He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Luke 3:1-22 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. 3 And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; 4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way
of the Lord,
Make His paths straight. 5 ‘Every ravine will be filled, And every mountain and hill will be brought low; The crooked will become straight, And the rough roads smooth; 6 And all flesh will see the salvation of God.’”
7 So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 9 Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” 11 And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” 12 And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” 14 Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.”
15 Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ, 16 John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
18 So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people. 19 But when Herod the tetrarch was reprimanded by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the wicked things which Herod had done, 20 Herod also added this to them all: he locked John up in prison.
21 Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”
John the Baptist would not be well received by many today. The focus of his preaching was repentance from sin. His mission was to prepare the way for the Lord, to make people ready for the savior and salvation. In today’s text he says: “…Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” There are two aspects to these verses which can be applicable to us today, as well as to the Israelites. First many of the Israelites thought that their heritage, their identity as children of Abraham was enough to make them God’s chosen people and to secure their salvation. Many people today, who identify themselves as Christians, have that identity in much the same way. They identify as Christians because they were born as Christians. It is the box that they check on a multiple choice form. They believe in God, they’re not, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or other, they must be Christian. For many their Christian identity is a default identity rather than a knowledge and believing in Jesus. The name Christian means little Christ. To be Christian is more than an identity of birth or membership in a church. To be Christian is to be like Christ, to be His disciple. It is more than an identity we can be born into. To be a Christian, Jesus says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”… “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:3,5-7) We will revisit the idea of being born of the Spirit, but for now let’s understand that our identity in Christ is not something we have by default. It is not a natural identity, it is a spiritual identity. It is not something we are born into, it is something we must be reborn into.
The second thing we can apply to our own lives is what John says: “bear fruits in keeping with repentance… every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” The concept that there would be judgment by fire for those who do not do what is right is not well received by many today. They say it is contrary to the message of love, grace and mercy. They say that judgment is contrary to the message and the life of Christ. It is of course true, that as it says in Ephesians 2:8-9: by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Our salvation is not based on the works we do or the fruit we bare. Rather as Ephesians 10 continues: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Our works are not the basis of our salvation but rather they are the result of it. If our lives are not producing fruit we need to get closer to Christ, to become more like Him. Much of Jesus life and teaching does not focus on the concept of judgment, but indeed He does confirm what John says about those whose lives produce no fruit. Among other examples, in John 15:1-8 Jesus says: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” Not only does Jesus say that unfruitful branches will be cast into the fire and burned, but He also says that bearing fruit is a proof of discipleship.
In today’s text, John also says: “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” While this too sounds like an ominous warning about judgment, really it carries a tremendous message of hope and encouragement. John says that Jesus will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is what Jesus spoke of earlier, being born of the Spirit. If we are baptized with, born of the Spirit, then the fire is not a fire of judgment but rather a fire which burns away the impurities from our lives. It is a fire which removes anything that would keep us from being like Jesus. Bearing fruit does not necessarily mean that we must be in the mission field or be evangelizing, preaching and leading people to salvation. If we are baptized in and born of the Spirit, then the fruit we bear will be spiritual as well. Galatians 5:16-25 says: I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You that indeed I am saved by Your grace, by Your love demonstrated on the cross. But I am saved for good works. Baptized in, born of, filled with, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit may I produce fruit for the kingdom. May my life be filled with: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and may Your fire burn away all: : immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing from me. Amen.