Rain of fire

hirsch-643340_640Amos 1:10: So I will send a fire upon the wall of Tyre, and it shall devour her strongholds.” (ESV)

Jesus said that his purpose is to send fire on the earth (Luke 12:49), and in the second chapter of the book of Acts the Holy Spirit manifested in the lives of the disciples of Jesus.

Before his ascension, he said to the apostles: “receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22),” breathing on them. What specifically happened at that moment is not totally clear. But it is possible that in that act he qualifies them as recipients of the Holy Spirit, just as salvation marks you to receive the Holy Spirit poured out. Jesus marked them with a spiritual marker, for the Holy Spirit to be targeted at them when he pours him out from heaven.

The importance of that phrase “receive the Holy Spirit” was manifest in the way the church used it to describe “the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” The latter phrase was not used at all after the gospel written by John. The prominence given to receiving the Holy Spirit in the church is meant to impress on us the primary place he now holds on this side of the cross, bringing to completion the revelation of the triune Godhead to the people of God.

Before that time, the promised special experience of the Holy Spirit was called “baptism,” when what was prominent was John the Baptist dipping people inside water to signify washing away of their sin.  John the Baptists was the only one who used the phrase. He said: I baptise you with water but Jesus will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11).

Throughout the book of Acts the experience of the Holy Spirit that people come into after salvation is referred to as “receiving the Holy Spirit.” In Acts 19 Paul asked a group of people: did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed (Acts 19:1-7)?

In Acts 8 after Samaria was inundated with the gospel of Jesus and people gave their lives to Jesus in drove, and were baptised in water, the apostles in Jerusalem sent Peter and John to pray for the people that they will receive the Holy Spirit, which has not “fallen upon” any of them (Acts 8:14-16).

Many people confuse the experience of the salvation with that of receiving the Holy Spirit. There is nothing passive about receiving the Holy Spirit however for experience of the Holy Spirit that is associated with salvation which is called “born of the Spirit (John 3:1-9),” “by one Spirit we have been baptised into one body (1Corinthians 12:13),” “having the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9).” When we pray to be saved, the Holy Spirit does not feature in the words we say (Romans 10:9-10), though for salvation, Paul said that no one can say he is Christ’s without having the Spirit of Christ. That is what I call a “passive” experience of the Holy Spirit.

To help those people in Acts 19 receive the Holy Spirit, Paul laid hands on them for a visible display of the Holy Spirit coming upon them (Acts 19:1-11).

We can receive Jesus quietly, but we cannot receive the Holy Spirit quietly, there is nothing quiet about raging fire.

When Peter was in the house of Cornelius and spoke to them about Jesus, what happened next was the Holy Spirit coming upon them, and it was not quiet (Acts 10). Peter described it this way: the people have received the Holy Spirit the same way we experienced him in the upper room. That marked the birth of the church. For Peter, that shows that God has accepted the gentiles as he has accepted the first apostle of Jesus.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit takes the limits of the operation of the power of God in our lives. The bible has said that in the last days God will pour out his Spirit on all flesh, and that will be expressed by people prophesying (Acts 2:1-18). But this prophesying, this divine utterance (speaking under inspiration) will be different, it will have to do with speaking in unknown tongues.

In the book of Mark, Jesus said that those who believe in him will speak in new tongues (Mark 16:15-18). Therefore when the disciples started experiencing it, they could connect back to what Jesus said knowing that their experience was spiritually legitimate.

In another place, Jesus spoke about the disposition of the father to giving us the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:11-13). He said when we ask for the Holy Spirit, we can expect to receive the same and not something else. God is committed to giving us the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said it is his mission to send fire on the earth, referring to the fire of the Holy Spirit “but I have a baptism to be baptised with.” The word “baptism” here is about immersion into suffering (Luke 12:49-50).

Therefore before he becomes a source of blessing he will have to be transformed himself, passing through the gate of death on our behalf.

The pain you are going through may not be just for you but so that you can be a help to many others. Paul talked about being able to comfort others by the comfort he had received from God (2Corinthians 1:1-4).

When John and James came to Jesus, with their mother, asking that the two brothers be allowed to be on his right and left hand in his kingdom, Jesus asked them: are you able to drink the cup I will drink from and be baptized with my baptism (Mark 10:35-40)?

They said: “no problem at all. We will do anything.” They did not know that what he was referring to was suffering. Not that suffering was good, but in the life of Jesus we were told that he learnt obedience by the things he suffered and then became the author of eternal salvation for those who follow him (Hebrews 5:8-9).

He became a blessing by the things he suffered, poured out the Holy Spirit because he himself was poured out on the cross. In a prophecy of Isaiah about the sacrifice of Jesus, he said he was crushed for our transgression. And that he will see the result of the travail of his soul and will be satisfied that it was all worth it (Isaiah 53).

The bible says that we do not have an high priest (Jesus) who would not be touched with the feeling of our infirmity, but he was at all points tempted, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Because he stood strong no matter what, we can derive strength from him through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, in his life, was moved with compassion when he saw people suffering or in ignorance (Matthew 14:14, Mark 6:34). The bible says that he himself carried away our sins on himself, he also carried our sicknesses and diseases.

By the Holy Spirit we get to do the same thing, making us representatives of Jesus on the earth. That is the whole point of receiving the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that it is so that we can be witnesses to him everywhere, from “Judea Samaria the ends of the earth” from one level of impact to the other, for the glory of God (Acts 1:8).

The fire we should express is not self-generated or self-defined it is as we are moved by the Holy Spirit, when two sons of Aaron had the wrong fire in the presence of God, they did not live to tell the story (Leviticus 10:1-2).


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