Many people earnestly seek for the baptism of fire as part of the salvation process. They read the statement of John the baptist who said Jesus would come and baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). They trust that this baptism of fire is synonymous with the reception of the Holy Spirit mentioned by Jesus and by Peter on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:38. ((c.f. Acts 2:3)) ((These two “receptions” of the Holy Spirit are not necessarily the same inasmuch as the measure of the Holy Spirit received by the apostles was far greater than that others would receive.)) I think they are terribly mistaken.
Here’s the entire passage:
I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Stopping here we might think that being baptized by fire is a good thing and much to be desired. But we cannot stop. As with all Bible study we must consider the full context of the passage.
In Matthew 3, “fire” is mentioned three times. We find it in Matthew 3:10, Matthew 3:11 and Matthew 3:12. In verses 10 and 12 the reference is undeniably to judgment or punishment. Verse 11, which is the key verse for our particular interest, is not so clear. At least not until you look at the other two verses.
Does it make sense that the middle occurrence of the word means something good when the other two immediately surrounding verses mean something else.
Jesus will judge his people (2 Timothy 4:1) and some will be cast into a lake of fire (Revelation 21:8; c.f. Revelation 20:10). There is far too much linkage between fire and judgment for this passage to mean something desirable.
There is a good study on this subject at www.layhands.com. I do not endorse everything on the site but his study is especially powerful as he is a pentecostal. Many who hold to the idea of the baptism of fire are pentecostal in their view.
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