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Hebrews 6:7-8 & John 15:1-3 by Robert Dean
Series:Hebrews (2005)
Duration:56 mins 47 secs


Hebrews Lesson 65  August 31, 2006 


NKJ 1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.


We are in Hebrews 6. We have been going through the warning passage section. Just as a review, there is a serious warning here on the danger of spiritual dullness, the danger of regression, the danger that is a real danger to every single believer that if we do not pay diligent attention to our spiritual life and spiritual growth; then we can hit that slippery slope of carnality and slide down into a pool of self indulgence and just wipe out our spiritual life. But there is no loss of salvation. People need to be reminded of these things because there are so many folks that are caught up with the fact that there is something they've done or some sin that they have committed or some act in their past that somehow continuously interferes with their spiritual life. 


Five Key Principles

  1. No sin is unknown by the omniscience of God. Therefore God in His omniscience knew every single sin that every human being would commit from eternity past. He knew every single sin that you would commit throughout your entire life. Nothing misses His complete and total knowledge
  2. No sin is overlooked by the justice of God. When God dealt with our sins on the cross, He didn't overlook any. You are not going to commit some sin and God is going to go, "Oops, I missed that one."
  3. No sin is too bad for the grace of God. 
  4. No sin is too strong for the omnipotence of God. 
  5. No sin is too harsh not to be overcome by the love of God


So we have a perfect salvation. It operates on grace. There are consequences to sin. Sometimes we can emphasize grace so much in one direction - there is grace for salvation, there is grace in forgiveness. God always deals with us in grace because He knows all of our faults, all of our failures and all of our sins. All of our sins are paid for on the cross, but there are consequences to failure in the Christian life. 

Consequences to failure in the Christian life are not contrary to grace. That is what this illustration is all about in Hebrews 6:7-8. So let's review this because this becomes a launching pad for a 3 or 4 week study on the dynamics of spiritual growth. 


NKJ Hebrews 6:7 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God;


NKJ Hebrews 6:8 but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.


Now as I pointed out last time when we got into this there is always somebody that comes along and every time they see burning in the Scripture they immediately think of the Lake of Fire. But you have to take time to understand these analogies. One commentator who dealt with a parallel passage to this commented because he has his masters degree it viticulture from Texas A&M. He said...


"One of the problems we have today is we have a lot of pastors and theologians who have their degrees and background in all kinds of different areas and they don't have a clue how to grow anything."  


Yet in the Bible you have illustration after illustration after illustration based on the agricultural life style that was common to everybody during the period of the writing of the Scripture. Everybody understood the cycles of growth and planting and harvest and what was involved in planting and growing things. These were common illustrations. But if you aren't familiar with that, if your background is law, you might not understand the dynamics of these illustrations. The reason I point out law is because it is amazing how many theologians down through the centuries were initially lawyers. We always give lawyers a bad rap, but everybody from John Calvin to Hugo Grotius (who came up with a heretical view on the atonement) was a lawyer. He was also one of the lawyers who founded and grounded all of international law that we know today. If you have ever studied international law you would know who Hugo Grotius was. He was a well-known theologian coming out of the Reformation period. John Nelson Darby was another lawyer. CI Scofield was another lawyer. The theological landscape is littered with lawyers who then became theologians. So it is a similar mindset. But if your training was in law, you are probably not a very good farmer. So we have to understand these images. 


The burning as I pointed out last time quoting from a Roman writer named Pliney the Elder who lived in the period of the first century. I think he was born around 20 AD. He died toward the end of the century.  He wrote a number of works. The only thing that we have that survived is his work on natural science. In there he gives a lot of descriptions about agriculture – cultivation and viticulture.  We will see another quote from him later on this evening. He commented that this was a standard procedure. At the end of the harvest when you have a lot of stubble left in the fields that in order to get it ready for planting the next year you would burn off what was left in order to make the field more productive for the next year.  So it is not a sign of judgment destruction, but it is a sign more along the lines of divine discipline and preparation for future growth. We need to think about verse 8 in terms of divine discipline. Last time I pointed out that each of these symbols in Hebrews 6:7-8 is important in order to properly interpret the passage. 


