Foundations of the Faith

the elementary teachings in Hebrews 6
that prepare disciples in Yeshua to move on to maturity

Instruction about Washings
3: Fire

Our review of the foundation of washings takes us next into "the fiery immersions" spoken of in the New Testament. They take different forms in our lives which involve suffering, death, judgment and testing.

How are these in the category of immersions, or washings? Because they also purge and cleanse like water, and because it often seems when you are in them that you are being overwhelmed. Following are just a few examples.

Fire that Proves Faith / Faithfulness

The immersion of suffering and grief can be in order to test and reveal the genuineness of those who are approved. "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Yeshua the Messiah is revealed."

When Yeshua was approached with a special request by two of His disciples, He asked them, "Can you drink the cup I drink, or be immersed with the immersion I am immersed with?" When they said "We can," He responded, "You will drink the cup I drink and be immersed with the immersion I am immersed with."

In another place He said, "But I have an immersion to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!" What was this immersion that the Lord underwent? We know it involved suffering and death.

There are two potential ways to suffer and die: physically and spiritually. We are called to follow Him into both: "If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me." Paul later explained that the ceremony of water immersion is a symbol of this readiness in us: "Don't you know that all of us who were immersed into Messiah Yeshua were immersed into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through immersion into death."

Paul also explained that the Lord's suffering did not end on the cross with His death: "Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Messiah's afflictions, for the sake of His Body, which is the church." Paul also calls on us to join him in this work: "But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of G-d." As with James and John, we may eventually be called upon to sanctify G-d's name with our physical death; but until then, every day must find us willing to face lesser forms of suffering and death for His sake.

Fire that Removes Ungodliness

When John spoke of the immersion performed by Messiah, he spoke of fiery judgment: "I immerse you with water. But One more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will immerse you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

Fire illustrates an inseparable part of God's nature: "Our God is a consuming fire." Yeshua Himself said, "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!" Paul added: "This will happen when the Lord Yeshua is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know G-d and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Yeshua."

The fire of judgment that the Lord will bring to earth at His return will immerse both the world and His chosen ones, but with very different results.

Fire that Disciplines and Edifies

When the Lord first sent the Holy Spirit to immerse His Body, it was accompanied by tongues of fire resting on each person. This was to indicate that He was also granting, together with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, a down-payment of His spiritual authority for judgment and discipline.

This authority is to be used for edifying, and for salvation among those in the Body: "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? G-d will judge those outside."
"For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it."

Yet even within the Body, this authority can foreshadow the judgment which will happen at the Lord's return: "And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it."
"I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Yeshua."
"Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme."

These examples illustrate the power that Paul taught us is an essential part of the gospel: "For the kingdom of G-d is not a matter of talk but of power. What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?"

The reality of this spiritual power can accomplish what no human police or court or jail is capable of. Its presence in us testifies not only of the Holy Spirit, but it is also a promise of the coming judgment of fire.

Fire that Tests Deeds

The Lord's fiery appearance will also immerse the works of His chosen ones, to test their worth: "If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."

We want to do more than escape "with our skins" in the Day of Judgment. One of the most sought-after achievements in that Day will be the ability to lay works at His feet that were tested, refined and proven worthy of His commendation... not a pile of ashes. This should cause us to build carefully, using materials that will come through the fire intact with us.

Scripture references, in the order that they appear:
1 Peter 1:6-7
Mark 10:38-39
Luke 12:50
Luke 9:23
Romans 6:3-4
Colossians 1:24
2 Timothy 1:8
Luke 3:16-17
Hebrews 12:29
Luke 12:49
2 Thessalonians 1:7-8
1 Corinthians 5:12-13
2 Corinthians 10:8
Acts 5:5
1 Corinthians 5:5 (NASB)
1 Timothy 1:20
1 Corinthians 4:20-21
1 Corinthians 3:12-15

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