Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner…
A fan is a certain instrument which the husbandman uses to cleanse, or purge his corn from the chaff, evil seeds, and all filth whatsoever. Now John Baptist alludes to such an instrument as this.
1. By Christ's fan is meant His Word, His holy gospel, especially the doctrine thereof; it is by this He cleanses and purges His floor. "Now you are clean through the word I have spoken unto you."
2. The dispensation of God's providence: for this was also a fan in Christ's hand, by which He fanned away those unbelieving Jews, and so purged His floor; I mean, the time was now come that their national, legal, and external church-state must be pulled down and dissolved, the dispensation was changed, the priesthood changed, and right of Church membership changed. So that unless they receive Christ, believe in Christ, and are found gracious persons, fit wheat for Christ's spiritual garner or gospel Church (which is built up of lively stones), as chaff the gospel dispensation like a fan purges them out.
3. Christ hath also another fan in His hand, viz., the fan of Church discipline. And many persons falling into sin, are purged like chaff out of His floor thereby.
(1) Sometimes some evil and corrupt persons, who get among God's people (or into His Church) and pass awhile for wheat, i.e., for gracious persons, yet in time God suffers them to fall into one temptation or another, by which means they are fanned away. The holy Jesus by His wise providence, making a discovery of them, and their evil tempers and dispositions.
(2) Others, whom Christ would have purged out of His Church, may be suffered to such in some evil, corrupt, and dangerous principle, or errors in fundamentals, like that of "Hymeneus and Alexander" (1 Timothy 1:20); whose errors being discovered are purged out.
(3) Also many fall into notorious and scandalous sins, and are purged out by this fan. Also(4) some who are chaff, or unsound Christians, may be suffered to take up undue offences against the Church, or Churches to whom they do belong, and by giving way to temptation, they may become unreconcilable, magnifying their own wisdom and self-conceitedness, so by a secret hand of God be discovered and purged out.
4. Jesus Christ hath also another fan in His hand to purge His floor, or cleanse His wheat from the chaff, filth, and defilement of sin, namely the Holy Spirit; and by this means He cleanses and purifies, in a gracious manner, the souls of His own people: "Such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11). What filthy creatures wore those Corinthians, before the Lord Jesus by His Spirit had purged and sanctified them. Faith, of the operation of God, is a most excellent grace; it is by faith in the blood of Christ that we come to be purged from the guilt of sin; faith applying His merits and righteousness unto the soul in justification; and such is the nature thereof, that it makes holy the hearts and lives of all such persons in whom it is by the Spirit wrought or infused in sanctification; "And hath put no difference between them and us, purifying their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:9). Yea, it cleanseth them "from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, that they may perfect holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1). But let me tell you that the Spirit and grace of Christ, in this respect, is as a fan, and rather to cleanse the saints, by purging out the chaff of corruption, which naturally is in their hearts and lives, than to purge hypocrites and false professors out of the Church, and to that I principally refer here.
5. Moreover, Christ hath the fan of persecution, or the sufferings of the cross, and all other afflictions which He brings upon His people, which He uses to purge and purify their souls, and His Churches too. And from hence afflictions are compared to a refiner's fire: "He shall sit as a refiner's fire, and purifier of silver." He, that is, the Messiah, i.e., our Lord Jesus Christ; this His work, viz., to purge His people, who in this place are compared to silver and gold, that is refined; as in my text they are likened unto wheat. In this He is compared to a refiner, and hath His furnace; in the other to a husbandman, and so hath His fan. Both these texts allude to the same thing, and doing the same work, namely, to sever and separate the clean from the unclean, the gold from the dross, the chaff from the wheat.
Parallel VersesKJV: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.