Sermon #     90                                                     Luke Sermons


     Title:            I Am Come to Send Fire on the Earth

     Text:            Luke 12:49-53

     Subject:       The Gospel Compared to Fire

     Date:            Sunday Evening—December 15, 2002

     Tape #         X-36b

     Readings:     Lindsay Campbell & Merle Hart



In Luke 12:49 the Lord Jesus Christ makes a statement that will be shocking to many. Listen to it.


(Luke 12:49)  "I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?"


Let’s look at the context surrounding it. Then, I want to show you something of what our Lord means for us to understand by these remarkable, instructive words.—“ I am come to send fire on the earth.


We will begin back in verse 35. I do not pretend to know all that is contained in this passage of Scripture, but there is much here to cheer the hearts of God’s elect, inspiring us with devotion, zeal in the cause of Christ and joyful assurance and hope with regard to everlasting glory. And there is much here to strike terror in the hearts of rebels against the King of Glory and those who merely pretend to serve him in this world. May God the Holy Spirit now speak to your heart and mine by his Word.


Luke 12:35 -53


Verses 35-37“Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.”


What a blessed passage! The Lord Jesus Christ is our Master and Lord, yet he washed his disciples’ feet. But that is not all. If we are his, if when he comes he finds us watching for him and serving him, our Master and Lord declares that the day shall come when, in all his robes of glory, he shall gird himself, and serve us!


Verses 38-40“And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”


This is a warning to you who are yet without Christ. We know that because the Scriptures clearly teach that believers are people who live in the anticipation, hope, and expectation of the Lord’s return. We are watching for him. Only the unbelieving imagine that he delays his coming.


Suppose the Son of God were to appear in his glory tonight.—Where would you be? You have lived all; your life as if you were your own master. Have you not? You who refuse to bow to Christ, who refuse to be his servants, where will you be when Christ returns? Read on if you dare.


Verses 41-44“Then Peter said unto him Lord, speakest then this parable unto us, or even to all And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.”


What rewards Christ has in store for his own eye has not yet seen, ear has not yet heard, and heart has not yet conceived! We cannot begin to imagine the glory that awaits us in heaven! If we are Christ’s servants and the servants of our brethren in this world, he will make us rulers over all that he has in the world to come. I have no idea what that means; but it’s got to be good. It is a matter of absolute certainty. We shall reign with Christ forever! But that is not true of all. Read on…


Verses 45, 46.But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.”


I have no idea what the horrors of hell are. But horrors they are! What horror, what terror, what everlasting torment shall be the punishment of every unfaithful steward!—The preacher who is untrue to his professed calling!—The professed believer, who says that he is a child of God, and a servant of Christ, and yet is unfaithful to his Master and Lord! The evil servant is pictured here as that man or woman who is religious, but…

·        Self-serving.

·        Self-righteous.

·        Judgmental and Cruel.


Read the Lord’s words again, and tremble. We are often accused of exaggerating about hell and the wrath of God in the world to come. But, the fact is, these things have not yet been spoken of adequately by any mortal. Read the Book of God. You will find in this Book expressions about hell, the wrath of God, and the torments of the damned that are unparalleled in the writings of men.

·        —Unquenchable Fire!

·        —A Bottomless Pit!

·        —Gnawing Worms That Never Die!

·        —Blackness!

·        —Darkness!

·        —Abandonment!

·        —Everlasting Hopelessness!

·        —Fire and Brimstone!

·        —Torment!—Torment!—Torment!


No, we do not overstate the matter. These are the words of him who loved as never a man loved, of him who is the most tender, gracious, compassionate spirit in the universe.—“The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is net aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.”—Added to everything else, those who find themselves in hell will forever be tormented by the fact that it is their portion, their just due!


Verses 47, 48And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shalt be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”[1]


Let each judge for himself or herself what talents, abilities and opportunities the Lord God has put in your trust. We must never be content to have done this or that. We are responsible to serve our Master, our Lord, our God in proportion with the talents, abilities and opportunities he has given us. Who among is not humbled, broken and ashamed before God when he thinks of this?


But this passage speaks distinctly of those who serve themselves and not God who made them. Great talents, gifts, abilities, and opportunities are great responsibilities. They are to be feared rather than coveted. Those who seek great things for themselves seek great damnation for their souls. Now verse 49…


Verse 49“I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I if it be already kindled?”


The Son of God did not come to send peace on the earth but a sword. Nothing in all the world is more unifying than the gospel of the grace of God; but nothing is more divisive. And it is our Lord’s intention that it should be. The language of this passage in the original is very, very strong. John Trapp very accurately paraphrased it.—“I am come to send fire on the earth. Let the fire kindle as soon as it will. I am contented. I know much good will come of it.”


The gospel of Christ is not a creed enshrined in a temple, but a fire burning in the soul. The gospel is not a theological system entombed in the brain, but a fire erupting in the heart. The gospel is not an icy system of ceremonies and rituals, but a fire burning in the earth.


