Chapter 24 The Lord's Baptism Of Fire

I am come to send fire on the earth… But I have a baptism to be baptized with (Luke 12:49, 50).

Our Lord, we read in Matthew 26:27, “took the cup, and gave thanks.” That cup represented His sufferings and blood-shedding. That was suffering and sorrow beyond human comprehension. Yet at the same time there was thanksgiving. It is something akin to Hebrews 12:2, “Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross.” Sorrow and joy are mingled together. The cold north wind and the balmy south wind blow together. Thus the apostle says, “As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). There is no contradiction, but something ineffably divine. The Lord’s cup has both these elements. The cup is not an eternal sadness. There is that in the cup for which He could give thanks.

The cup of our Lord is central to the life of the assembly of His people. There is an aspect of that cup which is entirely our Lord’s. It is His alone. That is the atoning and redemptive element. In that, we have no part. The drinking of that cup had to do with the absorption of God’s judgment and wrath against sin. His drinking all of it made possible “the remission of sins.” Our justification springs from the shedding of Jesu’s blood. That is a theme which endless ages of praise must leave untold. It is the ransom price of our souls.

There is a believer’s side to that same cup. We are called to share, not the atoning aspect of it, but the exemplary side of it. There is that evil face in the spirit world which hates the character and work of God’s beloved Son. Evil cannot bear His presence. It is that hostility and reproach which involves all true believers. We have taken sides with Him against that enemy of God. So we drink the cup—the cup of His reproach. And we, too, must take that cup and give thanks. Unless we are utterly with Him that cup will drive us out, as it did Judas, into the blackness and darkness of the night.

The Separating Power of the Cross

“Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils” (1 Corinthians 10:21). All that is of Christ is utterly apart from all that is of the devil. These two realms can never be brought together. This is the reason why the apostle wrote this letter to the Corinthians. They were doing this very thing. The children of light cannot sit down with the children of darkness. There must be a discrimination exercised and a difference recognized. The believer’s partaking of that cup also means that we are to be very different from those who are not the Lord’s. There must be a life that is different. The drinking of the cup demands that!

The Unifying Power of the Cross

“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16). It is the blood of Christ which removes the sin which separates from God so that restoration and reconciliation are made possible. There is a new relationship established with God. But further, it unifies all who are the Lord’s people. We are on common ground when we participate. We eat and drink together. There is no authority for partaking of the cup in the privacy of our homes. It is a corporate participation. “I hear that there be divisions among you” (1 Corinthians 11:18). That is a violation of all that the cup represents. It is a mockery to come to the Lord’s table and be at enmity one with another. This is a table of love.

The Evangelizing Power of the Cross

“I am come to send fire on the earth … I have a baptism to be baptized with” (Luke 12:49, 50). The fire could not be scattered until His baptism of suffering was accomplished. The evangelization of the world lay in suspense until man’s redemption was fully wrought out and completed. If we take the scattering of fire to mean the evangelization of the world—the salvation of souls—the expansion of our Lord’s spiritual kingdom—that the whole world would feel the heat and fire of Gospel truth against which it cannot stand—then everything of that nature was dependent upon the baptism of suffering by our Lord—upon the drinking of that cup.

That ministry is also one of suffering for His people. That is the second reason why we drink the cup. The first reason is to remember the Lord in His sufferings and death. The second is our participation in the work of spreading the Gospel and that may involve us in a fiery baptism. We must be separated from all that is devilish to do that! We must be unified as a believing people to do that! We cannot be effective without both. “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?” asked our Lord. “We are able,” replied James and John (Matthew 20:22). And the Lord answered, “Ye shall indeed” (Mark 10:39), and one of these two, James, was not long after slain by Herod.

And couldst Thou, Lord, Thy thanks express,
In prospect of Thy deep distress?
And at Thy table spread to show
The symbols of Thy coming woe?

And couldst Thou bless Thy God on high,
That He had sent Thee thus to die?
And for our sins to give Thee up,
To drink wrath’s overwhelming cup?

O! What a love must Thine have been!
To praise in view of such a scene!
When broken bread, and poured-out wine,
Portrayed those bitter woes of Thine.

—Author Unknown