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49I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish that it were already kindled!
50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and how greatly and sorely I am urged on (impelled, constrained) until it is accomplished!
51Do you suppose that I have come to give peace upon earth? No, I say to you, but rather division;
52For from now on in one house there will be five divided [among themselves], three against two and two against three.
53They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
Luke 12:49-53 (Amplified Bible)

What "fire" is He bringing to the Earth? I assume the "baptism" is His sacrifice on the cross. Do verses 49-50 relate to the rest of the verses speaking about division? From what I understand, He's not here to bring the world's view of peace, but division from believer to unbeliever, but what is He trying to tell us concerning the divisions and strife within the household? I noticed he says "From now on...", and that my bible refers to Micah 7:6; is He fulfilling some prophesy? That chapter in Micah speaks of how the faithful have been swept from the land, and the time God visits them has come, and to not trust friend or neighbor, and a man's enemies are those in his own household. What is He trying to tell us?

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I think there's an interesting question here, but it's not very clear from the title. Maybe you can focus on one aspect of the passage to ask about in the title? Also, I can't trace which translation you are quoting. Could you specify in the question? Thanks. – Jon Ericson Dec 13 '11 at 20:33
@JonEricson I was mistakenly quoting NIV, and I just replaced it with the Amplified ver. I also changed the title to focus on my main question. Though I am very curious about the "fire", too. – Nick Rolando Dec 13 '11 at 21:44
This is a better question. NIV is fine if that's what you prefer. It tends to have interpretation baked in more than most translations, so the Amplified is perhaps better. – Jon Ericson Dec 14 '11 at 0:59
(RSV is generally considered a gold standard in this regard) – cwallenpoole Dec 14 '11 at 2:59
up vote 1 down vote accepted

The fire is the Holy Spirit who purifies and destroys. The imagery is the same as the water as the Word of God which destroys or gives life.

God first destroyed/purified the world with the flood representing the Word of God. The letter of the word kills, but the spirit gives life.

2Co 3:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

We are condemned by the word of God.

The second destruction/purification comes by the Spirit who gives life. This started at the cross.

The divisions in the household are those caused by some coming to Christ and being made alive in the Spirit:

Mat 19:29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

Mar 10:29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's,

Mar 10:30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

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Thanks Bob. What is the "letter"? I've never heard that term. If its a short answer, would you mind? Else I can ask another question. – Nick Rolando Jan 25 '12 at 1:56
1Ti 1:5 ¶ Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and [of] a good conscience, and [of] faith unfeigned: – Bob Jones Feb 28 '12 at 7:07
The purpose of the law was to produce love, but the letter of the law condemns us. An example is the dietary law. One who loves God ruminates on his word and it produces a separated (holy) walk. – Bob Jones Feb 28 '12 at 7:16

The meaning of "fire" is unclear, but I think it seems likely that the typical judgement/purification imagery is implied here.

Understanding "baptism" as being a reference to his death on the cross (c.f. Mark 10:38) seems reasonable enough. The thought then seems to be expanded as to the nature of the purpose of the baptism. The fire of judgement/purification brings will then expose the divisions that are perhaps currently hidden.

The Micah passage has a context of judgement. As the day of the watchmen (prophets c.f. Jer 6:17) comes, so does punishment. I think perhaps we see Jesus linking to his role as the Prophet and refering to how the judgement also is based on our relationship with the Prophet himself.

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Interesting, thanks. I'd agree. – Nick Rolando Jan 25 '12 at 1:55

Karl Barth's take on this is best summarized in his sermon "Fire Upon the Earth".

In this sermon, he suggests that the fire which he wishes to bring is the fire of transformation. Fire transforms ordinary wood into "heat and light, ashes and smoke." In the vein of making "all things new," Jesus' wish is that this fire of God's transformation were already evident in the life of Israel. He suggests that this fire will be wholly consuming and fully disruptive, but in the end, meets the desired aim of transformation.

The reference to Micah is a suggestion that the old traditional ways are insufficent guides to the all-consuming will of God.

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