Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
I always like a verse that comes straight to the point; one that I don’t need to look up a concordance and three different commentaries to understand what’s being said. This is one of those verses, but, although it is short, it is definitely not sweet. Looking at the context of the verse, we find John the Baptist by the river Jordan preaching and baptising. We read that there were people from Jerusalem, Judea and around the Jordan coming to hear John, to confess and to be baptised. Among those who came were Pharisees and Sadducees. John saw right through their false motives and called them a brood of vipers (something that Jesus would also refer to them as). It was to these men that he said, “bear fruit in keeping with repentance”. It was only the truly repentant that John would baptise, not men who wanted to be on the right side of things just in case.
A viper was a small poisonous desert snake which looked just like a dead branch when it lay completely still. It may seem like a harsh analogy but these leaders had wandered from the path and became absorbed in the power of their position causing more harm to the Jews than good. They were so blinded by their own righteousness that they would not be able to recognise the Messiah when he would stand in front of them. They were no longer rooted in truth and without true repentance, the fruit they were producing was corrupted. The Lord Jesus said that a tree that is diseased cannot bear good fruit, so be careful who you listen to and watch out for false prophets; ‘you will recognise them by their fruits’, (ch.7:20).
A repentant heart bears good fruit. It is only following repentance that the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us and it is only through His power that we become more Christ-like in our attitude and behaviour. As we remain in Him, the Lord tells us that we will…
bear fruit… bear more fruit… bear much fruit.