The term consuming fire is often used in Christian circles, but do you know what it means? Are you unsure if one contradicts the other? Well our reflection today is to understand where this term comes from, why we use it? What is its meaning? And how does God’s love relate to his consuming fire?
To begin with in the Bible fire appears many times directly related to God, as a symbol of his presence in some aspect. Examples of this is when God makes his covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15:17, or when he summons Moses when he saw a burning bush in Exodus 3:2. There is also the pillar of fire that accompanied the Israelites, reported in Exodus 13:21.
So as we can see, fire can represent the symbol of their presence. Fire is also used for purification, something that we see in our daily life, but spiritually it represents holiness, which is one of God’s moral attributes, for He is fully holy and is the source of all holiness. As it is written in Habakkuk 1:13, God’s holiness is such that His eyes cannot behold iniquity.
So why is God a consuming fire?
God is consuming fire because He is fully righteous, pure and holy. His holiness does not tolerate sin and His justice demands punishment for transgression of His Law. This truth is a warning for us to serve God with reverence and holy fear.
At the same time, God is willing to forgive all those who truly repent of their sins, so much so that He gave His only Son to die for us, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. Our Father loves us so much that He is willing to forgive all our sins.
So the fact that God is a consuming fire does not contradict the fact that He is a God of love. In fact, one complements the other, which is wonderful and is revealed in Deuteronomy 4:24, where it is written, “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. And thinking about this, the Christian must serve God in a pleasing way, with reverence and holy fear, as it is described in Hebrews 12. The reason for this is in the text: “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28,29).
And what does this mean?
In the Bible, God is like a consuming fire for two main reasons: to consume the sin offering or to consume the unworthy sinner. Today we can have our sins forgiven by accepting Jesus, so we no longer need to offer animal sacrifices as before Christ, which shows the greatness of his work. For if God does not come as consuming fire upon us today, it is because his wrath against sin fell on Christ in his sacrifice.
However, those who do not accept Christ as their savior and thus are not forgiven for their sins, try to approach God with their own sins, and in the final days they will truly know why God is consuming fire, for he will reveal his righteousness.
This is a very delicate subject, for it reminds us that just as God is love, he is also a God of justice, and his holiness can be embarrassing to us sinners who are constantly learning. But it also reminds us of God’s sovereignty, of the immeasurable power of the one we serve, and that is wonderful. May we always keep that in mind, seeking a righteous life in God’s sight.
God bless you!
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