Is It Right To Label Other Believers On-Fire?

'Man On Fire' photo (c) 2012, Montagious - license: local religious radio station was promoting an upcoming segment. During the promotion, the host kept using the phrase “on-fire.” The host went on to reference the “on-fire” missionaries who will be presenting on such and such topic. Then the host referenced the need to be “on-fire” and how listening to the segments will encourage you to be “on-fire” also. The more I listened to this oft used term, the more I became curious about its place in our religious vernacular.

To be honest, I have used the term regularly. I suppose it is fair to say there were also times in my life when others have used the term as a reference to myself. Being the target of the term comes with some semblance of notoriety, esteem, and respect. For others to say someone else is “on-fire” implicates them as being more active in evangelistic endeavors, fervent in preaching, and church activities.

In the spirit of advice from a dear brother, is it wise to use non-biblical language when referencing “biblical things?” In this case, is it appropriate to utilize terms like “on-fire” when discussing the faithful acts of other believers?

Since the usage in our common language is often analogous with “consumed with the spirit” or “fervent for the word of god” we cannot ignore the biblical use of fire as analogy. When used in the New testament as analogy, it is usually to connote fervency or zeal.

One occurrence that summarizes the Old Testament justification of the on-fire analogy is:

(Jer 20:9) If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

Some may say this is “straining at gnats”. Let me make one thing clear. I am urging caution at the usage of this term in the manner in which the radio host and many others use it. Likewise, the usage of many in the modern church use it the same way they use “pastor”. Esteem, titles, or hierarchical positions are not the intent of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, edification and equipping are (Eph 4:11-12).

(Matt 23:8) But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers…

Believers can, do, and should become fervent or zealous for the works of the Lord. Christ himself taught that the light of a believer should not be hidden under a bushel (Matthew 5:15-16). In principle, that instruction applies to all then does it not? If all of us are instructed to be purposeful in the works done before men, and the admonition to the Laodicean church to be either hot or cold is applicable –

There is no one believer that can set another believer on fire!

The fire on the altar must come from the Lord, he is the one who consumes the heart of the believer (Lev 9:24, cf. 2Ch 7:1). The Lord is the one who the sacrifice is for. Ultimately, it is he to whom all praise, glory, and honor are due. If we were to look at the true application of the fire in a the heart of the disciple, should we instead say:

Wow, that guy is a burnt-offering for the Lord!

As absurd as that would sound, it is equally absurd to seek the zeal and passion that comes from the Holy Spirit from mere men. This is a dangerous path for the disciple. This path too often leads us into submission to the church systems of our day. We look to pastor or evangelist so-and-so to confirm the message of prophet whats-his-face when we have clear-cut instruction from Jesus and the scriptures themselves.

Therefore let it be said. Being on-fire for the Lord is not an issue. If anything, all disciples of Christ should exhibit some semblance of zeal for Him and His Kingdom. We are instructed, do not be slothful in zeal, be ferevent in spirit, serve the Lord (Rom 12:11) and encouraged, not quench the Spirit (1 Thess 5:19). Be sure that the fire kindled upon the altar of your heart is the flame set ablaze by Christ, not some man and the message of fire in his heart. If you know Christ, that flame is in you. Fan it!

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I love writing about books, theology, and the Kingdom of God. I also enjoy viewing my vocation through a biblical lens. It is here at Seeking A Kingdom that I aim to hash out my thoughts on all these things.

2 thoughts on “Is It Right To Label Other Believers On-Fire?”

  1. Great post. I think you’re right on. We are to look to Jesus to make us jealous and passionate. I don’t know that you’ve quite convinced me to not use the term “on-fire”, but you have persuaded me to use it cautiously and to look to Jesus to make me on-fire.

    Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

    1. Well. I set out to convince myself not to use the term, but the end result was what you see posted. I still don’t think its appropriate to use it publically per se, as it carries an elitist idea with it. It contributes to the idea that others have a higher rank than some in the Kingdom.

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