“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. – Matthew 3:11
Growing up in Pentecostal circles, I remember this passage in Mathew was used as a text to point out that Christ will send his Spirit to baptize the believer by the Holy Spirit and fire. Jesus will fill you with his Spirit and as a result, you will be on fire for God. Is that what John the Baptist meant?
Let’s look at the context of the passage, in Matthew 3 we are introduced to John the Baptist and his ministry to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus Christ, we find him preaching repentance and baptizing those who repent. In his preaching he turned his sights to the Pharisees and Sadducees (Jewish religious leaders) and says,
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he 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. – Matthew 3:7-10
John the Baptist calls them out, he shines a spot light on them. John the Baptist was pointing out a very important truth, repentance of sin brings forth fruit of change. When true repentance comes to a heart, the desire to turn from sin accompanies it. The Pharisees and Sadducees were good at putting on a show to be applauded by men and John the Baptist calls them out for it.
John the Baptist continues and points out the forestry department is coming. The forestry department is coming to clear out every tree which is not bearing fruit, trees that are useless. These trees are not only getting cut, notice where these useless trees are headed, to the fire. Fire is a place of judgement and punishment, a place, I assure you, we do not want to be.
This is the lead into our passage. Is being baptized with fire something we want? Let’s continue to analyze the context,
11 “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.
12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” – Matthew 3:11-12
John the Baptist points out to one who is coming after him who will baptize with the Spirit and fire, the one that is coming is Jesus. When we continue reading, it is Jesus who will come with a winnowing fork in hand, sifting through the harvest and He will separate the wheat from the chaff. The wheat is gathered into the barn, but the chaff is thrown into unquenchable fire.
How will the wheat and chaff be separated? How will the fruit bearing trees and useless trees be identified?
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. – Ephesians 1:13-14
Those who have received the gospel of salvation have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is deposited in us guaranteeing our inheritance in heaven. Through this baptism of the Spirit which Christ offers to all who repent and believe in Him, this baptism guarantees that we are fruit bearing trees, wheat in God’s barn. For those who reject Christ? Those are the ones who are met by the forestry department, they meet the winnowing fork of Christ, they are baptized with judgement, baptized with fire.
A sobering reality, the world is filled with fruitless trees and chaff. Here is the the good news, those of us who are baptized with His Spirit must preach the Gospel to a lost world and our miracle working God is able to transform fruitless trees to fruit bearing trees. He is able to make chaff into wheat.
Until Next Time
Solo Deo Gloria