Study Guide: The Fire God

Sunday June 29, 2008 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

God is a FIRE. To all who are open to him, God’s presence is a fire of love, salvation, healing and purification. To all who are not, God’s presence is experienced as a fire of destruction. Jesus reminds and warns us to build our lives on him; depending upon where our hearts are, God’s fiery and holy love either saves and purifies us, or it destroys.

Extended Summary:

How does a person make sense of this passage? It sounds as though Jesus is angry with all this talk of fire, division and judgment, especially in the like of the fact that He has so much to say about saving, healing and liberating. This passage expresses a paradox, which is a seemingly contradictory or absurd statement but one that actually expresses profound truth. So what is this truth? God is a FIRE. The fire Jesus unleashes with His death and resurrection is the fire of God’s presence. To all who are open to Him, God’s presence is experienced as a fire of love, salvation, healing and purification. To all who are not, God’s presence is experienced as a fire of destruction. This is why the fire Jesus unleashes is both one of love and wrath, one that brings peace and division, and salvation and condemnation.

God is a loving fire. God is love. Love is not just part of His nature. It is the totality of who He is. Everything else that can be said about God is an aspect of love. And if you understand this love, you know that it is like a fire. It is an unquenchable fire in ways that are untamable and consuming. It never quits even in the face of rejection, rebellion and all the sin of the world. God’s love cannot be extinguished.

God is a purifying fire. God is holy. The intensity of His holiness so contradicts our sinful nature that it would kill us to look upon Him directly. God’s holy fire exposes sin, burns it up, heals and restores. This intensity might be painful, but the fire of God’s holy and loving presence burns up every obstacle that could separate us form God. The fire of the Holy Spirit is working in the world to burnaway everything in our lives that is not consistent with the Kingdom.

God is a destroying fire. All that refuses to be purified by the fire of God’s holy love is destroyed by the fire of God’s holy love. It’s not that God destroys them. They’re destroyed by their wax nature which is incompatible with the fire of God’s holy love; therefore the loving purifying fire of God’s love is experienced as a destroying fire.

The fire Jesus unleashes is life to those who receive it, but it destroys those who won’t. The same fire brings peace to all who receive and destroys families who are set against it. It is a fire that brings salvation to those who receive it but condemnation to those who refuse it. It purifies those who embrace it but destroys those who stand against it. God is a fire of holy love that saves, purifies or destroys depending on where our heart is.

Reflection Questions:

  1. How does your experience with your father impact your view of God as your Father?
  2. How does trust relate to worry?
  3. How does the story of this world hinder your ability to understand Jesus’ teachings?
  4. How would you describe your ability to know deep within you how much God is pleased with you?
  5. What about your view of God needs to change as a result of these truths?
  6. Stop and take a few minutes to meditate on who God is. Ask the Holy Spirit to drive home these truths.