Hebrews Lesson 68 September 21, 2006
NKJ Matthew 11:28 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
We are in Hebrews, but we won't be there for long. So let's orient again. Hebrews 6:7-8 has this illustration about the fruitfulness of the believer and we have to understand what the Bible means when it talks about the fruitfulness of the believer and why fruitfulness is important. We have to understand what it is and what it isn't, what it is good for and what it is not good for. God did not call us to be fruit inspectors, but to be students of the Word abiding in Him so that He can produce fruit in us. So we have an illustration in Hebrews 6.
Hebrews 6:7-8 is in the midst of a section dealing with a warning passage against believers who have completely fallen away or on the verge of completely falling away and how dangerous that is. Then there is this illustration.
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.
The focus is on two things - fruit production (or the production of the plant) and the end results (blessing or cursing both in time and eternity). We have looked at the symbols there and seen that the earth is the believer. The rain represents the provision of God – the Word of God and the Spirit of God. The herbs represent the production of good fruit or divine good that has eternal quality to it. The thorns and thistles are the production of evil, sin and human good. The cultivator is God. God is the one ultimately producing the fruit. It is not ourselves. It is not our own efforts that produce the fruit. We are to be in right relationship with God the Holy Spirit. We are to be walking with the Spirit, abiding in Christ, dependent upon the Word of God, taking in the Word of God, applying the Word of God. When we are doing that, then it is the Holy Spirit who takes that in an unseen invisible way and He produces growth and maturity in us leading to the production of fruit. So we are going through the passages. Now these passages are all important because we have to recognize that the Word of God doesn't tell us everything there is to say about any particular topic or subject or doctrine in any one verse. So we take different key passages where some was revealed here, some was revealed there, and some more was revealed over there. We start putting these together to create a clear understanding of the entirety of doctrine. So we moved from Hebrews 6:7 to begin our study in John 15:1-6.
In John 15 we saw that there were three types of branches. There were the non-fruit bearing branches that were to be lifted up. That is the corrected translation – not cut off, but lifted up. These represent young believers that are nurtured so that they can produce fruit in coming years as they mature. Then there were the fruit bearing branches that were pruned for greater fruit production. This represents discipline in the positive sense of the word, not discipline in the sense of punitive punishment. (That's kind of redundant isn't it?) It is not punitive discipline. It is productive discipline, teaching us to be disciplined in the Christian life and to do away with that which is not productive. Then the third was the non abiding branches which were pruned, completely removed, discarded as useless which is a picture of divine discipline on the believer in time even to the extent of the sin unto death.
We saw secondly that the goal in John 15 is fruit production. The believer is to abide. Some 6 times that word is used – to abide. Several times the word fruit is used. That is the goal – fruit production.
NKJ John 15:8 "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
So you will become. That is in the process of becoming something that you weren't before. We saw that there were truly three different stages of fruit production mentioned there - those who bore fruit, those who produced more fruit, and those who bore much fruit. We see the same kind of thing in Matthew 13 which we will look at a little more this evening. Believers produce fruit in different levels.
So the goal is fruit production. The third thing we saw is that the sole and necessary condition for fruit production is abiding in John 15. You have 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.
There is doctrine.
It's not just a feel good thing. It is not a subjective or psychological thing. It is based upon the Word of God comprehended, studied, understood. You can't believe what you don't understand. You can't understand what you haven't thought about. That is why the Old Testament talked about meditation all the time.
Furthermore we learned from this that this (the fourth point) abiding is not some subjective or psychological state; but is related to doctrine in the believer - leading to the fifth point that abiding is not simply a positional reality or and abstract doctrine. It is manifest in an ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ as indicated through prayer. There is the two-way communication. God speaks to us through His Word. We speak to God in prayer. It is two people as it were - two persons. God is a person. He has the ability to communicate. We are people. We are designed for fellowship for intimacy with God. The term abide emphasizes this intimate ongoing relationship of the believer. The relationship as I have said already isn't based on subjective impressions or subjective criterion of having a close walk with Jesus or feeling like you are closer to Jesus because you have sung a lot of Christian choruses and everybody had a good time standing up and stomping their feet and clapping their hands and swaying to the music and enjoying the beat. But it is because you follow clear markers in Scripture to indicate you are abiding in Christ.
