We see no reason for departing from the usual symbolical sense of "fire" in this scripture. It is found in Luke as well as in this gospel, while Mark and John both omit it, simply giving, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost." The latter was accomplished, as to the Church, on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 1:5), and accomplished, therefore, by an ascended and glorified Christ. The result was, that believers were brought into union with Himself, and in this way the body of Christ was formed. (1 Cor. 12:11, 12.) The baptism of fire remains to be fulfilled. That is, taking "fire" as the expression of holiness, the holiness of God as applied in judgment, it will refer to that future day of the Lord's appearing, when He comes forth to judge the living. The first application of this part of the scripture will undoubtedly be to the Jewish nation, the mass of whom will in the last days become idolatrous and apostate. We thus read in Isaiah of the time when the Lord "shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning" (Isaiah 4:4; compare Isaiah 66:24); and in Zechariah the Lord expressly says that He will bring the third part (the saved remnant) through the fire. (Zech. 13:9.) It is thus, as we judge, while not excluding further applications, that the Lord will baptize with fire - in the awful judgments which will follow upon His appearing, and which will accompany the establishment of His kingdom. It is quite true, we may add, that, in accordance with Joel's prophecy, Jehovah will pour out His Spirit on all flesh (Joel 2); but as this is nowhere termed in Scripture the baptism, or a baptism, of the Holy Ghost, we confine this part of our Lord's blessed work to the descent of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The two expressions, therefore, combine grace and judgment.
In the margin, as an alternative to "atonement," is put, "Or, reconciliation." And this is the only possible rendering of the word; and, indeed, it is so translated in every other place of its occurrence. A moment's consideration would suffice to show that "atonement" is a mistake. Atonement is made to God. We receive not it, but the benefits consequent upon it; that is, it is on the foundation of the atonement, which our blessed Lord and Saviour made on the cross, that God is able righteously to forgive, justify, and bless every one who believes in Jesus. (Rom. 3.) We do receive, on the other hand, the reconciliation; for it was not God who needed to be reconciled to us, but we, owing to the enmity of our hearts, who required to be reconciled to Him. And it is He who has done it for us, according to that word, "All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ." (2 Cor. 5:18; see also verses 19-21.) And again, "And you . . . hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death," etc. (Col. 1:21, 22.) Reconciliation means for us, not only the breaking down the enmity of our hearts by the revelation in power to our souls of what God is in all His grace and love, notwithstanding all that we have been and are, but also bringing us back into relationship with God in all that He is as revealed in Christ, and according to the efficacy of the death of Christ. It should be noticed, however, that "reconciliation" goes farther in one scripture than in another. It takes its meaning, in each place where it is found, from the context, and in accordance with the distinctive truths of the epistle. It conveys more, for example, in Colossians than in Romans, and more in 2 Corinthians 5 than in Colossians. The word "reconciliation," it may be added, in Hebrews 2:17 should be "propitiation."
It is not difficult to apprehend the force and meaning of this scripture. The Galatians were, to say the least, in danger of falsifying grace through the influence of Judaizing teachers. The law, together with its rites and ceremonies, was resuming its old place in their minds. Even circumcision was again enjoined. (Gal. 5:1-4, Gal. 6:12, 13.) All these things, subversive of Christianity, called forth remonstrances and solemn warnings from the apostle, who was, in consequence, the object of hatred and persecution on the part of these false teachers. In every possible way throughout this epistle Paul exposes the anti-Christian character of their legal doctrines; and at the end, from verse 14, he goes to the root of the whole matter in concluding his subject. As for him, he will make his boast, not in circumcision, or in the flesh, but "in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." He was thus, by the application of the cross to all that he was as a man in the flesh, and to the world, delivered from the whole sphere in which the flesh finds its home. This enables him to state that "in Christ Jesus" - in that new sphere where Christ is - "neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation." If therefore we are brought in Christ Jesus into a scene where old things have passed away, and all things have become new, our walk must be according to it, and not as men in the flesh in the world. Hence he proceeds, "As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God," who are now, not the Jews after the flesh, but the true believing remnant. The apostle, having now completed his unwelcome task, adds one word, "From henceforth let no man trouble me," for he could not again turn aside from his service to engage in conflict with these corrupters of the truth; and he gives as a reason, "I bear in my body the marks [or brands] of the Lord Jesus." Slaves often had their owner's initials, or marks, branded into their bodies, that they might be known; and Paul looked upon the scars and wounds he had received in the Lord's service as the "brands" which denoted that he belonged to Christ. Blessed servant! he acknowledged that Christ was his sole master, and to Him, spite of his persecutors, he would devote the whole of his energy in the Spirit. Whatever his opposers might now say or do, he must, in virtue of the claims of Christ, press onward, unhindered, in His service. Christ, and Christ alone, must be the object of his life.
Colossians 2:6, 7.
It is easy for the reader to perceive that the introduction of the word "so" in verse 6 mars the force of the apostolic exhortation. The exhortation is based upon the preceding five verses; and it is as a warning against being deceived by "persuasive" words into seeking help or instruction outside the mystery of God, in which are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, that the apostle writes, "As ye have therefore" (or, As then ye have) "received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk ye in Him." The position of the words "the Lord" seems to bring His Lordship especially before the souls of these believers, with the implied claim to their entire subjection. It is then in Him, Christ Jesus the Lord, they were to walk, in accordance with their professed reception of Him, in all that He is, together with all His claims - in Him as the sphere and element in which they were to live, and move, and have their being. The succeeding verse, when rightly understood, gives a greatly increased force to the exhortation. Its first words should be rendered, "Having been rooted, and being built up in Him." They had been, and were, rooted in Him, like a tree rooted in the soil; so that all the roots of their spiritual life proceeded from Him. The "being built up in Him" implies two things. Christ was the foundation on which they had been placed, yet more than this, inasmuch as He is a living foundation, and hence it can be said to be "in Him," besides the fact that we are in Him before God; and secondly, being on the foundation (as involved in the word "built up"), these were to be continuously built up - edified, by the ministration and apprehension of the fulness of the Godhead, which dwelleth in Christ bodily, and in whom we are filled full or complete. The apostle adds, "And stablished [or confirmed] in the faith," the truth of Christianity, we judge from the following words, "As ye have been taught . . . abounding therein with thanksgiving." It is a wonderful scripture, and teaches, what indeed is the lesson of the whole chapter, that nothing outside of Christ can in any way contribute to the believer, that in Christ he possesses all he needs, whether it be wisdom, or knowledge, or completeness before God.