Luke 12:49
I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?
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(49) I am come to send fire on the earth.—There is a strange unique abruptness in the utterance. We are compelled to assume a pause, a moment’s thought, as in one whose gaze looks out into the future, and who at once feels its terrors and yet accepts them. The fire which He came to send is the fire of judgment which shall burn up the chaff (see Note on Matthew 3:12), the baptism of fire which shall purify and cleanse as well as destroy. The Son of Man knew that this, with all its terrors, was what He came to work. If the fire was already kindled, if judgment was already passed upon the unfaithful stewards and the servants who knew their Lord’s will and did it not, why should He wish to check it? What other wish or will was right for Him than that it should complete what it had begun, even though it brought not peace, but a sword—not union, but division?



Luke 12:49

We have here one of the rare glimpses which our Lord gives us into His inmost heart, His thought of His mission, and His feelings about it. If familiarity had not weakened the impression, and dulled the edge, of these words, how startling they would seem to us! ‘I am come’-then, He was, before He came, and He came by His own voluntary act. A Jewish peasant says that He is going to set the world on fire-and He did it. But the triumphant certitude and consciousness of a large world-wide mission is all shadowed in the next clause. I need not trouble you with questions as to the precise translation of the words that follow. There may be differences of opinion about that, but I content myself with simply suggesting that a fair representation of the meaning would be, ‘How I wish that it was already kindled!’ There is a longing to fulfil the purpose of His coming and a sense that something has to be done first, and what that something if, our Lord goes on to say in the next verse. This desirable end can only be reached through a preliminary painful ordeal, ‘but I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished.’ If I might use such an incongruous figure, the fire that is to flash and flame through the world emerges from the dark waters of that baptism. Our Lord goes on still further to dwell upon the consequence of His mission and of His sufferings. And that, too, shadows the first triumphant thought of the fire that He was to send on earth. For, the baptism being accomplished, and the fire therefore being set at liberty to flame through the world, what follows? Glad reception? Yes, and angry rejection. Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, nay! but rather division.’ The fire, the baptism, and the sword; these three may sum up our Lord’s vision of the purpose, means, and mingled result of His mission. But it is only with regard to the first of these that I wish to speak now.

I. The fire which Christ longed to cast upon the earth.

Now, opinions differ as to what is meant by this fire Some would have, it to mean the glow of love kindled in believing hearts, and others explain it by other human emotions or by the transformation effected in the world by Christ’s coming. But while these things are the results of the fire kindled on earth, that fire itself means not these effects, but the cause of them. It is brought before it kindles a flame on earth.

He does not kindle it simply in humanity, but He launches it into the midst of humanity. It is something from above that He flings down upon the earth. So it is not merely a quickened intelligence, a higher moral life, or any other of the spiritual and religious transformations which are effected in the world by the mission of Christ that is primarily to be kept in view here, but it is the Heaven-sent cause of these transformations and that flame. If we catch the celestial fire, we shall flash and blaze, but the fire which we catch is not originated on earth. In a word it is God’s Divine Spirit which Christ came to communicate to the world.

I need not remind you, I suppose, how such an interpretation of the words before us is in entire correspondence with the symbolism both of the Old and New Testament. I do not dwell upon the former at all, and with regard to the latter I need only remind you of the great words by which the Forerunner of the Lord set forth His mighty work, in contrast with the superficial cleansing which John himself had to proclaim. ‘I indeed baptize you with water, but He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.’ I need only point to the Pentecost, and the symbol there, of which the central point was the cloven tongues, which symbolised not only the speech which follows from all deep conviction, but the descent from above of the Spirit of God, who is the Spirit of burning, on each bowed and willing head. With these analogies to guide us, I think we shall not go far wrong if we see in the words of my text our Lord’s great symbolical promise that the issue of His mission shall be to bring into the heart of the world, so to speak, and to lodge in the midst of humanity which is one great whole, a new divine influence that shall flame and burn through the world.