NKJ John 15:10 "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.
If we disobey, we are not abiding in His love. Are we out of the family now? No. Are we in the wood shed? Yes. That is such an old saying. There has got to be something new, but I don't think that parents today discipline kids. So I don't know what the contemporary idiom would be. Are you having a time out? Somehow it just doesn't communicate, does it? You sinned and you are going to have a spiritual time out. It just doesn't work. You see God built these things into the whole framework. You have got to have corporal discipline.
If you don't keep His commandments, you don't abide in His love. You have to know the commandments to keep them. You have to come to Bible class to learn them. You have to study the Word, read the Word, know what they are, and be reminded of them. It doesn't just happen.
The overriding mandate throughout this whole section and I have pointed out is love. Jesus gave us the commandment that we are to love one another…
NKJ John 15:12 "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
That was based on the new commandment in John 13:34-35. Love is not marked by feelings, not by emotion, not by feelings of warmth and rapport; but by objective standards of doing what the Word of God says to do. People can get legalistic about it and they can be doing what the Word of God says to do and there is no relationship. You have to be careful not to go too far to the other extreme. Love is measured by keeping the commandments. This leads to the production of fruit. As I have said already the sole and necessary condition to produce fruit in John 15 is abiding in Christ.
Now we go to Galatians 5 which tells what the fruit of the Spirit is. This is a comprehensive list but it is not an exhaustive list.
NKJ Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
NKJ Galatians 5:23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
That means it gives us a lot but it doesn't tell us everything there is to say about fruit. But what I want you to notice as we go through this study tonight is that fruit in the Bible is character. It is the virtues of the Christian life. It is not external behavior. It is not witnessing. If you grow up in some Christian contexts fruit is pretty much defined as how many people you witnessed to this week – how many people you lead to the Lord. If you didn't lead 5 people to the Lord this week, you aren't producing any fruit. But when we go through the Scripture that's not really how the Bible uses the term fruit in relation to the Christian life. It's character transformation. Again and again and again it has to do with what happens on the inside as God the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and uses it in the soul of the believer to produce the character of Jesus Christ.
So we went from John 15 to Luke 8 last time. We went to Luke 8. That was the parable of the soils. Just to give you a brief review to help you get it back in your head, we had the story of the sower who comes along and casts the seed. The seed represents message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. The seed lands on four different kinds of soil. What we learned from this again is that not all Christians bear fruit. Some don't bear fruit. There is growth but there is no fruit. We saw that the seed produces a plant. When the seed falls on three types of soil, it produces some kind of growth. It is only the first soil where the path is trampled and the seed is taken by the birds that it is not a believer. The other three examples include the rocky soil. We saw that the seed germinates; it grows. It generates. It sprouts. There is life, but it withers because of the lack of moisture. There is clearly birth, the beginning of life. It hears. It received the Word with joy. It is the same thing said in Mathew. "Believes for awhile." That is not said in Matthew, but Luke makes it clear that that is what is meant by receiving the joy.
But it fails under temptation.
Then we have the second kind of soil, where the seed falls amongst the thorns. Again it is choked out but for the seed to be choked out there has to be germination and some growth. Then it is choked out. This is choked out by the details of life – distractions. This represents the person who receives the message of the kingdom but there is some growth but not much growth. There is no fruit production because it is choked out by the thorns. There are too many distractions in life and this is the person who never gets very far in his spiritual growth. Then it is the last soil where we have fruit produced.
What makes the difference is the kind of soil. The message is, what kind of soil are you? In other words, what is your volition toward the Word of God? That makes the difference. Now what I want to do before we go on (I keep threatening that we will go to Ephesians 5, but I keep finding other passages to go to.) Let's go to Matthew 13. I just want to point out a couple of things here. You may not realize it (Some of you do because you have been around awhile) but many of these passages that I am talking about are also at the heart of the debate that goes back and forth over the nature of gospel, assurance of salvation, and what is known as the debate between the free grace gospel verses lordship salvation.
