Water, Fire, Pharisees and Elijah

In this article, I want to step away from some of the heavier doctrinal topics and take a look at some things going in the world today. This article will have a definite application to the Hebrew Roots Movement, but it will not necessarily be limited to that one issue.

This article presents a dichotomy or distinction between two aspects of the Bible, but this distinction is not necessarily expressed in an explicit manner in the Bible the way that I will present it. I don’t claim this article to be doctrinal concerning this dichotomy but what we will look at can be a point of reference and understanding for some different issues.

Unless you’ve been living on the moon, or don’t care much for the internet world, alot has taken place in the realm of religion and especially in the arena of media and the internet.

We still have our old fashioned, real life debates in the public arena or at the city gates and town halls so to speak. However, the internet and social media has become a host and outlet for all types of religious information and activity. It has given a new meaning to the old world concept of town criers and public forums.

When it comes to internet religion, we have videos, movies, comments and articles that range from truth to conspiracy, doctrine to opinion, and rebuttals to exposés. Many of these can remain cordial and respectful while others can become heated and down right hostile.

When it comes to Christianity or Bible-based religious groups; denominations and doctrine are becoming highly refined and defined but fringe groups or smaller movements are finding a voice through media and the internet as well.

With all that said, the questions remains as to who is right?
I believe that everyone in the evangelical community including the Hebrew roots movement, all have a sense of urgency or expectancy for truth especially among those who feel that Christ’s return is near.

What is happening though?
Is truth being proclaimed?
Are all the debates proving who are the real sheep and who are the goats? How about the wheat and tares?
Is a remnant of God emerging from all the debates and information about God and the Bible?

There are a million more things to be said about religion and media but I want to focus on alot of what we see in debates with the Hebrew roots movement that may help identify or explain what is at the root of other religious activity and information.
Debates with the HRM ultimately result in accusations of many types. Coming from the HRM, many accusations tend to be along the lines of liberalism, lawlessness, paganism, apostasy. For those who oppose the HRM, accusations tend to be along the lines of Pharisee, judaizer, legalistic, self-righteous, works-righteous or salvation by works.

Regardless of whether these accusations and viewpoints are true or not, both groups are “sincere” and there’s no denying that. The question that has to be asked is, how much does sincerity factor into a person’s walk with God/Jesus Christ? Sincerity reflects an honesty and purity of motives and intentions, so does God reject sincerity and purity when it comes to motives and intentions toward Him even though the doctrine may be wrong? Are these motives and intentions toward Him or are these motives and intentions toward something which is a surrogate of Him?

I came up with the title of this article while recently following a popular YouTube debate of two people I agree with with on many points but yet they do not agree with each other, but both are sincere. Water, Fire, Pharisees and Elijah sum up the the different things that were happening in Israel at the time of Christ. All of these things were part of what were or what was intended to be something that put people right with God.

When it comes to water and fire, we will be looking at the differences and similarities between the Baptism of John and the Baptism of Jesus. When it comes to Pharisees and Elijah, we will be looking at two different concepts and ideas of restoring righteousness.

JOHN’S BAPTISM-
The emphasis and recognition that Jesus places on John’s Baptism is highly overlooked in my opinion. Lets take a look at some of the major reference that Jesus makes about John and his baptism:

“Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him and spoke to Him, saying, ‘Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?’
But He answered and said to them, ‘I also will ask you one thing, and answer Me: The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men?’
And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet.’ So they answered that they did not know where it was from.”
(Luke 20:1-7)

(Jesus Speaking)”For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.”
(Matthew 21:32)

But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written:
“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.”

‘Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!'”
(Matthew 11:9-15)

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?'”
(John 3:10-12)
*(Its important to note here in John 3 that Jesus is more than likely referring to John’s baptism when He accuses Nicodemus of not receiving “Their” witness. I will prove, and the remainder of the John 3 proves that the criteria began with John’s baptism. When Jesus distinguishes between earthly things and heavenly things, John also goes on to point out the same distinction in the remainder of the chapter.)

