THE FIRE SENT BY JESUS
Jesus said, as recorded in Luke 12:49-53, “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were alrady kindled! But I have a baptsim to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you not at all, but rather divisiion. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” What a thought-provoking statement! In this study we are primarily concerned with the great fire in verse 49. One of the purposes for which Jesus left heaven when He was in the form of the second person of the Godhead and became incarnate in the flesh was to start a fire on this earth. Furthermore, He said that the sooner it got started the better. In fact He wished that it had already been kindled, . and the sooner the better. He was about to drop an incendiary bomb on the human race. His sayings in these five verses are weighty indeed and unfold important truths that every true Christian would do well to mark and digest. They explain many things in the church and in the world which, at first sight, are hard to understand.
The first logical approach to the text is to determine the nature of this fire. What is this fire? The first rule of Bible study and interpretation is to take the Bible to mean literally what it says, if possible at all to do so. However, when the passage does not make sense or accord with truth when taken literally, we must then look for a figurative meaning. This passage is a case in point. If taken literally, it means Jesus came to be an arsonist, to set fires and destroy property. Clearly, the fire in the passage must be understood in some figurative or spiritual sense. The context shows what Jesus meant by the fire. In verse 51 the Lord indicated that He did not come to give peace to the earth but division. This fire would cause family divisions and disagreements. . Thayer's Greek dictionary states that the word fire is used metaphorically or figuratively and means dissensions.
Strictly speaking, the fire is the religion of Christ, the gospel of Christ, the Kingdom of Christ, the church of the living God, the church Christ bought with His blood, the teachings of the New Testament and foremost the new ideas of Christ for all nations.. The religion of Christ contains the ideas of Christ by which He was determined to change the world. One complaint made about the religion of Christ in the first century was that it turned the world upside down. More correctly speaking, it turns the world downside-up. In families of five, two may decide to become
Christians and three refuse to become Christians. That means disturbance. Fathers will be divided against sons, mothers against daughters etc. The religion of Christ has produced a fire on this earth causing dissensions, divisions, and bitterness between loved ones and friends. The religion of Christ divides nations, religions, church members, governmental leaders and the educational systems of the world.. The Christian faith is like a fire. Sometimes it illuminates, give light and guides us through all the darkness of this mortal life. And sometimes it purifies just like fire. The gospel of Christ is a purifier, for there is no admixture of error, falsehood or unholiness in it. There a thousand things advocated in the name of religion which glitter like gold and draw admirers, but how different these doctrines and schemes appear once they are put in the refining pot of the New Testament revelation. In this passage Jesus informs His disciples not to deceive themselves, for He came to inaugurate a change in the world by His religion, and it cannot be accomplished without conflict, dissension and by divisions in individual families, religions and nations. He wanted His followers to know that following Him is no cake walk.
The objection is sometimes raised, “Why did Jesus want His message proclaimed when He knew beforehand that it was going to divide families, other religions and cause tumult and disturbance in society in general? Did Jesus come to be a seditionist, a trouble maker in society and tear families apart?” This is one of the charges the Jewish nation made against Him. He disturbed people with His new ideas. It is important that we udnerstand that all this division and dissention was to be incidental. His intentional aim was to bring peace, salvation, unity and happiness to the human race. All of these, divisions, dissenssions and disturbances are only side-effects of the Christian religion. Doctors often prescribe powerful pills for health and well being, but they warn us there are some unpleanst side effects. So it is with Jesus the great Physician. His intentional aim was to bring peace, salvation, unity, and happiness and other blessings to the human race, but so much of mankind does not agree with His ideas. Either there is no place in this world for Jesus, or the world has no place beside Jesus. God has appointed Jesus to be the judge of all mankind, and He is not about to change any of His ideas. He came to promote peace in the world, but there is so much unbelief, evil, pride, prejudice and unrighteousness in human nature that His ideas have resulted in conflict and division. All this is the incidental and occasional effects of His religion and not its natural fruits.
In spite of the division and disturbance the gospel was to bring to
to the world, Jesus said, “ I wish this fire was already kindled.”
Since it was necessary for the advancement of true religion, for the glory
of God, and for the salvation of mankind that such divisions should take place, the sooner the disturbance begins the better it will be for mankind. With the coming of His religion mankind was about to enter a new and disturbing state of existence. Since the savng gospel cannot be established without conflict and strife Jesus said, “If it has to be , let it be and the sooner the better.” That fire began fifty days after His resurrection with the establishment of the Christian religion in the city of Jerusalem with the baptism of 3,000 Jews. The fire tore the Jewish nation apart. Thus Jesus fuliflled his promise that He came from heaven to send a fire on the earth.