So, then, my text opens out into thoughts of the many-sided applications of this symbol. What hopes for the world and ourselves are suggested by that fire? Let us stick to the symbol closely, and we shall then best understand the many-sided blessings that flash and coruscate in the gift of the Spirit.

It is the gift of life. No doubt, here and there in Scripture, fire stands for a symbol of destroying power. But that is a less frequent use than that in which it stands as a symbol of life. In a very real sense life is warmth and death is cold. Is not respiration a kind of combustion? Do not physiologists tell us that? Is not the centre of the system and the father of all physical life that great blazing sun which radiates heat? And is not this promise, ‘I will send fire on the earth,’ the assurance that into the midst of our death there shall come the quick energy of a living Spirit which shall give us to possess some shadow of the immortal Being from which itself flows?

But, beyond that, there is another great promise here, of a quickening energy. I use the word ‘quickening,’ not in the sense of life-giving, but in the sense of stimulating. We talk about ‘the flame of genius,’ the ‘fervour of conviction,’ about ‘fiery zeal,’ about ‘burning earnestness,’ and the like; and, conversely, we speak of ‘cold caution,’ and ‘chill indifference,’ and so on. Fire means love, zeal, swift energy. This, then, is another side of this great promise, that into the torpor of our sluggish lives He is waiting to infuse a swift Spirit that shall make us glow and flame with earnestness, burn with love, aspire with desire, cleave to Him with the fervour of conviction, and be, in some measure, like those mighty spirits that stand before the Throne, the seraphim that burn with adoration and glow with rapture. A fire that shall destroy all our sluggishness, and change it into swift energy of glad obedience, may be kindled in our spirits by the Holy Spirit whom Christ gives.

Still farther, the promise of my text sets forth, not only life-giving and stimulating energy, but purifying power. Fire cleanses, as many an ancient ritual recognised. For instance, the thought that underlay even that savage ‘passing the children through the fire to Moloch’ was, that thus passed, humanity was cleansed from its stains. And that is true. Every man must be cleansed, if he is cleansed at all, by the touch of fire. If you take a piece of foul clay, and push it into a furnace, as it warms it whitens, and you can see the stains melting off it as the fire exercises its beneficent and purifying mastery. So the promise to us is of a great Spirit that will come, and by communicating His warmth will dissipate our foulness, and the sins that are enwrought into the substance of our natures will exhale from the heated surface, and disappear. The ore is flung into the blast furnace, and the scum rises to the surface, and may be ladled off, and the pure stream, cleansed because it is heated, flows out without scoriae or ash. All that was ‘fuel for the fire’ is burned; and what remains is more truly itself and more precious. And so, brother, you and I have, for our hope of cleansing, that we shall be passed through the fire, and dwell in the everlasting burnings of a Divine Spirit and a changeless love.

The last thought suggested by the metaphor is that it promises not only life-giving, stimulating, purifying, but also transforming and assimilating energy. For every lump of coal in your scuttles may be a parable; black and heavy, it is cast into the fire, and there it is turned into the likeness of the flame which it catches and itself begins to glow, and redden, and crackle, and break into a blaze. That is like what you and I may experience if we will. The incense rises in smoke to the heavens when it is heated: and our souls aspire and ascend, an odour of a sweet smell, acceptable to God, when the fire of that Divine Spirit has loosed them from the bonds that bind them to earth, and changed them into His own likeness, We all are ‘changed from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord.’

So I think if you take these plain teachings of this symbol you learn something of the operations of that Divine Spirit to which our Lord pointed in the great words of my text.

II. And now I have a second thought to suggest-viz., what Christ had to do before His longing could be satisfied.

He longed, but the longing wish was not able to bring that on which it was fixed. He had come to send this divine fire upon the earth; but there was something that stood in the way; and something needed to be done as a preliminary before the ultimate purpose of His coming could be accomplished. What that was, as I have already tried to point out, the subsequent verse tells us. I do not need, nor would it be congruous with my present purpose, to comment upon it at any length. We all know what He meant by the ‘baptism,’ that He had to be baptized with, and what were the dark waters into which He had to pass, and beneath which His sacred head had to be plunged. We all know that by the ‘baptism’ He meant His passion and His Cross. I do not dwell, either, upon the words of pathetic human shrinking with which His vision of the Cross is here accompanied, but I simply wish to signalise one thing, that in the estimation of Jesus Christ Himself it was not in His power to kindle this holy fire in humanity until He had died for men’s sins. That must come first; the Cross must precede Pentecost. There can be no Divine Spirit in His full and loftiest powers poured out upon humanity until the Sacrifice has been offered on the Cross for the sins of the world. We cannot read all the deep reasons in the divine nature, and in human receptivity, which make that sequence absolutely necessary, and that preliminary indispensable. But this, at least, we know, that the Divine Spirit whom Christ gives uses as His instrument and sword the completed revelation which Christ completed in His Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension, and that, until His weapon was fashioned, He could not come.

That thought is distinctly laid down in many places in Scripture, to which I need not refer in more than a word. For instance, the Apostle John tells us that, when our Lord spoke in a cognate figure about the rivers of water which should flow from them who believed on Him, He spake of that Holy Spirit who ‘was not given because that Jesus was not yet glorified.’ We remember the words in the upper chamber, ‘If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you, but if I depart I will send Him unto you.’ But enough for us that He recognised the necessity, and that here His baptism of suffering comes into view, not so much for what it was itself, the sacrifice for the world’s sin, as for that to which it was the necessary preliminary and introduction, the bestowment on humanity of the gift of the Divine Spirit. The old Greek legend of the Titan that stole fire from heaven tells us that he brought it to earth in a reed. Our Christ brings the heavenly fire in the fragile, hollow reed of His humanity, and the reed has to be broken in order that the fire may blaze out. ‘How I wish that it were kindled! but I have a baptism to be baptized with.’

III. Lastly, what the world has to do to receive the fire.

Take these triumphant words of our Lord about what He was to do after His Cross, and contrast with them the world as it is to-day, ay! and the Church as it is to-day. What has become of the fire? Has it died down into grey ashes, choked with the cold results of its own former flaming power? Was Jesus Christ deceiving Himself? was He cherishing an illusion as to the significance and permanence of the results of His work in the world? No! There is a difference between B.C. and A.D. which can only be accounted for by the fulfilment of the promise in my text, that He did bring fire and set the world aflame. But the condition on which that fire will burn either through communities, society, humanity, or in an individual life, is trust in Him that gives it, and cleaving to Him, and the appropriate discipline. ‘This spake He of the Holy Spirit which they that believe on Him should receive.’

And they that do not believe upon Him-what of them? The fire is of no advantage to them. Some of you do as people in Swiss villages do where there is a conflagration-you cover over your houses with incombustible felts or other materials, and deluge them with water, in the hope that no spark may light on you. There is no way by which the fire can do its work on us except our opening our hearts for the Firebringer. When He comes He brings the vital spark with Him, and He plants it on the hearth of our hearts. Trust in Him, believe far more intensely than the most of Christian people of this day do in the reality of the gift of supernatural divine life from Jesus Christ. I do believe that hosts of professing Christians have no firm grip of this truth, and, alas! very little verification of it in their lives. Your heavenly Father gives the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. ‘Covet earnestly the best gifts’; and take care that you do not put the fire out-’quench not the Holy Spirit,’ as you will do if you ‘fulfil the lusts of the flesh.’ I remember once being down in the engine-room of an ocean-going steamer. There were the furnaces, large enough to drive an engine of five or six thousand horsepower. A few yards off there were the refrigerators, with ice hanging round the spigots that were put in to test the temperature. Ah! that is like many a Christian community, and many an individual Christian. Here is the fire; there is the frost. Brethren, let us seek to be baptized with fire, lest we should be cast into it, and be consumed by it.


Luke 12:49-53. I am come to send fire on earth — Our Lord concludes his charge to his disciples with foretelling the divisions that should be occasioned by his gospel. See on Matthew 10:34. As if he had said, After all that I have done and spoken to promote peace and love, so opposite is my doctrine to the prejudices and the lusts of men, and such are the violent contentions that my gospel will occasion, through the wickedness of those among whom it is preached, that it will seem as though I came to kindle a fire on earth, that should produce destructive and wide-spreading desolation. And what will I, if it be already kindled

Τι θελω, ει ηδη ανηφθη, which Dr. Campbell renders, What would I, but that it were kindled? which is, according to the Vulgate, quid volo, nisi ut accendatur? It is justly observed by Dr. Whitby, that ει, here rendered if, sometimes signifies that; as Acts 26:23, where ει παθητος Χριστος, is properly rendered, that Christ should suffer and that he should rise; and it is also a particle, of wishing: so Numbers 22:29, ει ειχον μαχαιραν, I wish I had a sword; Isaiah 48:18, ει ηκουσας, O that thou hadst hearkened; Psalm 81:13, ει ο λαος μου ηκουσε, O that my people had hearkened, &c.; Luke 19:42, ει εγνως, O that thou hadst known! The sense, therefore, of this passage is, “I come to deliver to the world a doctrine which will incense the world against me and my followers, and subject us to great sufferings, signified in Scripture by fire, and will baptize me in my own blood; but yet I am so far from being moved from prosecuting my Father’s pleasure, by the prospect of them, that I wish the time of my suffering were at hand, and my gospel were preached to the world.” Of the baptism here spoken of, see on Matthew 20:23. And how am I straitened Πως συνεχομαι, how am I pressed in spirit; (see Acts 18:5;) till it be accomplished. He longed for the time when he should suffer and die, having an eye to the glorious issue of his sufferings. The words allude to a woman in travail, that is pained to be delivered, and welcomes her pains, because they hasten the birth of the child, and wishes them sharp and strong, that the work may be cut short. Christ’s sufferings were the travail of his soul, which he cheerfully underwent, in hope that he should by them see his seed. Isaiah 53:10-11. So much was his heart set upon the redemption and salvation of man. Suppose ye that I am come to send peace on earth — By subduing all the nations of the world into one great monarchy, under the Jews, and establishing that temporal tranquillity and prosperity which you expect should attend the Messiah’s kingdom? I tell you nay, but rather division — For notwithstanding that my gospel is the gospel of peace, proclaiming peace between God and man, and enjoining all that embrace it to follow peace with all men; yet it will be so opposed and perverted, that, instead of peace and unity, discord, strife, and division will be frequently occasioned by it. For from henceforth — On account of the introduction of my religion, there shall be five in one house divided, &c. — Contentious heats and animosities will frequently arise in families; that part of the family which does not obey the gospel opposing and persecuting the part which obeys it. And this shall be the case even when those families consist of persons who stand in the nearest relations to each other; the father, for instance, differing with the son, and the son with the father. It may be proper to observe here; so many prophecies of the Old Testament speak of the peaceful state of the Messiah’s kingdom (see Psalm 72:7; Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 11:6-9; Isaiah 65:25) “that it is hard to say how Christ could completely answer the character of the Messiah if he should never establish peace, even universal peace, on earth. But the error of the Jews lay in supposing he was immediately to accomplish it; whereas the prophecies of the New Testament, especially those contained in the book of Revelation, show, and those of the Old Testament most plainly intimate, that this prosperous state of his kingdom was not only to be preceded by his own sufferings, but by a variety of persecutions, trials, and sufferings, which should in different degrees attend his followers, before the kingdoms of the earth became, by a general conversion, the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.” — Doddridge.