Lordship salvation in essence says that the way you know you are saved is because of the fruit that comes out in your life. Of course all of these passages that deal with fruit would come to play in that debate. Their argument is if you want to know if you are really saved, if there has been regeneration that has taken place, it's going to produce fruit in your life. If you don't see the fruit, then you weren't truly saved. You weren't genuinely saved. You didn't have saving faith.
On the other hand the free grace gospel says, "No we have to make a distinction between justification which happens when you believed and received the gospel and sanctification which is the spiritual life."
This debate goes back a long time into history. It has taken different forms in different groups. I think I pointed this out before that at the time of the Reformation beginning in 1517 and in those early years, Luther did not grasp justification by faith alone in all the ways he did a little later on, right at first. But he was close. Those of you who go shooting catch the metaphor. He was on the paper. He might not have been in the bull's eye or on the black but he was at least on the paper. He had a young sharp student by the name of Phillip Melangthon who was really the man who formulated and systematized Luther's theology. Melangthon had a crisp clear understanding of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. At the instant of faith in Christ we received Christ's righteousness and God imputes that righteousness to us. On the basis of the possession of Christ's righteousness we are declared just by God. It is not that we are just. It is not "just as if I never sinned" which you will hear some people express. It is on the basis of the possession of Christ's righteousness that you are declared righteousness. It is not that you are made righteous. That is an important distinction.
In Roman Catholic theology there is this confusion between justification by faith and sanctification so that justification is the process of being made righteous. So in Roman Catholic theology justification isn't a point in time, a slice of a nanosecond when all of those things happen that Christ's righteousness is imputed to you. God the Father looks on that righteousness and declares you to be righteous because you have received Christ's righteousness - justification by faith alone. When we talk about sanctification and spiritual growth that's what Roman Catholics mean by justification. You see they have confused that. For them justification is a process. How do you know you are justified? Because you look at the morality in your life and the religion in your life and the good works in your life. If that's not there, then you need to go get some more grace. After Luther and then later Calvin began to teach a true crisp unadulterated doctrine of justification by faith alone, the reaction from the Roman Catholic Church was that if you teach these things - that all a person has to do is trust in Christ to be saved and they will be saved and they can't lose it - then what is it to encourage them to be moral and law-abiding and to be good people. You have just taken away all of the motivation for that. You have to load them up with guilt.
When I was in Connecticut people understood this because Connecticut had a population that was about 70% Roman Catholic. Nearly every one in Preston City Bible Church came out of a Catholic background. If I said Catholic guilt, they knew exactly what I was talking about. That is where that term comes from because you have to put this load of guilt on people otherwise they won't keep doing what is right; you can't control them. They are so afraid that if you tell people that they are saved by grace that they will become licentious and just go out and do whatever they want to however they want to. You can't control them any more.
So by the end of his career a guy whose name is Dave Anderson who pastors is very good in this area. Dave has done some tremendous work. In this he shows in an article published in the GES a few years ago how in Calvin's later editions of his institutes (which is what we have published today) that he goes through a change. He begins to try to answer this objection from the Roman Catholics and he slips into lordship view of perseverance of the saints - that if you don't show fruit you weren't really saved. That begins to develop within Calvin's thought and later it entered into reform theology and it's been this debate that has gone on down through the centuries. Is a person purely and simply saved by faith alone in Christ alone? If they believed the gospel such that they truly understand the propositions that Christ died for their sins they understand that they can't do anything for their salvation. They understand that Christ paid it all. All they have to do is receive it as a gift, believe in Christ, accept His substitutionary death for them and that is all they need to do to be saved, that if they live like the devil for the rest of their lives, are they still saved? If the answer to that is yes, you understand grace. But if the answer to that is no, then you are starting to muddy the water a little bit and you are confusing fruit production with germination and the beginning of the plant. That is what we are really dealing with here. Matthew 13 – the parable of the soils and Luke 8 are parallel passages and that is where you get into a lot of the debate. But I wanted to come back to this and point out something that I think we need to pay attention to.
In Matthew 13 just like in Luke you have four responses to the gospel message. The parable begins in verse 3.
NKJ Matthew 13:3 Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: "Behold, a sower went out to sow.
NKJ Matthew 13:4 "And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.
NKJ Matthew 13:5 "Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth.