The earth is the believer. The rain represents the provision of God, the Word of God plus the Holy Spirit. The herbs represent the production of good fruit. The thorns and briars represent the production of sin, evil, and human good.  There is a cultivator in the passage – someone who cultivates the earth, who works upon the believer to produce fruitfulness. This would be God. This is similar to the role God plays in John 15 which is going to be the focus of our study this evening. This is where we went last time. 


Then we saw that in verse 7 it talks about the fact that some soil bears thorns and thistles and rejection.  Rejection is a core idea.  It talks about judgment. The illustration in this passage relates to one of three judgments:


1.  Great White Throne which is for unbelievers at the end of the millennium.

2.  The tribulation judgment at the end of the tribulation.

    3.  or the Bema Seat. 


We have at those at these different times. The Judgment Seat of Christ is the focus here with a secondary idea of discipline for the believer in time to make the believer more productive, more fruitful.  The word translated rejected is the Greek word adokimos meaning to unapproved, unqualified, unworthy, spurious, or worthless. If you notice there that doesn't list rejected as one of the words. That is not the concept here. It means it is no longer qualified. Qualified for what? We would say qualified for rewards. This is the same thing that Paul references when he talks about running the race.


NKJ 1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.


That is win the prize, win the reward.


NKJ 1 Corinthians 9:25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.


Usually that is a reward related to a wreath of withered celery leaves or regular celery leaves or ivy. That was it. Initially in the Olympic Games there was no prize money or any of the other things that came along much later – privileges of citizenship and a number of other things that were true in later years. In the initial two or three centuries all they got was a wreath. They would go through a year of training and they don't even get a T-shirt. They get a wreath that will dry up and be gone in a matter of weeks. They disciplined themselves so rigorously for a perishable wreath, but we as believers are working and growing spiritually for the purpose of gaining rewards that will last for eternity. If they are going to go to all of that effort just to win the Super Bowl, just to win a Super Bowl ring, or all of that effort just to win the World Series how much more should we as believers work when we are focused on rewards that are going to last for all of eternity. 


Then we looked at verse 27 where Paul said referring to himself…


NKJ 1 Corinthians 9:27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.


That's the same word. What is the point? The point is that if Paul can become disqualified (he is not losing his salvation), it would be a disqualification from position, reward, and responsibility. That is what this passage is talking about. It fits the framework of rewards. 


NKJ 2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.


The word there for judgment seat is the Greek word bema. This is a raised or elevated seat where the magistrate or tribunal would sit. There is another bema seat in the culture that fits the analogy better. That is the judgment seat at the races. We just got through talking about Paul wanting to run in a qualified manner. There was a race track at Delphi. In the stands are the remains of the bema seat. That is where the judges would sit in order to evaluate the contestants in the race. This is more likely the background for understanding the II Corinthians 5 reference to the Bema Seat or the Judgment Seat of Christ to see who is qualified, who wins the race, who wins the prize.   


The question that occurs is how we do this. We know that entering the race is analogous to salvation. You have to put your faith alone in Christ alone in order to get saved. Once you are saved, then you can enter into the qualification for the race, run the race, and either be qualified or disqualified or win the prize or not win rewards. Entry into the team as it were or the ability to compete in the games is salvation; but competition in the games is analogous to the post salvation Christian life. So entry onto the team is grace. After that, it is based on works. Not in the sense of earning the approbation of God; but it takes discipline, effort, decision making to stick with it. It takes perseverance and endurance to be in Bible class, to listen to tapes, to make decisions that are consistent with the doctrine that we learn and not just take the easy path of the sin nature and say, "I will confess it later and get back in fellowship."


