Commentary on "By Their Fruit"
Day 1: Sabbath Afternoon, December 26, 2009
This lesson introduces the idea that our life’s “fruit” will reveal whether or not we abide in Christ. Author Richard O’Fill gives five texts to read to set the stage for the week: Luke 13:7-9; John 11:4; 12:28; 15:1-10; and 2 Timothy 3:5.
The introductory remarks are good at face value. O’Fill makes the point that all who abide in Christ will bear fruit of the Spirit, and he states that this certainty is for everyone. He quotes John 15:16, reminding us that Jesus said we didn’t choose Him, but He chose us and appointed us to bear fruit. O’Fill further refers to Philippians 1:6, reminding us that He who has begun a work in us will finish it.
This lesson addresses the reader with the assumption that he or she is capable of becoming a fruit-bearer. Assuming the readers are Seventh-day Adventists, however, they may not be positioned to become fruit-bearers yet.
Fruit of the Spirit cannot be addressed as a necessary part of one’s life if the essence of being saved is not addressed first. While Adventists can usually articulate words that seem to say the truth about being saved, in practice few Adventists really experience the new birth—a miracle which Jesus said in John 3:3-5 is necessary in order to see the kingdom of heaven.
Being saved is not defined by agreeing that Jesus is God and that He came to show us how to live, that He died to demonstrate how far He would go to show us we need saving, that His blood paid for our sin but that we need to remain “in Him” by obedience, or by “accepting Jesus” as a decision or by following His teachings.
Being saved involves realizing that we are individually depraved, separated by God by our very nature as sons and daughters of Adam. We have to confess to Him that we are utterly sinful, deserving of nothing, and ask Him to be our Savior.
We have to realize that we are unable to become good by praying for God to help us be good. Before we can expect our prayers for obedience to be effective, we must admit we are unable to cooperate with God. Ephesians 2:3 says we are by nature children of wrath. Children of wrath have no spark of goodness. They are spiritually dead and doomed to an eternity of separation from God. (See Ephesians 2:1-10.)
We have to confess our total depravity and helpless need of a Savior. We must believe that Jesus came as God clothed in flesh and paid in full the price for our sin, and we must humble ourselves before Him and accept His blood shed on the cross as our only means of access to God. We must ask Him to forgive us and believe, with the faith that He gives, that He did all that is necessary for our salvation. We must surrender to Him all our attempts to please Him and admit that our efforts to obey were futile.
We must accept His death, His shed blood, as the payment for our sin and surrender to Him as our Lord and Savior. We must give our entire selves to Him—including surrendering out minds to Him. We must let Him be Lord over all of us.
When we believe from the heart that Jesus is Lord and is sufficient for our salvation, we are saved—and this is the moment of our new birth. Ephesians 1:13-14 tells us that God seals us with the Holy Spirit, His deposit guaranteeing our eternal future and the eventual glorification of our bodies.
This new birth is not mental. It happens in our own literal spirits. Romans 8 describes living by the Spirit, and Romans 8:14-17 explains that the Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God and heirs with Christ.
Seventh-day Adventists have great trouble understanding this passage because they do not believe they have spirits. Yet without a spirit, there could be no new birth. We are born with our spirits dead and separated from God—our legacy from Adam when he ate the fruit in the Garden and died, as God said he would. Adam died spiritually; his spirit became disconnected from God, and that death is our legacy. That death is why our prayers and efforts to cooperate with God cannot succeed apart from our admitting our depravity and humbling ourselves before the Lord Jesus, accepting the washing of His blood (Ephesians 5).
Because Adventists do not believe they have spirits, they interpret the biblical passages about the Holy Spirit as a power that works in their minds. They fail to understand that God does something far more significant than change our thinking. He literally gives us new hearts by awakening our dead spirits with the resurrection life of Jesus through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:10-11).
The new heart, or new birth, is not a metaphor for living a new way. On the contrary, it is literally a new creation, a new “thing” that is supernatural, a miracle not possible physically. It is a literal new life—a new spiritual, eternal life—and this new birth is the prerequisite for beginning to understand the fruit of the Spirit.
A person who refuses to submit his or her mind and beliefs to God, believing instead that he or she already knows the truth, will not be submitting to the true God of the Bible. If we submit to the God we understand on the basis of our heritage, we will likely miss the God of reality. Part of surrender to Him is surrender of our suppositions about Him. We must kneel before Him in humility, asking Him to reveal Himself and to teach us truth.
When a person is born again, the Holy Spirit is literally filling that person’s spirit with the resurrection life of Jesus, and this new life will begin to change his or her thinking, responses, desires, and abilities. The Holy Spirit gifts the born again with gifts that are not natural.
If a person is not born again, however, he cannot experience fruit of the Spirit. If you have not surrendered your life and mind to the Lord Jesus, repenting of your intractable sin and asking Him to be your Savior and Lord, why not accept Him now?
Copyright 2009 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised December 24, 2009. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Glendale, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email: BibleStudiesForAdventists@gmail.com.
The Sabbath School Bible Study Guide and the corresponding E.G. White Notes are published by Pacific Press Publishing Association, which is owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist church. The current quarter's editions are pictured above.
Official Adventist Resources