See there is life. There is germination. There is some growth - a little bit.
NKJ Matthew 13:6 "But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.
NKJ Matthew 13:7 "And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.
NKJ Matthew 13:8 "But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
That's comparable to John 15 – fruit, more fruit and much fruit. There are different percentages of fruit production.
Then there is a challenge – the disciples in 10-17 say…
NKJ Matthew 13:10 And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?"
So Jesus is explaining that. Then he comes back to explain the parable in verse 18. Now the thing to understand about Matthew 13 that you don't have in Luke 8 is that in Matthew 13 you have a series of parables that build upon one another. There is interconnectiveness to these parables so that the symbols in one help you understand and interpret the next parable because he doesn't interpret all of the parables for you. So you are supposed to be able to apply your thought to this and put things together. The only thing I am concerned about right now is these first two parables.
So he starts to explain them. It is the same explanation that we have over in Luke 8.
NKJ Matthew 13:19 "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.
NKJ Matthew 13:20 "But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;
This is similar terminology to Luke 8. He is a believer. He just had a little growth before. He doesn't have any sustenance. He withers up and is gone. He has no root in himself.
NKJ Matthew 13:21 "yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.
NKJ Matthew 13:22 "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
Then we have the explanation of the fourth one.
Now what I want you to note here is that on the second soil the soil in the rock ground and the seed falls on the rocky ground and it germinates – what is that seed producing? Is it producing the same kind of plant that is produced in verse 23 that bears fruit? It is the same kind of plant or is it a different kind of plant? It is the same kind of plant. The only difference between the two is the soil. One is on good soil; one is on soil that is rocky so it doesn't produce any in depth root so it doesn't grow to maturity. But it is the same plant. Now what we learn about this is that the plant that is being talked about here is wheat. The point I am making is that what you have in the parable of the soils is all related to the three that produce some kind of growth are all wheat. You don't see the introduction of the professing or the pseudo Christian until the next parable.
NKJ Matthew 13:24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;
It is the same man sowing the same good seed. The good seed is the gospel of the kingdom.
NKJ Matthew 13:25 "but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.
Now you are introduced to another kind of plant. This is the pseudo-Christian. Not a pseudo-believer. Remember I talked about that a few weeks ago. We have to keep that clear. There are people who come along and say well, there are folks who have a false faith in Jesus or just profess to believe in Jesus. There is a difference. We have to be very careful here. There is a difference between saying you profess to believe in Jesus and you profess to say you are a Christian. If I claim (that is what profess means) to believe in Jesus; then that is a statement. Unless I am lying I am telling the truth. If I believe in Jesus; I believe in Jesus. If I say, "I am a Christian." I may or may not be a Christian. I may not understand the gospel at all. I may just be part of a denomination that considers itself a Christian denomination. They may be liberal. They may hold to a moral view of the atonement. They may hold to a works salvation. They may hold to baptismal regeneration. It is just a profession of being a Christian. But if I say I believe in Jesus, unless I am totally self deceived and I don't know what I believe we have to take that to be true. They understand the gospel and they believe in Jesus.
It is not until the second parable that we have the introduction of the pseudo-Christian. I am not going to say pseudo-believer. There is no category for that in the Scripture. The only way that they are identified - the tares are identified and these are sown by the enemy. They are not sown by the man with the good seed. It is a different seed. So what we have in the parable of the sower is this is all the seed of the gospel that produces all of those plants. So those all have to be believers - the rocky soil, the thorny soil and the good soil. It is not until the second parable that we have the introduction of a false counterfeit plant into the field.
So what we have established so far is that not all Christians bear fruit. Some all you have is growth. You have a little stem production and that is about it. Those that grow to maturity produce fruit at different levels. Some produce 100-fold, 60-fold and 30-fold. Matthew 13 and Luke 8 both emphasize this and I think if we are honest with the vocabulary that is used there, then the three soils all represent believers.
Now let's look at another passage that fruit production from a different perspective.