Our Savior here tells us that the gospel is an ardent, fervent, flaming thing—a subject that stirs enthusiasm—a theme that rouses intense devotion—something that excites men’s souls—stirs them in the depths of their beings. The gospel does this both in those who love it and in those who hate it.



Men may be and often are indifferent about religion; but no one is indifferent about the gospel. It is a fire, the fire that our Lord Jesus came to send on the earth, the fire he was anxious to light by his death, resurrection and exaltation, by the out pouring of his Spirit upon all flesh.


Verse 50"But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!"


How anxious our Lord was to suffer and die for us! How anxious he was to glorify the Father by his sacrifice as our Substitute! How anxious he was to redeem and save his people! How anxious he still is to bring us to glory.


Now, as the direct result of his work at Calvary, there is a division among men. The gospel we preach is a fire in the earth, a dividing fire. Read on…


Verses 51-53"Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law."


This is exactly what Paul tells us in Galatians 5:11. The cross of Christ is an offence to men. It always has been and always will be.


(Galatians 5:11)  "And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased."


The simple preaching of the gospel, the message of the cross, the doctrine of the crucified Christ is an offence. It divides men. It divides friends. It divides families. It divides churches. Why? What is there in the gospel that causes such offence? The offence of the gospel is the fact that it is a declaration of salvation by grace alone, without works.


1.     It offends man’s sense dignity, because it addresses all men as sinners.

2.     It offends man’s wisdom because it asserts that salvation comes only by divine revelation. Christ cannot be known by anyone, except he reveal himself to you and in you.

3.     It offends man’s pride because it declares that the only way of salvation is substitution—Particular and Effectual Redemption—Imputed Righteousness.

4.     It offends man’s love of self because it demands surrender to Christ as Lord.

5.     It offends man’s sense of self worth because it declares that salvation is by grace alone—Distinguishing Grace—Sovereign Grace—Free Grace—Irresistible, Effectual Grace.


Now, go back to verse 49.—The Master says, “I am come to send fire on the earth.” “Is not my Word like a fire? Saith the Lord; andlike a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29). How can the gospel be compared to fire.


I.                   What is the Gospel?


Before showing how the Gospel of Christ is like fire, let me state plainly in your hearing one more time what the gospel is. We could go to many passages of Scripture to find a clear definition of the Gospel. If ever there was a day when the gospel needs to be clearly defined, it is in this day. Let’s just look a couple of texts. They will suffice.


A.   The Gospel by which we are saved, the good news of heaven, is “How that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,” not the mere fact that Christ died, but “How that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.


(1 Corinthians 15:1-3)  "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; (2) By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. (3) For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures."


·        Voluntarily

·        Vicariously

·        Victoriously


B.   The Gospel of Christ is the revelation of God as a just God and a Savior, the revelation of the righteousness of God in the exercise of saving grace.


(Romans 3:24-26)  "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (25) Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; (26) To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."


II.                How may the Gospel be compared to fire?


If you read the Book of God you cannot avoid being struck with the extraordinary doctrines of the Gospel revealed in these sacred pages. If ever the Lord God applies them to your heart, they will cease to be matters of curiosity, philosophy, and religious theory and debate. They will grab your soul, pierce your heart, and radically and forever change your life.


Perhaps that which first overwhelms the heart of a sinner in the experience of grace is the wondrous revelation of the love, mercy, and grace of God in Christ. What sweet, golden words these are—“God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Pause, O my soul, and think about the love of God!


·        Eternal, Electing Love!

·        Undeserved Love!

·        Free and Unconditional Love!

·        Redeeming, Sin-atoning Love!

·        Everlasting, Unquenchable Love!—“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it” (Song 8:7).

·        The Son of God loved me, and gave himself for me. Imagine that!


(1 John 3:1)  "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not."


(1 John 4:9-10)  "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. (10) Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."


Now, here is the wondrous revelation of the Gospel.—The love of God is revealed and known only in connection with a most astonishing display of justice, wrath, and severity imaginable—The sacrifice of his own dear Son! If ever you come to know this God, if ever God reveals his Son in you, if ever you learn this Gospel, it will come to you like fire, and ignite a fire in your soul.—That’s what Isaiah experienced, was it not?


(Isaiah 6:1-7)  "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. (2) Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. (3) And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. (4) And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. (5) Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. (6) Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: (7) And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged."


The Gospel of the grace of God is the sword of the Lord. It cannot sleep. The truths of the Gospel—Blood Atonement—Free Justification—Complete Forgiveness—Salvation by Grace, are not just words and religious slogans. They are living principles. Like the breath in our lungs, they cannot be contained. The must break out. And when they do, they break out like fire in the earth. As soon as you confess the Gospel of Christ in the ears of men, you will see the meaning of our Lord’s words—“I am come to send fire on the earth…and (with the fire) division.


But in our text (Luke 12:49) our Lord is primarily talking about the preaching of the gospel. He who makes his ministers a flame of fire, puts fire in them. The fire in the preacher who is sent of God is not merely the fire of emotionalism, or the fire of brilliant intellect, or the fire of passionate oratory. It is something far greater. It is the power and influence of God the Holy Spirit upon his servants. The Holy Ghost sent down from heaven anoints all true evangelists, and is the true power and fire of every true Gospel ministry. I’ll leave it to others to explain or debate that fact; but that is the fact.