We have to wrestle with the fact that we need to stay in fellowship. The primary image that I see in the New Testament of fruitfulness comes out of what Jesus taught the disciples the night before He went to the cross in what is known as the Upper Room Discourse. John 15 actually takes place as they left the Upper Room and began to proceed up the Kidron Valley over to the Garden of Gethsemane. After they left the Upper Room, Jesus begins to teach them more about what would be the dynamics of the Christian life. Remember in John 13 we have Jesus in the Upper Room with the 12 disciples. He comes in and washes their feet to teach the importance of ongoing cleansing in the Christian life. Then He sits down. They observe the Passover. In the midst of the Passover meal He takes the sop and He dips it into the oil and solution of the vinegar and hands it to "the one who is going to betray Me". He hands that to Judas. He was talking privately to Judas. They would lie around the table; Judas was to Jesus' left. Probably no one else understood what He was saying.  


He said, "The one I give it to."


But He was going to give it to each one of them. So He handed it to Judas first.


In a private conversation He said, "Go, and do what you need to do." 


Judas left.  Then they went through the observance of the Lord's Table. After that He begins to announce that He is going to leave. There is going to be a new dispensation. He is going to depart from them. Then there is going to be a new ethic. That new ethic is that we are to love one other as Christ loved us. 


Then there is going to be a New Comforter that is going to come – another Comforter that is like Him. The Holy Spirit is going to come. Then there is going to be a new dynamic for the Christian life. That is John 15. That sets the stage. He has it were already cleansed the group of the one unbeliever that was in the group. That's Judas. Now Judas has left and he is going to the Jews and Romans. He is going to betray Christ. 

So while he is gone, then Jesus and the disciples sit there and He begins to instruct them. They get up and they leave and on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane He sees the grape vines. Grape vines grew along the valley there. Now there are graveyards on both sides of the valley – a Muslim graveyard on one side and a Jewish gravesite on the other side.  The Muslims in the 16th century built a large graveyard all alongside the Eastern Wall by the Eastern Gate. First they boarded up and bricked in the Eastern Gate because the Jewish Messiah was supposed to return to the Temple Mount through the Eastern Gate. So they bricked it up so that He couldn't come in. Then of course to just to make sure that He couldn't come in they made it a graveyard. No Jew would be able to come through the graveyard because they would be unclean. He wouldn't be able to go into the temple precinct. They have got it all figured out how to keep Jesus from coming back. Across on the other side, on the Mt. of Olive side there is a Jewish cemetery. They are buried all over Israel (maybe all over the world I am not sure.) with their feet pointed to the Temple so that when the Messiah comes and they are resurrected they will know which way to go to get to the Temple. Don't we have some really silly ideas about death? It is just remarkable. That's the area were John 15 takes place.


Turn in your Bibles with me to John 15.


Remember that we are looking at the analogy that is developed in Hebrews that compares the believer to earth, to soil. The soil receives nourishment from God. It is either going to produce fruit that is profitable (in that passage it is herbs) or it is going to produce thorns and briars. If it produces thorns and briars, then they are going to be burned and they are going to be judged. What we are trying to do is show that this imagery is not unique to that passage in Hebrews. It fits in with the imagery in other fruit production passages related to the spiritual life. We see the same kind of thing going on in John 15.


Let me read through the first six verses so we understand the context. Jesus is talking to the disciples.


NKJ John 15:1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.


You can picture Him standing there by the Eastern Wall of the temple walking down the Kidron Valley seeing a vine there and picking up the vine and then making analogy. 


I think it was Doug Karn who made a comment one night when we were sitting at the restaurant in the hotel in Jerusalem. A lot of people were asking questions about prophecy. Where is Jesus going to come down? What is going to happen here? What is going to happen there? I turned around. There was a huge plate glass window behind me. 


I said, "He is going to come down there then this is what is going to happen there. Then He is cross over there. There is the Eastern Gate." 


Who cares about power point? This was real time imagery there. That's the way the Lord was. He used what was at hand in order to communicate the principles that the disciples needed to learn about the spiritual life for the Church Age.


That's the same imagery that we have in Hebrews 6. Then there is the one who does the cultivating. This is the farmer. In that image the ground is the believer. Here we are going to have a different image. The believer is the branch. 


NKJ John 15:2 "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.


NKJ John 15:3 "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.


NKJ John 15:4 "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.


NKJ John 15:5 "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.


NKJ John 15:6 "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.


