Notes on Luke 3:18

First some slightly technical stuff, then applications below the fold.

Using italics to indicate words not in the original text (not generally a good practice, to my mind), our deceased brother Harold Littrell shows a missing word in his translation of Luke 3:18, “Also with many other things he admonished while preaching to the people” (ESB). This verse gave me pause, because a Portuguese version (Edição Pastoral, for the curious) gave it another twist. My translation: “John announced the Good News to the people by many other means.”

The translation reminded me of 1 Cor. 9:22b, “I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some” (NET; emphasis mine). But there doesn’t appear to be much of a connection between the two texts. Most versions take Littrell’s “things” to be “words” (NIV, McCord) or join it to the idea of exhortations (NET, NASB, NRSV; “warnings,” NLT) also found in the verse. Most other Portuguese translations also go this route as well (CNBB, A21, ARA, NVI, TEB, BJ, BA).

So John was a wordy fellow.

Application note: One writer concludes from this verse that we need a balance of positive and negative in preaching. Hmm, hard pressed to get that, methinks, as true as it may be. Perhaps better to say that the gospel is a message of repentance, which Luke emphasizes in his gospel and in Acts. The gospel message is summed up in Luke 24:47 as “repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” As the path to forgiveness (not the whole story, but a VIPart of it), repentance can even stand for the whole message!

To preach repentance is absolutely good news, for it permits God space in our lives, then, to blot out our sins. Though some find it icky to have to talk about sin, rebuke sinners, and point out how to change one’s life from sin to righteousness, this is all solid positive news.

Also it is an insistent message. When it came to preaching, John was not a man of few words. No Silent Cal, but a loquacious Baptizer. In that sense, this verse perhaps has its best echo in Acts 2:40, where Luke says of Peter, “With many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, ‘Save yourselves from this perverse generation!'”

So you may tire of my insistence, but I have good precedence for it, and the positive and persistent John the Baptist is an example we all should follow.

Even his diet might not be so bad.

J. Randal Matheny

Be pithy.

What do you think?