March 30, 2010

Refiner's Fire

Malachi 2:17-3:4

Who can stand when he appears? For he will belike a refiner’s fire …
Malachi 3:2


Fire is a common image in the minor prophets. It provides a fitting analogy to the judgment that the prophets say God will bring. Jesus echoed this message when he said, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49).

This description of fiery judgment might seem to be at odds with the message of love and grace often associated with Jesus. Didn’t Jesus say that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17)?

Yes, Jesus did say that. But the sweetness of God’s love and grace and the severity of God’s judgment are not opposed to each other. In fact, they are two sides of the same coin. The only reason we are forgiven is because Jesus experienced the fire of God’s judgment in our place.

This is why the fire Jesus brought is the refiner’s fire that Malachi spoke about. This is a fire that does not destroy us but purifies us. Malachi indicates that God’s people will offer acceptable worship as a result of their refinement. Because of what Jesus has done for us, this result will take place in our lives too. Refined by God’s grace, we are “being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

Thank you, Lord, for your love in Jesus. May “my heart’s one desire” be that I am “holy, set apart for you, my Master,” and “ready to do your will.” In your name, Amen.

About the author — Peter Hoytema

Peter Hoytema has been a pastor for nearly 30 years and has served congregations in Ontario and New Jersey. He is currently the pastor of a congregation in Strathroy, Ontario. He is a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary and San Francisco Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Grace, are the parents of four adult children.

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