Luke 3:16 John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one (Jesus) mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire (emphasis added, KJV).
In this final installment of the series, we will now turn our attention to the baptism with fire. As we do, keep in mind a few principles that serve the believer well in understanding the Word of God. One principle is simply context, in which we must compare a verse of Scripture to the surrounding passages, and place it in context with the subject matter. Similarly, a second principle includes the use of cross-references. That is comparing other passages of Scripture that cover the same subject matter. By using as many passages as possible as led by the Holy Spirit, our understanding of Word of God really comes into focus. A third one is paying attention to the little words used. By looking carefully at the little words, such as prepositions (“of”; “in”; “on”; “after”), pronouns (“us”; “them”; “he”; “she”; “it,” et al.), and conjunctions (“and”; “but”; “if”), the hard to understand passages become easier to grasp. It is not a bad idea to focus on them before looking up the meanings of the “big words.” This latter principle actually plays a key understanding our opening verse.
John the Baptist said that Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Ghost (Spirit) and with fire. As simplistic as this may seem, the word, “and,” means in addition to, or also. This means that the baptism with the Holy Ghost and the baptism with fire are two different things. Some have taken the word, “fire,” and referred it to Acts 2:3 where it says, “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them” (KJV), making it one and the same. Remember, to baptize means to immerse; it does not mean sit upon, and therefore does not refer to the baptism with fire.
Luke 3:16 actually ends with a colon (:), and not a period. A colon separates two clauses (sections or paragraphs) of which the second expands or illustrates the first. Meaning, verse 17 is a continuation of verse 16, which says, “Whose fan (winnowing fork or shovel) is in his hand, and he will throughly purge (cleanse) his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner (barn, or granary, or storehouse for threshed grain); but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable” (emphases added, KJV). There are two applications to consider: one is an end-time application, which refers to the end of those who reject Jesus Christ. A second relates to the believer in relation to the cleansing process that Jesus takes us through to make us vessels of honor. In both applications, there is a separation and cleansing process, which end with fire. When using a winnowing fork, grain is thrown up against the wind, in order to separate the chaff from the wheat. Chaff is the husk, stalks and refuse of wheat from which the kernels have been beaten out. Figuratively, chaff refers to that which is worthless, or trash. While the wheat is stored in the granary, the chaff is burned. Keep in mind that the fire is unquenchable, which means it cannot be extinguished and it never goes out.
In relation to the end time, Jesus will separate those who are His from those who reject Him. Those who belong to Him (the wheat), He will bring home; while those who do not will be cast into the lake of fire at the Great White Throne Judgment (see Revelation 20). That fire never goes out, which means those who find themselves there will find no relief for all eternity. That is one baptism no one should be part of, and it is one that every person can avoid by repenting of their sin, and surrendering their lives to Jesus Christ.
In the latter application, we find that the Lord will simply burn away those things that are worthless in the life of the believer. It is a process that employs a number of elements, such as the fiery trial of our faith as found in 1Peter 1:6-7, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (emphasis added, KJV). When people ask for the fire of God, they should not be surprised when difficulties come their way. Unfortunately for some, they fail to realize that the Lord will use difficulties to purge His floor, and they soon become discouraged (see also Matthew 13:1-23). We must remember that, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17, KJV). Therefore we also read in 1Peter 4:12-13, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (KJV). Our God is Love, but He is also a consuming fire (see Hebrews 12:29).