Commentary on "By Their Fruit"
Day 2: Sunday, December 27, 2009
Sunday’s lesson teaches that the presence of miracles in a life does not necessarily mean the Holy Spirit is at work in a person, since Jesus warned that miracles would be performed by people who were not His followers. Furthermore, the lesson makes the point that a person reveals oneself not so much by profession as by what or who one is. The fruit of the Spirit is given to God’s children so their lives might be changed. The author concludes by stating that “unless the Holy Spirit gives us a new heart, we never can be good.”
The lesson ends with the questions, “Dwell more on this distinction beween doing good and being good. First, what do we mean by “good”? Second, can a person do good and not be good? Or, can a person be good and not do good?”
The main points of the lesson are good as stated. Again, however, the issue is this: what foundation underlies these words? The questions at the end of the lesson reveal a glimpse of the underlying frame of reference that informs how the Adventist readers of this lesson would likely understand it—and this understanding is different from the way a non-Adventist Christian would understand it.
The issue is that no one—not even a born again person—is “good”. Only God is good. When a person is born again, God doesn’t make him “good”. He gives him His own, alien goodness. Apart from the new birth, even the most kind-hearted person is not good. Apart from the new birth, a person is dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3).
A born-again person does not become “good”, even over time. Rather, he or she becomes increasingly dependent upon the Holy Spirit who lives God’s life through the person. A true Christian does not improve; rather, he or she becomes increasingly identified by the Lord Jesus and hidden in God. The Holy Spirit does not make a person good by giving him or her supernatural power to be good. The Holy Spirit actually live out the life of God through a person’s hands, feet, lips, and mind as the Christian learns to surrender in deeper and deeper ways.
The difference between the way an Adventist understands the work of the Holy Spirit and the way the Bible teaches it is extremely large. Unless one understands that one is literally spiritually dead until the Holy Spirit brings their spirit to life with the actual resurrection life of Jesus, he has no chance of understanding how to please God.
Bearing the fruit of the Spirit is about surrendering one’s own identity to the Lord Jesus instead of figuring out how to “incorporate” God’s power into his own life.
No human is ever “good”. He or she is, rather, either living by faith in surrender to the Lord Jesus, or he is living by discipline. Good works flow from a submitted life—a life that submits not only in repentance but in clinging to one’s “rights” and respect. God doesn’t make us “good”. He makes us increasingly trusting, molding us into the image of His Son by His own divine life. It is never we who learn to obey by an infusion of God’s power. It is always as we give up what we treasure, love, and value to the Lord Jesus for His purposes—even when those treasured things are our beliefs—that the Holy Spirit can transform us.
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.
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