Now let's look at James 1:18
NKJ James 1:18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
There is the active element at regeneration. God uses intermediate means to bring about regeneration. It is the word of truth, the message of the gospel that Jesus Christ died on the cross for us that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. So verse 18 is talking about regeneration. That is where salvation comes into this discourse in this part of James. Then he shifts. That is the last thing he says in the introduction. Then in verse 19 and 20 he starts to make the shift to set up the rest of the book.
NKJ James 1:19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;
"My beloved brethren" is a term that is used to refer to believers. He uses it many times in this epistle and he emphasizes the fact that he is addressing them as believers, as regenerate believers.
That is the outline of the book of James. You have an introduction in vs. 1-18. In 19 down through the end of chapter 2 you have a section that expounds on the idea of what it means to be swift to hear. Chapter 3 deals with slow to speak and the sins of the tongue. Then starting toward the end of chapter 3 you have a section on mental attitude sins and on wisdom of the world versus the wisdom of God. This deals with mental attitude sins summarized by the term anger or wrath here in verse 19.
NKJ James 1:20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
That's what we are after – production of the righteousness of God. This isn't righteousness for justification. This isn't imputed righteousness because he is already talking about the fact that they are saved. They were justified, (let's clarify my terminology here).
NKJ James 1:18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
That's when they are justified – when they are regenerated. That all happened in a moment in time. It all happens simultaneously. Regeneration and justification all take place at the instant of faith alone in Christ alone. Now we are going to talk about post salvation experiential righteousness as God is going to build maturity into the life of the believer and produce experiential righteousness which is part of the fruit of spiritual growth. We will see that as we go through.
Therefore he says…
NKJ James 1:21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
I love the Old King James – "superfluity of naughtiness." Just ask somebody what that means. Meditate on that in your morning devotions!
It is a great term. It is difficult to translate the Greek. It literally means the excess in your life which sin is. Sin is an excess in your life. It is not necessary. That is the same thing Paul says over in I Corinthians…
NKJ 1 Corinthians 6:20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.
In Romans 6 he says that…
NKJ Romans 6:2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
Sin is superfluous now. It is an excess. Sin in not necessary. Before you were saved you had no choice but to sin. Everything you did came out of the sin nature. Human good came out of the sin nature. Morality came out of the sin nature. Everything came out of the sin nature. Some of the most evil people in the world today are not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Hugo Chavez. I mean these people are evil, but they are not anything compared to some of the folks in this country. I mean you think about some of the folks in this country who are moral and religious. I could name you a couple of pastors who I am convinced that they are not saved. Boy, do they have a huge influence. They have no belief in a substitutionary atonement of Christ, no belief in sin. One of them is out in Southern California and he believes that Christ died so that you could have a good self-image. He wrote a whole book on it called Self Esteem, the New Reformation. This is real evil. This is worse than any of the violent evil of the Islamic terrorists. That is a different kind of evil. I think that the worst evil is the kind that comes masquerading in religion or comes masquerading in morality and comes with all kinds of wonderful social programs and handouts and everything else with simply the veneer of religion or Christianity.
So God is producing righteousness in the believer. There is a pre-condition for this though. That is what is interesting about looking at James 1:21 because it looks in your English Bible as if you have two imperatives there - lay aside and receive. Right? That is what it looks like in your English. Actually in the Greek you don't. You have one aorist imperative which is, "receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your souls". Now they are already justified. Aren't they? Didn't we say that already? They are justified. So when it talks about receiving the implanted word which is able to save your souls, it is not talking about getting justified. These folks are already justified. They are "my beloved brethren."
Hold your place right there and we are going to have sword drill time. Turn over to Romans 5.
NKJ Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Right now according to that verse what are we? Having now been justified. Just think a little bit. What are we right now? We are justified. Present tense. Right? Having now been justified. That "now" is a big word.
"We shall be saved." Now what tense do you think that is? That's future tense. Does that mean we can be justified and not saved? That doesn't fit American superficial evangelical terminology which says that always asks the question, "Brother are you saved? We don't use the word "saved" in the same way the Bible uses the word saved most of the time. Sometimes sozo is a synonym for justification, but in many cases sozo is related to the post justification life or it's related to the future glorification life. So you have to look at the context to find out. In Romans the word sozo to my knowledge never refers to justification. That is not the word Paul uses getting righteousness and being able to enter into heaven. In his vocabulary in Romans he will ask people, "Are you justified?"
