The Refiner's Fire
Malachi 3:3
And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver…

The process of refining is in the text made to illustrate the work of Christ upon the heart of man.

I. THE PROCESS. One important truth is assumed, the inherent preciousness of man. Many things are too worthless to pay for refining. When God undertakes to refine or purify man, it is because of his intrinsic dignity and worth. The Scriptures nowhere allow you to suppose that they treat man as an insignificant creature. And man still bears about him in dimness and defacement the image of God. Our Saviour takes great pains to impress us with the intrinsic and indestructible grandeur of man. No word ever escapes His lips which tend to lower him in your esteem. He sets His seal upon the infinite worth of man by taking his nature. Has not sin made a great difference, and reduced, if not destroyed, the worth of man? Yes, sin has made a great difference in his character, and in the part he has played in the world, but it has made no difference in the intrinsic majesty and grandeur of his being. He is still man. He has not fallen into lower rank of creatureship, nor can he. If he could cease to be man, his shame and misery would instantly leave him. Unworthy you are, but not worthless. If you were worthless, he would not sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. He sees the dross, and He sees the metal, and He does not cast away the metal because of the dross, but He seeks to cast the dross out of the metal. "He shall purify." Here we see the great aim and purpose of the Gospel. So far as man's own life and character are concerned, there is no other or higher end that the Gospel can contemplate than this — our purification, In this the Gospel stands out above and distinct from all other religious. Most of the religions of the world have made men impure, and many of them have enjoined and required impurity as an essential condition of salvation. The whole scheme of the Gospel is pervaded by the idea of purity. Our religion is one which has for its supreme aim our perfect holiness. Among the agencies, through means of which this purity is to be accomplished, one is that of trial — trial as if by fire. One of the purposes of affliction is to purify. To come out of the fire no better than we went into it, shows a tenacity of evil in us which may well make us alarmed. It is an unspeakable joy for the Christian to know that, as he must be tried in the fire, he is to be tried under the eye and hand and heart of his Saviour. A process over which He presides will be conducted with infinite wisdom. He knows the nature of the evil which has to be separated. He alone knows the kind of trials to send. There is no uniformity in the process of purification by which Christ tests and refines His followers. Uniformity is the resource of routine and ignorance or despotism. The discipline of a home is a better illustration of the spirit in which Christ acts toward us than any other. In the family the children can be looked at and treated in the light of their individual peculiarities and needs. Each one of Christ's disciples is taken in hand by Himself, and treated for what he is; and the Saviour makes no mistakes, He sends no affliction without reason. It comes at its best time, in the best way, tarries only so long as it is needed, and until its purpose is accomplished. Bodily affliction is not the only fire which Christ kindles for the sanctification of His followers. His fires, and acids, and cleansing agencies are innumerable.

II. ITS PURPOSE. Sufferings have a purpose as well as a cause. The purpose of affliction, as stated here, is, that its subjects "may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness." As a rule, great service can only come out of great suffering. The men of power and influence have been annealed in a furnace of trial of some sort. Shrink not then from the fire, unless you would shrink from the service too. Many a saint on earth is at this hour just purified, and ready to be removed to the world where God keeps all His treasures.

(Enoch Mellor, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

WEB: and he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and silver; and they shall offer to Yahweh offerings in righteousness.

The Refiner
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