FIRE BAPTISM? Ouch!!!!!

The last post generated a great question from Diane,  “What about the Baptism of Fire?”

Is there a separate experience for believers known as the “Baptism of Fire” or does it speak of:

1.  the trials believers will inevitably face or 

2.  the tongues of fire on Pentecost?  

There are two references in the scriptures to “baptize with the Holy Spirit AND FIRE” (Matt 3:11, Luk 3;16).  Only John the Baptist uses this combination and it is a prophetic declaration about how people can recognize the Messiah; He will accomplish these acts (whether they are two distinct events or one event marked by two descriptions, phases or facets).  

I think the two possible definitions mentioned above are very plausible, but let me add a third which seems to follow John the Baptist’s flow of thought.  Let’s work through  Luke 3:15-17:  

15   Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ,     

SUMMARY: IS JOHN THE MESSIAH?  

16  John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

SUMMARY: “NO, THE MESSIAH WILL DO THINGS I CANNOT DO; HE WILL BAPTIZE (IMMERSE) IN PEOPLE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT AND FIRE.”  

17  “His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”      

SUMMARY: “THE MESSIAH WILL DIVIDE THOSE WHO ACCEPT HIM (WHEAT) FROM THOSE WHO REJECT HIM (CHAFF);  THE WHEAT WILL EXPERIENCE FAVOR WHILE THE CHAFF WILL EXPERIENCE JUDGMENT FIRES.”  

From this brief analysis, it appears to be a two sided experience for two separate groups of people: those who accept the Messiah and those who reject the Messiah.    

Verse 17 is the key to understanding this concept.  Matthew’s account (3:11-12) verse 12 is almost identical to Luke 3:17; the same two sides to the coin are presented.  Those who accept the Messiah will experience Spirit Baptism; those who reject him will experience fire baptism.  

This seems like the most logical explanation in context.

Fire baptism for me?  No thanks!

Posted on August 7, 2008, in Speaking in Tongues/Glossolalia, Spirit Baptism. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Interesting, I don’t think I heard this version before (applying to the unbeliever). I never even thought of it this way. It makes me wonder what other verses have been interpreted in many ways because there is little said. We try to figure out what He’s saying instead of just listening and using the whole conversation in context.

  2. Agreed on the fire baptism.

    I’d also throw in that other scriptural mentions of fire and the believer seem to deal with trials and testings that are aimed at refining us – as in 1 Peter 1:6-7, and even in Mark 9:49 where Jesus says that ‘everyone will be salted with fire’.

    In general, I would not view a ‘baptism of fire’ as something to look forward to in either case, although one is escapable – the other inevitable.

  3. I have to respectively disagree. That interpretation is a giant leap. I do believe both Holy Spirit Baptism AND the Fire Baptism is in regards believers. To me, that is what the context suggests. However, your interpretation is interesting and worth mulling over.

  4. Hi Diane.

    Thanks for your comment.

    You’re kind way of disagreeing is very refreshing! These kind of issues are interesting to discuss but not worth arguing over. Thanks for being an example of graciousness.

    I appreciate your input on this.

  5. Aaron,

    Thanks for your comment.

    You brought up a really great point about the probability of us interpreting other scriptures from our jaded vantage points.

    This is the challenge of biblical interpretation: trying to read the text without reading into the text.

    Perhaps everyone is guilty of this; we as Pentecostals are too! The passages on the Holy Spirit in John a common texts that we “over-Pentecostalize (7:37-39; 14-16; 20:21).

    Maybe we can start a discussion on some of the other texts soon.

  6. Pete Pentecostal

    While I favor your interpretation I have heard an argument against it. The argument centers on there being one article in the prepositional phrase. Does the Greek use of one article imply there is one baptism that includes both the Holy Spirit and fire?

  7. pete,

    I think that is exactly the right interpretation although I have not heard about the Greek grammatical form before. But I would like to hear more if you can find sources.

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