see GOD’S SALVATION.'”

John’s call from God was to prepare the way for the Lord. Bible Knowledge Commentary says,

“When a king traveled the desert, workmen preceded him to clear debris and smooth out the roads to make his trip easier. In Luke the leveling of the land was a figurative expression denoting that the way of the Messiah would be made smooth because through John a large number of people were ready to receive Jesus’ message”

That’s the biblical analogy. John’s repentance message of hope smoothed the way for the King. It taught life could be much straighter, much more level, and have amazingly less bumps and low places if people would repent.

John, an unconventional “outside the box” person himself prepared people for someone outside the religious box. For example, until John, sin was atoned for, or “forgiven” only by animal sacrifice at the temple. That’s not what John preached. John came preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. That’s different! If I understand what John preached and the Bible is saying, a person received forgiveness of sins by being baptized into repentance expressed by water baptism. Water symbolized repentance. That’s outside the proverbial “religious” box. It’s not a sinner’s prayer, or crying at the altar. All that’s good, but salvation is directly linked to repentance. John did not encourage temple worship and animal sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. He said it’s all about repentance, fruit, and baptism and Jesus backed that message up.

Next week we are having water baptism. We will be teaching about the baptism of Jesus Christ so important the entire trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – attended. That’s what happens when you are water baptized. We are baptized into Christ.

Galatians 3:27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

In baptism, we are buried with Jesus into death, but raised to a new life.

Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

In baptism, a circumcision takes place – a covenant sign is made.

Colossians 2:11-12 …not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

Baptism is important, but the foundation of baptism is a beautiful sign of repentance. How many of us could use a fresh baptism of repentance. You should ask God what you should do.

So, how’s your life? How many low places are you having? Are things in your life crooked and messed up? How many rough ways, potholes, mountains you can’t get over, are you experiencing? Will you allow John the Baptizer to tell you the problem? He said you must be baptized in repentance. Not repenting is an ax chopping down your life. Repentance is not ugly. Repentance is beautiful. Repentance is hope and a future. Repentance is a fresh start over. Repentance is dumping the garbage of the past. Repentance straightens out the curves, fills the potholes and valleys, levels those hideous mountains, and you see God’s salvation.

Other Related Sermons:

Baptism, a Picture of the Trinity – video audio notes Luke 3:3-22

Also see:

Sermons Change The World

Life Gate Church sermons by Delbert Young

Bible Knowledge Commentary, Luke 3:3