Commentary on "By Their Fruit"
Day 3: Monday, December 28, 2009
This lesson explores Jesus’ words, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
The lesson makes the very good point that a branch separated from its tree cannot bear fruit, even if it is stuck in the ground. It must be attached to the trunk in order to bear fruit.
The end of the lesson asks four questions: “How do you abide n Jesus? What does that mean? What would you have to change in your life to make this a daily experience? What practices and habits are you cultivating that make it more difficult to abide in Him?
Again, this lesson would be fairly innocuous if it were founded on an understanding of the new birth. The questions at the end of the lesson reveal that abiding in Christ is understood to mean a condition that occurs as a result of our devotional life and the attention we give to God.
The question, “What would you have to change in your life to make this a daily experience?” reveals a perception that that abiding in Christ does not happen unless a person practices appropriate disciplines.
The text John 15:5, however, is used in this lesson out of context. In context, Jesus is explaining His relationship to His disciples, and He is prophetically telling them what their lives will be alike after His death, resurrection, and Pentecost. He is describing their lives after they are filled with His Spirit.
Moreover, He makes this statement in the same context as verses 12-13 where He identifies His new command to them: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus explains that His new command is that we love one another sacrificially, being willing to die for the salvation of another if necessary.
Even those who are born again have the choice to live by the Spirit or not (see Romans 8), but the Holy Spirit does not leave a person who has surrendered him or herself to the Lord Jesus. Abiding in Christ is not a one-way proposition. It is predicated on Jesus’ unfailing grip on those who are born again. John 10: 28-29 says that no one can snatch His people out of His hand or the Father’s hand. They are held with a double grip. Once inside that grip, once we have repented and surrendered our lives to the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit indwells us, and we can’t make Him leave by having “unconfessed sin” or episodes of bad behavior. Rather, we are to continue to surrender and submit, repenting as the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin.
As we are obedient to the Holy Spirit, surrendering to Jesus everything we love and desire as He reveals our need of Him, we are abiding in Him. We abide in Him by submitting our minds to His word and ourselves to His teaching. We do not abide by discipline; rather, we abide by surrendering.
The presence of the Lord Jesus through His indwelling Spirit does not come and go. It is constant. Our life in the Spirit will strengthen as we trust Him increasingly. Abiding in Christ is about trust, not about behavior.
We will not bear the fruit of the Spirit if we are not born of the Spirit. If we are truly born of the Spirit, we finally have the option to choose to live by the Spirit. This choice is available only to the born-again, not to those who are still in the domain of darkness (Romans 8:10-11; Colossians 1:13).
Copyright 2009 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised December 27, 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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