FIRE AND WATER, EARTH AND SKY-
We know that John’s message is not of man but both Jesus and John speak of distinctions between the earth and heaven. Let’s look at these:

“Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, saying to all, ‘I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire’.”
(Luke 3:15-16)

“And they came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!’ John answered and said, ‘A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven’…(John speaking) He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony’.”
(John 3:25-32)

(Jesus)”If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
(John 3:12)

(Jesus)”And He said to them, ‘You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world’.”
(John 8:23)

THE RETURN AND RESTORATION OF ELIJAH-
“For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up.
Says the Lord of hosts,
That will leave them neither root nor branch…Remember the Law of Moses, My servant,
Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel,
With the statutes and judgments.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”
(Malachi 4)

“And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him…And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’
Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.”
(Matthew 17)

SORTING IT OUT-
Well, Jesus seems to be implying that Elijah has come in the form of John the Baptist so does this mean that the Day of the Lord has already come to burn up the chaff as Malachi and John the Baptist said?

When looking at the verses above, the difference between John and Jesus or fire and water has to do with consciousness.
John never claimed that he, nor his message were from heaven as seen in the manner of Jesus and His message.
John brought one type of consciousness through his message but he specifically pointed to another type of consciousness through Jesus Christ.

John’s message brought a consciousness toward God in relation to the world around them in the practical everyday scenario. John made people call into question, and consider God and the commandments and how they should be lived out in the commonplace of life. He appealed to man and the perspective of man, and his consideration for man in order to prepare straight paths for God and the kingdom through Jesus Christ.

John however, did not preach that his message was the final restoration or redemption. He pointed to another.

If you compare John’s message and then compare it to the message of Jesus in the gospel of John the apostle, then you will quickly see the distinction between water and fire.

The consciousness of John the Baptist’s message was a call to repentance and a challenge to the mind and will of the people concerning God and others. Why would this message not be sufficient?
It wasn’t sufficient because it did not come from someone who had a perspective of heaven, and it did not provide people with a perspective of heaven. We can see in John 3 that even John makes a recognition that Jesus has come with a perspective and consciousness from above. John continually makes this distinction between himself and his message compared to something different that would come through Christ.

RELIGION OF JOHN WITHOUT JESUS-

What we have today is many religious people and groups, namely the Hebrew Roots Movement, who have never moved beyond the Baptism of John in their concepts and thinking. Im not talking about unsaved people, but those who have satisfied themselves with some initial fear and repentance toward God and Jesus Christ. They have even followed this up with good works from a pure heart and motive, but the testing of their faith and the determination of others has never moved beyond or transcended this world and what they can see with their five senses. Everything for them is measured in human terms regardless of how they attach it to the Bible, but it never moves into the realm of the Spirit-led and Spirit-filled life if Christ that has already been made available to us as a gift, not a prize. This does not make someone a Pharisee by any means, but given the right ingredients, it is part of the recipe.

The image and message of John the Baptist is challenging and inspiring and has been for 2000 years but many people only value John and his message for the supposedly, gritty personality and the do’s and don’ts that accompany his preaching. It provides a very tangible example and message, but many however, do not look to the fact that John spoke of two different baptisms or identifications with God-“there is One coming after me…”

The initial stages of our salvation take place in the realm of what we see and hear and feel. We assess the fundamental characteristics of our life and human life and existence but becoming mature believers involves getting to the place where we begin to see the manifested life of Christ working within us in a manner that we would not otherwise see or be able to assess without the Holy Spirit.

The message of John should always co-exist with our walk with God because it does strike at the core and basics of our recognition and consciousness toward God, but John never described his type of message as a completion, but rather a beginning and preparation for the paths of the Lord.

In no way am I saying that John’s message is of the law or a type of law that should be discarded now that we are in Christ. What I am saying is that John’s message is part of our walk and progression of consciousness toward God but it is limited in scope and function.

