Consuming Fire Study – Hebrews 12:29 (G. MacDonald)


Consuming Fire

Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-14

  • What is burned up?
  • What is the nature of the fire?
  • Is there any way to avoid the full onslaught of that final burn for the believer?

Read 1 Cor. 3:15

  • What would you like to have left after the Big Burn?

From George MacDonald – Unpublished Sermons: Our God is a consuming Fire

Nothing is inexorable but love. Love which will yield to prayer is imperfect and poor. Nor is it then the love that yields, but its alloy. For if at the voice of entreaty love conquers displeasure, it is love asserting itself, not love yielding its claims. It is not love that grants a boon unwillingly; still less is it love that answers a prayer to the wrong and hurt of him who prays. Love is one, and love is changeless.

For love loves unto purity. Love has ever in view the absolute loveliness of that which it beholds. Where loveliness is incomplete, and love cannot love its fill of loving, it spends itself to make more lovely, that it may love more; it strives for perfection, even that itself may be perfected–not in itself, but in the object. As it was love that first created humanity, so even human love, in proportion to its divinity, will go on creating the beautiful for its own outpouring. There is nothing eternal but that which loves and can be loved, and love is ever climbing towards the consummation when such shall be the universe, imperishable, divine.

Therefore all that is not beautiful in the beloved, all that comes between and is not of love’s kind, must be destroyed.

Read Hebrews 12:14-17

  • Why is holiness important?
  • What does holiness look like in a community of believers?
  • What appears in its place when it is absent?

Read Heb 12:18-24

  • What are the signs of God’s presence in this Old Testament event?
  • How is His presence manifest to us today?
  • Are we promised or expect things to go easier on us?

The symbol of the consuming fire would seem to have been suggested to the writer by the fire that burned on the mountain of the old law. That fire was part of the revelation of God there made to the Israelites. Nor was it the first instance of such a revelation. The symbol of God’s presence, before which Moses had to put off his shoes, and to which it was not safe for him to draw near, was a fire that did not consume the bush in which it burned. Both revelations were of terror.

Read Heb 12:25-27

  • How is the Hebrew people’s experience and ours related?
  • Will He shake us?
  • Why?

He will shake heaven and earth, that only the unshakeable may remain, (verse 27): he is a consuming fire, that only that which cannot be consumed may stand forth eternal. It is the nature of God, so terribly pure that it destroys all that is not pure as fire, which demands like purity in our worship. He will have purity. It is not that the fire will burn us if we do not worship thus; but that the fire will burn us until we worship thus; yea, will go on burning within us after all that is foreign to it has yielded to its force, no longer with pain and consuming, but as the highest consciousness of life, the presence of God.

Read Heb 12:28, 29

  • What is the importance of worship in these verses?
  • What does His fire devour?
  • So what’s the big deal?

For, when we say that God is Love, do we teach men that their fear of him is groundless? No. As much as they fear will come upon them, possibly far more. But there is something beyond their fear,–a divine fate which they cannot withstand, because it works along with the human individuality which the divine individuality has created in them. The wrath will consume what they call themselves; so that the selves God made shall appear, coming out with tenfold consciousness of being, and bringing with them all that made the blessedness of the life the men tried to lead without God. They will know that now first are they fully themselves. The avaricious, weary, selfish, suspicious old man shall have passed away. The young, ever young self, will remain. That which they thought themselves shall have vanished: that which they felt themselves, though they misjudged their own feelings, shall remain– remain glorified in repentant hope. For that which cannot be shaken shall remain. That which is immortal in God shall remain in man. The death that is in them shall be consumed.

  • Do you think there is a difference in what we call ourselves and the person that will appear?
  • Are what we are now all that will ever be?

The man who loves God, and is not yet pure, courts the burning of God. Nor is it always torture. The fire shows itself sometimes only as light–still it will be fire of purifying. The consuming fire is just the original, the active form of Purity,–that which makes pure, that which is indeed Love, the creative energy of God. Without purity there can be as no creation so no persistence. That which is not pure is corruptible, and corruption cannot inherit incorruption.

  • Do you want God to burn you deep within?
  • How is it experienced in your life and your neighbors?

The man whose deeds are evil, fears the burning. But the burning will not come the less that he fears it or denies it. Escape is hopeless. For Love is inexorable. Our God is a consuming fire. He shall not come out till he has paid the uttermost farthing.

  • What of ourselves will survive and what will be removed?

If the man resists the burning of God, the consuming fire of Love, a terrible doom awaits him, and its day will come. He shall be cast into the outer darkness who hates the fire of God. What sick dismay shall then seize upon him! For let a man think and care ever so little about God, he does not therefore exist without God. God is here with him, upholding, warming, delighting, teaching him–making life a good thing to him. God gives him himself, though he knows it not. But when God withdraws from a man as far as that can be without the man’s ceasing to be; when the man feels himself abandoned, hanging in a ceaseless vertigo of existence upon the verge of the gulf of his being, without support, without refuge, without aim, without end–for the soul has no weapons wherewith to destroy herself–with no inbreathing of joy, with nothing to make life good;–then will he listen in agony for the faintest sound of life from the closed door; then, if the moan of suffering humanity ever reaches the ear of the outcast of darkness, he will be ready to rush into the very heart of the Consuming Fire to know life once more, to change this terror of sick negation, of unspeakable death, for that region of painful hope. Imagination cannot mislead us into too much horror of being without God–that one living death.

  • Can a person ultimately refuse the God offered consuming fire of love?

As for us, now will we come to thee, our Consuming Fire. And thou wilt not burn us more than we can bear. But thou wilt burn us. And although thou seem to slay us, yet will we trust in thee even for that which thou hast not spoken, if by any means at length we may attain unto the blessedness of those who have not seen and yet have believed.

Heb 10:32-39 (NIV)

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,

“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”

38 And,

“But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”

39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

About castleqwayr

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