We have that same fire imagery again. They are thrown into the fire and burned. What is going on here? What is the Lord teaching in John 15?


Let's look at the first verse.


NKJ John 15:1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.


This is one of 7 famous statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John that are called the "I AM" statements.  Jesus makes 7 of them. 


NKJ John 6:35 And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.


We see that Jesus is pictured as the One who provides life. 


Again He spoke to them saying…


NKJ John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."


NKJ John 8:58 Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."


This indicates that He was full deity.  He was eternally existent.


NKJ John 10:7 Then Jesus said to them again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.


NKJ John 10:9 "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.


He moves from being a door to being a shepherd.


NKJ John 10:11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.


NKJ John 11:25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.


So again and again each of these I AM statements when you put them together they reveal the purpose, the character and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.


NKJ John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.


Then we come to John 15:1.


KJ John 15:1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.


In each of these we get an image of something that Jesus Christ does – something related to His person and to His work. Here He is pictured as the vine that is the intermediate source of nourishment to the branches. Everything ultimately goes to the Father. The vine is the source of nourishment to the branches. If you study viticulture, you study the vine. There are many things that are true that are also true about a tomato vine. Some of you who are also patio farmers or ever had a backyard garden may be able to make some correlation here between a tomato plant and a tomato vine and a grape vine. There are some similarities. 


As we look at this we have to understand the imagery that we find in these first six verses. The vine is a grape vine. It is found all along the Kidron Valley outside of Jerusalem.  As an aspect of God's creation God sovereignly designed the vine so that it would fit certain pedagogical purposes. It didn't just happen. One thing that we know about the vine is that the wood was virtually useless. The vine can grow and become quite thick. The wood is useless. You are not going to take the wood burn it in a fireplace for warmth. You don't want to cook with it. It is not going to provide a particularly pleasant taste for smoked meats. It is basically useless. So it is useless for anything except producing grapes. This is a picture of the believer who is not good for anything except producing fruit - divine good that has eternal value. As we look at the whole aspect of planting a vine, it is the production of the shoot that goes out from the vine that is equivalent to salvation. The production of the shoot shows life and it comes out of the vine. That is the analogy for salvation. 


Another thing that we need to observe when we look at plants is that only a mature plant produces fruit. That is really important. You may not understand the implications of that but you get all kinds of people who want to go around in the Christian life being fruit inspectors. They don't understand how plants work. A plant is a great analogy for the Christian life. Take a beefsteak tomato. A beefsteak tomato takes about a hundred days from the time you plant the seed until it starts producing fruit. There is a lot of growing that takes place - a long time before there is any fruit production. It starts off as a little seed. The seed produces a new life. A little shoot comes out. Then it begins to grow. You have to water it and provide the right kind of soil and nutrients. You have to go down to Home Depot or whatever your favorite garden place is and get Miracle Grow and everything you need so that you can provide the right nourishment for that tomato plant to grow. It will still take 90 to 100 days before it starts producing fruit. There are a lot of things that can happen in that intervening period. If that plant dies, there is no fruit. 


So you can't come along and look at some believer and say "Hmm. I don't see any fruit there."


Fruit comes in maturity. Growth precedes it. That is really important to understand. You goal as a believer is to get through that growth stage. 


You may think, "Golly, I don't see a whole lot of fruit production in my life right now." 


You look at the fruit of the Spirit and Galatians 5 and think. "Come on Holy Spirit, You are slow on the job. I have been going to Bible class for awhile and trying to apply doctrine and to grow."


But it takes time. Only a mature plant produces fruit. So we must distinguish between fruit and the growth process - the production of leaves the production of more stems and branches and the production of blossoms. All of that precedes the production of fruit. Then last of all the quality of the fruit is dependent upon the nourishment of the plant. If it hasn't had the right nourishment, the right nutrients, or enough water then that can stunt the growth of the plant. It is not the fruit production. All of those things are important. 


So Jesus begins.


NKJ John 15:1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.


Verse two is where things start getting a little controversial. 

NKJ John 15:2 "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.