When people look to the type of message and consciousness of John as a completion, their message can’t help but descend into one of consciousness towards the will of man, discipline and effort. In my previous article, I quoted from Oswald Chambers who said:

“Sanctification does not put us into the place that Adam was in and require us to fulfill the will of God as He makes it known to us; sanctification is something infinitely more than that.”

It’s important to recognize this false type of mentality that assumes the gospel basically puts us back in our original state to try again. This type of mentality should exist at our initial stages of salvation because it challenges us to look beyond performance and obedience from the standpoint of our Adam or water. It is a step towards the baptism of fire where that mentality should be burnt up, but many fail by trying to continue along these lines and consciousness of trying to align their will with the performance of the Adam, and the disciplines of the Adam.

Understanding Christ and Him crucified is usually something that we only come to grasp as we mature in our faith. In the initial stages of our salvation, we understand the simplicity of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, but the error is to believe that this simplicity constitutes the understanding of what the Cross means in our life. It does not.

The error is to believe that Jesus and the Cross is a catalyst for moving us, or motivating us into the realm human performance. That would be to place the message and baptism of John after the message and baptism of Christ.
Do you understand this?

Always pay attention for people who switch these baptisms around. Elijah always comes before Christ, but the error is to see Christ and Him crucified as merely the elementary stages of our life. Elijah does not perfect the work of Christ but he points to it. Make sure that you don’t reject the message of Elijah, because Jesus judged the people based on whether they accepted John/Elijah, but understand that Elijah promises and points to something better in Christ. It’s interesting to point out that John said that nobody receives/believes the witness of Jesus, yet John claimed that Jesus was above all. John’s type of message is often times more readily received because people are willing to accept a consciousness of religious duty and discipline that is tangible but Jesus spoke of the intangible that was only available through Him.

FALSE ELIJAHS AND THE PHARISEES-
I seldom use the term “Pharisee” when speaking of others because that term is a little more complex than we may realize. It would be more compassionate and effective if we would point out to people that they are stuck on the Baptism of John rather than accusing them of being Pharisees.

There is no doubt that we have full blown Pharisees in the world today, but Pharisees really represent an intentional self righteous, un-repentant, and prideful denial of sin and submission to God. Pharisees are self-appointed overseers and their life looks down on everyone else from their vantage point. They can never come down from that place.
They find something to hold over the heads of others and that is how they feel they are called to operate. They don’t see any other means to influence people. These are people who take the message of John and skip over the baptism of Christ.

Now, before I go any further, let me give you an example in scripture that can help understand that not everybody is a Pharisee because they are stuck at the Baptism of John:

“Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace…”
(Acts 18:24-26)

I think we can categorize the different messages of people into 3 groups:
1) Those who need to understand the way of God more accurately like Apollos.
2)Those who are a false Elijah by refusing to point to the baptism of Christ by fire.
3)Pharisees who use the message of John and Jesus to abuse people and increase themselves.

I want to help people and groups like the HRM to understand the way of God more accurately, but many of them only value the tangible aspects that were seen in the baptism of John which are “repent and do this and do that”. If they don’t recognize this, the potential remains for them to become Pharisees. I don’t accuse anyone of this, but that is the progression that I believe exists.

In modern times, people are not necessarily Pharisees because they keep the law or preach human works. Many times, the Law or human works are the only thing that they can see as a means and method for restoring all things like Elijah. It is very difficult for them to move into the realm of Spirit-filled living that influences people from that standpoint because Spirit-led living is not so cut and dried.

Jesus and John are “witnesses”. What are we supposed to be witnesses of? A religious mindset of duty and discipline? In some areas yes, but we are witnesses of Christ, the testimony of righteousness and the testimony of His work that works in us mightily through the Cross, and stop, stop, stop talking about the Cross as something only reserved to salvation! New believers hardly ever have a comprehension of how they are really identified to God through the Cross. The Cross is usually iconic or symbolic to a new believer until they get past the baptism of John and understand the baptism of Christ. It’s at this point that they realize the Cross is not an icon, symbol or catalyst for following something else. When the Cross is merely iconic or elementary to us, it should make us wonder if we really ever came to the baptism of water, nevermind the baptism of fire.

