Baptism of fire
Larry Kreider

B. Childress
Feb 28 2011

Yet another kind of baptism mentioned in the New Testament is the baptism of fire.  John the Baptist mentions this
baptism in Luke 3:16.  John answered them all, “
I baptize you with water.  But one more powerful than I will come, the
thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

We learned earlier that the baptism with water signifies repentance.  Here we see that the coming of the Holy Spirit is
proof of the presence of God.  Fire is a biblical symbol of purification and power.  John the Baptist said that Jesus will
baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Let’s talk about the baptism of fire first, specifically in the way it can purify us.  Trials or difficult times that we go through
are a type of baptism of fire.  After John said Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire, he explains it more fully
in the next verse.  
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
(Luke 3:17).

A fan or winnowing shovel was used to throw grain into the air so that the chaff would blow away, while the clean kernels
fell back to the threshing floor.  The Lord tells us that He will “clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His
barn, and burn the chaff.”  In other words, our god is committed to cleaning out of our lives all of those unwholesome
things (chaff) that may still be clinging to us.  This could be habits from our past or old ways of thinking that are contrary
to God’s Word.

This cleaning process is not always easy!  Sometimes new Christians are shocked when they have to face trials in their
lives.  They assumed that the Christian life was going to be a life of ease.

I grew up on a farm, so I clearly understand the importance of the chaff being separated from the wheat in order to get a
clean product.  When wheat harvest came each year, we had a large vibrating screen that the wheat was poured onto
which literally shook the chaff free as it was separated from the wheat.  God is looking for good fruit (wheat) in our lives.  
Sometimes He allows us to be in circumstances to “vibrate” us a bit until the “chaff” in our lives can be blown away.

On the family farm, I also learned a similar lesson while welding.  I remember taking a torch and heating metal until it was
very hot.  When it was hot, the impurities came to the top.  We called it
slag.  When the slag surfaced, we would scrap it
off, or it could keep the two pieces of metal from being properly welded together.  Again, this is a picture of a separation
of the good from the bad so that we can find purity.

There are times when we need the
slag skimmed out of our lives in a baptism of fire.  When we go through these fiery
trials and hard times, the impurities will “come to the top” in our lives.  The wrong attitudes, those things that irritate us,
the critical spirit, lack of love, lack of joy, lack of patience, fear – all “come to the top.”  When the “spiritual slag” is
revealed in our lives, we can receive from Jesus the ability to repent and get rid of the impurities.

Drink the cup

James and John, two of the disciples, had some chaff or slag in their lives that needed to be eradicated so they could
become stronger.  They sincerely loved Jesus and wanted to be close to Him, but they seemed to be focusing mainly on
the benefits Jesus could give them when they sent their mother to ask a favor of Jesus on their behalf.   When their
mother asked if her sons could sit on the right and left side of Jesus in His kingdom, Jesus asked the following hard
question, “…
Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized
with?”  They said to Him, “We are able.”  So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the
baptism that I am baptized with
…” (Matthew 20:22-23 NKJ).

Were they willing to be baptized with the baptism that He was to be baptized with – namely, to go to the cross?  Were
they willing to suffer in order to build the kingdom?  Were they willing to fact the impurities in their lives and allow Jesus
to change them?  They thought they were ready, so they said, “We are able.”  However, a few days later, they deserted
their Master when He was arrested.  The benefits of following Jesus just became less desirable to them when it involved
suffering for Him!

Of course, the disciples later returned to Jesus after they had betrayed and abandoned Him.  They witnessed His love
and forgiveness in their lives.  Jesus knows and understands our weaknesses.  When the impurities come out of our
lives, He reaches out with forgiveness and love.  His power strengthens us so we can be victorious the next time we are
faced with life’s difficulties.

Count it all joy

You may say, “Man, I’m having some hard times!  Why me?” It is never easy when God allows us to go through the fire.  
It can make us feel like giving up when God doesn’t make sense to us.  What God really wants us to do is to keep
trusting Him.  This is why James 1:2-5 tells us,
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may
be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to
all without finding fault, and it will be given to him

When we understand that the trials of life can be used by the Lord to work His character in our lives, it really changes
our perspective.  We can rejoice, because the Lord is using it for our good!  And He promises to give us wisdom right in
the middle of the trials if we just ask Him!  He can be trusted, in spite of the pain.