Now if you notice as I just read that from the New King James, it is different from what I read earlier because I corrected the translation when I read it earlier.  There is a lot of debate over whether this should be He takes away or He lifts up. Lifts up is what it should read. 


Let's look at this. This is a lot of fun. There are three types of branches in the passage. The first is a non-fruit bearing branch. Now what is that? Believer or unbeliever? Second you have a fruit bearing branch. Everybody is going to agree that the fruit bearing branch is a believer. Then third there is a non-abiding branch which is discarded into the fire in verse 6. Now the problem that many interpreters have is they want to correlate the nonbinding branch in verse 6 with the branch that doesn't produce fruit in verse 2. That is a fatal interpretive mistake. It is based on the fact that theologians need to be better farmers. Their failure to understand plant growth and the production of grapes in viticulture lies at the root of this. I will show you the basis for why I say this as we go through the passage.


Here is the first option that we looked at in terms of interpretive problems. 


Option #1


Unfruitful means a professing but not a true believer. This is how the passage in interpreted. What I am going to give you here is three different ways people try to understand this passage. Only one of them is right, but you need to understand what I am talking about - where the differences are. There are those who come along and say that unfruitful means a professing but not a true believer. So they are taken away. This is the branch that is unfruitful in verse 2.  He is taken away because he is not truly or genuinely saved. Now you know what I have said about that. Whenever you hear an adverb put in front of saved or faith, then you know that there is a problem. The Bible never qualifies the term faith or salvation. It never qualifies it as true faith vs. false faith. You never find that kind of terminology anywhere in the Scripture. This is the Lordship salvation position and also the position of many Calvinists who hold to what I will call a Lordship view of the 5th point. Remember Calvinism operates on the 5 points of Calvinism - TULIP - Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and the Perseverance of the saints.  There is a view of perseverance of the saints and that is where you get into the problem here. 


Now that view states the following – every true or genuine believer manifests works for fruit that is in keeping with regeneration. According to them the only way you can know that you are saved, the only way you can test or examine your faith, to see if you are truly saved is by the works that you produce. One term that is used for this is experimental Calvinism. You can only know if you are saved by looking at your fruit, your works. If you don't have the works that are in keeping with salvation, then you weren't truly or genuinely saved. If you produce dead works or if your life is characterized by sin then according to this view you are not genuinely or truly saved. People say this all the time. 


They will look at somebody and say, "How could they be a Christian if they did that?"


Wait a minute. Let's go back to the initial principles. Was the "that" – the horrible egregious sin that they did – was that unknown by the omniscience of God in eternity past? No, it was known by the omniscience of God in eternity past. Was the horrible sin that they committed - did that somehow miss the justice of God at the cross. No, because God knew every sin. Therefore His justice could deal with every sin.  Was that sin too great for the love of God or the power of God? No. So we go back to those general principles that I went over at the beginning of the lesson and we realize that there is no sin that is too great for the power of God and the grace of God and the work of Christ on the cross. This is the idea. If you produce certain dead works or produce certain sins, then you were not genuinely saved.   


So according to Lordship Salvation proponents, it is possible to have a faith in Jesus that doesn't save. You can be self-deluded about your salvation. 


You can say, "Well when I was ten years old I walked the aisle at the Baptist Church or I got saved at Christian camp or whatever it is. I thought I believed in Jesus but I have had a lot of problems since then. I got involved in drugs. I was a rebellious teenager or I stole a few cars and got thrown in jail." (Or whatever the story is.) It would make a good country western song. 


How do I know that I am really saved? Maybe it is a false faith in Christ. That is what they will say. 


"Well, you didn't have a true faith in Christ." 


I think one of the most egregious examples of this that I ever heard took place several years back -two or three years at least - when a fine Presbyterian pastor named James Montgomery Boyce who was a pastor of (I think) Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia which was Donald Barnhouse's old church.  If you know Donald Barnhouse he wrote "The Invisible War", one of the finest books on spiritual warfare around. He was a fine dispensationalist and pre-millennial. Boyce was not. Boyce was a 5-point Lordship salvation advocate.  He was dying and he was on his death bed. Everybody knew that death was eminent. At the same time R C Sprowl was conducting one of his Bible conferences with his ministries and he was challenging everybody in the group to continue to pray each night for Dr. Boyce that he would persevere in faithfulness to Christ to the end so that we would know that he was saved. If he renounced Christ or rejected Christ or fell into sin at the end; then it would be a sign that he was not truly saved.  So every night he prayed for Dr. Boyce.  At the end, two or three nights into the conference Dr. Boyce died. 


