3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
This intellectual comprehension of the true God is renewing, and capable of developing the likeness of His moral or spiritual image in the illuminated. This is clear from many passages of Scripture. Jesus, the image of the Invisible God, in addressing the Father said:
"I have given them (whom Thou hast given me) Thy word: sanctify them through Thy Truth: Thy word is Truth" (John 17:8, 9, 14, 17). And again, "Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken to you" (15:3).
And John says:
"the Spirit is the testifier, because the Spirit is the truth" (1 Epis. 5:6).
And Paul alluding to the transforming efficacy of God's revelation of Himself comprehended and believed, tells obedient believers of the word, that they had put off the old man with his deeds, and put on "the new," made new again by exact knowledge (eis epignosin) after the image of Him creating him (Col. 3:9-10).
Here are two characters, or moral natures, in relation to one and the same animal man. Ignorant of the true God and Jesus the Anointed whom He has sent, the man A.B., is "alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in him" (Eph. 4:18): and is invested with "the body of the sins of the flesh" as with an apron of fig leaves. He is then in the Old Man state, and stands before God naked as Adam and Eve in Eden, obnoxious to the anger of offended Deity. He does not know or comprehend the Almighty. He thinks He is altogether such an one as himself, fickle, inconstant, mutable and false.
He is as ignorant of His character, or Name, as he is of His hypostasis or substance. In the fulness of the ignorance he turns "philosopher," and presumes to discourse of God, and of soul, and of the ground of acceptance with Him! The presumption of this Old Man of the flesh, laden with sins and superstitions, is marvellous!
He has filled the world with his lucubrations, or skotifications rather, and calls them "wisdom," "theology," "divinity," "philosophy," and so forth. Adam habited in fig leaves under the inspiration of the Serpent, is the incarnation of them all. He was "the Word of the Serpent made flesh"; the Federal Patriarch, or Chief Father, of all who walk in his steps:--the type, or representative pattern of all clerical and philosophical Jews and Gentiles who, "with the flesh," or its reasonings and gospel-nullifying traditions and practices, "serve the law of sin."
Phanerosis - The Transforming Efficacy of the Truth
...we may know the words and not be clean by them. If those words fail to produce purity, they fail in their effect...
... We have no need of argument as to our position in nature, and God's purposed goodness, inasmuch as we all humbly recognize the standard to which we stand related.
We believe in the Lord and have submitted to His yoke, and are here while looking at the favour of our position, to realize the duties it brings with it. We are not called upon to afflict ourselves too much, though there is less danger of our doing that than of our afflicting ourselves too little. There is great danger that people may not afflict themselves enough; may not judge themselves sufficiently in the sight of God.
Yet let us not run into the excess of some, and deprive ourselves of the true comfort of our position as heirs of the grace of life. Some have been unduly weighed to the earth by a sense of their insufficiency, and have failed to be supported by those comforting thoughts that spring from the faith of God. Paul says to such,
"Lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees; make straight paths for your feet."
He also says,
"Comfort the feeble minded; support the weak."
Let there be comfort where there is purity; repentance and supplication where there is failure. If there is no purity - if there is disobedience, let there be no comfort; let there be affliction, and mourning, and weeping, and refusal to lay hold of the joys of the truth until the purity comes. As James says,
"Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness."
But if we have the answer of a good conscience; if we know that we are walking in the way Christ has marked out for us, in the many commandments he has given, entering minutely into all the duties of life - then we may take to ourselves comfort.
Bro Roberts - Obedience
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.
Attached directly to him, as part of him, looking constantly unto him, drawing continual strength from him -- we bring forth fruit unto holiness and righteousness.
On our own, no matter how hard we try, no matter how good our intentions, we struggle vainly, and flounder, and sink.
Bro Growcott - The Shepherd of the Sheep.
The vine was a common thing in Palestine, and must have been a common object on the road which Jesus and his disciples now walked, towards the Olivet suburb of Jerusalem, which, though naked enough now, was richly cultivated before the terrible Roman destruction.
...What a glimpse we get here of the vital position of Christ in the Father's work and purpose on the earth -- a position so ignored in the popular and learned thoughts of the day -- the Father cultivating and training the Christ-vine for the rich grape-fruit of his service and praise.
"I am the vine, ye are the branches."
