“His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” vs. 17
John’s words about the work of the coming Messiah sound ominous…it seems that he’s looking toward a great separation in which the righteous will be saved and sinners burned with unquenchable fire. It’s more likely however that the threshing process he describes is intended as a word of grace. John’s own baptism revolved around repentance but what the Messiah will bring is a baptism of cleansing and power. The fire imagery is intended to describe the burning away of all impurities, the complete purging of all chaff from sinners’ lives. And that is exactly what happens when we become one with Christ. By water and the Spirit we are made members of the Church and there, in the Spirit’s workshop, we are cleansed and purified. This all comes as a gift and not as a requirement…it’s what God does with us and not what we do for God. It’s for this reason that Luke describes John’s preaching as being good news. He’s not talking about hellfire and brimstone but about the sometimes painful purification that comes in our continuing relationship with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit will use every means possible to clean away the dross and expose the amazing beautiful persons God has created us to be. Freed from the itchy chaff of sin we are a magnificent harvest of righteousness.
Thought for the Day: How might our purification be painful?