He said, "Well, he never renounced his faith in Christ so we know that he was saved."


You see in Lordship salvation you never know that you are saved (just like a Roman Catholic) until you die because you may renounce Christ, reject Christ or get involved in long term serious carnality. That shows that you weren't ever saved. John McArthur who pastors a large church out in southern California has written numerous books. He is the foremost pastoral proponent today of Lordship salvation. His books include the "Gospel According to Jesus" and "The Gospel According to Paul".  Some of you have heard me tell this story.  When The Gospel According to Jesus first came out in the late 80's a bookstore owner in Irving where I was pastoring had Dr. McArthur come over and had a pastor's breakfast that morning and had Dr. McArthur speak on the book. He did. Front and center were Tommy Ice and myself.  


When he was through we said, "Well, do you know if you are saved?"


"I am about 99.5% sure that I am saved."


"Can you ever really know that you are saved, truly beyond a shadow of a doubt?"


"No, I can't." 


That is the problem with that position. 


NKJ 1 John 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.


But the Scripture suggests that we can know with certainty and have assurance of our salvation right here and now. 


These folks come along and say, "Well the only way you can know you are saved is by the fruit that you produce."


I would say the only way that you can know that you are saved is because you know the promise of the Scripture related to salvation. Then you put your faith in Christ. Then  you know that you are saved because you did what the Scripture says.


NKJ John 3:18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.


And produced fruit…..Right? Is that what it said? Wake up! No! That is not what it said. 


The only condition in the Gospel of John for salvation is faith in Christ. 


So John writes his gospel with a primary purpose of showing people how they can know that they have eternal life. It is by believing on His name – believing in Christ. While Lordship advocates believe that Christians can sin and fall into some level of carnality. They are not going to stay there. They are not going to renounce Christ, reject Christ. If they are true believers they will persevere until they die.


Over the years I have done a lot of study on this and read a lot of the different arguments. Where do you find the idea that people can have a non-saving faith? In fact this came up the other morning. (I have a pastor's study the last Monday of every month where we have a group of pastors come in and we go over Greek grammar, Bible study methods, exegetical skills, and things like that. They wanted to get me off on other issues like this. So we were talking about this. It just so happens that it fits what we are teaching tonight so I am going over it again) The assumption is that there is evidence in the Scripture of those who believed in Christ, but it wasn't a saving faith. Where would you go to find that? They always go to John 2. Every time you read this in theology they always go to John 2. So turn with me to John 2. John 2 begins with the first of Jesus' signs that He did in Cana of Bethany where He turned water into wine. Then He goes on to Jerusalem to his first Passover in Jerusalem. 


NKJ John 2:23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.


The phrase there that is translated "believed in His name" is episteusan eis to onomaEpisteusan is the aorist tense form of pisteuo, the verb to believe. Eis is the preposition indicating direction or object.  To onoma is the accusative form of the noun for name. The reason I put this up is that this is a phrase that is repeated over and over and over and over again in the Gospel of John related to salvation.  What do you need to do? You need to believe on His name. He uses this verb and this prepositional phrase again and again and again. In fact if you got back into the Old Testament in Genesis 15:6 which we have studied in the past many times, it says...


NKJ Genesis 15:6 And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.


What to you have in the Greek translation of the LXX?  Pisteuo eis. It expresses the object of belief necessary for salvation.  


John 3:18 is another verse in close proximity where we have the salvation formula.


NKJ John 3:18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.


What is the Greek there? It is ha pisteuon eis auton. Here it is a participial form of the verb pisteuoEis is the same preposition. This is a formula that you have all the way through Scripture. It is repeated again later. You have the same phraseology there. So this is the same formula.


