“…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Luke 3:16
The third type of baptism I want to review is one of fire. In my search through scriptures I had a rather difficult time trying to determine how to apply John the Baptist’s intent when he said Jesus would baptize with fire. Jesus mainly used fire as a negative connotation, such as everlasting destruction, except in my interpretation of one instance.
“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” Luke 12:49
When Jesus often spoke he was speaking spiritually, and here, I believe Jesus is using a metaphor for fire with passion, which can be seen in the Hebrew word for fire, אש (‘ish). Reading further down in the passage, this fire will bring division into families, and there is an interesting Hebrew word play to show how fire plays a role in the family.
Shortened Name of God
In the Midrash rabbis looked at these words and noted, man and woman do not have God in their names, like Eli-jah, but bring man and woman together and God is in their midst. Without God in the midst of man and woman, you have fire and fire, and we know how destructive that can be.
I noticed in verse 51 Jesus did not say he would bring division between man and woman, but father and son, mother and daughter, etc. In Hebrew both man and woman have the letter א aleph, the first letter of the alphabet, which has always been associated with God. In the names of man and woman, God can reside in man without woman and woman without man, but alone they cannot form the name of God. This explains man and woman alone cannot completely understand God, that is to understand what the love of God is all about.
Although this is a rather interesting word play coincidence, it still does not help me understand what baptism of fire signifies. Looking esoterically at the letter shin, it is drawn with three upraised arms with flames of holy fire.
The shin begins the Hebrew words for sun (shemsh), kindle (sh’viv), heat (sharav) and the flame of fire (shalhevet). The shin represents the kindling, flame and heat of a fire. Fire is considered a passion, a fiery passion, and reminds us of the passion of God. Another word that starts with the shin is change (shinui). With the fiery passion of God, He changes a heart. Heart? How did that find its way into this study, for no matter how much I study the Bible, I circle around to one key point, a matter of the heart. Even the physical heart has the Hebrew letter shin inside:
Looking up the primitive meaning of אש (‘ish), I learn it has the action of to press or shine, as pressing of wood to create fire, the object of fire, foundation and pillar, and abstractly, despair or pressure. The pictograph represents strength. The is a picture of teeth and imply pressing as one does with the teeth to chew food. Combined these pictures mean “a strong pressing down” Using the primitive meaning, being baptized with fire is being surrounded by a strong pressing down of the Holy Spirit? Interesting.
As I showed in the previous study, there is a word play on Tebal (baptism), which is a good heart, so baptism by fire would be a good heart set on fire.
I have touched on fire in word plays, primitively and in esoteric land and nature, but what does it mean to be baptized by fire? As I have mulled over this, I have come to consider personal experiences as a means of defining baptism by fire. The personal way in which we experience God, how the Holy Spirit manifest itself in us, how God gives us a passion for what he has called us to do.
While doing this study, I came across a painting, one I have been familiar with in Mexico, for I saw it quite often. “The Sacred Heart of Jesus” which has its origin from 1673 AD. I had been torn over this painting. In some ways it was a little weird, but there was always a draw of interest. As I looked closer, I realized the artist drew a fire around the heart, and I wondered what he was trying to portray. The fiery passion of Jesus? The experience Margaret Alacoque, who was inspired to devote to the sacred heart of Jesus?
I then began to think of ways in which Christians use the word fire in a positive sense. “That preacher is on fire for the Lord.” “There is a fire in my spirit.” We even sing about this fire in our songs.
‘Tis Better Felt than Told
Blest was the hour that heav’nly fire
Lit up my darkened soul;
Now I Feel the Sacred Fire
Now I feel the sacred fire,
Kindling, flaming, glowing,
Higher still and rising higher,
All my soul o’erflowing;
Life immortal I receive;
O the wondrous story!
I was dead, but now I live
Glory! glory! glory!
For something not really mentioned in scripture, it seems Christians have experienced fire from the Lord down through the ages. I find it a common term used between Christians. In my experience, I have personally felt a fire inside of me during church service, and once when I prayed amongst friends. The Holy Spirit immersed itself upon all of us in different ways. For me, it was a manifestation of fire that was before me. I could physically feel the heat right in front of me, but it did not burn. In leading two people to Christ, they shared with me after the prayer, “When we began to pray I was very hot. It was like standing before a fire.”
What is this baptism by fire all about? Scripturally, I didn’t find much. I could try and tie it to sanctification, where a few verses mention being refined, which uses fire, yet in finishing up this article for posting, I took my mind back to the days before electricity. Fire was not only used for warmth and cooking, but fire was also used for light.
When I reflect back over experiences, the definitions, word and letter study, baptism by fire is a pressing down of the Holy Spirit, where the fire inside of us is kindled. The flood gates in my mind are now open, and I realize I forgot to pray to ask for knowledge and wisdom of this study, but the Lord was not going to let me publish this without opening up what He wanted me to see!
I had initially taken this study for the fiery passion of the Christian, how the Holy Spirit manifest itself as fire to us; however, there are multiple interpretations for this verse and the baptism of fire. How is this fire kindled, or strongly pressed down inside one who does not know Christ? Have you considered the fire of conviction?
When He [The Holy Spirit] comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment. John 16:8 HCM [Emphasis mine]
In my witnessing encounters, I have seen the sinner being pressed down with the weight of the word, being convicted of sin and righteousness by the Holy Spirit, until one relents and surrenders to God. A place where He changes the heart, where He comes inside to live, a place where He ignites the heart on fire!
For the believer the image of baptism by fire is beautiful. This fire is the Light of Jesus that shines from us. The Christian is a light in a dark and dying world. We have an everlasting flame inside of us, a flame that will not die! In my personal experience and the experience of others, there is a special fire for serving the Lord, and Jesus was anticipating the day that He would baptize us with fire. A fiery passion to serve Him, to have a peace in this life, a passion that even amongst the darkest of times, one could boldly say, “Lord, I am coming home.” A fire inside of us where we know we are His and He is ours.
I have a new appreciation for The Sacred Heart painting, for it speaks to me of His Heart, His Fire, His Spirit, living inside of me. A fire inside of us that emits to a lost and dying world, beckoning others to come to the light. A fire where people know there is something different, where we are reminded that we are children of God.
“To give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins. To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace.” Luke 1:77,79