The Holy Spirit — AND fire?
“John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Luke 3:16 KJV)
Hmmm. Jesus will baptize you with the Holy Spirit, John said. Okay, that I understand. But fire? Why baptize with fire? Some thoughts:
When precious metal is “fired,” it’s purified, thus made more valuable. When a human being is “fired,” the same process happens. The baptism with fire is God’s smelter…
Smelting produces a metal from its ore, such as silver, iron, copper and other base metals. The process removes unwanted elements and leaves just the metal behind.
When someone becomes a Christian, some things — unwanted elements — need to be removed. Sickness and disease, physical weaknesses, flaws, genetic predispositions. Emotional and psychological bruises.
Wrong thinking based on incorrect information. Faulty opinions. Painful memories. Harmful influences from past or present relationships. Bad attitudes. Destructive habit patterns. Addictions. Unhealthy emotional dependence.
But not everything that needs to be removed is bad. The apostle Paul said all things were permissible to him, but not all things were profitable. “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” (I Cor. 10:23 KJV)
Consider a rock with a vein of silver running through it, for instance. There’s nothing wrong with the rock. But for the silver to be profitable, the perfectly good rock must go.
Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” He just chipped away everything that wasn’t an angel, until all that was left was the angel.
That’s what happens in the smelting process, except the left-over material isn’t just separated out, it’s burned away. Destroyed.
Recently I’ve watched videos of revival services from around the world, listened to testimonies and read several books by men and women being used by God around the world to bring salvation to the multitudes (Heidi and Rolland Baker, Rodney Howard-Browne, Daniel Kolenda, Reinhard Bonnke, Randy Clark and others).
Miracle healings, signs and wonders regularly occur when they minister. They preach and teach the same gospel message as multitudes of other ministers. Yet they seem more “fired up” than other folks.
I wondered why that is. I sought out their testimonies.
Reading their personal stories, each person mentioned reaching a point in their lives when they felt physically exhausted, mentally and emotionally burned out. Years of work showed too little results, as if God didn’t really care. Several considered leaving the ministry altogether.
Almost as a last resort, each of them reached out to someone else to pray for them, someone who knew what they were going through, had been where they were. Who knew what they needed.
Each one received prayer for the Holy Spirit to refill them, to re-impart to them strength and power to keep on keeping on.
And he did just that, sometimes in spectacular public ways. These weren’t ways they themselves would have chosen, but at that point they were too desperate for God’s touch to worry about appearances.
Now, in the natural realm some metals are fired over and over. They aren’t just being smelted, they are being forged. Smelted (purified) metal is quite valuable, of course. Some of it can be cold-processed, beaten and twisted into beautiful show-pieces without heat. Elaborate silver tea sets. Delicate gold jewelry.
But for other materials, red-hot heat is necessary. They need the heat of a forge, a furnace where metal is heated until it’s malleable, then beaten into the desired shape of the finished product.
A fine sword for instance, made of steel. An alloy of iron and carbon, steel is hard. More useful and long-lasting. In the forge, steel is heated, hammered, stretched thin and folded, re-heated and re-hammered again and again.
At last the final shaping is done, the edge is sharpened, and the sword is finished.
For men and women called to take God’s word to the most dangerous areas of the world like Mozambique, Central and West Africa, the Far East or Middle East, they don’t just need God’s smelter. They need his forge.
Then there are others, believing men and women under strain, fighting to be persistent and consistent in their faith right here at home. Christian businessmen, homemakers, pastors, teachers and truck drivers, small business owners and workers face real troubles, even active opposition these days. For them, too, it’s a struggle to remain faithful and strong.
I am beginning to understand more about God’s purpose in his baptism with the Holy Spirit AND fire.