Summary: Paul recognizes that God has given man this power, and that is why he urges them not to lose it, but says quench not the Spirit. Let the fire burn he pleads. We need the heat, the light, and the power that only can be ours as we yield to the fire of the Spirit.
An embarrassing situation marked the passing of a well known
fire chief. None of the family has spoken to any member of his
engine company since the funeral. With the best of intentions these
fire men sent what they felt was a high tribute. It was a floral
arrangement with gold letters saying GONE TO HIS LAST FIRE.
Fire is a touchy word, and we need to be careful how we handle
it verbally, as well as how we handle fire literally. We need to be
aware that fire is both an instrument of hell and a tool of heaven. It
is both a power for good and a power for evil. It is associated with
both judgment and salvation. It can be destructive or constructive.
God used fire for the building of most of the universe, for our Sun
and all of the stars are great balls of flaming fire. Fire is also a tool
by which God will destroy the world. Fire is a symbol of God in the
Old Testament. He revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush.
He led Israel by a pillar of fire. In Heb. 1:7 His servants are called
flames of fire, and the Holy Spirit is symbolized by fire.
On the other hand, fire is used in a negative way also. A sword
of fire kept Adam and Eve from reentering Eden. Fire is a sign of
judgment. God is called a consuming fire. The lake of fire is the
fearful and of all who do not yield to the fire of the Holy Spirit. Fire
plays a dual role all through Scripture. It can be a symbol of either
heaven or hell. It can stand for fierce anger and hate, or it can stand
for warm and gentle love. As the song of Solomon says in 8:7,
"Water can't quench the fire of love."
This dual nature of fire leads to the paradox that the Christian is
to both seek fire and shun it. A Christian is to be fire proof, and also
to be filled with fire and ablaze with the Holy Spirit. The church
cannot survive without fire, and yet it must fight fire continuously.
Fire is both friend and foe, and the battle of life is fire against fire.
Thousands of churches have been destroyed by fire. This kind of
loss by fire has plagued the people of God all through history.
When the Babylonians captured Jerusalem we read in I Chron.
36:19, "And they burned the house of God, and broke down the wall
of Jerusalem, and burned all its palaces with fire." Solomon's
magnificent temple was turned into a smoldering pile of ugly black
ashes. King Herod rebuilt the temple, but it too became a victim of
fire. When the Romans took Jerusalem in 70 A. D. a soldier threw a
firebrand into the temple. Titus, the general, tried to distinguish the
fire, but it was no use, and the temple was again lost to the flames.
The people of God in New Testament times have also been
subject to great loss by fire. Nero blamed the Christians for the
terrible fire of Rome. Christians taught that the world would be
judged by fire, and so it was easy to cast suspicion on them as being
fire bugs. They were punished by being burned as human torches.
Fire became a common means by which heretics were eliminated.
Whenever we speak of making a bonfire we do not realize that the
word comes from the gruesome practice of burning people, which
was known as a bone fire. This kind of experience with fire makes
exciting movies, but it is not the kind of experience that appeals to
us. Most Christians do not have a martyr complex. The poet gives
us a realistic picture.
Movies about a Christian hero
Getting burned by a Roman Nero,
Seem to attack wide spread attention,
Especially so in the third dimension,
But the appeal of the film does not inspire
Modern Christians to brave the fire.
There is no good reason why any Christian should desire to
burn, as many martyrs of the past have done. Too many temples of
God have already gone down in the fires of persecution. Every
Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is the
fire of God. With the fire within the Christian is to burn and fight
the fire without. It is divine fire against demonic fire. Every man is
facing one fire or another. Either he is being a channel of the fire of
hell, or he is being cleansed and motivated by the fire of heaven. T.
S. Elliot has recognized this two fold fire and writes,
The only hope or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre,