The Refiner's Fire

Bible Book: Malachi 
Subject: Fire, Refiner's; Judgment; Christ, Return of; Repentance; Purity; Revival

Malachi 2:17-3:6

Rev. James W. Tharp, author of Revival Must Come! shares the following: “A few years ago, Billy Graham asked a university professor what he considered to be the greatest need in our country. The professor replied, ‘I may surprise you, since I’m not a religious person, but I believe the greatest need we have at this hour in America is a spiritual awakening which will restore individual and collective morals and integrity throughout the nation.’
The apostle Paul wrote about a messed-up civilization so totally insensitive to God’s holiness and grace that it had given itself over to a downward spiral of perversion (Rom. 1:18-32). When a generation arrogantly closes its mind to creation’s evidence of God, Paul argued, it sinks deeper and deeper into the swamps of its own sick behavior. Those who reject divine revelation are soon able to ignore conscience, and those who ignore conscience will in time refuse to listen to reason. It is this writer’s considered opinion that America is rapidly approaching this dreadful point of moral insanity. Only a sovereign, merciful God can save us by sending a full-scale, historical outpouring of His Spirit that will result in His people humbling themselves in prayer and fasting, seeking the will and truth of God, and turning in repentance from their self-righteousness, unbelief, pride, lust, and materialistic idolatry.”[1]

A while back I woke up singing the lyrics, "Send the refiner's fire, Come purge away our sin..." and looked it up online to hear it sung by Ron Owens as I remembered it from a Christian Life Convention at the Stephen Olford Center in Memphis, Tennessee. Here is one stanza:

Send the refiner’s fire

Come purge away our sin

Help us oh God return to You

Revive Your church again.[2]

Malachi 2:17-3:6 reads, “You have wearied the Lord with your words; Yet you say, ‘In what way have we wearied Him?’ In that you say, ‘Everyone who does evil Is good in the sight of the Lord, And He delights in them,’ Or, ‘Where is the God of justice?’ ‘Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,’ Says the Lord of hosts. ‘But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness. ‘Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem Will be pleasant to the Lord, As in the days of old, As in former years. And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien—Because they do not fear Me,’ Says the Lord of hosts. ‘For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.’”
The refiner’s fire provides three things.

I. A New Purity: To remove the impurities by the refiner’s fire.

Rev. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) writes, “The first words of this chapter seem an answer to the scoffers of those days. Here is a prophecy of the appearing of John the Baptist. He is Christ's harbinger. He shall prepare the way before him, by calling men to repentance. The Messiah had been long called, ‘He that should come,’ and now shortly he will come. He is the Messenger of the covenant. Those who seek Jesus, shall find pleasure in him, often when not looked for. The Lord Jesus, prepares the sinner's heart to be his temple, by the ministry of his word and the convictions of his Spirit, and he enters it as the Messenger of peace and consolation. No hypocrite or formalist can endure his doctrine, or stand before his tribunal. Christ came to distinguish men, to separate between the precious and the vile. He shall sit as a Refiner. Christ, by his gospel, shall purify and reform his church, and by his Spirit working with it, shall regenerate and cleanse souls. He will take away the dross found in them. He will separate their corruptions, which render their faculties worthless and useless. The believer needs not fear the fiery trial of afflictions and temptations, by which the Saviour refines his gold. He will take care it is not more intense or longer than is needful for his good; and this trial will end far otherwise than that of the wicked. Christ will, by interceding for them, make them accepted. Where no fear of God is, no good is to be expected. Evil pursues sinners. God is unchangeable. And though the sentence against evil works be not executed speedily, yet it will be executed; the Lord is as much an enemy to sin as ever. We may all apply this to ourselves. Because we have to do with a God that changes not, therefore it is that we are not consumed; because his compassions fail not.”[3]

The refiner’s fire is not a wildfire or an incinerator it burns for a specific purpose. Were it not for God’s mercy we would all be consumed. Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, writes in Lamentations 3:22-23, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” The refiner’s fire causes the dross and impurities to come to the top to be separated from the silver or gold. Hebrews 12:28-29 reads, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.”

Psalm 66:10 reads, “For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined.” Proverbs 17:3 reads, “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the Lord tests the hearts.” 1 Peter 1:6-7 reads, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Revelation 3:17-19 reads, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked - I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.”

Too many are merely playing church nowadays. It is time to repent or else! Someone said, “It’s better to have God APPROVE than the world APPLAUD.” 1 John 2:28 reads, “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.”

II. A New Purpose: To reflect the image of the refiner’s face.

The refiner looks for his likeness. Psalm 17:15 reads, “As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.” With the psalmist we should not be satisfied until we reflect the image of the refiner’s face. Jesus is the refiner. Paul the apostle writes in Romans 8:28-30, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

Rev. A. R. (Andrew Robert) Faussett (1821-1910) comments on Malachi 3:3, “The purifier sits before the crucible, fixing his eye on the metal, and taking care that the fire be not too hot, and keeping the metal in, only until he knows the dross to be completely removed by his seeing his own image reflected (Rom 8:29) in the glowing mass. So the Lord in the case of His elect (Job 23:10; Ps 66:10; Pr 17:3; Isa 48:10; Heb 12:10; 1 Pet 1:7). He will sit down to the work, not perfunctorily, but with patient love and unflinching justice. The Angel of the Covenant, as in leading His people out of Egypt by the pillar of cloud and fire, has an aspect of terror to His foes, of love to His friends. The same separating process goes on in the world as in each Christian. When the godly are completely separated from the ungodly, the world will end. When the dross is taken from the gold of the Christian, he will be forever delivered from the furnace of trial. The purer the gold, the hotter the fire now; the whiter the garment, the harder the washing [Moore].”[4]

1 John 3:1-3 reads, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

III. A New Pursuit: To represent the imperishable at the refiner’s feet.

Paul the apostle writes in Romans 14:10b and in 2 Corinthians 5:9-11,“For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. . . . Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.” Each one of us will stand individually before the Lord to present our life to Him. As we fall before the refiner’s feet, may we be “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:6b). He is our redeemer and our refiner. Isaiah 48:10 reads, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”

Have you ever heard of Richard Huntley Corke? His mother writes, “My son, Richard Huntley Corke, was born at Turnbridge Wells on Whitsunday, the 26th May, 1822, and continued, until the age of ten years a very healthy child: but at that period (July 1832) there was much typhus fever in Turnbridge Wells, and I was called to pass through deep trial, having had eleven members of my family ill with it, and the twelfth was my dearest child who sickened the very day that a sister of my husband’s was lying at the point of death. . . . On entering the room I found him lying on the sofa engaging in prayer. . . . Feeling great pain from his blister, he leaned his head against me, and said, ‘oh, my dear mother, this pain exceeds all I have ever felt, but I think the Lord has sent this trial to prepare me for His heavenly kingdom.’”[5] After sharing many entries from his diary revealing Richard’s deep and profound faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, she writes, “On Monday, 25th September 1843, he was composed during the day; and at nine o’clock in the evening as we were lifting him up in the sheet to change the mattress of the water-bed, he calmly prayed-‘Blessed Jesus.’ O Lord, let me forever dwell in the light of Thy countenance, and then, without a struggle, or a movement, he fell asleep!” “The Refiner’s work was done – ‘the furnace of affliction had removed all the dross from his heart.’ Who could doubt that the Lord granted to the dear sufferer that which he requested, and borne his emancipated spirit to ‘Canaan’s shore, ‘Where pilgrims meet to part no more.’”[6]

Richard Huntley Corke’s mother ended his Memoir by quoting these words:

We speak of the realms of the bless’d,

Of that country so bright and so fair,

And oft are its glories confess’d;

But what must it be to be there!

We speak of its pathways of gold,

Of its walls deck’d with jewels so rare,

Its wonders and pleasures untold;

But what must it be to be there!

We speak of its freedom from sin,

From all sorrow, temptation, and care,

From trials without and within;

But what must it be to be there!

We speak of its service of love,

And the robes which the glorified wear,

The church of the first-born above;

But what must it be to be there!

Do thou, Lord, ‘mid sorrow and woe,

Still for heaven my spirit prepare,

And shortly I also shall know,

And feel, what it is to be there.[7]

Job said, “But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). After his time in the refiner’s fire, “Then Job answered the Lord and said: I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ ‘I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:1-6). Until you come to that place, it is not time to share your testimony. It is only when you come to repent of your misunderstanding of God’s ways and humbly confess that His ways are best. Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) writes, “God is too good to be unkind. He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.”[8]


Dr. E. Ray Clendenen, Senior Editor of Academic Books for B&H Publishing Group, explains, “Weary of Judah’s hypocritical pleas for justice and their complaints of divine inaction, the Lord announces a coming day of justice that will be different from what they expect or desire.”[9]

In Malachi: Finding Hope in the Midst of Adversity, Dr. Terry W. Dorsett, Connecticut Church Planting Catalyst for the North American Mission Board, shares the following: “We may not like the Lord’s coming as much as we think we will! When the Lord comes, it will be like a refiner’s fire.”[10] 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 reads, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Believer, how will your works fair at the refiner’s fire?

[1]James W. Tharp, Estelle: An Inspiring Love Story, An Amazing Story of Persistent Love and the Prayers that Produced a Great Spiritual Awakening, (Bozeman, MT: Christian Renewal Ministries Publishing, 2012), ix-x. 

[2]Patricia H. Owens and Ronald J. Owens, "Revive Your Church O Lord," © 1993 ICS Music, Accessed: 02/20/14,

[3]Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary, Database © 2011 WORDsearch Corp.

[4]Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871), by Rev. Robert Jamieson, D.D., Rev. A.R. Fausset, A.M & Rev. David Brown, D.D., Database © 2012 WORDsearch Corp.

[5]The Refiner’s Fire, Memoir of Richard Huntley Corke, by His Mother (London: Seeley and Co., 1852), 1-2.

[6]The Refiner’s Fire, Memoir of Richard Huntley Corke, by His Mother (London: Seeley and Co., 1852), 29-30.

[7]J. F. Weston, “Realms of the Blessed”, The Diadem: A Collection of Tunes and Hymns for Sunday School and Devotional Meetings, by Silas J. Vail, “What must it be to be there!” (New York, NY: Horace Waters, 1865), 63

[8]Adrian Rogers in “How to Stand When You Don’t Understand,” (Memphis, TN: Love Worth Finding Ministries, n.d.), Accessed: 02/20/14,

[9]New American Commentary – Volume 21a: Haggai, Malachi, gen. ed. (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2004), 382, Database © 2013 WORDsearch.

[10]Terry W. Dorsett, Malachi: Finding Hope in the Midst of Adversity, (, 2012), eBook.

By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on and / / / (251) 626-6210 ©March 2, 2014 All Rights Reserved