My study of the scriptures has had a profound effect on my life. As I have studied, I have grown closer to God and found answers to real challenges in my life. This blog is a scripture journal that records insights I have discovered in the past and continue to gain as I search, ponder, and pray.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Matthew 3 Baptism by Fire

Last time I taught Sunday School we discussed the Savior's baptism and John's message that he was sent to baptize with water but that the Savior would come and baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire.

After the class, I was asked a question about the meaning of baptism by fire. It seemed to this person that there was the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost, and Fire. While they knew that wasn't correct, they didn't understand what baptism of fire is.

I've been pondering that question a lot. I plan on working it into my next lesson. I've done some preliminary research and found some interesting things. For me, baptism by fire means the sanctifying process of the Holy Ghost.

Two things happen when we repent. We become justified and we become sanctified. Justification is the payment of the debts incurred when we sinned. If we don't repent and change our hearts to God, we will have to pay for our sins ourselves (D&C 19). Sanctification, on the other hand is the process of changing our hearts during the repentance process. It is what makes us more like God. I believe the Holy Ghost both justifies and sanctifies us. Paying for our sins alone does not make us holy.

That is what the baptism of fire is. I didn't understand why the concept of baptism by fire wouldn't be clear.

Then I looked up "Baptism by Fire" in Wikipedia. Wikipedia indicated that baptism by fire is known as the punishment of fire that comes to those who reject Christ. The article further stated that it was different then baptism by the spirit. Baptism by the spirit was what happened to Christ's followers on the Day of Pentecost. I was shocked! That's not my understanding. In fact, the Wikipedia article went on to talk about how Mormon's view Baptism of Fire and how it differs from the rest of the Protestant world. It certainly does if that is their viewpoint! (By the way, I don't completely agree with all that was said, but that is irrelevant to my point right now.)

I found a Conference talk by Elder Bednar, Clean Hands and a Pure Heart.

We are commanded and instructed to so live that our fallen nature is changed through the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost. President Marion G. Romney taught that the baptism of fire by the Holy Ghost "converts [us] from carnality to spirituality. It cleanses, heals, and purifies the soul. ... Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, and water baptism are all preliminary and prerequisite to it but [the baptism of fire] is the consummation. To receive [this baptism of fire] is to have one's garments washed in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ"

Hence, as we are born again and strive to always have His Spirit to be with us, the Holy Ghost sanctifies and refines our souls as if by fire (see 2 Nephi 31:13-14, 17). Ultimately, we are to stand spotless before God.

Baptism of Fire is a slow process. Sometimes I fear that we don't recognize it is happening because we don't have a remarkable experience. I love a quote that I carry in my scriptures by Ezra Taft Benson

For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, services, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said "were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not" (3 Nephi 9:20).


  1. I've thought of the baptism by fire as it would relate to the scriptures of the refiner of silver (Malachi 3:3).

    The refining fire purges out all the impurities of the silver until it is completely pure and the refiner can see his reflection in the silver. When someone is refining silver they do have to sit next to it and watch it constantly.

    The scripture indicates that God is sitting next to us and watching us constantly as the baptism of fire removes all of our impurities and makes us a perfect reflection of His countenance.

  2. Not that you want to go this far in Sunday School, but I think the Protestants have a point. "we shall have a perfect knowledge of our guilt ... and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their righteousness" (2 Nephi 9:14). The knowledge that sanctifies the righteous also appears to condemn the wicked. This knowledge is compared to the lake of fire and brimstone (Mosiah 2:38) and also seems to have a connection to the cherubim and flaming sword that only becomes effective through a "knowledge of good and evil" (1 Nephi 15:30). Until now I haven't really connected it to the baptism by fire, but it is something to think about.

  3. Brett, Martin and I were talking about that very thing. he posed the question that perhaps part of the baptism of fire is the burning of the wicked when the Savior comes again.

  4. Giggles, I like that idea. I'm going to talk about this in my next SS lesson. I'll have to incorporate the silver refining.

  5. Michelle, you're right about it happening gradually and people not being aware of it. 3 Nephi 9:20 "The Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and the HOly Ghost, and they knew it not."