I have heard a lot of teaching on the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire. There has been a lot of doctrine built around this term, but the truth is there is only one instance in the entire Bible that mentions the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the baptism in fire together. That instance is found in Luke 3:16 and Matthew 3:11.
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
If you don’t know, this is John the Baptist speaking and he is referring to Jesus. So Jesus is the one who will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
In this article I’m going to be explaining that the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire are separate baptisms and that they have different purposes.
The Holy Spirit baptism is meant to endue believers with God’s power. It equips the christian with God’s ability to be an effective witness. While the baptism in fire is a baptism of judgement for all who do not repent. This is understood more clearly when we look at the context of Matthew chapter 3.
Multiple Baptisms in the New Testament
“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” (Hebrews 6:1-2)
As you can see there are multiple baptisms that the early apostles taught new believers. Most christians probably only know of one, but the New Testament mentions that there are different types of baptisms and different purposes for each.
Before I list off the different baptisms the Bible mentions, it’s important to ask two things when looking at scriptures that refer to baptism. (1) Who is doing the baptizing? (2) What are they being baptized into?
- Baptism into the Body of Christ: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). This baptism is the new birth. We are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the family of God (aka the Body of Christ). This is what takes place when we get saved, or born of the Spirit as Jesus calls it in John chapter 3.
- Baptism in the Name of Jesus: “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5). This is water baptism. A fellow believer will baptize the new convert into water, representing the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. (Related article: Water Baptism A Complete Study).
- Baptism in the Holy Spirit: “For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses..” (Acts 1:5 & 8). (Related article: Baptism in the Holy Spirit).
- Baptism with Fire: “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire“ (Matthew 3:11). We will cover this baptism more in depth shortly.
“Baptism with Fire” And “Baptism with the Holy Spirit” are Only Found Together One Time
As we have covered above, the scripture mentions the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire only once. Every other time the scripture addresses the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the baptism of fire isn’t mentioned.
“And while staying with them He ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, He said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5).
Notice the similarities between the scripture above and Matthew 3:11. Both mentioned that John the Baptist baptizes in water and that Christ baptizes in the Holy Spirit. But in Acts chapter 1 Jesus doesn’t mention the baptism with fire like John did.
“Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:14-17)
Again, no mention of the baptism with fire, only the mention of receiving the Holy Spirit.
There is only one place in the book of Acts that have the Holy Spirit and the word “fire” mentioned together.
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4)
“Divided tongues as of fire” is simply a manifestation being noted by the author. This is not referring to the baptism of fire that was addressed in Matthew chapter 3. If it was, we would see this manifestation happen in the other references to the infilling of the Holy Spirit found in the book of Acts, but we don’t.
Not to mention, Christ would have mentioned it to the apostles in Acts chapter 1, but He didn’t.
What is the Baptism with Fire?
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11)
If we read that scripture by itself it appears that the Holy Spirit and fire baptism are one and the same, but scripture must be read the way it was intended: in context. Let’s look at the scriptures before and after this verse shall we?
“Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will BURN WITH UNQUENCHABLE FIRE.” (Matthew 3:10-12)
You see, the baptism with fire is a baptism of Judgement on those who do not repent! It is not a special baptism for believers.
Also, pay attention how John the Baptist words his statement.
First, he says that the coming Messiah will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Second, he says the coming Messiah will “clear His threshing floor” and separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s in this order on purpose.
The wheat will receive the Holy Spirit and eternal life. The chaff will receive the baptism of fire, eternal damnation.
Before I end this article I want to mention that I’m not against those who talk about the baptism of fire as an experience for the believer. It is a minuet topic to argue over.
However, I did want to address it because there are some who stumble in this area because they think if they don’t have this “baptism of fire” they aren’t walking in the fullness of God. There is only one baptism that brings you access into the fullness of God: the baptism in the Holy Spirit.