The Bible describes the Lord God as “a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29) which is why Scripture often uses it as a symbol of the presence of God. The following are biblical examples of fire as a symbol of God’s presence:
- The burning bush (Exodus 3:2).
- The Shekinah glory (Exodus 14:19; Numbers 9:15-16).
- Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 1:4).
- Fire is an instrument of God’s judgment (Numbers 11:1; 1 Kings 1:10).
- Fire is a sign of His power (Judges 13:20; 1 Kings 18:38).
Fire was also crucial for the Old Testament sacrifices for the following reasons:
- Fire on the altar of burnt offering was a divine gift from the Lord Himself having been lit by Himself (Leviticus 9:24).
- The Lord charged the priests with keeping His fire lit (Leviticus 6:13).
- Fire from any other source other than appointed by God was unacceptable (Leviticus 10:1-2).
The New Testament and the Altar
The New Testament portrays the altar as a picture of the Christian commitment to the Lord Jesus. Christians are called to offer their bodies as a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1) since they are indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Fire is a Wonderful Picture of the Work of the Holy Spirit
Fire provides a helpful picture of the work of the Holy Spirit as fire in three critical ways as He brings the presence of God, the passion of God, and the purity of God to Christians.
1. The Holy Spirit and the Presence of God. The Holy Spirit is the presence of God as He indwells the hearts of all Christians (Romans 8:9). In the Old Testament, the Lord showed His presence to the Israelites by filling the tabernacle with fire (Numbers 9:14-15).
The fiery presence in the temple provided light and guidance (Numbers 9:14-15). In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit guides and comforts the people of God dwelling in them as the tabernacle and “temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 6:16).
2. The Holy Spirit Creates a Passion for the Lord in the Hearts of His People. On the road to Emmaus, the resurrected Lord Jesus talks with two disciples who describe their hearts as “burning within us” (Luke 24:32). After the apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they had a passion for the Lord that lasted a lifetime and compelled them to speak the Word boldly (Acts 4:31).
The same is true today for Christians who have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 1:13). Christians are indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the work of an evangelist by proclaiming the good news (2 Timothy 4:5) and to make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20).
3. The Holy Spirit Produces Purity in the People of God. One of the main aims of the Holy Spirit is to produce purity in Christians, and the Church, since God’s purpose is to purify them (Titus 2:14). The Holy Spirit is the primary agent in the sanctification of the people of God.
A silversmith would use fire to purge the dross from precious metal. Today the Lord uses the Holy Spirit to address indwelling sin in Christians and to grow the people of God in the grace of God to refine and cleanse them from indwelling sin (Psalm 66:10; 2 Peter 3:18).
The Purifying Work of the Holy Spirit and the Christian Life
The purifying work of the Holy Spirit begins at the moment of salvation for the Christian. The Holy Spirit works on the people of God in their times of adversity which the Lord promises to use for His good purposes (Isaiah 43:1-7).
When Christians face trials, they have an opportunity to demonstrate the reality of their faith and confidence in the Lord. Take heart this day if that’s you, dear Christian friend, and consider now that the Lord is purifying you and growing you in grace through this season of life.
Dear Christian, you have been signed and sealed in the blood of Jesus Christ. What that means is you are already indwelt with the Holy Spirit and baptized by the Holy Spirit as a Christian. You have already been empowered for ministry through the Holy Spirit.
If you know today what your spiritual gifts are then you are responsible for using them for the good of others and our society. If you don’t know what they are, you are responsible for discovering them by talking with your local church pastor and elders, and mature Christian friends who can help you discern and identify them.
Wherever you are at today on the journey of walking with the Lord, dear Christian, the Lord is at work in you. His purposes are not to harm you but to conform you into the image of the Lord Jesus (Romans 8:28-30). Take heart at the promises of His Word (Hebrews 13:5) which are for your good and find their apex in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).
So be encouraged today, you may not know your gifts or talents or ability even, but God can you use in the lives of others if you are growing in grace, godly character, and aiming to be faithful to Him and His Word.