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In today’s Bible reading, John the Baptizer arrives on the scene, calling everyone to repent of their sins and produce works consistent with their repentance. (Matthew 3:8).

Note the order: Repent –> Works.
Nowhere in the Bible is anyone called to an order of Works –> Repent.

John warns his hearers that God is already preparing to sort the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 3:10) At this point, John says that he baptizes with water for repentance, but Jesus will come and baptize with the Holy Spirit and Fire.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Most Christians have heard of the baptism of the Holy Spirit; most frequently, we think of Pentecostals and Charismatics when we hear the term. However, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a wholly Biblical concept, seen most clearly in Acts 2 (fulfilling Joel 2), but it’s also mentioned in Acts 11:16, John 1:33, and Mark 1:8.

In Acts 1:5, Jesus says that the disciples will be baptized with the Holy Spirt within a matter of days, and we see the fulfillment of His prophecy in Acts 2 when they are filled with the Holy Spirit.[1] (Acts 2:4)

Being baptized with the Holy Spirit is a good thing. Baptism of the Holy Spirit what unites all Christians with Jesus and with each other.

For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all given one Spirit to drink.(1 Corinthians 12:13 CSB)

Baptism of Fire

I remember discussing this passage in class in seminary. I openly disagreed with our professor in his interpretation that Jesus would baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit and would give us a fire to accomplish our calling. I pointed out the context that John wasn’t talking about a baptism to “fire up” believers, but a baptism to punish the unrighteous.

”The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove his sandals. He himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing shovel 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 fire that never goes out.” (Matthew 3:10–12 CSB)

Application

If you are a believer, you don’t have to worry about a baptism of fire for punishment. You will never receive that baptism. But if you are a believer, you have already received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus took all of your punishment when He died for you on the cross. He was the (not an, but the) atoning sacrifice for your sins. (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 3:24–25, 1 John 4:10)

You don’t have to fear God’s wrath because
God’s wrath has been dealt with in its entirety in Jesus’ death.

That’s the good news of the Gospel!

[1] When we get to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, I plan to discuss the baptism of the Spirit vs. the filling of the Holy Spirit.

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