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
(1 Corinthians 2)

CONCLUSION –
We all come to the place in our walk with God where He moves us beyond the realm of immediate consideration for ourselves and calls us into consideration to Him through Christ. We all stumble at this point to some degree in the same manner that we stumble when transitioning from childhood to adulthood.

We love all the immediate and tangible aspects of our initial experience with Christ but He moves us to the point where He says:
“Unless you eat of My flesh and drink of My blood, you shall have no part with Me.”

John’s message is easy because you either accept it or reject I and it easy to see and determine who takes part in the baptism of John, but Jesus confuses our Adam. He said that all those of the Spirit would be like the wind.
(John 3:8).

It’s at this point of understanding our salvation that we become depressed or return to some tangible aspect. We either return to the principle fundamentals of John where we try to get saved again, or we go back even further to create a renaissance of our Adam through the Law. We lose a sense of security in our walk and from that point we start making it up as we go:

“But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’.”

I can and do appreciate the viewpoints of the HRM, and I never stop anyone from trying to live righteously, but I really don’t care how much they throw the Law in our faces. Myself and many others know the ups and downs and ins and outs of our walk with God. We have experienced our own false Elijahs that don’t lead us to Christ.

Determination, will, resolve, works, law and human effort all have their place in living for God but none of these are what God sees as the absence of sin and glorification of His Son. They are part of the human realm in which God’s will is carried out but these are not a source of power within themselves. They are the human functions that John called upon to recognize God and repent thereby. It lays the foundation for seeing this:

“Behold the lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.”

“He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire.”

We have to consider whether our convictions are born out of a lack of Christ rather than understanding the fullness in Christ. Convictions that are related too closely with determination, will, resolve, works, law and human effort can end up being a stumbling block for us even if we attach them to the things of God. The Pharisees had many convictions but those convictions became the basis of their rejection of John and Jesus.

We need to judge all things by how it emphasizes refuge and restoration in Jesus Christ and Him crucified for the maturity of our faith, not just when it comes to the simplicity of salvation. Consider where you are when it
comes to water, fire, Pharisees and Elijah.

Many of the errors in today’s theological controversies and debates are initiated by people who believe that the refining of a person’s will constitutes the absence of sin. God calls upon the will of man to acknowledge the reality of Him and the reality of sin, but man can only yield to God in the capacity of his human functions and capabilities in according to what is revealed by God. This does not constitute the absence of sin and neither does it perfect the righteousness of God. It is merely the exercising of faith. Abraham yielded his belief and trust to God but Abraham soon realized that he could not perfect or complete the purpose and promises of God through his personal human capacity. His attempt at this resulted in a complete rejection by God.

Abraham yielded to God with his will, but his will proved to be a hindrance rather than a help. His will and human capacity lacked any perception and power to perform what God had promised, but more than that; his human capacity created an eternal contrast to the promises of God that still exists today.

This aspect of the story of Abraham stands in direct opposition to many today who are preaching a psuedo-holiness based on the perfection of the human capacity in order to attain righteousness and the absence of sin. They do not seem to point to another baptism the way John pointed to Christ. They end with John’s call upon the present realities of God and sin, but they never move into the functions of Jesus Christ, the Cross and His manifest life within us and how that relates to sin and the will and purposes of God.

The great temptation for believers is to somehow get around God’s rejection of our Ishmaels. When God says “No” to our Ishmaels, we subconsciously plead for them to be sustained and we try to attach all kinds of theology, doctrine and sentiments to these Ishmaels to justify their existence. We love our Ishmaels because they gratify a part of us that we feel God failed to satisfy. We want to see righteousness carried out on our terms and perception, but the message and baptism of Christ gives no place for that attitude. No one receives the witness of Christ when it comes to this.

Elijah and John the Baptist are both fiery prophets that bring a consciousness to God but they are limited to the human plane of existence and even John the Baptist admits this. Jesus Christ however, puts consciousness toward God on the plane of His perception of Heaven and the Father.

