Matt. 3:11 ¶ “I baptize you with water for 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.
Fire is relentless. I saw this relentless nature of fire first hand during one of our reforestation trips. It had been an unusually long, tough day, it was the last day before we broke camp and headed back home. We had worked in the mountains for twelve hours finishing up a job when the forest rangers came into our camp. There was a forest fire and we were being drafted to help fight it. Our reforestation team spent the next twelve hours (until daylight) fighting a forest fire. We were given shovels and dropped off in an area and told to “clean up” the fires that we saw. It was pretty intense and really hot. At one point we had fire on every side of us. That fire was relentless and took out everything in its path. Our God is a consuming fire. His fire is an intense flame of love and holiness. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a baptism into this fire. Once it gets on you, you can never be the same. Here is something Luther said about the baptism of fire.
“… In this passage he also calls the Holy Spirit an excellent fire, because it makes what is blackened and dead white and alive. Therefore he calls it baptism, because it is abundant with the Spirit, as Paul says. [This baptism] is not performed with little droplets, as when something is dipped in water, but instead we are plunged into this baptism, as if someone wanted to drown us. So, the Holy Spirit does not flutter down in a flickering flame but [rushes down] in fire! By this fire you all are plunged and overwhelmed so that it seems as if there is nothing in you other than fire. As a fish in water, so are you in fire.. Through the abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit [Christ] wants to subsume Christianity, so that those drifting and living in the midst of this heavenly fire will not be consumed and charred, but will be made bold, brave, excellent, perfect, bright and pure. “In this way, my Holy Spirit will baptize my people.”
The fire of God transforms us. Actually it can be said to assimilate or change us into itself (or in this case Himself). Whatever fire touches becomes fire. Giant ponderosa pines were turned from majestic pine trees into a burning sea of fire. That is what happens to us when we are baptized in the fire of the Spirit. We begin to take on His nature. What we used to be is burned away, our very nature is changed. It is changed into the nature of God Himself. There is one distinct difference with the forest fire and the fire of God. The forest fire burns out and leaves ashes behind. The fire of God is eternal, it never stops burning. As a result, we will never stop burning.