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Baptism of Fire


  • Baptism of Fire

    Growing up as a youth, I was always somewhat of a pyro. I never had a fireplace at my house but I was always quite fascinated by fire. In following Jesus, I’ve also wondered about fire in scripture. Why did Jesus say “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled (Luke 12:49)”? The two disciples on the road to Emmaus felt their hearts burning as Jesus taught them from the scriptures on his death and resurrection.

    It was in the Spring of 2005 and at a 10pm set, the Spirit of God came during a Misty Edwards worship concert and the people were responding; hands raised and hearts ablaze in passion for Jesus. It was a simple chorus:

    Baptize my heart, with your fire, desire. Baptize my heart with your fire, desire. I don’t want to be offended, I don’t want to be offended, ‘cause its all coming down!

    Caught up in the swirl of emotion and joy, I joined the crowd of people that night in singing it as a prayer before God- not fully knowing what I was asking for.

    It was in the midst of a special season of prayer for the Jewish people in Israel and I was only beginning to learn about God’s heartache and passion for the Jewish people. Paul wrote to the Church in Rome regarding Jewish-Gentile relations. He began this key section by writing:

    1I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— 2I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3for I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. (Romans 9:1-4 NIV)

    Was the apostle Paul being a bit emotionally overzealous (and it somehow made it into the cannon of scripture) or is there something else going on in this passage?

    In human history, only two other people offered to make a “deal” with God like this. First, Moses went up before God on Mount Sinai after the people had greatly sinned against the LORD. God answered Moses that he would blot out those who had sinned against Him. Then, there is the ultimate intercessor, Jesus Christ of Nazareth Himself- the perfect atoning sacrifice to remove our sin.

    So what did Paul understand in God to make him ask for this?

    First, Paul understood that when all of the ethnically Jewish people turn to Jesus, it is simply all over! Jesus said he would not return until the Jewish leaders welcomed him back as king (Matthew 23:37-39). Zechariah (and others) prophesied that Israel would mourn with regret and sorrow over having rejected Jesus as their messiah for so long- and would then receive salvation. There was also undoubtedly pain in Paul’s heart over his history of persecuting believers before Jesus met him on the road to Damascus.

    Paul wrote Romans 9-11 detailing how God would provoke Israel to jealousy and bring in the harvest of Gentiles (like me and most of you) into loving Jesus as well. It is when Jesus returns at his 2nd coming to rule the heavens and the earth (Ephesians 1:9-10; Matthew 6:9-13 and Colossians 1:18-21) that the eternal plan of God will then get completely fulfilled climaxing in making all things new.

    Second, Paul understood something deeper in God. Proverbs tells us, “jealousy arouses a husband’s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge” (Proverbs 6:34). Paul may have understood that from this verse and passages such as Isaiah 30:33 that it is the breath of God involved in punishing sinners in the lake of fire.

    Meanwhile, it is the same holy fire that sets the heart ablaze in unstoppable love and eternal pleasure in God. Solomon wrote in the greatest love song ever written:

    Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm, for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned (Song of Songs 8:6-7).”

    John the Baptist joyfully announced that someone was coming who would baptize the world with fire. Paul had met the man with eyes ablaze with fire. The same unquenchable fire both torments sinners who have scorned the love of Jesus forever and brings eternal joy to the saints.

    The fiery emotions of the noble King

    In understanding the emotions of God, Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth about this hidden zeal: “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him (2 Corinthians 11:2)”. From Psalm 16:11, Psalm 45:7, and Psalm 96 we get the understanding that there is eternal beauty, gladness, and pleasure in God’s immediate manifest presence.

    Righteousness brings superior pleasure-we were made to enjoy God and be enjoyed by God. The original intention of the Sabbath in Genesis 2 and 3 was all about God and man in unhindered fellowship enjoying each other. Paul had stood in the counsel of God and had amazing experiences as alluded to in 2 Corinthians 12:1-6. Solomon wrote that this love is better than wine (Song of Songs 1:4). People who experience a taste of this joy are overwhelmed.

    While God’s general emotional disposition is joy-filled, there is also clearly a lingering heartache and lament in the heart of God as well. God commanded Hosea to love marry a prostitute named Gomer, knowing she would desert him for others. In the midst of the ordeal, Hosea was able to understand the scorned heart of God and prophesied with a broken heart. God’s heart-wrenching emotions also spilled on to scroll of history through prophet Jeremiah:

    Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed. My eyes will flow unceasingly without relief, until the LORD looks down from heaven and sees.
    (Jeremiah 3:48-50)

    Other Hebraic prophets testified to the heartache of God over a people who scorned his love. For the few throughout history God directly revealed this to, the pain in God’s heart overwhelmed them with sorrow.

    Jesus openly revealed both the sorrow and the joy of His heart to his closest friends at the last supper. In Luke 22:15-16, Jesus said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” A few hours later in Matthew 26:38, Jesus then said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

    At the end of the last supper in instituting the New Covenant, Jesus said with those blazing eyes of fire, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until the day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s Kingdom (Matthew 26:29). It is the same fire in the heart of the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. It is the same fiery passion of Jesus behind the suffering at the cross, death, and resurrection. It is the same man of fire who ever makes intercession for us. It is with the same fire that Jesus desires to return for a Bride prepared and set ablaze for Him- the gladness of His heart. It is the same fire of His love inside of a living sacrifice that burns with desire to take up the cross and give the Lamb that was slain the reward of his suffering on the earth.

    Baptize us with this fire. Consume us with the worthiness of Jesus!

    • Twin2
      Twin2 commented
      Editing a comment
      Very well written. I felt such peace when I read this article. All I could think about was when David danced before the Lord.

    • BibleLover4
      BibleLover4 commented
      Editing a comment
      Re: Babptism By Fire

      John the Baptizer warned the religious leaders of his day of a baptism with fire, which came upon Jerusalem in 70 C.E., when the Roman armies destroyed the city and burned its temple.—Mt 3:7-12.

      With Fire. When many Pharisees and Sadducees came out to John the Baptizer, he called them “offspring of vipers.” He spoke of the coming One and said: “That one will baptize you people with holy spirit and with fire.” (Mt 3:7, 11; Lu 3:16) The baptism with fire is not the same as baptism with holy spirit. The fiery baptism could not be, as some say, the tongues of fire at Pentecost, for the disciples there were not immersed in fire. (Ac 2:3) John told his listeners that there would be a division, there would be a gathering of the wheat, after which the chaff would be burned up with fire that could not be put out. (Mt 3:12) He pointed out that the fire would not be a blessing or a reward but would be because ‘the tree did not produce fine fruit.’—Mt 3:10; Lu 3:9.
      Using fire as a symbol of destruction, Jesus foretold the execution of the wicked to take place during his presence, saying: “On the day that Lot came out of Sodom it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed them all. The same way it will be on that day when the Son of man is to be revealed.” (Lu 17:29, 30; Mt 13:49, 50) Other instances of fire representing, not a saving force, but a destructive one, are found at 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Jude 7; and 2 Peter 3:7, 10.

    • pmiles
      pmiles commented
      Editing a comment
      come Lord Jesus and set our hearts on fire with Your love, and with Your fire burn up the chaff in our lives that we might be pleasing in Your sight. AMEN!
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