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Bible Gemz 1006 - The Gospel brings fire on the earth (Luke 12:49-53)

June 24, 2019

"I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! 

But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!

"Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division;

for from now on five membersin one household will be divided, three against two and two against three.

"They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." (Luke 12:49-53)



Fire symbolizes:

  1. God's judgement on believers.

  2. The presence of God.

  3. The purification of believers.

  4. Division, seen in the following verses.

  5. Faith or spiritual fervour. 

  6. The link to the effect of the cross. 

The range of interpretations on "baptism of fire".

  1. It refers to the tongues of fire that appeared at Pentecost, the cleansing fire that comes in association with the Holy Spirit. 

  2. It distinguishes the repentant (who are baptised in the Spirit) and the unrepentant (who are baptized with fire or judgement). 

  3. It refers to the purifying power of God in a believers life. 

  4. The fiery trials which purify the soul of the believer to a deeper level. 

  5. The fire is used to test the quality of our spiritual life. 

Jesus refers to His baptism of fire - "I have a baptism to undergo". I think it clearly refers to the cross event. But I don't think the "baptism of fire" refers directly to the Cross. Rather, the Cross is Jesus' "cross to bear". We talk about our "cross to bear", referring to the severe testing that comes into our lives. The reason why this is in the English language is surely because of Christ and the Cross. Therefore I would argue, surely Jesus' cross to bear is indeed The Cross itself, and His coming separation from the Godhead. He knows full well that to bring "peace to the earth", He will set the earth on fire. His words here have an ironic tone to them. 


"Do you suppose I came to grant peace on earth?" Well, yes you did come for that reason Jesus, because that is what the angels announced. "Peace on earth and goodwill to men" as we sing every Christmas. (Luke 2:14) "I have come to cast fire on the earth." Is Jesus confused as much as Peter was, when he asked his earlier question? No, Jesus knows exactly why He came. See Luke 19:10, John 13:3. He wasn't confused, but He also knew men's hearts (John 2:24, 25). Was it chance that straight after these verses in John 2, Jesus has an encounter with a Pharisee? Note in the section before this, there are two parables which Jesus used to focus on the disciples and the Pharisees. Jesus knows the state of men's hearts everywhere. He knew that when He came to bring peace, there would be those who would vehemently oppose Him. Religious people and non-religious people. It is the same today. Remember what I said in the Romans Gemz # 141, 142 and 143. Before the Gospel can be good news, it has to be bad news. I believe that is Jesus' inference here. Yes, indeed He did come to bring peace but in order to bring peace, He has to stir up a whole lot of trouble and a big fight first. 


It is true that Jesus' coming brought judgement. You can read about what I said in Romans in the past Gemz mentioned above. The fascinating thing is that we think the Judgement of God is yet to come. On Judgement Day. It is! That much is true. But in the same way the Kingdom of God is here now, so too is the judgement of God. Paul says in Romans 1:18, "Now the judgement of God is being made known". Yes, just the mere fact that Truth & Grace stepped into this world, brought a reaction. Jesus said in John 16:8 that the Holy Spirit would convict of sin, righteousness and judgement. Do you think Jesus' presence did any less? I don't think so. He stirred people up everywhere He went. 


Not only does Jesus bring fire, or more poetically "throw fire down on the earth", He also brings division. 


This division will even strike at the heart of families. Five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three.

  • father against son, son against father ,mother against daughter ,daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law 

These five mentioned are father, mother, son, daughter and son's wife. There is one relationship here which we might expect to cause problems in most societies. That’s the mother-in-law / daughter-in-law relationship. Especially in Asia, when the married couple often live with his parents. That is a classic relational tension point. But not the others. Notice that it is between those of the same gender, across generational lines and within families. This division will manifest itself everywhere. The Gospel will do that. Jesus knew it would, because the Gospel pierces to the very heart of the person. It judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Once the decision has been made to follow Him, often it will alienate others in the same family. It is divisive by its very nature. If division comes with these named relationships, then it is likely to come anywhere and at any time. I don't need to explain to you why the Gospel, the Coming of Christ, brings division. Most of you who are reading this have experienced it first hand. Or if it hasn't hit your family, then you know about it among your wider circle of relatives or friends. 


There is one more problem we have to address in these verses and it's found in the words "how I wish it were already kindled". What does that mean? I will deal with that tomorrow. This Gem is long enough already.



The Gospel does two things: it comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.


The truth that sets us free will make us feel bad before it makes us feel good


God's goal is not our comfort; it's producing in us the character of Christ, so the world will be drawn to Him.


Before the Gospel can be good news, it has to be bad news.






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