Matt 3:11-12 He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. NIV
Much has been said over the years about the meaning of this verse. In order to understand it’s meaning and application to the believer in Christ, we must take ourselves back in time and place. John the Baptist, who spoke these words, was baptizing Jewish worshippers of God, who were repenting (turning) from sin, in preparation for the “kingdom of heaven.”
He was also prophesying that the coming King, would baptize (which means immerse fully) these same children of Israel in a different way. This King’s baptism would first involve an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Those that knew their scriptures would most likely be thinking of Joel 2:28 "It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions." NASU
In times past, the Holy Spirit had “come upon” individuals but not been poured out in the manner predicted. The beginning of this pouring out was literally fulfilled, as verified by the apostle Peter, and recorded by Luke in Acts, chapter 2.
These same people would likely have understood the “fire” in light of Mal 3:2 "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap." NASU
This would be the refiner’s fire of testing to see whether or not one was wheat or chaff, as it says in verse 12 of Matthew 3. Wheat would represent those who have truly put their trust in the King, Jesus. Chaff represents those who do not put their trust in Him. If you read verse 12, you see the consequences of that decision.
For the believer in Christ, water baptism is a picture of dying (to ourselves and the bondage to sin) and being raised in newness of life. Rom 6:4 “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” NIV
It should also be understood as a reminder that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on us as well. We need this outpouring because we will go through the refiner’s fire and we want to pass the test! 1 Peter 4:12-14 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” NASU
So, if you are a believer, you can approach fiery trials with rejoicing as the Holy Spirit pours out His strength, comfort and compassion upon you, “so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,” (Phil 2:15-16) NASU
If you have not yet placed your faith in the King who has come and will come again in judgment, I pray that you will not delay. Turn from your sin and receive the forgiveness that only comes by the grace of Jesus Christ.
God bless you,