ABIDING IN THE GOD OF ISRAEL, AND FRUIT-BEARING
I. ABIDING IN THE GOD OF ISRAEL
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit. Already ye are clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; and so shall ye be my disciples. Even as the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you: abide ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do the things which I command you. No longer do I call you servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I heard from my Father I have made known unto you" (John 15:1-15).
In this Scripture Jesus speaks of the relationship existing between Himself and His followers in terms of the vine and its branches.
One becomes a branch in the vine by accepting Jesus Christ Who makes him "a new creation." It is to this fact that Paul in Titus 3:4-7 bears witness: "But when the kindness of God our Saviour, and his love toward man, appeared, not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that, being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." When one has thus been added to the church by the Lord or, in the figure of the vine and branches, when he becomes a branch in the vine, "old things have passed away; behold, they are become new" (II Cor. 5:17).
Just as the branches of a vine have the same kind of life as that in the vine, so those who are in Christ have the same kind of life as does Christ, i.e., spiritual, divine life. Being in Him and enjoying "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ," Christians are urged by the Apostle Paul (Col. 3:5-11) to lay aside the works of the flesh and to allow the new nature to manifest itself in a clean, pure, holy life. In human strength such is impossible; but in the strength of the Spirit of God one can bring into subjection the fleshly nature. "So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh: for if ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Rom. 8:12,13). Having, therefore, all things that pertain unto life and godliness the redeemed people are urged by Peter to live a life of true consecration. "Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind, be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in the time of your ignorance: but like as he who called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy" (I Pet. 1:13-16).
Since Christ overcame the enemy and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God to make intercession for His people, "He is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25). His ears are open at all times to the cries of His people who are invited to "draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need" (Heb. 4:16).
In order to obtain the divine help which is necessary to spiritual conquest and victory one must trust God implicitly. This point may be illustrated by Peter's attempt to walk on the water to the Saviour (Matt. 14:22-33). As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus and trusted he was enabled by the power of Christ to walk on the surface of the water, but when he, seeing the waves, became affrighted, he ceased to trust and began to sink. As he was sinking he cried to Jesus for help. Immediately Jesus rescued him. This experience doubtless furnished the vivid historical background of I Pet. 1:3-5: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." "God's commandings are God's enablings."
II. BEARING FRUIT
According to the parable of the vine and branches, God has a standard scale of fruit-bearing consisting of four degrees: (1) no fruit (verse 2); (2) fruit (verse 2); (3) more fruit (verse 2); (4) much fruit (verse 8). God is not satisfied with one's remaining throughout life in the same condition. He wishes growth and development in each. He has done everything possible in order to enable each one to bear fruit a hundredfold. Whatever failures may arise are due to man and not to God. According to Isa. 5, Israel was God's vineyard in which He planted the choicest vine, after He had thoroughly prepared the soil. At the time of harvest He looked for fine, luscious grapes, but instead "it bore wild grapes." The prophet thus interpreted his parable as follows: "For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for justice, but, behold, oppression; for righteousness, but, behold, a cry" (Isa. 5:7).
In the parable of the sower (Lk. 8:4-15) a portion of the seed fell among the thorns and produced plants, but the thorns choked out the same until the fruit was very imperfect. That class of hearers which is thus represented by these seeds and plants is explained by the Saviour as follows: "And that which fell among the thorns, these are they that have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection." In this age of the world when men are lovers of money and pleasures more than lovers of God, it behooves the Christian who wishes to do the will of God to avoid squandering his time, talents, and money. On the other hand, he should be about his Father's business, working diligently while it is day, realizing that the night cometh when no man shall work. In other words, he should obey the injunction of the Apostle Paul in Eph. 5:16, "redeeming the time," or, according to the margin, "buying up the opportunity." One's lifetime is the period of fruit-bearing.
There are various fruits which the faithful child of God bears. Chiefest among these is the fruit of the Spirit, which is "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law" (Gal. 5:22,23). Only the Holy Spirit abiding in the heart of the faithful believer can produce these wonderful results in the life. Another kind of fruit which God expects His people to bear is that concerning which Paul wrote to the Colossian church in the following words: "As therefore ye received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and builded up in him, and established in your faith, even as ye were taught, abounding in thanksgiving" (Col. 2:6,7). This statement doubtless referred to their conversion from heathenism to Christianity, of their living clean, pure, godly lives, and of their efforts to spread the Gospel. In praying for them Paul besought the Lord that this church might bear "fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God" (1:10). Again, in his letter to the church at Philippi, which was occasioned by his receiving a donation from it, he assured it that he was thankful to receive the liberal contribution for his support in the Gospel ministry, affirming that he did not "seek for the gift; but I seek for the fruit that increaseth to your account" (Phil. 4:17). One may not be able to do very much or to give very much, but each should give accordingly as the Lord has prospered him (I Cor. 16:1,2).
"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing. Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known. But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13).
The three abiding and permanent things of life are FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE. Thus love is indispensable; it is imparted to the believer by the Holy Spirit.
Dear reader, the author implores you, in view of the seriousness of the issues which have been raised in this book, to accept* the truth as it has been presented in these pages, since it is a faithful presentation of the Word of the living God, to accept Jesus Christ with fullness of faith as your Saviour, and to press forward as did the great Apostle to the Gentiles, who declared, "Brethren, I count not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13,14). Trust Jesus in everything, saying as did Paul, "For I know him whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed unto him against that day" (II Tim. 1:12). Be diligent in the service of the Lord and "be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (I Cor. 15:58). "But I hold not my life of any account as dear unto myself, so that I may accomplish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24).
Having accepted Christ and having followed and obeyed Him faithfully, you can shout with the Apostle Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing" (II Tim. 4:7,8).
CONCLUSION TO BOOK THREE
According to the Torah (Deut. 18:15-22) Israel could recognize a true prophet whenever he appeared. The infallible tests were: (1) the fulfilment of a prediction or the coming to pass of a sign; (2) the character of his message, i.e., his teaching the people to worship the True God. Jesus fulfilled accurately all Messianic predictions to date. As His credentials He gave many signs and tokens (in addition to His miracles) all of which came to pass. The chiefest of these was the fulfilment of His prediction of His Resurrection (Lk. 18:31-34; 24:1-53). Therefore He qualified as a true prophet on this point. Secondly the gist of His message was that men should worship God (Lk. 4:8; Matt. 22:34-40). Thus He proved Himself a true prophet.
Had Israel believed the Torah and applied the test to Jesus, she would have accepted Him (John 5:46,47). Being a true prophet, as evidenced by these tests and many infallible proofs, He spoke the truth. Since He spoke only the truth and since He claimed to be the Son of God, He was God manifest in the flesh.
As was seen in Book II, Part Two, there appears in the Books of the Prophets, which were written during the period of a thousand years prior to 500 B.C., a clear, detailed, and specific outline of the career of Israel's Messiah. In the Gospel records, the truthfulness of which accounts is established by incontrovertible evidence, appears the detailed account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. A comparison of His life with that shown in the Prophets proves conclusively that He fulfilled "The Career of the Messiah" up to a certain point--His session at the right hand of the Throne of God. The fact that He has fulfilled it up to the present time argues that He will carry out this pre-arranged program to completion. These facts prove beyond question two things: Firstly, that the Hebrew prophets were inspired by the Spirit of God; Secondly, that Jesus was the Messiah--God tabernacling in the flesh for man's good. Therefore the irresistible conclusion is that the entire Bible (66 books) is the Word of the Living God and Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world.
* Throughout the book the author has presented quite a bit of technical material which he calls upon the reader to examine and to arrive at his own conclusions. This request is not unreasonable. Though one may not have enjoyed special training in certain fields of research, that fact does not disqualify him from being able to judge facts and principles which are brought to his attention by experts in certain particular fields. For instance, the author knows very little of astronomy, having taken only one course in that subject. He was taught that there are rings around the planet Saturn. He was unable to see them until he went to an observatory--the product of scientists--and looked through the telescope after it had been set by an expert astronomer. With his own eyes he saw these rings and came to his own conclusions. Likewise he had been told all of his life of the microscopic animals. When he studied biology he looked through the microscope and saw exactly what the scientists see.
The scientist in any given field discovers facts and principles which people of ordinary intelligence can judge and evaluate correctly. The scientist renders a great service to humanity by his great discoveries. The philosopher may likewise render invaluable service in suggesting certain explanations or theories, which may be true or may not. The average man, though lacking technical training but having eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand, is competent to judge and evaluate any of the real substantial data (not theories nor speculations), which the scientist produces and which affect his life and conduct.
Therefore the author urges the reader, should he, when he has finished reading the book, be unable to see clearly every position as has been presented, to restudy each argument, praying to the Eternal God in the Name of Jesus the Christ, to enable him to see the truth and to give him courage and power to accept it.
<<<< previous next >>>>