The Gospel of Luke: a commentary & meditation 
"He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire"

Scripture: Luke 3:7-20

7 He said therefore to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  8 Bear fruits that befit repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9 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."10 And the multitudes asked him, "What then shall we do?" 11 And he answered them, "He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise." 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" 13 And he said to them, "Collect no more than is appointed you." 14 Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages." 15 As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ, 16 John answered them all, "I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy  to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." 18 So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother's wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he shut up John in prison.

Meditation: John the Baptist's life was fueled by one burning passion -- to point others to Jesus Christ and to the coming of his kingdom.  Who is John the Baptist and what is the significance of his message for our lives?  Scripture tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb (Luke 1:15, 41) by Christ himself, whom Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit.  When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth John lept in her womb as they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41). The fire of the Spirit dwelt in John and made him the forerunner of the coming Messiah.  John was led by the Spirit into the wilderness prior to his ministry where he was tested and grew in the word of God.  John's clothing was reminiscent of the prophet Elijah (see Kings 1:8).  John broke the prophetic silence of the previous centuries when he began to speak the word of God to the people of Israel.  His message was similar to the message of the Old Testament prophets who chided the people of God for their unfaithfuless and who tried to awaken true repentance in them.  Among a people unconcerned with the things of God, it was his work to awaken their interest, unsettle them from their complacency, and arouse in them enough good will to recognize and receive Christ when he came. Are you eager to hear God's word and to be changed by it through the power of the Holy Spirit?

John the Baptist was more than a prophet (Luke 7:26).  John was the voice of the Consoler who is coming (John 1:23; Isaiah 40:1-3).  He completed the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah (Matt. 11:13-14).  What the prophets had carefully searched for and angels longed to see, now came to completion as John made the way ready for the coming of the Messiah, God's Annointed Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  With John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit begins the restoration to the human race of the "divine likeness", prefiguring what would be achieved with and in the Lord Jesus.  John's baptism was for repentance -- turning away from sin and taking on a new way of life according to God's word. John said that the Messiah would "baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire." Fire in biblical times was associated with God and with his action in the world and in the lives of his people.  God sometimes manifested his presence by use of fire, such as the burning bush which was not consumed when God spoke to Moses (Exodus 3:2).  The image of fire was also used to symbolize God's glory (Ezekiel 1:4, 13), his protective presence (2 Kings 6:17), his holiness (Deut. 4:24), righteous judgment (Zechariah 13:9), and his wrath against sin (Isaiah 66:15-16).  It is also used of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11 and Acts 2:3).  God's fire both purifies and cleanses, and it inspires a reverent fear of God and of his word in us.  Do you want to be on fire for God and for the return of the Lord Jesus when he comes in his glory?  Our baptism in Jesus Christ by water and the Spirit results in a new birth and entry into God's kingdom as his beloved sons and daughters (John 3:5).  Jesus is ready to give us the fire of his Spirit that we may radiate the joy and truth of the gospel to a world in desparate need of God's light and truth.  His word has power to change and transform our lives that we may be lights pointing others to Christ.  Like John the Baptist, we too are called to give testimony to the light and truth of Jesus Christ. Do you point others to Christ in the way you live, work, and speak?

"Lord, let your light burn brightly in my heart that I may know the joy and freedom of your kingdom. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and empower me to witness the truth of your gospel and to point others to Jesus Christ."


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 (c)1999 Don Schwager