Anyone who believes in Him is saved - pisteuo eis.  So how can you say that these folks back in John 2:23 weren't really saved?  The reason that is given is first of all their faith was a watered down faith because it was based on signs. If it is based on miracles it is not as rock solid as a faith that is not.  It sounds good, but what about John 20:31?


NKJ John 20:31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.


What are the "these" – these what? These stories?  No.  If you look at John 20:30 it is talking about the resurrection.  It says…


NKJ John 20:30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;


So that is your noun – signs.


Then it says in the next verse, it says these – these signs. It goes back to the noun in verse 30. It goes on to say that Jesus did many other signs. 


So John wrote his gospel to outline 7 signs Jesus did in His life that would demonstrate that he was the Messiah. If you understood those signs you could believe in Him. So as far as John is concerned belief based on a sign or a miracle is not an inadequate, impotent, diluted faith. It is a salvific faith.


What people do is turn to John 2:24.


NKJ John 2:24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men,


"You see if they were truly and genuinely saved, Jesus would trust them." 


I am not going to embarrass anybody here, but how many of y'all at the moment you need to have a quadruple by pass would trust yourself to a cardiologist solely on the fact that he is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ? Frankly I don't care where he is going to spend eternity as long as he spent a lot of time in time at the best medical school possible so that I come out of this thing alive. The same thing with my car. I don't care whether the guy is going to paradise whether he is looking for 70 virgins or whether he is a Jehovah's Witness. Now Jehovah's Witness are good for car mechanics because they are working their way to heaven. So they will do an extra special job on your car. The point I am making is that just because somebody is a believer doesn't mean they are trustworthy. They may just be a brand new believer and not have enough knowledge yet about the Christian life or the truth or anything else to change their life. They are just a brand new baby. That is what these folks were. Remember He goes to the temple. He has performed miracles and many believed in His name. They are brand new baby believers still operating on the Jewish assumption the Messiah is going to come with a political agenda and defeat the Roman Empire. They still want to use Him on the basis of a false understanding of the role of the Messiah. So He is not going to entrust Himself to them at all because they still want to use Him to further their political agenda even though they are saved. The passage can't be used to say that they weren't saved. There is nothing in the passage to say that they aren't saved. Just because Jesus doesn't commit Himself to them or entrust Himself to them because He knew all men doesn't mean that they aren't saved. It means that they are saved, but they are not trustworthy at this point.


That is the first option. What was the first option again? The first option is that they are not truly, genuinely saved. They are professing believers. That is the key word that you see.  


Now let me point something out here. There are a lot of professing Christians who are not saved. What do I mean by that? Notice the words that I am using here. There are a lot of professing Christians. You have Church of Christ folks who are not getting saved because they have faith plus baptism. They profess that they are Christians, but they are not. You have Roman Catholics who "get saved" by virtue of participating in the sacraments.  Every time they participate in the sacraments, Jesus doles out a little more merit from the Treasury of Merit. They gradually get closer and closer but they never know when they finally arrive. You have other folks who are born in Northern Ireland so by virtue of that they were born there they are Christians. Or they are born to a Christian family in Lebanon or an Arab Christian family, so they are Christians. But it may not mean that they ever heard the gospel – that they ever put their faith alone in Christ alone. So they are a professing Christian. I don't have any doubt and neither should you that there is such a thing as a professing Christian - someone who claims to be a Christian but they are as lost as they can possibly be. But a professing Christian, that terminology is a radically different thing from a professing believer. 


The term professing believer is someone who says, "I profess that I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sin."


That is a big difference. He is not just saying that he is a Christian and he is not. 


He is saying, "I make the claim that I put my trust in Jesus Christ alone for my salvation." 


If somebody has truly put their trust in Christ alone for salvation, they are genuinely saved. That is the condition for salvation. If they professed to believe, then they are saved. There is not a pseudo faith there. We have to be careful how we utilize this terminology. These people are genuinely saved. They are not making a false profession.


You will also hear people say, "There is a difference between a head belief and a heart belief." 