I took a course in high school learning how to make certain metal tools.  In order for the tools to be hardened, we were
taught to take a hot molten piece of metal and dip it in and out of water in order to temper it.  This process gave the tool
the proper strength to be useful.

Our Lord allows us to go through the baptism of fire in order to make us useful in His service.  An attitude of pride will not
hold up under pressure.  When we go through some fiery trials in life, we learn to trust in the Lord and in His Word.  His
character is built into our lives.  Without His character built into our lives, we will break under pressure when the Lord
really begins to use us.

Persevering in our trials

Yes, the Lord will use us, even when we are going through hard times!  For example, did you ever have a brother or
sister “sandpaper” in your life – someone who rubbed you the wrong way?  Maybe the Lord allowed this person in your
life for a reason.  Perhaps He wanted to see if you would respond in a Christ-like way.  So you reached out to the Lord
for His strength to love this person unconditionally.  It was not easy, and life was unpleasant for awhile, but you came
through this baptism of fire with a new love and awareness of God’s grace and mercy.  Today you have a great
relationship with this former “sister sandpaper”!  Trusting Him and persevering really made you strong and cleaned out
some bad attitudes in your own life.

Did you ever pinch your finger causing a painful blood clot to form under the fingernail?  You will probably have to go to
the doctor so he can use a sterile needle to drill a little hole in the nail, releasing the pressure.  The Lord wants us to
release spiritual pressure in the lives of others.  But, He can only use us effectively if our attitudes are pure and we trust

When we persevere in our trials, we are purified by the Word of God so we can be the pure bride of Christ.  The Bible
calls the church “the bride of Christ.”  Did you ever see a dirty bride?  I haven’t.  The Lord is cleaning us up.  The book
of Ephesians 5:25-27 says,
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to
make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant
church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless

The Lord uses His Word to wash us.  However, if we never look into the mirror, we tend to forget how dirty we can be.  
The Word of God is our mirror and our cleanser.  As a little boy, I hated to take baths.  But my parents made sure that I
took a regular bath, whether I liked it or not!  And now, I’m glad they did.  You, too, will look back later and really
appreciate your “spiritual bath.”

Don’t’ be afraid of the baptism of fire.  Jesus will give you the strength to persevere.  Trials can make you strong if you
respond to them the right way.

On fire for Jesus

Previously we said that fire is a symbol of purification and power, and we have examined how we can be purified by
“fiery” trials.  Another side to the baptism of fire is the power aspect of it.  We should live in such a way that our lives are
“on fire for Jesus Christ.”  We need to be earnest and enthusiastic in our love for God, according to Revelation 3:19,
and …
turn from you [our] indifference and become enthusiastic about the things of God (TLB).

If we are not enthusiastic about the things of God, we are commanded to turn from our indifference or apathy.  We have
been created to experience His “fire” burning inside of us, baptized with fire.  The early disciples “burned” with a zeal for
God.  Ask the Lord to baptize you with His fire and His zeal.  God is looking for zealous men and women.  Numbers 25:11-
13 speaks of such a zealous man.  
Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away
from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to
them.  Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him.  He and his descendants will have a covenant of a
lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites
.  The Lord
honored Phinehas because he was zealous for his God.  Are you zealous for your God today?  Are you experiencing
this type of
baptism of fire?

Those who are baptized with fire are men and women of prayer who have a holy hatred for sin, and a holy
love for the Lord with a compassion for the lost and for the church of Jesus Christ
.  The psalmist in Psalms 69:
9 reveals his righteous zeal for God’s house and kingdom…
zeal for your house consumes me…  When we are truly on
fire for God, all the desires of our body and soul are wrapped up in His desires.  We are absorbed in who God wants us
to be and what He wants us to do.  We will have a godly zealot see His house (His church) be all that it was created to be
in our generation.  “Lord, baptize us in your fire!”