Here we have men in Christ the Father's tillage: but the tillage is with an object -- not the mere benefit of the branches (as the popular idea of salvation supposes), but the gratification and profit of the Father vine-dresser.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 53
It is therefore a man-a person - a friend we meet to think about and to fix our minds on; more, a head, a captain, a God. In this, the Truth supplies our need as no human system does. We need truth and duty drawn into this personal focus.
We are not constituted to worship the abstract. Our minds have no faculty to work on the infinite. We are adapted to the personal and the single. Every power of the mind is thus drawn out, every spring of the heart opened. Christ meets all our need. He is the standard of our duty, the magnet of our loyalty; the absorbent of our love, the theme of our intellectual appreciations, the stimulator of our sublimest sentiments, and the adequate object of our most fervent adoration. There is no extravagance in Paul's declaration that
"in him are filled up all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."
In this is the perfect beauty of the gospel as contrasted with the wisdom of the world in its most pretentious forms - that in Christ, we have a man who is "the truth."
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.
Many are out of Christ who were once in Christ, as Christ recognises in saying, "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth," (Jno. xv. 6.)
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
-- a fruitless branch, a useless thing. What is the fruit? The results that spring in a man's mind and life from the faith of Christ, otherwise described by Paul as "the fruit of the spirit, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Gal. v. 22, 23).
God aims at producing this fruit in men by the truth concerning Christ. The power or success of the truth in any man is to be measured by this result.
If the fruit does not come, the Father removes the branch: so Jesus informs us. This will be done finally at the judgment: but there is many a removal in the ways of providence now, as we learn from the messages of Christ to the seven Asiatic ecclesias (Rev. ii 16; iii. 3).
If the fruit comes, what then? The fruit-bearing branches instead of being removed, become the subjects of special attention with a view to their further improvement.
"Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth (or pruneth) it that it may bring forth more fruit."
The true and loving servants of Christ may therefore expect trouble. Trouble (not allowed to go to the destroying point), is the thing for accentuating a man's spiritual preferences. Hence it is love and not displeasure that leads the Father to bring His children into trouble.
...The trouble, however, will not be prolonged beyond the time it is needed
"The God of all grace, after ye have suffered a while (will) establish, strengthen, settle you"
(1 Pet. v. 10).
Nazareth Revisited Ch 53
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
Salvation will not come from just a few tired minutes of mechanical, absent-minded reading of the Bible each day, but by an intense, earnest, overpowering, constant yearning to know more of God and His Word; to do more in service to Him; to love Him more deeply and to conform more closely to His will. This must be the reigning passion of our lives. If it isn't, we are not of the few wise that God will select from the perishing billions to live eternally with Him.
It is so fatally easy to delude ourselves into assuming we of ourselves are something special in God's sight, arbitrarily chosen from the perishing billions, and that He will somehow overlook our disobedience and neglect and waste of time, just because we're us.
We see others giving their whole lives with the intensity of fanaticism to what they mistakenly think is the Truth of God, and we pity their alien blindness with a sense of our own superior enlightenment, and we feel so snug and secure in our ivory tower of special divine choice.
But there is no excuse for this dreamy delusion. Time and time again we are told that God is no respecter of persons, and if we wish His approval we must diligently study and learn all His commands, and obey them to the limit of our ability: that there is no salvation any other way-
Bro Growcott - THY WORD IS TRUTH
Here we are alone in the darkness, with his commandments in our hands: does it not seem natural that his pity and his love should be excited by the spectacle of poor and feeble men and women striving, under circumstances of difficulty, to do what he has told them to do? And is it not similarly accordant with reason that his love should be turned away from men who are governed only by their natural desires, and who do not admit the commandments of Christ to a share in the moulding of their actions?
Nazareth Revisited Ch 53
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
The Spirit is love, and patience, and giving, and service to others, and forgetfulness of self, and contentment with little, and helping all, and speaking ill of none, and sober wisdom at all times.
The Flesh is thinking of self, and wasting God's time getting this world's goods, and hoarding, and seeking pleasure and amusement in the mindless toys and games of the world, and laziness, and drifting.
The spiritual mind is always thinking about God and spiritual things, and will lead us to eternal joy with God.