12:41-53 All are to take to themselves what Christ says in his word, and to inquire concerning it. No one is left so ignorant as not to know many things to be wrong which he does, and many things to be right which he neglects; therefore all are without excuse in their sin. The bringing in the gospel dispensation would occasion desolations. Not that this would be the tendency of Christ's religion, which is pure, peaceable, and loving; but the effect of its being contrary to men's pride and lusts. There was to be a wide publication of the gospel. But before that took place, Christ had a baptism to be baptized with, far different from that of water and the Holy Spirit. He must endure sufferings and death. It agreed not with his plan to preach the gospel more widely, till this baptism was completed. We should be zealous in making known the truth, for though divisions will be stirred up, and a man's own household may be his foes, yet sinners will be converted, and God will be glorified.I am, come ... - The result of my coming will be that there will be divisions and contentions. He does not mean that he came "for" that purpose, or that he "sought" and "desired" it; but that such was the state of the human heart, and such the opposition of people to the truth, that that would be the "effect" of his coming. See the notes at Matthew 10:34.

Fire - Fire, here, is the emblem of discord and contention, and consequently of calamities. Thus it is used in Psalm 66:12; Isaiah 43:2.

And what will I ... - This passage might be better expressed in this manner: "And what would I, but that it were kindled. Since it is "necessary" for the advancement of religion that such divisions should take place; since the gospel cannot be established without conflicts, and strifes, and hatreds, I am even desirous that they should come. Since the greatest blessing which mankind can receive must be attended with such unhappy divisions, I am willing, nay, desirous that they should come." He did not wish evil in itself; but, as it was the occasion of good, he was desirous, if it "must" take place, that it should take place soon. From this we learn:

1. That the promotion of religion may be expected to produce many contests and bitter feelings.

2. That the heart of man must be exceedingly wicked, or it would not oppose a work like the Christian religion.

3. That though God cannot look on evil with approbation, yet, for the sake of the benefit which may grow out of it, he is willing to permit it, and suffer it to come into the world.

49-53. to send—cast.

fire—"the higher spiritual element of life which Jesus came to introduce into this earth (compare Mt 3:11), with reference to its mighty effects in quickening all that is akin to it and destroying all that is opposed. To cause this element of life to take up its abode on earth, and wholly to pervade human hearts with its warmth, was the lofty destiny of the Redeemer" [Olshausen: so Calvin, Stier, Alford, &c.].

what will I, &c.—an obscure expression, uttered under deep and half-smothered emotion. In its general import all are agreed; but the nearest to the precise meaning seems to be, "And what should I have to desire if it were once already kindled?" [Bengel and Bloomfield].

Some of the ancients here by fire understood the Holy Ghost, or the preaching of the gospel, with those flames of love and holy affections which that causeth in the hearts of good people; but this interpretation cannot but be looked upon as strained to those who compare this verse with Luke 12:51-53, and the parallel text in Matthew 10:34-36. By

fire here therefore is to be understood the dissension or division mentioned Luke 12:51, with all those persecutions, wars, &c. which are the effects of it. A prediction or threatening of persecutions or wars, or any kind of troubled state of things, is often expressed in holy writ under the notion of fire, and water, or a flood, for though fire and water are opposite in their qualities, yet they both agree in the common effect of consumption, wasting, and desolation. Christ saith he came to send it, because he foresaw this would be a certain consequent, though not a proper and natural effect, of the preaching of the gospel. Christ may be said to come to send a fire, in the same sense as he that is employed in the removal of a filthy dunghill may be said to come to send a stench; his design is to carry the muck away, and in due time he will have done it, but in the mean time it sends out a much greater stench than before it was stirred.

And what will I, if it be already kindled? Not to take notice of what critical authors say about the signification of the particles or the phrase here used, I take the true sense to be, I desire nothing more than that it were already kindled; nor was this any more inconsistent with the goodness and holiness of Christ, than for a goldsmith to wish the fire was kindled that should separate the dross from the pure metal, or than for Christ to desire that his floor were thoroughly purged. Christ doth not desire the fire for the fire’s sake, but for the make of that effect it would have, in separating in his church the good from the bad; it was a thing he saw would be through the opposition the world would give to the preaching of the gospel, before his gospel would obtain in the world; I would, saith he, that what they do they would do quickly, that they would spit their venom, that my Father might make their wrath to praise him. Whereas some interpret it indicatively, as if the fire were already begun, ei hdh anhafh can hardly be no interpreted.