If you are justified, then we will be saved. It is future tense. So I just want you to understand that what I am saying here in James 1 about "receiving the implanted word which is able to save your souls" is we're not talking about justification here, we are talking about what happens now that you are justified. You have to receive the implanted Word and that will save you. It is an aorist command. But what is interesting in the Greek is you have something called a participle of attended circumstance. I just love these terms.
You don't have a clue what that means. What that means – if you go to the grammars they will say that there are 5 characteristics you look for grammatically in a sentence structure to know if you have a participle of attended circumstance. You got them here. You've got an aorist participle that precedes an aorist imperative and a number of other things that are going on in the text. What it basically means is that the aorist participle lays down the conditions that must come antecedently, preceding the mandate. In other words before you can receive "the Word that is able to save your soul" you have to lay aside filthiness and the excess that sin is. Does that mean that I have to quit sinning before I can get saved? If that's true then we are all lost. So we are not talking about that. What we are talking about here is that one little word that we use a lot - confession. It is confession. It is the same structure as a matter of fact that you have over in 1 Peter 2:1. In 1 Peter 2:1 you have the command…
NKJ 1 Peter 2:1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking,
It is the same word. It is like taking off an old set of dirty clothes.
NKJ 1 Peter 2:2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,
Before you can desire the sincere milk of the Word and grow by it, what do you have to do? You have to go through that process of cleansing from sin, which comes as a result of confession. 1 John 1:9. So you see all of those ties together. Before you can start receiving the Word implanted which is able to deliver us. Remember the three stages of sanctification or three stages of salvation. We are saved from the penalty of sin when we put our faith alone in Christ alone. We are saved from the power of sin during our Christian life. We are saved from the presence of sin and glorification. What did I say happens during sanctification? We are saved from the power of sin so that since we died to sin we don't have to obey sin anymore. That is Romans 6. So James 1:21 is saying that we have to receive the implanted word which is able to save your life. The word here for soul is pseuche. This word is saving your life. Jesus said…
NKJ John 10:10 "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
How do I get that life? You get that life by being cleansed from sin and then receiving the implanted word which is able to save you life which is able to save you from the power of sin on a day-to-day basis. Then he goes on to develop from verse 23 on the emphasis on hearing the Word.
NKJ James 1:23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;
By doer, he means applier. You come to Bible class and you hear you are to pray without ceasing. You go home and you don't pray for three weeks. Have you been applying the Word? No. You see you are a hearer and not a doer. That is what it means doer is in Christian service. Doing is application of the Word of God. So this is where we see the production of fruit coming in at that point. In the implanted word in verse 21 it is the seed that grows up and produces fruit. It is that same imagery that is used there that buys into that whole fruit production metaphor that we find throughout Scripture. Now what are some other passages that have to do with fruit production?
Let's look at a couple of them.
NKJ Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
This isn't legalism. Legalism says that by doing good, by being moral we please God and gain His approbation. That's not what this is talking about. This is talking about that within the context of divine discipline in the life of the believer; the believer learns to be obedient, to abide in Christ and to be filled with the Spirit. As you take in the Word of God and let the Word of God abide in you, then it produces fruit. Part of that fruit it produces is personal evangelism, right? (I just wanted to see if anybody was listening.) It is righteousness. This is experiential righteousness. This isn't imputed righteousness. So then we have other verses that back this up. For example…
NKJ Colossians 1:10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
This is obviously post salvation.
Isn't that an interesting word? It just hit me - increasing in knowledge of God. I wonder how many Christians there are that this year can say they know more about God and they know God better than they did a year ago. That is part of growth. It has a consequence of producing fruit in divine good.
NKJ Philippians 1:10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,
NKJ Philippians 1:11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
The flip side of that is you don't approve the things that are not excellent.
I remember years ago hearing one of my seminary professors saying to us as pastors, "Men the biggest challenge that you are going to face as pastors is not choosing between the good and the sinful. It is going to be between choosing the good and the excellent."
Don't get distracted by things that are fine and fun and good that keep you from the pursuit of the excellent in your Christian life. That is what Paul is saying here.
