Sunday, November 16, 2014

"...the Holy Spirit and fire."

“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." Matt 3:11
Have you ever been in a "Church" and heard someone start yelling, "Fire Lord, more Fire! Fire!"
I used to hear this all the time at a couple Charismatic Churches we used to attend regularly. I never really thought about what "fire" meant in regard to the Holy Spirit, but it always seemed a little biblically awkward, like it didn't quite add up in "prayers" like these. Imagine my surprise when I began studying Matt 3:11. Let me see if I can break down what I discovered in this instance.
John the Baptist was speaking to a vast crowd at the time of this statement. There were all kinds of people in attendance. Some were serious followers hanging on every word that John spoke, some were open minded to the possibility of what was being proclaimed and then there were the religious leaders namely Pharisees and Sadducees. John the Baptist was fulfilling what the Prophet Isaiah had spoken of somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 years prior.
These religious leaders came to John to get baptised so as to "cover all their bases" so to speak. But John told them how it was and said to them:
“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."
In Acts 1 Jesus is speaking to His disciples and makes reference to John the Baptist when He says,
" “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” These were Jesus' disciples and He knew their hearts and they were "of one accord."
So, here's John baptising the multitude and the "Leaders" show up and want to be baptized for all the wrong reasons. John then makes the statement to the crowd and to the religious leaders in particular and says,
“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."
FIRE in this case denotes the consuming flames of Hell. To say that it is some special sign of the Holy Spirit in this instance is not even in keeping with the rest of the chapter. John is clearly saying-when read in context-that some of the throng will be baptized with the Holy Spirit and some will be sent to hell. He's talking to a mixed group.
As I imagine this scene taking place I can see John standing there looking around making eye contact with different ones as he makes the statement. He looks at one group of eager listeners whom he may have just baptized and says, "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 " --then he turns his head and makes eye contact with the pharisees as he continues the statement and says, "and fire."
This is how it reads to me. How could fire add to being baptized with the Holy Spirit anyway?
I have watched people at "Church" walk around in circles with their hands palms up, eyes closed chanting, "fire Lord, fire! More fire Lord." It like they're begging God to consume them with His unquenchable fire that is reserved for Satan and his angels.
I think a better prayer would be "open my eyes Lord and give me wisdom. Open my heart Lord to deepen our relationship and send the Holy Spirit to give me understanding of the revelation you've already given called the Bible. Read my heart Lord and forgive me, have mercy on me and give me grace.