Tongues of fire

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Luke 3:16-17 (NIV)

Water cleans.

John’s baptism was and still is symbolic of a spiritual cleansing, but it could never be anything more. We use water baptism as an outward symbol of an inner change. Our minds and our souls (mind, will, and emotions) must be engaged when we make the choice to be baptised in water. It is a sign of commitment to Christ.

Fire purifies.

It is only the baptism of the Holy Spirit that brings about true purification. All three parts of our being—body, soul, and spirit—must be engaged to receive this baptism. It is a sign of reliance on Christ.

Anyone can be baptised in water. Some experience great change and profess to feel something more than wet when they resurface. To some, it is merely a public declaration of their commitment to Jesus.

Anyone can be baptised in the Holy Spirit, but not everyone will display the evidence of it—tongues.

They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts 2:3-4 (NIV)

Holy Spirit baptism connects us to the Father in a way that nothing else can. The fire of the Spirit, the one John spoke of in the Gospel of Luke, cleanses us from within. If we allow it, it will burn away the impurities from our lives. But the key is submission and complete reliance. So long as we fight for control, we will never allow the Spirit to work in us.

There are those who would seek to tame and control the power of the Holy Spirit, but it is not ours to control. Rather, we must give ourselves over to His control. As contradictory as it may seem, there is no greater freedom to be found than when we give over control of our lives to the Spirit of God. It is only then that we have an even greater bond with the Father and an ability to pray His perfect will.

Neither water baptism nor baptism in the Holy Spirit are required of us to gain entrance into Heaven. But if God has provided for us a way to be even closer to Him, why would we not jump at the opportunity?

Read: Joshua 9-10, Luke 3

Spirit and fire

Read: Genesis 6-8, Matthew 3

Matthew 3:11

There are many in the Church that stay away from any discussion involving the Holy Spirit. For some people, it can be a sticky point of discussion. I’m not one of those people. If we have believed Jesus for salvation, why would we not believe him for the power of the Spirit that he promised to us?

Even John the Baptist knew that the water baptism he offered paled in comparison to what Jesus would bring.

Cleansing with water—water baptism—is an outward symbol of an inward change. But water can only do so much. It can wash the dirt from the outside, but can do very little to cleanse what’s on the inside. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in.

The Bible speaks often of the refiner’s fire. Refining is a process in which raw ore dug from the earth is heated to a melting point. The heavy precious metal stays at the bottom while the impurities rise to the top. Once cooled, those impurities can be wiped or knocked off leaving pure precious metal behind.

This is the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

The baptism “with fire” would convey, in its turn, the thought of a power at once destroying evil and purifying good…

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers

The Holy Spirit burns away what is evil and purifies what is good. In Acts 2, where we read the account of the 120 in the upper room experiencing tongues of fire, we see Joel’s prophecy fulfilled.

And afterward
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see vision.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

Joel 2:28-29 (NIV)

These are those days. God poured out His Spirit on His people in the book of Acts and He never took His Spirit back. So why should we shy away from that which God sent to us to give us power? It is only through the Holy Spirit that we can accomplish what Jesus said we would.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

John 14:12 (NIV)

As members of the Church, we should all seek and strive to see and do even greater things than Jesus did while he walked the earth. We need the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our churches if we’re going to see the miraculous like the disciples did. If we want Jesus to come back to earth to take us to heaven, we must first call down heaven to earth. The only way that is possible is with the Holy Spirit and with fire.