8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
Three years the proprietor of the vineyard sought fruit on it, and then gave orders that it should be cut down as a cumberer of the ground.
...A fair chance for every fig tree! Let us look round and be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain... If any have lost their first ardour, or been entangled in sin, or have been discouraged by the evil of the times, let them take heart again at the comforting counsel of the Lord.
"Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die."
It may be that the "things that remain" will take root again and recover the life that is ready to die ...There is no good to be done by giving in to failure. Some fall and incline to lie where they fall. This is a mistake. Let them get up and try again.
We do not stand where Adam stood. One offence brought ruin on him; he had no High Priest; we have, and we are invited to make confession of our failures and trespasses and try again...If... we abandon hope and give ourselves up to the world, we seal our own doom...
... If we diligently and anxiously improve our standing in the things of the Spirit,
"doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God,"
we shall be assisted from behind the veil in ways not visible to man.
9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
The connection of this parable shows its meaning. The parable itself seems to carry its interpretation on its face. Some of the crowd attending Jesus on a certain occasion reported to him some recent occurrences of a tragical character -- the slaughtering of some Galileans to be offered with their own sacrifices: the crushing of some 18 people to death by the falling of a tower. Their report was apparently made in a tone that suggested the opinion that the said persons must have been more wicked than ordinary mortals for such things to happen to them. Jesus at once offered a comment unfavourable to this view, and made one of those man-lowering remarks that distinguished him from all human teachers:
"Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans because they suffered such things? I tell you, nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."
Then he adds the parable which likens them all to barren fig trees spared at the request of a patient gardener, in the hope that a little further treatment may induce fecundity, but on the distinct understanding that a further failure is to be decisive as to their removal as useless pieces of herbage. The parable was, doubtless, uttered and recorded for general use afterwards. It invites men to regard the continuance of their privileges as a mark of divine patience, and not as an indication of their own merit.
How naturally most men reason otherwise. When prosperity lasts, they complacently take it as a matter to which they are entitled. When adversity comes, they ask, "What have I done?" If they would realise that human life is altogether a matter of divine toleration, because of God's own purpose, and not because of human desert, they would most easily enter into this parable, and take the truly modest and perfectly reasonable attitude apostolically enjoined when we are commanded to "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling," and to "pass the time of our sojourning here in fear."
There was, of course, a special applicability in the parable to the generation contemporary with Jesus. The divine displeasure had been gathering over the land of Israel for generations. The iniquity of the people was coming to a head, and the long gathering storm was about to burst, which would sweep Israel from their place among the nations, if reformation did not avert it. "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish," had special point as addressed to those who were to be engulphed in the flood of destruction that came with the overflowing of Roman victory 40 years later.
We of the nineteenth century stand related to a similar situation. A dispensation is culminating, and judgment impends that will sweep away vast multitudes for the same reason -- divine patience long misunderstood and abused. God is gracious and long-suffering. The parable illustrates this, and though the fact will remain absolutely without influence as regards the population at large, it is a source of comfort and encouragement in personal cases where there is a disposition to turn from evil.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 30.
21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
Leaven in itself is distasteful, though its effect upon fine flour, if the leaven be new and duly apportioned, is to render it light and palatable. The blood of Yahweh's sacrifice was not to be offered with leaven, because this would be to introduce a principle of levity and impurity into the sin-offerings; for, however good it might be in itself, yet in fine flour, not being flour, it is an impurity; and all sin-offerings were to be pure, or without spot or blemish.
But the absence of leaven was not only representative of purity-the sinlessness of the Anointed Sinner, the great antitypical sacrifice for sins not his own-it was also memorial of the thrusting out of the twelve tribes of Israel from Egypt with such haste, that they had no time to prepare leavened bread as in times of peace and quietness.
Hence, the absence of leaven was indicative of tribulation and affection; and its presence in an offering of peace and ground for thanksgiving: so that the Mosaic law inculcated that
"Besides the cakes, the worshipper shall offer for his offering leavened bread, with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace-offerings."
In the New Testament, the effect of leaven upon meal is presented, in parable, as an illustration of the relation of the kingdom of the heavens to the three parts into which the Roman empire was constitutionally divided, when it should be in the midst of them. It shall ferment, or produce a fermentation, among them, until the whole empire is fermented and brought into peacefulness with God; or, in the words of Daniel, "the stone," which he interprets to signify the kingdom which the God of heaven shall set up,
"shall grind to powder, and bring to an end all these kingdoms"
of the Image-world;
"and itself become a great mountain, and fill the whole earth."
Then will the whole be leavened.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Feb 1855
23 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,
What then do men need to be saved from?
First, from ignorance of God's way; second, from moral perversion; third, from the evils of the present life, in body and estate; and, fourth, from the dissolution of the grave. The "light" which God has revealed in the Scriptures will save them from ignorance and its sequents, which are superstition, fear, bigotry, unbelief, &c.; "repentance and remission of sins in the name of Jesus" will rectify their consciences; and a "resurrection unto life," or a transformation, will deliver them from "all the ills that flesh is heir to," and restore them to a being which shall end no more.
The Christadelphian, Aug 1870
24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
God coerces no one in the matter of well-doing
He makes known His will, and requests compliance. He points out the wisdom of faithfulness, and promises to make it possible for us to render it. Then He leaves us to obey or disobey. This is exactly how the case stands with every one of us.
Are we rebellious? Obedience, let us not forget, means effort, and unless we are prepared to make it our lot is hopeless. Among the figures employed to depict the disposition needful to reach the Kingdom is that of an athlete struggling for victory (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
We are all familiar with the sight of a man so engaged. We have been struck with his earnestness and eagerness to win-with his obvious willingness to strain every power in order to become the victor-a few cuts and bruises are nought to him.
Such is the figure used by the spirit to impress us with the kind of mind which we must have if we would be successful in securing God's great prize-the prize of immortal life.
The question is, Do we possess this mind? Or are we fooling ourselves by thinking-contrary to the plain testimony of the Bible-that because we know the truth, have been immersed, and have an excellent up-to-date acquaintance with the affairs and doings of the brotherhood, all will be well?
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap."
Bro AT Jannaway
The Christadelphian, March 1905
28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.
In the Resurrection
If we did not know ourselves and our friends in the resurrection, it would be no salvation of the persons that existed before. The kingdom might have been set up on the day of creation, if it is not to be composed of persons who will remember the probation they have come through in their several evil days, and therefore the friends they knew and have heard of. It is no matter of doubt at all. Jesus says,
"Ye shall see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
And the redeemed show their memory of history in saying,
"Thou hast redeemed us to God out of every people, tongue and nation."
The Christadelphian, Oct 1898