The heresy or error of all these groups such as the HRM, SDA, Moral Government proponents and all the others who deny the sinfulness of man, is that they are trying to perfect a consciousness towards God in the human realm and human capacity in the manner of John without pointing to the baptism of Christ. The problem is that all these groups retain the self or “I” in all they promote, but the baptism of Christ is a consciousness toward God on another plane and in another realm. There is no “self” when it comes to identifying with God through Christ. There is no realization of the “self” and neither is there a perfection and consideration for the “self” in Christ. The baptism of Christ is a realization of Him and His consciousness toward God, not ours through the “self”.

The self is dead in Christ. We don’t live according to the considerations and observations of the self and how it performs unto God concerning Holiness. Imitating Christ is not sufficient because that is merely an attempt to make our self like His self, but that is an error because we are still retaining our self. We are dead in Christ for the purpose of being conformed to His image and not our own personal holiness. Sin stems from the sinful nature which at its core, is a supposed right to self-realization and independence not just to do evil but to do good independent of God.

Now you can understand what Paul means by saying:

“and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
(Philippians 3:9)

Paul seems to be saying that he wants nothing good to be tied to himself. We think that the objective in life is to distance ourselves from what is bad, but Paul takes it further to say that he doesn’t want righteousness to be tied to his “self”.

Sin is not just something bad; it is anything independent of God through self, self-awareness or self-realization and self-consideration. This is the chaff, and it isn’t burned up through the law or through the perfection of the human moral constitution and capacity of self or through the water of John. It is burned up through the moral life of Christ alone by faith and His baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire.

John’s message was not about a consciousness toward God through the elevation of man’s capacity. He preached:

HE MUST INCREASE AND I MUST DECREASE!

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5 thoughts on “Water, Fire, Pharisees and Elijah

  1. Another little verse that Paul wrote: Romans 14:23 “…for whatever is not from faith is sin.”

    When considering John the Baptist, an important event is when the Pharisees sent people down to the Jordan river to ask him what he was doing. Why was he controversial?

    The answer is that he was baptizing Jews and calling them to repentance and dedication to the law. This was the ritual the Pharisees developed to allow Gentiles to become proselytes—i.e. it was the Pharisees who started baptizing people. But to baptize a Jew, this was radical because to them, a Jew was already clean (unless the became unclean according to the law and had to do an immersion). The Jewish baptism was instituted after the Maccabean wars, when the Pharisees started their evangelism program (this why Paul was able to into synagogs all throughout Asia minor and Greece).

    I have noticed, whenever I post something about the Spirit, almost always it is ignored or avoided by the HR people. The only exception is that sometimes the response is “So? The Spirit was in the old testament!” They are blinded to or refuse to acknowledge anything unique about the baptism of Jesus. You never see them discussing John 3 and Nicodemus. Nor do they ever talk about righteousness through faith.

    Admittedly the baptism of fire is not something I can comment much about. One view is that it refers to the final destruction of the earth; if it is connected to the baptism of the Spirit and regeneration, then it is something entirely different.

    Intriguing article.

    1. Thanks, I wasn’t aware of that history of baptism. This article was more reflective than definitive, but I guess the simplicity of this article would be that John never considered his baptism and message of do’s and don’ts to be the end all be all. The arguments that we encounter are the opposite. They don’t validate or acknowledge the idea of an inward personal work and relationship to Christ. What we usually see is the assumption that a few do’s and don’ts equate to the final message that somehow gives people the authority to condemn us to hell. They’re not trying to persuade us to a personal relationship with Christ that deals with the real issues. John pointed to Christ but many arguments we see, would seem to not care about that. Thanks for checking out the articles.

      1. Yes, by telling the people they needed to repent and follow the law, John was preparing the way for the Messiah to show them their need for forgiveness and mercy. This was alien to the Pharisaic world.

        If you are interested in a fuller account beyond my little synopsis, I can give a couple links to some audio teachings about Hanukkah and baptism.

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