Sometime between ’95 and ’98, I was in Ft. Worth with some friends. I spotted a salsa that I just had to have. It was called “Baptism of Fire.” My friends said that was really cool. They called it “Holy Ghost in a Jar!” After I arrived at home, I got out some chips and tried a big bite. I did begin to speak in a foreign tongue, but it was not the Holy Spirit that gave the utterance. I concluded that what I was going through was judgment!
“John answered them all, saying, ‘I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.’” (Luke 3:16 ESV).
I like the ESV translation of this verse. Notice that it says, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” I think the “with” is a very important word. In this translation, using the word “with” prior to the Holy Spirit, and again prior to fire shows that these are two different baptisms. Some translations do not include a second “with”, so they simply say, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” This can be read as either 1 or 2 baptisms.
How do you solve this? Is it one baptism, or two? Well, you shouldn’t isolate one verse all by itself and try to pull meaning from it. Let’s look into the whole context of Luke’s account of what John the Baptist was saying.
At the start of this chapter, Luke is describing the ministry of John the Baptist. Then he says, “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? 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.’” (Luke 3:7-9 NASB).
This mention of “fire” is definitely showing the judgment of God. Those lives that are not producing good fruit will be judged. The method of judgment? It definitely appears to be hell fire. The Jews at this time believed that they would go to Heaven as a result of being heirs of Abraham. John tells them that if they don’t repent, and live lives that bear heavenly fruit, they will be judged with the fires of hell.
After this, John tells of Christ’s coming, and says that He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He continues in verse 17 by saying, “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.” (Luke 3:17 NASB). Here we see that Christ is going to separate the wheat from the chaff. The wheat (the redeemed) will be gathered into His barn (Heaven) while the chaff (the unredeemed) will be burned up in “unquenchable fire” (hell).
It would be very confusing if John were to use the word “fire” to mean judgment, then a few verses later, he uses it again to mean the power of the Holy Spirit, then immediately switches back to judgment. It seems more likely that he uses it for the same purpose throughout this passage.
The meaning, here, is quite apparent to me. True repentance involves a complete turn from your sins, and a move toward God. Your life will then produce good fruit. A person who is living for the Lord will automatically yield heavenly fruit. Matthew 12:33 tells us that a tree is known by its fruit. In other words, we are being compared to fruit trees. If you ever come across a fruit tree, you will know what kind it is by the fruit it is producing. The same applies to people, which is actually easier. With people, there are only 2 kinds: redeemed and unredeemed. A tree is recognized by its fruit (your deeds). It is impossible for an apple tree to produce oranges. If you are redeemed, then people will know it by your character, and the way in which you do things.
Christ stands ready to separate the redeemed from the unredeemed. The redeemed will be put into His barn. The unredeemed will be burned up in a fire that can never be put out.
Accept Christ today. Repent. Start living for Jesus, and watch the fruit grow that forms automatically in the lives of those who are saved.