What Jesus Did! 'Fire!' — Matthew 3:11-12

Thursday, January 21, 2021

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[John the Baptizer said,] "I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am — so much greater that I'm not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire."
— Matthew 3:11-12 NLT

Key Thought

So much of the discussion of this passage focuses on whether fire means judgment or purification. All sorts of interpretative clues are examined. Scholarship is divided. So which do you think it is? My answer is "Yes! Jesus both judges and purifies." From this passage and its parallels, I believe John the Baptizer probably intended for us to hear both points. We will be judged based on what we decide about Jesus and what we do based on that decision (Matthew 25:31-46). When we choose to believe Jesus and trust in him, the Holy Spirit will also cleanse us. Jesus calls us to purity, but more than that, he cleanses and purifies us through and through as he pours out his Spirit on us. (Cf. Titus 3:3-7.)

Today's Prayer

O precious Father, please forgive me for all that I have done wrong, and cleanse me thoroughly by the sanctifying power of your Holy Spirit. In addition, dear Father, I trust in the Spirit's power to help me triumph over the temptation to sin. Thank you for not only cleansing me, but also sustaining me by the power of your Spirit. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

  • Titus 3:4-6
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
  • 1 Corinthians 12:13


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Illustration of Matthew 3:11-12 NLT — "I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God."

About This Devotional

What Jesus Did! is a series of one-year devotional guides through each gospel, using one short scripture passage each day and following the Gospel in sequential order. Each devotional consists of a scripture passage and a reflection and a prayer which open up the day's scripture and show how it challenges you to live for Jesus.

What Jesus Did! is written by Phil Ware and is available in book form.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.