Permit me to give you just one practical example how the gospel operates as a fire in the Christian religion itself. Take for example Christ's new idea of the priesthood for all Christians, for all who have become the people of God through faith in Jesus Christ. The priesthood has been changed in the Christian religion. There are no earthly priesthoods such as Israel had under the Old Testament. No man can claim the title of “Priest,” separate and apart from other Christians. There are no special men set apart to act as priests in the Christian religion. . They simply do not exist, and all who make such a claim are only pretenders and cause division among God's people. The great apostle Peter has revealed the new order of priesthood in the Christian religion in I Peter 2:9 when he said to all Christians: “You are a royal priesthood.” A royal priesthood is a royal or kingly priesthood. All Christians are priests in the religion of Christ. We refer to it as the priesthood of believers. .
In spite of this clear teaching of Peter, Christendom is full of men who claim the special title of Priest which only a few followers of Christ possess by appointment of some church leaders. However, the gospel of Christ says that every person who obeys the gospel and is baptized for the forgiveness of sins is thereby sanctified by God, made holy and forthwith becomes a priest of God. All baptized men and women make up the only Priesthood recognized by God in the Christian religion. Every Christian man and woman is holy and qualified to serve as a priest to any human being on earth. This teaching of Christ stirs up bitter oppositions and divisions in churches and religions with so-called earthly priesthoods. No man has a right to arrogate to himself the particular title of priest by the ordainment of some church. and exercise power over Christians in pardons and confessions. But many churches and religions will not have this teaching of Jesus. They disagree with this idea of Jesus on priesthood, and division ensues. If you are a Christian, man or woman, you are ordained by God to stand as a priest between God and members of the human race. As
sanctified, holy people you are called saints, and you can offer acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. There are no priests in the Christian religion but men and women who are true Christians. This applies also to so-called faith healers in Christendom today and so-called miracle workers in some churches. Miracle working is just another form of pretended priestcraft where a few select men and preachers in some charizmatic churches pretend to be special channels of forgiveness and special anointed dispensers of God's divine favors and miracles. They are just pretenders. Most preachers in Christendom make no such claim to bring down miracles of healing on people. These supposed healers are great money-raisers, and many fall for their deception. These men cause divisions and dissensions among God's people, and true Christians will not be duped by pretenders who claim the ability to call down miraculous healing from heaven. In the first century every New Testament church had miracle workers to aid the introduction of the Christian reliogion to the world. Supernatural healing was a temporary gift of the church. Believe in the miracles recorded in the Bible and in no others.
Permit me to present one more example of how the religion of Christ operates like a fire in the world. What Jesus says and wants simply has no place in the world today. People in high places of government do not agree with His ideas. This is the real reason that the Christian religion has been shut out of the public schools of America, even to the University level. There is no conflict with the constitution. The constitution contains much Bible teaching, and our nation was founded by people who came here to promote the Christian religion and no other religion. There is no danger of mixing religion and the state. Do ou want to know the real reason why our government and educational leaders have shut the Bible out of public education? The gospel presents no problem to the government. This is a scapegoat excuse.The true reason is that higher education disagrees with the teachings and ideas of Jesus. The real reason is that the public school system does not want to teach what Jesus and the Bible wants taught on certain subjects. The teachings of Christ and other teachings in the Bible would wipe out much of what public education wants taught. Jesus approved of what the Bible says about the origin of the universe and the origin of life on this planet. Jesus taught that the Bible is the word of the one true and living God. Jesus taught creation and not evolution. If the Bible teaching on creation was honored and respected in public education, it would destroy the theory of evolution like fire destroys dry weeds. Jesus taught that all scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for teaching, correction and instruction in righteousness. Public education disagrees with Jesus. Creation is another one of those great teachings of Jesus with which much of the intellectual world disagrees. Hence the
conflict. His truth operates like a fire in society. So the disturbance, strife, division, dissension and opposition continues to this day. These are simply the side-effects of opposing Divne truth.
Finally, may I say to you, “Let this fire continue to burn.” We should not expect to see universal peace and harmony from the teachings of Christ. We cannot expect the people of this world to be of one heart and mind before they are converted. Neither can we expect unity in our divided Christendom. Peace and unity is the result of the gospel wherever it is believed and obeyed. But when people refuse the teachings of Christ, refuse to make their lives right with God, refuse to change their lives, refuse to abhor evil and cling to what is right, and are determined to have their own way, the very message of peace becomes the cause of division Those who are resolved to live for the world will always be adversely affected towards those who are resolved to serve Christ.
Therefore, since one purpose Christ came into our world was to send a fire on earth, let this fire continue to burn.. True Christians must see to it that this fire continues to spread. That fire started to burn brightly in the first century A.D., about 33 A.D. It continues to burn in His church that He purchased with His own blood, and which was built on the foundation truth that He is the Messiah, the Divine Son of the living God. This fire continues to burn in all true churches, and in all faithful preachers and teachers in the kingdom of God and Christ on this earth. If this fire should go out, the world will be swallowed up by humanism, evolution and atheism. If this should happen there will be nothing for an unbelieving world to oppose.