The Holy Spirit and Fire! – Part 1
“John answered them all, ‘I baptize you with water. But… he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’” (Luke 3:16 NIV)
When the people wondered whether John the Baptist was the Messiah, John corrected them, saying, in essence, “I baptize you with water as a sign that you are repenting of your sins, but when the Messiah comes, he’s not baptizing you with water; he’s baptizing you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
This is so interesting, because in another part of the New Testament, we see John pointing to Jesus and saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). So John understood that. But notice how God marked out Jesus for John, who testified, “The one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit’” (John 1:33). God had told John, “You baptize in water, signaling that people are preparing the way for Christ to come into their lives when I reveal him. You baptize them in water as a sign that they’re turning from their way to God’s way. But when you see the Spirit come down on this man you baptize…. that’s the one who will baptize in the Holy Spirit and in fire.”
It’s important to note that it was not to be two baptisms: one baptism in the Holy Spirit and another in fire. No, it was… “He’ll baptize you in the Holy Spirit which is symbolized by fire.” So John told the people, “I’m baptizing you in water, but when he comes, he won’t baptize in water that just rolls off you. No, he will baptize you with fire within! It will be the Holy Spirit, in power, burning, purging, changing, making you a new person!”
Now, when we read the Scriptures, the first thing we have to ask ourselves is not what it means to us, but rather what it meant to the people who first heard it. Then we can proceed to the application that it has for us today. In this case, we have to stop and ponder: when the people of John’s day heard him mention the Holy Spirit, what did it mean to them? Well, they must have thought, “The Holy Spirit…the Spirit of God… Yes, we know: that’s the Spirit that came on Isaiah to prophesy and that’s how Elijah did those miracles. It was those few persons that were unusual, because the Holy Spirit empowered them. We know the Holy Spirit, but it’s not for the average person. No, it’s for the superstars; it’s for the prophets; it’s for someone special.”
But John said, “No! When he comes, he will baptize all of you with the Holy Spirit!” There will be no special class of people. There will be no congregation here, and priest there. No, everybody can drink the water of life. Everybody can have the fire burning inside them.”
And it’s the same for us today. A lot of people don’t believe it, so they don’t experience it. Some say, “No, I’ll pass on that. I just want a little church on Sunday.” If that’s how you feel, then you’ll never know what God can do. But the promise is this: when he comes, he will not baptize you with water. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire!
To be continued…
Read Luke 3:15-18.