The flesh is easy and downhill, with no effort, and lots of empty-headed company and will lead us to eternal death. Only a fool will choose the flesh. Most are fools.
14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
Mankind has been divided by God into two classes.
Men try very hard to make a third, but the effort is futile. The names by which the two classes are designated are very expressive: wise-foolish; friends-enemies; saints - sinners; obedient - disobedient; believers - unbelievers; children of light-children of darkness; seed of the woman-seed of the serpent; children of God-children of the devil. Exaltation from the one to the other class is entirely dependent upon the attitude taken to that form of doctrine delivered by Christ and the apostles (Rom. vi. 17; Gal. iii. 26: Rev. xii. 17; John xv. 14; Col. i. 21-23).
The man who receives a part and not all of that doctrine is a spiritual abortion. To die not far from the Kingdom of God is practically the same as dying ten thousand miles off. A hearty belief of the truth and a ready submission to its requirements form the only passport to life eternal. How slow are men to accept this truth!
They seem afraid to take God at His word! Why this unbelief? The popular cry of "unreasonable" and "uncharitable" reveals the cause. Men esteem their own imperfect sin-biassed intelligences to be wiser than the Scriptures of truth. This is the secret of the Scripture-wresting of the day.
How few are they who logically and sincerely receive the Bible as the Word of God.
TC 07 1887
15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
No longer servants but friends if - 'ye do whatsoever I command you.'
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
I have chosen you
How true is this of the whole work of God. It is an affair of divine initiative. God made choice of Israel: they had nothing to do with choosing Him. He forced Himself on their notice: His whole work through them, down to that "visiting of the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name," which is still in force, has been His own planning: His own working out. Man has nothing to do with it, except to humbly and gratefully accept what is offered to him.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 53
18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
The crosses with which the world is filled are the evidences in a certain way that Christ the good; Christ the faultless; Christ the perfect, was hated with the intensity that can only find satisfaction in murder. Men who in any degree resemble him have in all ages been the object of a similar feeling.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 53
A new mental action is set up.
If the Word of God dwell in a man, the world will hate him, because it hates the Word; and it hates the Word because it hates God. This is the cause of the world's hatred of the Bible. The Bible is full of God. You can scarcely put your finger on a part within its pages where He is not on view in some aspect or other. That which repels the world attracts the children of God. They desire to come near God, they share David's thirst for the living water in a land of drought and barrenness. They cry out with him,
"Oh, when shall I come and appear before God!"
With him, they would "dwell in the house of God for ever." They love to frequent meetings where He is prominent, and to keep the company of men and women in whom His love is a guest. The meeting on the first day of the week for the breaking of bread, is full of usefulness from all these points of view. Here we have God and God only. God in the emblems partaken - God in the Scriptures read. We do not eat the bread or drink the wine for their own sake. As often as we "eat this bread and drink this cup" we
"show the Lord's death until he come."
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
The ways of God and the ways of men are necessarily different to the roots...
"My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord: for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah lv. 8).
For a man, then, to sympathise with "the thoughts of men" as opposed to the thoughts of God, is to be "Satan" in Bible speech. This is a rule of judgment that not only excludes the supernatural devil of pulpit theology, but condemns the vast mass of mankind now upon earth. In all departments of their "world-life," high and low, they do exactly what made Peter Satan for the time being. "They savour not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." For "the things that be of God" they have no taste...
The world is not changed since the days of John and Paul. The "Spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience" is "the Prince of the Power of the air" to the present day -- more literally defined by John as "The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life" (Eph. ii. 2; 1 Jno. ii. 16).
It is impossible to live in this social "air" or atmosphere without doing homage to its Prince -- the ruling spirit -- incorporate in society as "the desires of the flesh and of the mind." For this reason, it is impossible for a friend of God to be a friend of the world at the same time (James iv. 4)...
The world "savours not" -- cares not for -- has no interest in "things that be of God, but those that be of men." Therefore, as Jesus pathetically said to the Father in prayer, "I have given them Thy word: therefore the world hath hated them." The world dislikes all who "savour" -- who like -- care for the things that be of God. Such is the truth, however unpalatable.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 37.
22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.
It is rejection of the gospel that makes men 'unjust'. 'The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished' (2 Pet 2:9).
