Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Abiding in Christ

John 15

The True Vine

 1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

[In the Old Testament the "vine" is a symbol of Israel planted in the promised land.

Psalm 80:8-16 (New King James Version)

 8 You have brought a vine out of Egypt;
         You have cast out the nations, and planted it.
 9 You prepared room for it,
         And caused it to take deep root,
         And it filled the land.
 10 The hills were covered with its shadow,
         And the mighty cedars with its boughs.
 11 She sent out her boughs to the Sea,
         And her branches to the River.
 12 Why have You broken down her hedges,
         So that all who pass by the way pluck her fruit?
 13 The boar out of the woods uproots it,
         And the wild beast of the field devours it.
 14 Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts;
         Look down from heaven and see,
         And visit this vine
 15 And the vineyard which Your right hand has planted,
         And the branch that You made strong for Yourself.
It is burned with fire, it is cut down;
         They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance.

As we continue you will see the close parallel between John 15 and Psalm 80. In both cases it is God who plants the vine. Jesus as a son of Mary was a Jew and thus part of the Old Testament vine. But here he says he is the "true vine", think of true as sincere or faithful. Most of the time when you see the vine of Israel in the OT they are under judgment for their insincerity or faithlessness, when they stray away from God. Jesus on the other hand is sincere and faithful, holding fast to the Father, being at one with him, as we saw last week.

We see God at work with his vine, pruning the fruitful branches so that they will produce more fruit, and removing the branches that do not produce.]

3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

[At first this verse seems out of place because it breaks the vineyard analogy. However in the Greek, prune, and clean, come from the same root word katharos, from which we get the word catharsis meaning a cleaning emotional release. We saw this same word when Jesus washed the disciples feet, Peter said wash all of me, and Jesus told him he was already clean. So the first pruning or cleansing of a Christian comes through salvation. But we see that God's work is to continue our progressive sanctification throughout our lives. Not that we will ever be perfect here on earth but that we continue the process of repentance and forgiveness until the end.

1 John 1:8-10 (New King James Version)

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

Sometimes those who have been saved a long time, stop repenting, stop confessing, as though they have somehow reached a certain level, and that that is where they stopped. But when we stop allowing the pruning or cleansing process, we stop bearing fruit.]

4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

[Verse 6 taken out of context, is often used as a evidence by those who claim you can lose your salvation. And it sounds simple, anyone who does not abide in Jesus is cast into the fire. But the Children of Israel would understand the OT symbolism, as any branch of Israel who did not repent and follow Christ would be subject to the judgment of fire like we read in Psalm 80:16.

In fact John the Baptist told this to the Pharisees in Matthew 3

9 and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

This came to pass in 70 AD when Jerusalem was under siege and those of Israel who rejected Christ as messiah saw their city, their temple, and all their religious symbols burned with fire. This passage does not say someone who trusted in Jesus, stopped following him, and went to Hell. But it does warn of a fiery judgment for those who refuse to repent.

But some have taken this passage, and 1st Corinthians 3 where it talks about the trial of works by fire, and created false doctrines that are not in the Bible, like the idea of Purgatory. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia Purgatory is derived from the Latin word for cleansing and describes a temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, yet without sufficient penitent works, including prayers, fasting, and almsgiving, to fully pay for ones sins. Now how you can twist grace, and forgiveness, into something that needs to be supplemented by penitent works in order to satisfy God's sense of justice, is beyond my understanding. But it got even worse as they added to this doctrine. Some Catholics were so distressed by the idea of their relatives in Purgatory that they asked to be allowed to do penitence for their dead relatives, to shorten the amount of time they would spend in Purgatory. As time passed when the church needed money they started allowing people to buy indulgences for the dead, with a big offering to the building fund. Then finally corrupt priest would personally accept cash donations and grant indulgences to people who were still living and thus be completely exempt from confession and penitence. This corruption, regarding indulgences, from Purgatory, is what drove Martin Luther to write his 95 theses or grievances against the church and nail them to the door of the church. This began the reformation and the creation of the protestant churches. So you can see how badly things can go when you build a whole doctrine out of a few verses taken out of context.]

7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

[Instead of penitent works as a condition of forgiveness, God ask that we pray, and study God's word, following God's will for our lives. Thus led by the Holy Spirit, we produce the fruit-of-the-Spirit, as evidence of being Christ's followers.

Galatians 5

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Ephesians 5

 1 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit
is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.


[Since Jesus is the source of our salvation, doesn't it make sense that he will continue as the true source of our Christian life? So we abide in Christ, to bear fruit, to glorify God, and show evidence that we are true believers. We also to submit, to the pruning of the Father, cutting away the things that wander too far from the vine, that we may bear even more fruit.]



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