Baptism by Fire
“15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with[b] water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.” Luke 3:15-18 NIV
When John the Baptist pointed to the coming of the Messiah, he says something interesting. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
To “baptize” meant to fully immerse and to overflow. So when he said that they would be “baptize… with the Holy Spirit,” John was saying that when Messiah (or Jesus) came, the Holy Spirit would fully immerse people and overflow from their lives as a result.
John also goes on to mention that they would also undergo a time when Messiah would “baptize” them with fire. This term is a bit more curious to me.
Fire, in John’s day, served two purposes.
Fire served to purify and transform precious metals. When fire was used in Bible times, it was often used to melt down metals that had impurities within them. Melting down the metals, like iron, bronze, gold, or steel would draw out greater value as they were refined. Gold for example, needed to be refined in fire, to draw out its greatest value. When it was melted down, it needed to undergo a time in the fire to cause the dross (or the impurities) to rise to the top of to be removed from the gold. This refining fire would purify and bring out its very best.
When the Holy Spirit overflows from the life of a Christ follower he or she will be purified. A baptism by fire shows that the lethal power of a fire could be used to refine not only metals, but also the people of God. When we endure the most challenging of times, we often think it is attacks from the devil, which it may be at times. A baptism by fire may serve as a refining time that the Lord wants to burn out the dross from our lives and refine our character and Christ-likeness.
Fire served to destroy what was worthless. When the Holy Spirit overflows from the life of a Christ follower, the He burns and destroys things that are worthless and of no value.
When we were talking about a friend who is facing some really difficult challenges in her marriage, I told my wife that the Holy Spirit and the devil cannot both live in the same person. If we are baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire, the worthless parts of us will eventually be burned out. The more the Holy Spirit fills us, the less excuses, anger, and bitterness we can hold onto. The more the Holy Spirit gets His grip on us, the less the devil can hold onto.
Hebrews 12:29, describes God as a “consuming fire,” which means that He does not come only come into the nice, comfortable areas of our lives, but rather He comes to invade and consumes every area of life.
Holy Spirit it is easy to thank You for coming to fill my life. It is wonderful when You give me the “joy of the Lord.” I love it when You “descend like a dove” or give a “peace that surpasses understanding.” Too often I fail to thank You for my baptism by fire. Too often I fail to give You glory for the most challenging, confusing, and troublesome times in my life which absolutely draw me closer to You. Thanks Jesus, for Your baptism by fire. Thank You Holy Spirit, for using the “fires” in my life to mold me more into Your image. In the precious name of Jesus Christ, amen.