“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).
John the Baptist prophesied of the Coming of the Christ and how He would baptize His disciples with the Holy Spirit and fire. There are several properties of fire that have a corresponding spiritual fulfillment relating to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the world.
Thus far we have looked at Holy Spirit’s ministry as it relates to supernatural power and divine revelation and discernment. The third property of fire is heat. As a metaphor, heat is symbolic of passion.
Characteristic #3: Heat/Passion
The Spirit is quenched when the commitment to the work of God is done just as a ritual, in a half-hearted manner. As believers, we are called to serve God not out of mere religious duty, but rather with our hearts ablaze! The scripture says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).
In the beginning of Jesus’ ministry He went in and rid those who had turned the Temple into a house of merchandise. At the end of His ministry, He did the same. What evoked such strong passion from Christ? The writer states, “His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’” (John 2:17).
Like Christ, we are to burn with zeal for the word of the Lord today. We are not to be man-pleasers, but God-pleasers! However, if we are to truly be like Jesus in all our ways, we must also be moved with compassion for our fellow-men. “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).
Paul the apostle had such a heart for others that he was willing to pay the ultimate price if it would result in their salvation. Hear his heart! “I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:1-3).
Though Paul knew that only Jesus’ death on the cross was a sufficient sacrifice for the sins of this world, he employed hyperbolic language to demonstrate the underlying passion of his heart. One paraphrase vividly reveals what he was endeavouring to communicate: “OIsrael, my people! O my Jewish brothers! How I long for you to come to Christ. My heart is heavy within me, and I grieve bitterly day and night because of you. Christ knows and the Holy Spirit knows that it is no mere pretence when I say that I would be willing to be forever damned if that would save you” (Romans 9:1-3 The Living Bible).
What passion and zeal! We must remember that Paul is referencing the same people that previously had persecuted and even attempted to kill him! Yet, here is he is now consumed with deep compassion and care for them, not wanting any of them, even his most vehement opposers to end up eternally separated from God!
How could this man of God possess such genuine, heart-felt compassion for his countrymen? In another of his writings, Paul discloses under the inspiration of the Holy spirit that it was divine love that had been poured into his heart by the Holy Spirit that supernaturally equipped Paul to live so selflessly. “…the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).
Only God’s love can produce such fervour and selflessness in a man. The same sacrificial love that caused the Father to send His Son to die on the Cross for ungrateful humanity. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16).
“Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:7, 8, New Living Translation).
This same supernatural, agape, “God-love” is available to you and me today as we learn to embrace the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
As in days of old, so now God has is raised up a righteous remnant that will burn with zeal today! “For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant and those who escape from Mount Zion. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this (Isaiah 37:32).