I am come to send fire on the earth,.... Meaning either the Gospel, which is as fire, that gives both light and heat, warms the hearts of God's people, and causes them to burn within them; though very distressing and torturing to wicked men; so the word of God is compared to fire, in Jeremiah 20:9. Or else zeal for it, and which would be opposed with sharp contentions by others; or rather persecution for the sake of the Gospel, called sometimes the fiery trial; which tries men, as gold is tried in the fire, what they are, and what their principles and profession be; unless the Holy Ghost, and baptizing with him, and with fire, should be meant; since Christ in the next verse, speaks of the baptism of his sufferings, which that was to follow:

and what will I? what shall I say concerning this fire? what shall I wish and pray for? what would be pleasing and agreeable to me? even this,

if it be already kindled; or "that it were already kindled", or "O that it were already kindled"; meaning either that the Gospel was warmly preached by his disciples, and zealously defended by them, as it was after his death and resurrection; or that hot persecution was raised against it which was now beginning, since the advantage of it would be far greater than the evil in it: or that the Holy Ghost was come down in cloven tongues, like as of fire.

{13} I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?

(13) The gospel is the only reason of peace between the godly, and so it is the occasion of great trouble among the wicked.

Luke 12:49 f. The sequence of thought is found in this, that the whole of that earnest sense of responsibility, which characterizes the faithfulness just demanded, must be only infinitely intensified by the heavy trials of the near future, which the Lord brings vividly before His view.

πῦρ] Fire, is a figurative designation, not of the Holy Spirit, as most of the Fathers and others, including Bengel, will have it, nor of the word of God with its purifying power (Bleek); but, as is manifest from Luke 12:51 ff., of the vehement spiritual excitement, forcing its way through all earthly relations, and loosing their closest ties, which Christ was destined to kindle. The lighting up of this fire, which by means of His teaching and work He had already prepared, was to be effected by His death (see ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν, Luke 12:52), which became the subject of offence, as, on the other hand, of His divine courage of faith and life (comp. Luke 2:35). The expression itself βαλεῖν ἐπὶ τ. γῆν proceeded from the consciousness of His heavenly origin. Comp. Matthew 10:34.

καὶ τί θέλω κ.τ.λ.] It is the usual and the correct view, held also by Kuinoel, Olshausen, de Wette, Bleek, which interprets: and how earnestly I wish, if (that) it were already kindled! ἐπισπεύδει γὰρ τὴν ἄναψιν τούτου τοῦ πυρός, Theophylact. Regarding the τί, see on Matthew 7:14. Moreover, the usus loquendi of εἰ with θέλω (instead of the more confident ὅτι, as with θαυμάζω, etc.; see on Mark 15:44) is not to be disputed. See Sir 23:14 : θελήσεις εἰ μὴ ἐγεννήθης; Herod. ix. 14, also vi. 52: βουλομένην δὲ εἴ κως ἀμφότεροι γενοίατο βασιλέες. Accordingly, there is no sufficient reason for the view of Grotius, which disjoins the utterance into question and answer: And what do I wish? If it should be already kindled! This is less simple, and fails to bring out the correspondence between the expression in question and the parallel exclamation in Luke 12:50. The particle εἰ is used not merely with the optative (see Pflugk, ad Eur. Hec. 836), but also with the indicative in the imperfect and aorist in the sense of utinam, dummodo; in the latter case the non-accomplishment is known to the person who utters the wish. Comp. Luke 19:42; Joshua 7:7; Grotius in loc.; Klotz, ad Devar. p. 516; in the Greek prose writers it is usual to find εἴθε or εἰ γάρ in such a sense. Bornemann takes τί for cur, and εἰ as ἐπεί: “et cur ignem volo in terram conjicere, cum jam accensus sit? remota quaestione: non opus est accendam.” But without considering the extremely insipid thought which is thus expressed, Luke 12:52 in this way requires that the kindling of the fire should be regarded as still future. This, moreover, is in opposition to Ewald: and what will I (can I be surprised), if it be already kindled?

