Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Thought On The Church

In Matthew 21, the Lord leaves Bethany and heads towards Jerusalem.  This is about a day and a half before He would go to the Garden, where He would be crucified.  There in Matthew, as He teaches near the Temple, He uses a parable (vs. 33-46).
In this parable, He uses a vineyard.  My best summary of the parable is that a man plants a vineyard, hedges it, digs a winepress in it, builds a tower, and leaves it under the responsibility of husbandmen.
When fruit should have been ready, the man sends his servants to the husbandmen to receive the fruit.  The husbandmen beats one servant, stones another, and kills another, and continues to do so as servants were sent.  Finally, the man sends his own son to the vineyard expecting the husbandmen to reverence his son.  They do not, but rather in rebellion seize him, cast him out, and finally slays him.
The Lord then asks in His teaching, "When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?"  They all answer to the Lord, "He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons."
According to verse 45, the chief priests and Pharisees knew that Jesus was speaking of them.  God had planted His vineyard, Israel, in the promised land (Isaiah 5), and had hedged it, dug a winepress in it, built a tower and left it under the responsibility of men-Pharisees and chief priests.  These men had neglected their duties and led Israel astray, rejecting God's servants (prophets, judges, teachers) and would now see to it that the Son would be slain.  
Jesus concludes this parable with these words, "The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner, this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?  Therefore say I unto you, the Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof."
Of course, the Lord was referring to Himself as the Corner Stone (Eph. 2:20) and the new nation bringing forth the fruits would be His church.
The next day, late in the night, Jesus leaves the table at the "Last Supper" (John 14:31) and heads towards Gethsemane.  His first lesson He teaches to His disciples as they leave Jerusalem is "I AM the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman." (John 15:1).
I have always just seen this passage as teaching for the individual believer that he must draw his strength and nourishment from the vine (the Lord Jesus), bear fruit, abide in Him, or be "taken away" for being a branch that doesn't bear fruit.  I do not doubt the application being there, but am wondering if others have a thought on this, that the branches are the Lord's churches?
I only see a local, visible church in God's Word and this passage would teach the same.  As Christ is the Head of every body (local church), so He is the Vine of every branch (local church).
vs. 1-Jesus says, "I AM the true vine..".  He is the source and the cornerstone of the church.  The "Father is the husbandman."  No longer does man (Pharisee, chief priest, pastor, denomination, etc) do the work of husbandman, but that duty is the Father's.
vs. 2-"Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away." The Lord's churches are to be fruit bearers.  Our first love should be souls.  The church should embrace and obey her great Commission!  Those churches that lose that love, "he taketh away;" or how Rev. 2:5 reads, "repent and do the first works: or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent."  The Father is the husbandman.  He alone decides when a candlestick is removed.  He alone decides when to "take away" that privilege. "...every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit."  The Lord's churches throughout history that have sacrificed and poured themselves out to bear fruit have all gone through purging.  What has happened under the pruning shears of God (evil emperors, inquisitions, imprisonments, beatings, and martyrdom)?  Those churches have bore more fruit!
vs. 3-"Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you."  The branches must be cleansed.  How are they cleansed and kept clean? Through the Word!  The church is to be presented a chaste virgin to the Lord Jesus (2 Cor. 11:2).  Concerning the church, (Eph. 5:26-27) "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."  The church is kept pure by the Word of God.  This demands separation from a carnal world, our own lusts, and a doctrinal separation.  I have often heard, "True doctrine divides!"  A more accurate statement may be "Doctrine Purifies!"
vs. 4 "Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except you abide in me."  Proper, Biblical service can only be done through the local church.  As branches cannot bear fruit by itself, no more can a church bear fruit without the working and empowering of a holy God.  A church must abide in Him.  How does a branch abide in the vine?  It just stays where the vine puts it, and does the work the vine empowers it to do.  May our churches stay faithful to where God first put us and through His power do the work He has called us to do.
vs. 5 "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing."  Oh how the Lord's churches seem to have forgotten our desperate need and only hope of Christ working through us.  When an individual and church completely yield themselves to the Lord and His Word, there will be a bringing forth of MUCH FRUIT.  We must learn that without Him, we can do nothing!
vs. 6 "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."  In looking at this verse, I see a pronoun change.  Thus far the Lord has used 1st person pronouns, but now He uses 3rd person pronouns.  It does NOT read," if a man abide in me and then not abide in me;" though that is the context we normally here it used.  The verse simply says there are some men who do not abide in Christ.  He is "AS" a branch that is withered and will be gathered together some day and cast into the fire and burned.  A clear reference to those not in Christ, unbelievers.  Some may even "look like as a branch," but having not ever been in the vine, they will be gathered one day (Great White Throne) and cast into the fire and burned (Lake of Fire).
Vs 7 "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."  The Lord returns to 1st person pronoun in referring to those who abide in Him.  If we as churches act as the "Pillar and ground of Truth," His word will abide in us.  We then will see  prayers answered as the early church once did.  This is not an open promise to ask and get like a Genie and a lamp; but rather, the key to churches seeing prayers answered like the church did in Acts and throughout history is not getting what you want, but wanting what He wants.
Vs 8 "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples."  A church is glorifying God as she bears fruit-souls saved, baptized, added to the church, and discipled (Great Commission)
Vs. 9 "As the Father hath love me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love."  The Lord loved the church, and gave Himself for it (Eph. 5:25).  What love the Father has for His Son, and what love the Son has for His churches.

So, those are my thoughts and I would love to hear yours on this passage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love verse seven, it goes along with Jn. 15:16 the soul-winners promise that whatsoever we shall ask of the Father in his name, it shall be given. I Jn.5:14 also we can ask anything in according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. Then of course Mt. 18:19 "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." It sounds like God wants us to ask. Do we have anybody who is wiling today to claim these powerful verses? Are you ready to touch and agree. Dear Father, I pray for my friend Bro. Bill Webb. I know him as a faithful servant of the Lord. He is a scholar of the Bible, and has taught me scores of things from the Bible as well as his well disciplined life. Dear God, bless him and Sis Webb with the choicest of your blessings and the dear people that they serve. In Jesus Name, Amen Bro. Steve Crane