Summary: Though John had much power, for he came in the spirit and power of Elias, Jesus has more.
Though John had much power, for he came in the spirit and power of Elias, Jesus has more. Though John was truly great, great in the sight of the Lord, yet he sees himself unworthy to bear the sandals of Jesus. It is a great comfort to the faithful ministers, to think that Jesus Christ is mightier than they and can do for them and by them that which they cannot do for themselves. In their weakness His strength is perfected. Those whom God puts honor upon, are thereby made very humble and low in their own eyes; willing to be humbled so that Christ may be magnified; to be any thing, to be nothing, so that Christ may be all.
When it was prophesied that that the Messiah’s forerunner would come (Malachi 3:1, 2) it was implied the Messiah would immediately follow. After the coming Elijah the day comes that shall burn as an oven (Malachi 4:1), to which the Baptist seems to be referring to.
John told the people gathered in the wilderness the One who is coming and he is not worthy to remove His sandals will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. It is Christ’s prerogative to baptize with the Holy Spirit. He did this in the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit conferred upon the apostles. He does this in the graces and comforts of the Spirit given to them that ask Him (Luke 11:13; John 7:38-39). Those who are baptized with the Holy Spirit are baptized as with fire. In Revelation 4:5 the seven spirits of God appear as seven lamps of fire. Fire is illuminating. It is consuming. It moves upward. When John said Jesus would baptize then with the Holy Spirit and fire he was revealing the One who makes the soul holy.
When the One comes who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire His winnowing fork will be in His hand. The winnowing fork symbolizes His judgment, His ability to distinguish right and wrong. He sees all things by a true light and all judgment is committed to Him.
The visible church is Christ’s floor. On this floor there is a mixture of wheat and chaff. True believers are as wheat, substantial, useful, and valuable; hypocrites are as chaff, light, and empty, useless and worthless, and carried about with every wind; these are now mixed, under the same external profession; and in the same visible communion. There is a day coming when the floor shall be purged, and the wheat and chaff shall be separated. This is done in this world, when God calls His people to come out of the world. But there is a day coming, it is the day of the last judgment when saints and sinners shall be parted for ever. Heaven is the barn into which Jesus Christ will gather all his wheat, and not a grain of it shall be lost. He will gather them as the ripe fruits are gathered in. They are no longer scattered; they are safe, and no longer exposed to the evil deeds of the ungodly. They are separated from corrupt neighbors and corrupt affections. In heaven there is no chaff among them. Hell is the unquenchable fire that will burn up the chaff, which will certainly be the portion and punishment, and everlasting dwelling place of hypocrites and unbelievers.