God Almighty makes his ministers a flame of fire. And when they preach the Gospel, the effect is always the same. It causes a division. Some believe and some believe not. And those who believe not always turn upon those who believe in a mad rage of fury, just as Cain did upon Abel.


But there is more. How is the Gospel comparable to fire? I can do no more than offer some thoughts for your meditation. When I am done, I hope God the Holy Spirit will not be done, but that he will make the gospel of Christ burn as fire in your soul and mine more intensely than ever.


A.   The Gospel, like fire, is wondrously pure.


The gospel is like fire because it is such a perfectly pure a thing. There is no admixture of impurity, error, or unrighteousness in it. It is free from every alloy of earth. It is altogether spiritual.


·        Spiritual Altar

·        Spiritual Sacrifices

·        Spiritual Motives

·        Spiritual Aspirations


B.   The Gospel, like fire, gives light.


·        The Light of the Knowledge of the Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ

·        Light about Ourselves, Exposing our Sin

·        Light about Salvation

·        Light about the World and Time

·        Light about Judgment and Eternity


C.   The Gospel, like fire, has a great testing quality.


Nothing tests earthly things like fire. And nothing tests spiritual and heavenly things like the gospel (1 Cor. 3). Here we test and prove everything.


·        Every Doctrine

·        Every Philosophy

·        Every Principle

·        Every Thought


D.   The Gospel, like fire, is cheering and comforting.


Those who have experienced it find that the cold of this world no longer’ pinches as it once did. We may be poor, but the gospel’s fire takes away the chilliness of poverty. We may be sick, but the gospel gives our souls joy even in the body’s decay. We may be slandered and neglected, but the gospel honors us in the sight of God. The gospel, wherever it is experienced in the heart, becomes a divine source of matchless consolation. 


E.   Fire is tremendously aggressive. So is the Gospel of Christ.


Take a few live coals, put them down in a pile of dry straw, and tell the fire, “I have given you a pile of straw to burn. Now burn, burn away to your heart’s content. That straw is yours. But you can go no further. You must burn only this pile o straw. Give off no sparks or flames. Ignite nothing else.” While you are talking so foolishly, you will soon find your barn in a heap of ashes. Fire is aggressive. It is never naturally contained. So it is with the gospel. It spreads as naturally as fire and licks up everything in its path, wherever the Wind of Heaven blows it.—Behold, how the fire has spread and is spreading.


·        In Ancient Times

·        In Our Own Day


F.    As fire ultimately prevails, so the gospel of Christ shall prevail.


It is clearly revealed in Scripture, that as the world was once destroyed by water, it will a second time be destroyed by fire. It is predestined that earth and all the works that are therein shall be burnt up, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat. Fire will win the day. The oceans roll and roar, as it were, in great pride, and laugh at fire, but fire will lick up the waters of the sea with its tongues of flame. All the cities, and nations, and elements of the earth shall soon be consumed with fire.


So it is with the gospel. The seas of iniquity shall ultimate dissolve before our God and his Christ. The day shall soon come when the fire of the gospel shall make the whole world to be a burnt-offering unto the Lord God Most High.


“Let us have courage! Let us look forward to the flight of time, and expect the advent of our Master; for the day shall come when he shall reign from the river even to the ends of the earth, and from sea and land, from mountain and valley, there shall come up the universal song, ‘Hallelujah! hallelujah! the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.’” – (Spurgeon)


G. One more comparisonLike fire, the Gospel consumes.


(Psalms 39:4)  "LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am."


Watch what happens when the Lord God, by the application of the gospel, makes a man to know his end, the measure of his days, and how frail he is.


(Psalms 39:10-11)  "Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand. (11) When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah."


Come, my brothers and sisters, come sinners, come one and all. Come now to Christ. Let us bow at his feet. May the fire of his love, mercy, and grace ignite our souls afresh.—Blessed Savior, send your fire.


·        Consume my unbelief.

·        Consume my pride and self-righteousness.

·        Consume my apathy and indifference.

·        Consume my love of the world!

·        Consume my heart!

·        Consume my life!


Come to the pierced One. Gaze upon his thorn-crowned brow. Look into the hole which the soldier’s spear has made in his side. Gaze into the nail-prints in his hands and feet, and say unto your soul,


“Now, for the love I bear his name,

What was my gain I count my loss;

My former pride I call my shame,

And nail my glory to his cross.

Yes, and I must and will esteem

All things but loss for Jesus’ sake:

O may my soul be found in him,

And of his righteousness partake.”


(Luke 12:49)  "I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?"




[1] There will be degrees of punishment, as this parable clearly indicates, because there are degrees of rebellion and evil. But there are no degrees of reward because there are no degrees of holiness and obedience among the redeemed before the law of God. The wicked  perish because of what they have done personally. The righteous enter into and possess eternal glory because of what we have done representatively in Christ.