Jesus never baptized anyone with water. Why? Because the baptism He would administer was the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire (see Luke 3:16). Don’t mistake those words as indicating two baptisms, one of the Spirit and another of fire. Instead, Luke was using imagery — fire as a symbol representing the Spirit — to describe one baptism. Jesus baptizes in the consuming fire of the Holy Spirit.
If you light a match and set a piece of wood on fire, the fire will penetrate the wood. That’s what the Holy Spirit does in our lives. He goes beyond surface appearances to the root of our beings. The Spirit doesn’t put Band-Aids on anything — He goes to the core of our problems to provide help. Likewise, preaching that is anointed by the Holy Spirit is fiery preaching. That doesn’t mean beating people down or condemning them; rather, it means ministry that penetrates the heart, reveals sin, and vividly shows the need for Jesus Christ. Without the Holy Spirit’s fire, preaching can descend to mere entertainment or displays of oratory.
When Peter preached the first sermon of the Christian era, those ineloquent but fiery words produced deep conviction and a response of, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Teaching aids that help preachers communicate are useful, but without the Spirit’s fire, hearts will never be humbled and broken before the Lord.
In Jeremiah, God asked, “Is not my word like a fire?” (Jeremiah 23:29, emphasis added). The Word preached with the Spirit’s fire cuts through the clutter and deals with the troubled condition of our hearts. Many people probably have little interest in experiencing God’s fiery word; they prefer entertaining services and sermons that aren’t confrontational. But the Spirit’s fire always cuts to the chase and deals with the hindrances that keep us from the blessing of God.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.