It is experiential righteousness. It is divine good and it is living a life that is consistent with the righteous standards of God. He sets out the protocols for living the Christian life throughout the New Testament. That defines his standards – living consistent with those standards – standards for the royal family of God.
Back to James. We have come full circle.
NKJ James 3:18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
The gospel again is pictured as a seed. As it grows it matures. As it is watered and fertilized; its fruit is righteousness. It sort of gives us a framework in talking about fruit.
Now let's go to another key passage on fruit. Before we can get to Galatians 5, which will tie it all together, we need to look at Ephesians 5. So what we have done is tie John 15, Luke 8, James 1, and now Ephesians 5 and then Galatians 5. These are the critical passages.
Now remember Ephesians is Paul's classic concise explanation of the church and the Church Age. Ephesians is a great book that one day we will get to. It's so easy to understand because the first three chapters deal with doctrine. This is who God is and what He has done for you in salvation. Then the last three chapters are in light of the doctrine this is what you do. It's almost like a sermon. When we take two years to get through the first three chapters, some how we forget how the last three chapters relate because we are dealing with all of this great doctrine in the first three chapters. The doctrine always leads to the real practical stuff. The practical stuff is good. A lot of people want to jump there, but you can't understand what it means to love one another, you can't understand what it means for husbands to love their wives and wives to submit to your husbands if you don't think in the framework of the first tree chapters. These wonderful, practical commands that relate to husbands, wives, parents, children that come in the 5th chapter are based on an understanding of the first three chapters. If you don't understand that doctrinal foundation, then you end up (which is what happens in too many churches today) preaching too many "how to" sermons on how to have a good marriage, how to keep your checkbook balanced, how to raise good kids. It's nice stuff. It's not wrong stuff. But guess what. Because it is divorced from the doctrinal foundation, it ends up being nothing more than preaching morality. People don't understand why they are doing what they are doing any more they are just doing moral things. Then end up trying to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps in their spiritual lives. So we will go to Ephesians 5 which is the second chapter of the application section.
He starts to remind them of their position in verse 8 so he can challenge them to application after that.
NKJ Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
What is he talking about here? What we call positional truth – our position in Christ. Before we were justified, we were children of darkness. We were in the kingdom of Satan and kingdom of darkness. In Colossians Paul says,
NAS Colossians 1:13 For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
So when he says "you were once darkness", this is what characterized you as an unbeliever. You were in darkness no matter how smart you were, no matter how high your IQ was, no matter how moral you were, you were in darkness. But now you are light in the Lord, positionally.
Then he has a command. Walk is a present imperative. This is to characterize your life as standard operating procedure.
Some of you may have used this example when you were a parent or maybe you heard it when you were a kid.
Your father said, "You are a member of this family and if you are going to be a member of this family you are not going to act like that. You are going to act like this."
That is what Paul is saying here. Now you are light in the Lord. You are a member of the royal family. That means you have to live a certain way. You can't live like you did before because there has been a shift that has taken place. You have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son. So you can't live like you used to live because you are not who you used to be. You are somebody new. You are children of light, so walk as children of light.
I want you to notice the contrast. I will come back to verse 9 in just a minute. I have to set you up for something. We have this juxtaposition between light and darkness – absolute states. You were once darkness. Now you are light. Walk as light, not as darkness.
NKJ Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
NKJ Ephesians 5:13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.
NKJ Ephesians 5:14 Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light."
So there is a heavy emphasis all through this section on light.
Now somewhere back in the late 200's (late third century AD) a textual variant (that means another word) slipped into the text. So in some manuscripts we find "for the fruit of the light" in verse 9 "is in all goodness, righteousness and truth". But the majority of documents have Spirit there. Three of the uncials (some of the oldest documents) support one another that the reading should be "light" and not spirit. I call them the big four because there are four of the oldest manuscripts. If they all agree then people who believe oldest is right go with that. But it is a split witness – three against one. One of the oldies agrees with the majority text that the reading here should be Spirit and not light.
