Does Jesus Baptize us with Fire?

by Francis MacNutt
Jan/Feb 2004

In all four Gospels John the Baptist cries out, prophesying that the one who is to follow him will baptize us with the Holy Spirit. This is the Baptist's main prophecy about what Jesus will do in our lives. And then Matthew and Luke also quote John as saying that Jesus will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire. What in the world does that really mean? With fire?

I would like to share with you my guess. See what you think.

First of all, I would like to take you back to a talk I heard one priest give to a group of about 100 priests in which he challenged them by saying, "I don't care how you define this Baptism of the Spirit; all I want is to ask: 'Has what happened to Peter at Pentecost happened to you? Before Pentecost the disciples were already followers of Jesus. They accepted the Resurrection. Yes. But some­thing hadn't yet happened to them which only happened at Pentecost."'

I would like to add what should be obvious: Pentecost wasn't something the disciples did. The Pentecost experi­ence was something God did for them. All they did was to pray and wait. It was a great gift: the Promise ("I am send­ing on you what the Father has promised." Luke 24:49.)

In the past 35 years I have prayed for many Christians to receive the Baptism of the Spirit and seen their lives truly transformed. At our recent conference in Scotland, one priest came up to tell me and shared that, way back in 1975, I had prayed for him in Dublin, Ireland, for the Baptism of the Spirit and his life has never been the same since then.

So, coming back to our question, what does it mean to add "and with fire"?

The last few months have given us some clues. For instance, we prayed for an Episcopal deacon and after­wards, with eyes glistening with tears, she said, "I have been ordained for seven years, so why didn't someone ever tell me about this?" And then five members of our board have recently prayed for the empowering of the Spirit and were so fired up that they decided to come to Scotland, at their own expense, to help us pray with their fellow Presby­terians there. Far from merely being sympathetic observers, they enthusiastically entered in, and prayed for healing and deliverance. One night two of them, so on fire that they ignored their jetlag, prayed with a woman until 2:30 a.m. And then this week (two weeks later) they received a letter from her saying that her life was transformed.

And then there is the story of Fr. David Barr, the hus­band of our receptionist, Patsy, who received prayer last year for the empowering of the Spirit - many years after ordination - and whose transformation he described in our newsletter (July/August, 2003).

Now, all of these were wonderful, church-going Chris­tians, before all this happened. Their transformations were along the line of Peter - true believers who were set on fire by the Holy Spirit.

Where is the fire in our churches? How can we help this happen to all those good Christians we see out there in our dutiful but sleepy congregations? When will the pastors start to preach about the Baptism of the Spirit? And pray for it?

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Jan?Feb 2004 Issue