The Israelites are to cleanse with fire and water what they’ve brought in from battle with fire and water. They are to pass things through the water and the fire to purify them. There are two ways we pass through water and fire to be purified.
One way is through the washing of baptism in water and in fire. Baptism in water is our death to self and the resurrection of the life of Christ in us. Baptism in fire is our receiving of the Holy Spirit.
For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives (Romans 6:4 NLT).
For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5 NIV).
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. (Acts 2:3 NIV).
Our baptism by water and Holy Spirit fire is our first washing. In an instant, we are made clean and right before God. We can enter His presence because we have been made holy, purified, and perfected.
But then life goes on. We’re still in this flesh that we stumble about in. We’re sanctified and set apart, and being sanctified and being set apart. There’s a working out of our salvation.
We can read in Isaiah about the second way we pass through water and fire to be purified:
When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up—the flames will not consume you (Isaiah 43:2 TLB).
We have to remember that the waters of great trouble and the fire of oppression are gifts from God to purify us.
He is in control and working for our good. He doesn’t toss us in the river to see if we can swim. We go through the deep waters to learn to rely on Him to be our Savior. He gives us more than we can handle because He knows we need Him to be our Savior. We just tend to not turn to Him to save us until we’re desperate.
He’s teaching us to not try and save ourselves. He’s bringing us into His kingdom.
As Paul preached,
“We must endure many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22 BSB)
It’s not paying our dues or getting what we deserve. It’s a good God working out His good purposes in His chosen children, those who have chosen Him.