People who look at things like this have various rules. One of the rules is that you should take the harder reading. It seems to me that the reading that would be harder here would be Spirit because light is used in juxtaposition to all the way through it would be easy to see how a scribe would come along and say well it would make more sense fruit of the light rather than fruit of the Spirit. I am just going to write that in the margin. Then the next thing you know it is copied in. So I believe that as you have in the King James and New King James, which is based on the TR but the TR is related to the majority text, that it is fruit of the Spirit here. But in either case they are used synonymously in many places in Scripture so we shouldn't get too caught up one way or the other. This production of the Spirit which is a production of walking in the light is defined as goodness (divine good) intrinsic good, righteousness and truth – veracity and integrity. This is what is produced when the believer is walking in the light. Of course if the believer is walking in the light he also walking by the Spirit and abiding in Christ. All of these terms for walking are synonymous to one another. What we see here in Ephesian 5 is this juxtaposition between two absolute conditions - you are either in the light or in darkness. You are either foolish or you are wise.
Skip down to verse 15.
NKJ Ephesians 5:15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,
You see you are either walking as fools or walking as wise. You can't be a little bit of both. You have a tendency today from a lot of people to say it is done a little bit by the Spirit and a little bit by the flesh. But I don't believe that. It is either one or the other.
Galatians 5 makes it very clear. We will see that next time.
NKJ Ephesians 5:16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
NKJ Ephesians 5:17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
NKJ Ephesians 5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
It's an instrumental dative there indicating that the means of spirituality is going to be in one case is wine and in the other case is spirit. You will mostly hear people talk about when you are under the influence of alcohol it controls you. We talk about influence or control. I think these are confusing terms. Control would indicate that you don't have any volition. Influence is a better term, but the emphasis here is on the instrumentality. In other words you are using wine to get spiritual. That is what was happening in Ephesus. One of the gods that they worshipped in Ephesus was Dionysius. He was the god of wine. So if you wanted to get close to the god of wine, guess what you did. You went out and drank wine until you got so drunk that the spirit of the god would enter into you and speak through you in ecstatic utterance. Gee, tongues. Wow! See how all of this relates? You get a bunch of pagans coming out of a pagan Greek background hearing terminology that is similar to some of the stuff that was going on in their pagan background and they started assimilating it instead of making radical distinction. So what Paul is saying the way to be spiritual is not by means of wine, which is what you are doing on the weekend going up and dancing around with all the priestesses, but it is to be filled by means of the Spirit. The Spirit is the means. It is not the content. If we were talking about the content, we would use the genitive there. But it uses an instrumental dative, which means something completely different.
I can say, "Fill my coffee cup with coffee."
I use the English preposition with. The content of filling is the coffee.
Or I can say, "Fill up my mug with that pitcher."
Then the pitcher is the means of filling it. When you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit you have got all the Holy Spirit you are ever going to get at the instant of salvation. You don't get anymore. You don't get filled up with any more. But you are either going to be filled up with something by the Spirit or you are not. Look at the result.
You are filled by means of the Spirit. What are the results?
NKJ Ephesians 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,
NKJ Ephesians 5:20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Then it talks about wives submitting to your husbands, husbands loving their wives and fathers raising up your children.
Flip over to the parallel book, which is Colossians. The command there is…
NKJ Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
What are the results?
Have we heard that before? Yeah, we just heard it. It is the result of being filled by means of the Spirit.
Didn't we just hear that? Yeah we just heard that. It is the result of being filled with the Spirit.
Wait a minute. Here it is the result of letting the word of Christ dwelling in you. If A produces X behavior and B also produces X behavior, there has to be a relationship between A and B. In other words the filling by means of the Spirit is talking about one aspect. The letting the word of Christ dwell in you is the other aspect. The Holy Spirit fills you with something. You are filled by means of something, but what are you filled with? You are filled with the Word of God. So when we are in right relationship to the Holy Spirit, the dynamic, the sanctification dynamic, that is filling us with His word, is operational. As we abide in Christ and walk by the Spirit it produces fruit, but when we sin and we grieve and quench the Spirit it stifles that ministry and there is no filling and growing. He is not taking the Word and filling our lives with it. So there is no growth and no fruit production. That brings us up to Galatians 5.
I will go over this again next week because it is so important and critical to understand how these passages all fit together. Then we will wrap up this side trail on fruit production up in Galatians 5.