What is meant by “the fire of God?” Early Methodist minister Samuel Chadwick (1860-1932) gives a great perspective in his classic book The Way To Pentecost. Read his words and be stirred.
“Our God is a consuming fire.” The elect symbol of His presence is the fire unkindled of earth, and the chosen sign of His approval is the sacred flame. Covenant and sacrifice, sanctuary and dispensation were sanctified and approved by the descent of fire.
“The God that answereth by fire; He is God.” That is the final and universal test of deity. Jesus Christ came to bring fire upon the earth.
The symbol of Christianity is not a Cross, but a Tongue of Fire.
What is this Fire? The Scriptures evidently regard it as the supreme need of the Church and the final gift of God. The prophets associated it with the Messiah, and promised it as the unique triumph of His coming. It marked the difference between the Old Dispensation and the New. John’s ministry shook the nation, but was only preparatory.
“I indeed baptize with water … He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with Fire.” Our Lord spoke of the coming of Fire as the one purpose of His mission, and the fruit of His sufferings and death. “I came,” He says, “to cast Fire on the earth.” The supreme need of the Church is Fire. The one persistent prayer of them that “sigh and cry” is for the fiery baptism of Pentecost.
When Jesus promised the gift of Fire, what did He mean them to expect?
In our impassioned pleading for the descent of Fire, what is it we want? For what does this elect symbol stand? Our God is a consuming Fire; the gift of the Holy Ghost is a baptism of Fire; Christianity is a religion of Fire; we are saved by Fire. If Fire is so vital and comprehensive, it is important its meaning should be clearly understood.
Whatever this Fire may be, it is identified with the Person of the Holy Ghost. The baptism of the Spirit is the baptism of Fire. Our Lord’s straitening for the baptism of blood was followed by the fullness of Pentecost, in the gift of the Spirit of Fire. Its power was moral and spiritual.
Men’s souls were charged, saturated, enveloped, in the Spirit of God. The Divine life entered into them.
The passion of God possessed them with the intensity of fire.
His love was shed abroad in their hearts, and His holiness became the master passion of their souls. They burned and they shone: burning and shining lights.
They were intense as they were breezy, fiery as they were jubilant, impassioned as they were daring. The spirit of cold obedience was kindled into an enthusiasm for righteousness, and the slavish sense of duty burst into a flame of eager devotion.
That is the miracle of Pentecost. It kindles the fires of Christ’s soul in the souls of men. They receive, realize, and reproduce His mind, His heart, His life. His zeal becomes the all-pervasive character of their lives. They manifest His fervent devotion to the will of the Father, His holy passion for reality and righteousness, His consuming zeal for the salvation of the lost.
It kindles a fervent devotion to God, a passion for righteousness, and a consuming desire to seek and save the lost.
Religion at flame-heat illumines the mind, energizes every faculty, and impassions every element of compassion.
Fire does not mean rant, or noise, or ruthless self-will. It acts differently on different material and in different people, but in all it burns, kindles, and glows.
It is religion at white-heat.”
Excerpted from Chadwick, Samuel. The Way of Pentecost. Ch.15.
Samuel Chadwick (1860-1932), a Wesleyan Methodist minister and author who was also principal of Cliff College.