If Jesus Had Not Come
When Jesus said (Jno. 15:22) that the Jews "had not had sin" if he had not come and spoken to them, he was not referring to sin in the abstract, under which, as you truly say, all men stood. He was referring to the specific sin of rejecting him, as the next verse but two shows,
"Now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father."
Even this would not have been a crime for which they would have had to answer had they been blind, or had he not
"come among them and done works which none other man did,"
so he says (verse 24; also Jno. 9:41). It is according to the justice of God "who will not do iniquity." He will not impute sin where men are not guilty of it, and even then, the circumstances must be such as to make them justly answerable for it.
The Christadelphian, Oct 1898
26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
This testifying of the Spirit was essential to the efficacy of the testimony of the apostles. Without it, the declarations of the apostles that a crucified man had come to life again would have been treated as madness, and their work would have been thrown away. But with it, their testimony became a powerful means of producing conviction and faith... (Acts v. 32, Heb. ii. 3, 4).
The nature of the Spirit-witness is very manifest. It was by no means the sort of thing that would be understood by such an expression in our age. It was no mere feeling or experience in the minds of the apostles themselves. It was the co-operation of palpable supernatural power shown in the healing of the sick, the raising of the dead, the smiting of the rebellious, the speaking of known languages without learning them, &c.
The co-operation of such a divine attestation with the earnest testimony of living eye-witnesses of Christ's resurrection was all-powerful with devout multitudes everywhere, producing the faith and obedience which it was expressly given to generate. If such divine endorsement of the gospel is not given now, it is because the extent of the divine purpose as regards the number of believers necessary to fill up the plan does not require it. The scriptures themselves, in the hands of earnest advocacy and honest enquiry, are sufficient for the generation of the remaining number wanted.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 54.
27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
The apostles did perform a part. If we realise this part in its true relation to the controlling influence of the Spirit that employed them, we shall get a key to the things that prevent some from recognising the work of the Spirit in the work of the apostles. We shall apprehend this in a general view of the work to which they were called. The Spirit of God employed the apostles as witnesses to testify conjointly with itself the things pertaining to Christ, as saith Jesus:
"The Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me, and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning" (Jno. xv. :26-27). The apostles were to be witnesses (that is, testifiers) of the "things they had seen and heard" (Acts xxvi. 16; i. 8; ii. 32; iv. 20; v. 32, &c.). Hence the qualification of an apostle was that he should have been a companion of Christ from his baptism in the Jordan till his crucifixion and resurrection (Acts i. 21-22), or at the least that he should have seen Christ after his resurrection (1 Cor. ix. 1).
A witness is one who speaks from personal knowledge. The apostles, as witnesses, spoke from personal knowledge, and to this extent their personal characteristics would affect their personal testimony, not only as to the sound of their voice, but as to their literary peculiarities, as evidenced by the authorities perceiving that the inspired and boldly-speaking Peter and John were "unlearned and ignorant men"
But then, we must not judge of their work by this view alone. The spirit of God was upon them to guide them in the what to say and how to say it. Their natural endowments were employed in the work, but they were employed by the Spirit of God, and in strict subordination to the purposes aimed at by the Spirit.
Even their actions were checked and guided in harmony with these, as when Paul and Silas "essayed to go unto Bithynia, but the Spirit suffered them not" (Acts xvi. 7), or as when John was about to write certain things that he heard, and a voice from heaven said "Write them not" (Rev. x. 4).
When, therefore, we read an apostolic writing, we read a writing which, though humanly written, has been shaped by the Spirit for its own ends. When we peruse the apostolic testimony to the sayings and doings of Christ, we peruse testimony which, though theirs, is only so much theirs in the characteristic sense, as the Spirit permits. This is a duality in the production which accounts for every feature in the case.
The apostles and the Spirit both had to do with the production, but the apostles were under the strict control of the Spirit. This accounts for so much of the human peculiarity of the writer, as may be visible in the productions, which is a very faint element in the case. The Spirit permitted it for its own end At the same time it accounts for the superhuman tone and attitude that are their most conspicuous and striking features. In this view, it is impossible to discriminate between words permitted and words dictated. They are all equally authoritative, and therefore practically the same.
Being all either endorsed or prescribed by the Spirit, they come to us as the Spirit's words by apostolic instrumentality, and therefore free from error.
The Christadelphian, March 1887. p127