Jesus entertains the wish that the fire were already kindled, because between the present time and this kindling lay His approaching grievous passion, which must still first be undergone; see Luke 12:50.

Luke 12:49-53. Not peace but division (Matthew 10:34-36). This section is introduced by no connecting particle. Yet there is a certain affinity of thought. Strict fidelity demanded under penalties, but fidelity not easy; times of fierce trial and conflict awaiting you. I forewarn you, that ye may be forearmed.

49. I am come to send fire on the earth] St John had preached “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” and that “He should burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” The metaphor is probably to be taken in all its meanings; fire as a spiritual baptism; the refining fire to purge gold from dross, and bum up the chaff of all evil in every imperfect character; and the fire of retributive justice. There is a remarkable ‘unwritten saying’ of Christ, “He who is near me is near the fire,” which is preserved in Ignatius, Origen, and Didymus.

what will ], if it be already kindled?] Rather, how I would that it had been already kindled! (as in Sir 23:14). It may also be punctuated ‘what will I? O that it were already kindled!’ For the fire is salutary as well as retributive; it warms and purifies as well as consumes.

Luke 12:49. Πῦρ, fire) A fire which is to be wished for, the fire of spiritual ardour. [The love of God.—V. g.] See ch. Luke 3:16; Matthew 10:37, compared with what precedes and follows. The Lord continues His former discourse, which calls men from earthly to heavenly things; and gradually returns to those subjects which He had been speaking of before the interruption. See Luke 12:13; Luke 12:12.—βαλεῖν) viz. from heaven, to send.—εἰς τὴν γῆν, on or into the earth) That fire is not natural to the earth [not sprung of earth]: therefore He does not say, ἐν τῇ γῇ, in earth [the distinction is lost by Engl. Vers. rendering both “on earth”], as in Luke 12:51.—τί θέλω, what will I) The Present, I will, I wish, for I would, I would wish, is appropriate to a thing much wished for and sure to be accomplished: What further need I wish, if (when) the fire be already kindled? The conflict preceded the kindling of the fire. It was kindled on Pentecost: Acts 2.

Verse 49. - I am come to send fire on the earth. It is still the same train of thought that the Master pursues - a train which had been only slightly diverted by Peter's question. The text, so to speak, of the whole discourse was "the strange attraction which riches possess for men, and the palsying effect which this attraction, when yielded to, exercises over the whole life." The Master's argument was as follows: "Beware of covetousness; let your attachment to earthly possessions sit very lightly on you all; and as for you, my disciples, do you have nothing to do with these perishable goods." And here, with an abrupt solemnity, probably the voice changing here, and ringing with an awful emotion, he enforces his charge to the disciples with the words, "I am come to send fire on the earth." "My stern, sad work is to inaugurate a mighty struggle, to cast a firebrand on the earth. Lo, my presence will stir up men - you will see this in a way none now dream of; a vast convulsion will rend this people asunder. In the coming days of war and tumult, what have you, my disciples, who will be in the forefront of this movement, - what have you to do with earthly goods? Toss them away from you as useless baggage. The pioneers of the army of the future, surely they must be unencumbered in the war, which is about to break out; for remember, 'I am come to send fire on the earth.'" And what will I, if it be already kindled? better rendered, how I would that it had been already kindled! That is to say, "How I wish that this fire were already burning!" (so Olshausen, De Wette, Bleek, and Farrar). Through all the woe, however, the Redeemer could see, shining as it were through a dark cloud, the unspeakable glory and blessedness of his work. But this fire could not be kindled into a flame until something had happened. The cross must be endured by him; till then his work was not finished; and in his pure human nature - it is with stammering tongue and trembling pen we speak or write here - he felt, we believe, the bitter stinging pain of dread expectation of what was coming. With this onlook he was weighed down, we know, at times; witness especially the Gethsemane agony. He goes on to say - Luke 12:49Fire

A spiritual impulse which shall result in the divisions described in the following verses.

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