Origen: What Is This Consuming Fire?

Feast of Nicephorous the Confessor, Patriarch of Constantinople

Origen_Square.jpg“OUR GOD IS a consuming fire” (Heb. 12.29). What does this fire consume? Not “word” or “hay” that can be seen or felt, not visible “straw,” but if you “build on the foundation of Jesus Christ” with the “wood” of sinful works, the “hay” of sinful works, the “straw” of the lower sinful works, this fire comes and “tests” all that (cf. 1 Cor. 3.12-15). What is this fire which proclaims the law and is not silent about the gospel? “The fire will test what sort of work each one has done” (1 Cor. 3.13). What is, O Apostle, this fire which tests our works? What is this fire so wise that it guards my “gold” and shows forth my “silver” more brilliantly, that it leaves undamaged that “precious stone” in me and “burns up” only the evil I have done, the “word, hay and straw” which I have built over it (cf. 1 Cor. 3.12-15).

What is this fire? “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” For He is good, and He knows that if this fire is enkindled, wickedness will be consumed. For it is written in the prophets: “He sanctified him in burning fire and devoured the forest like straw” (cf. Is. 10.17 LXX), and again: “The Lord of Hosts will send forth contumely in his honor, and to his glory will a burning fire be kindled” (cf. Is. 10.16 LXX). This means, that fire is sent forth upon your sinful works so that you will be glorified.

—Origen, Spirit & Fire

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