Have you ever heard that one before? That's not biblical. What do you believe with? You believe with your mentality and your volition. With your mentality you understand the gospel. With your volition you choose to believe it. Does that take place in your heart - the physical organ in your chest?  No. It takes place in your soul. If you are making a distinction that you are using heart for a reference to the soul, then where is your soul? That is related to your head because your soul is in your head. So we believe with our minds. It is intellectual. You have to believe with the mentality of the soul.  You have to understand what you believe.  If you don't understand it, how can you believe it? Some of us have done that. Remember backing 9th grade algebra? Or 11th grade chemistry. 


"Okay.  I believe that.  I will write it down on a test."


But, you had no clue what that meant. At least I didn't. That is how I got through freshman chemistry in college. I just wrote down whatever they said. I just memorized it. I had no idea what it meant. You can't believe something that you don't understand. You may regurgitate it, but you can't believe it. Belief means that you understand it and accept it as true. That is the first option.


Option #2


This is the Arminian option. They don't live over in Eastern Turkey. Arminians are those who follow the teaching of James Arminius who was originally a Dutch Reformed theologian.  He was trained by Theodore Beza who was Calvin's successor and a systematizer of Calvin's theology. Then as he studied the Word he came to certain conclusions that differed from Beza and Calvin with reference to predestination, election and security. He never doubted the security of the believer. Some of his followers did. His followers are called Arminians. They believe that you can lose your salvation. They interpret this passage as loss of salvation. The unfruitful branch meaning it loses salvation. I don't believe that these two positions are what this is talking about. 


Option #3


The third position is the one that we will develop. That is the view that unfruitful Christians are the ones that don't abide in Christ. Unfruitful Christians will experience divine discipline in time and lose rewards in eternity. That's what John 15 is talking about – how to grow and mature as a believer so that you have a productive fruitful spiritual life. The key is to abide in Christ. 


NKJ John 15:7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.


The next key phrase that we have to look at is very important for understanding the passage.


There are two ways to understand this phrase, "in Me". Who is speaking?  Jesus is speaking. Christ is speaking. Many people think that "in Me" is the same thing as Paul's later phrase, "in Christ". I don't agree with that. I don't think that is right based on usage in John. This phrase "in Me" is used 16 times in the New Testament. When the figure involves Persons in the Godhead it always speaks of a true and genuine relationship that is fellowship, not merely a positional reality.


Let's look at our chart. We have eternal realities and temporal realities. One the left side we have a circle indicating our positional truth, our position in Christ. At the instant of faith alone in Christ alone you are entered into your position in Christ through the baptism by means of the Holy Spirit.  At the same time on a day-to-day basis we are either in fellowship or not in fellowship. We are in and out of fellowship. Fellowship has to do with our rapport with God. Positional reality has to do with a legal position unrelated to rapport. You can't talk about Jesus' relationship with the Father in terms of position because he always has perfect rapport with the Father. That is what this is talking about when we have the phraseology "in Me". Jesus uses it in several passages.


NKJ John 10:38 "but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him."


You see it is relational. It is fellowship. It is not talking about a legal position. It is talking about the actual relational reality of the Father and the Son.


NKJ John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."


If you are not abiding in Him, you aren't going to have peace if you are operating on carnality. In this passage it is talking about relationship or fellowship.


NKJ John 17:21 "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.


NKJ John 17:22 "And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:


The "in Me" is relational here. So Jesus is praying that believers will have that same rapport with the Father that He has with the Father. So when we look at this don't make the mistake of thinking that "in Me" is the same as "in Christ." Paul is the one who uses the terminology "in Christ" and Paul is the one who develops the doctrine of positional truth. Paul doesn't get saved for about another 5-6 years and doesn't start writing for another 15 to 20 years. So the terminology "in Christ" doesn't get developed yet. So "in Christ" as a positional reality wouldn't have made any sense to them. But they did understand the relational reality in the fellowship of the Son with the Father because of the many things that Jesus has said up to this point. 


That is relational, not positional. Positional would mean he is talking about salvation. Here he is talking about relationship or fellowship.That is going to become the key to understanding the dynamics of spiritual growth in John 15.


Let us close in prayer.