Consider what John the Baptist says in Matthew 3:11: “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”∗
As Christians we participate in water baptism to this day. For me, it was a serious commitment of faith, where I told my church what I believed and asked them to pray for me in the coming years. John is saying in this portion of scripture that Jesus gives a whole different type of baptism. But what does being baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire mean?
To find this out, I turned to Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Matthew 3. Henry writes,
It is Christ’s prerogative to baptize with the Holy Ghost. This he did in the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit conferred upon the apostles, to which Christ himself applies these words of John, [in] Acts 1:5. This he does in the graces and comforts of the Spirit given to them that ask him, [consider] Luke 11:13; John. 7:38, 39; Acts 11:16.
They who are baptized with the Holy Ghost are baptized as with fire; the seven spirits of God appear as seven lamps of fire, [see] Revelation 4:5. Is fire enlightening? So the Spirit is a Spirit of illumination. Is it warming? And do not their hearts burn within them? Is it consuming? And does not the Spirit of judgment, as a Spirit of burning, consume the dross of their corruptions? Does fire make all it seizes like itself? And does it move upwards? So does the Spirit make the soul holy like itself, and its tendency is heaven-ward. Christ says I am come to send fire, Luke 12:49.∗∗
The Holy Spirit baptizes us with a fire that cleanses our souls. It is a pour within us that enlightens, illuminates, and convicts us. It is very much like a fire in the way it consumes our lives. Through dying on the cross, Jesus was able to give this great gift of the Holy Spirit to us. It is a gift for believers alone, people who have admitted that they are in need of a saving grace. And what a wondrous gift it is!
Prayer: Lord, thank you for consuming my life. Please enlighten me to needs in the world around me and consume me with your love today.
Questions: What does the image of the Holy Spirit as a consuming fire mean to you? Did Matthew Henry’s commentary on Matthew 3:11 make sense to you, or did it just confuse you? What questions do you still have, and how will find those answers?
∗Quoted scripture is from the New Living Translation, unless otherwise indicated.
∗∗Henry, Matthew. "Commentary on Matthew 3." Blue Letter Bible. 1 Mar 1996. 2009. 9 Jul 2009. http://www.blueletterbible.org/commentaries/comm_view.cfm?AuthorID=4&contentID=1598&commInfo=5&topic=Matthew