“The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with[b] water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire.17 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.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them. 19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.” Luke 3.15-20
What does it mean for Jesus to baptize with the “Holy Spirit and fire“? This is not small statement. It makes me think about the effects of only being baptized by water by John, and then the contrast of being baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit and fire. It is a huge contrast. Even John said, “But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” John’s baptism leads to repentance but Jesus’ baptism causes repentance.
Now when John says Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire, he doesn’t mean literal fire. Some extremists might take that literal interpretation. But according to biblehub.com, “pýr – fire. In Scripture, fire is often used figuratively – like with the “fire of God” which transforms all it touches into light and likeness with itself, God’s Spirit, like a holy fire, enlightens and purifies so that believers can share more and more in His likeness. Indeed the fire of God brings the uninterrupted privilege of being transformed which happens by experiencing faith from Him.” (https://biblehub.com/greek/4442.htm).
This is a more reasonable understanding of the word “fire.” When Jesus baptizes someone they are filled with the Holy Spirit which causes radical inward and outward transformation of the heart, soul, mind and body. How can one be baptized by Jesus’ transforming power and not be transformed? I’ve known “Christians” who are very lukewarm in their faith, it’s as if they only experienced the water baptism without the power. If we are genuinely touched by Jesus, saved by his love, then receiving him by faith involves a baptism which transforms. This baptism might involve water but should definitely involve the Holy Spirit and a burning fire within the soul when God touches our hearts.
It was John’s calling to proclaim the good news and Jesus’ calling to bring it. Our response is to receive it. So have you? Why not allow the baptism of God’s Holy Spirit and fire to infuse your life this very moment. Calling on him to resurrect what was dead and redeem what was lost.
“O Lord God, you are good. I praise you Lord for your unending love. For coming to earth to save us by your grace. Come now, Holy Spirit, fill me with your power and fire. Fuel within me a love for your Word and your people that I might be all you have called me to be. By your baptism and faith I will be healed. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen