Mysteries of the Kingdom

            in awe of scripture, viewing it through the lens of the kingship of Jesus





The Third Truth

    The apostles preached first the gospel of the kingdom which differs from the more popular notion of gospel. Next, they laid the foundation of "reckoning" to oneself daily the death and resurrection of the King of God's kingdom, taking off the identity of sin and embracing the new identity. Third, Jesus and His apostles taught believers to walk in the Spirit.

    To the undiscipled believers in Rome, Paul wrote what he would have taught in person to "establish" them (Rom 1:11). He began with the first truth in Romans 1:1-4, a recap the gospel which they had already heard of God's kingdom. Next, Paul explained the death of the Anointed so that the Romans could receive the second truth which Paul encapsulated in Romans 6:11 to reckon the death and resurrection of the King to themselves. After modeling the reckoning in Romans chapter seven, Paul then turned to the third truth in Romans eight: walking in the Spirit.

    This walking-in-the-Spirit which Paul preached in Romans 8 and Galatians 5, the Apostle John taught in his first epistle as "abiding" in Jesus. John mingled "walking" with "abiding," giving preference to the latter term. Unlike Paul, John remembered personally hearing Jesus teach walking-in-the-Spirit with the language of "abiding," as recorded in the fifteenth chapter of his gospel, right between the promises in John chapters 14 and 16 of the coming Holy Spirit:

    1  "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  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.  3  You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.  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.
    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.  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.  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.  8  By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
    9  "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  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.
    11  "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." (NKJV)


1) THE EARTHWORKER
    To understand abiding in the vine, Jesus gave us four anchors, the first of which is the working of God. He began by stating that He is the True Vine1 and His Father is the ______. Where our translations say "vinedresser" or "husbandman," Jesus actually used a very common Greek word which meant "farmer." The word for "farmer" which Jesus used for His Father literally translates as "earthworker."

    God is not far away. He has come near to us and planted in Earth "the True Vine."2 The incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth is the working of God in which He planted His only begotten into our world. Therefore of first importance, if I want to abide in the Vine, then I must view such abiding as the work of God in me - not my work. God is not far away; He is working in you and me. He worked in the earth, planting the choicest Vine in the womb of a virgin, in the tumult of the crowds, in impoverished houses, and in the tomb of a wealthy man so that It/He would bear holy and eternal fruit. The same Earthworker who planted the Vine has grafted His citizens into the Vine and continually prunes us to bear more fruit for His glory.


2) HIS GLORY
    If I would walk in the Spirit, I must prioritize God's glory over my comfort. Sadly, the words of our Master in John 15:1-11 move many Christians to pondering whether they might burn in hell because John 15:2 speaks of branches lifted away, and verse six speaks of burning up such rejected branches. The burden of our Master in this passage is not to scare us out of hell. He warned not of hell, but of what should be the more horrifying thought - that our lives might not glorify His Father: "My Father is glorified in this, that you would bear much fruit; even so will you become My disciples."

    If the glory of God is my primary concern, then I will have no fear of hell. If I want to walk in the Spirit and abide in the Vine, then my motive must first be: "to God be the glory." The second anchor of Jesus' teaching on abiding is that His Father's glory is the primary purpose of our abiding.


3) HIS WORDS
    As the third anchor, Jesus next pointed us to His own words. He promised, "Already you are clean by the word which I have spoken to you." Three years before, he had spoken to them a command to follow Him. They had obeyed, thereby being set apart from the world. So in that sense, they were already clean. Yet He came back again to His own words in John 15:7
as essential to abiding: "If you would abide in Me and My declarations would abide in you, you will request anything you may want, and it will happen unto you."

    If I want to walk in the Spirit and abide in the Vine, then I must cling to my Master's declarations as central to God's work in me of abiding for His glory. I prayerfully choose therefore a passage of Scripture on which to focus. John 15, Romans 8, or Galatians 5 are appropriate places to begin meditating on Scripture for the purpose of abiding in the Vine. To meditate on scripture is to think about it, pray about it, memorize it, and talk about it.

    Many Christians also use a short verse or phrase from scripture as a background thought, repeating the Scripture silently in the mind while doing other things as a type of praying-without-ceasing.


4) OBEDIENCE
    If I want to walk in the Spirit and abide in the Vine, then I must understand the nature of obedience which Jesus taught as the fourth anchor of abiding. We tend to look at obedience strictly in terms of morality and authority. Obedience is moral and subject to authority, but perhaps more importantly, obedience is life.

    Obedience is life.

    In John 15:10, Jesus declared, "If you keep My commands, you will abide in My love just as I have kept My Father's commands and am abiding in His love." The first Adam rebelled and died in the day he rebelled. The Last Adam emptied Himself and took the form of a servant in obedience. Rebellion is death. Obedience is life. We were born rebels, constantly decomposing, deluded into considering sin "life." We were reborn obeyers, truly living. Obedience is as natural for believers as sin is for unbelievers. Unbelievers do not have to work at sinning because sin is the natural fruit of the sinner. Obedience is like death to the unbeliever. In like manner, believers do not have to work at obedience because it is the natural fruit of the Spirit who dwells in us. "That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," our Master declared in John 3:6. We therefore who have bent the knee to King Jesus are spirit (1Jn 5:1).

    For far too long, the slanderer has told Christians that we want to sin and that obedience is burdensome. The truth is that we are new creations who have no desire to sin. The old mind is still available, and if we do walk in the truth, then the enemy will delude us into thinking we want sin. As Paul said, "I do what I do not want to do." If I would walk in the Spirit and abide in the vine, then I must as the fourth anchor of Jesus' teaching, view obedience the way scripture defines it. Obedience is true life. Obedience is what we were born to do! More accurately, obedience is what we were reborn to do. We want to obey, and obedience is the natural life of every believer.


DEFINING ABIDING
    Jesus made it clear that we already abide in Him, yet He also commanded us, "Abide in Me and I in You." We cannot cause Him to abide in us, yet the phrase "I in You" was part of His command.

    Abiding is the moment-by-moment awareness that we are living in the Vine.

    Sin is the opposite of abiding, not because it is immoral or even because it contradicts His authority, but because there is no sin in the Vine. Therefore sin is death. Abiding is the moment-by-moment awareness not just of the nearness of the Vine, but of the fact that we are in Him. Sinning is not living. When sin is present, I must agree with God that it is sin (1John 1:19). He responds to such a confession by releasing the entanglement of sin and cleansing us from all that is un-right (1John 1:19).3


ABC's of Abiding in the Vine
    Strangely enough, no one in my 20 years of Protestant Christianity has every tried to teach me how to walk in the Spirit or abide in the Vine. In response to the four anchors above which Jesus taught in John 15:1-11, here are my recommendations for how to abide in the Vine:

A - Ask the Earthworker to help me abide. (From Anchor #1 above)
B - Believe that abiding is natural for us because God has grafted us into the Vine.
Or to say it differently:
Believe that walking in the spirit is natural because we have been born of the Spirit.4
C - Choose a passage of Scripture to meditate on. (From Anchor #3 above)
D - Define obedience as life. It is what we love to do. (From Anchor #2 above)
E - Employ a short verse or phrase of Scripture as praying-without-ceasing. (My favorite is Martha's confession: "You are the Anointed, the Son of God, the One coming into the world." (From Anchor #3 above)
F - Fashion the physical to facilitate abiding in the Vine and walking in the Spirit. What practical steps can I take to help keep my mind bent toward God? What music can I play and when can I play it? What artwork or other visual reminders will help, and where should I place them? Will the scent of a candle or the feel of some kind of jewelry against my skin help remind me that I am in the true Vine?
    Fashion physical things to facilitate Abiding. (From Anchor #nothing above - just an idea!)5
G - Glory: Remember that I Abide, not in order to Glorify myself, but to Glorify God the Father. (From Anchor #2 above)





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1. In John 15:1, Jesus used the famous Isaiah 5:1-5 passage which He also referenced in used in Matthew 21:33-41. Isaiah emphasized a theme in which the coming King of Israel assumes the failed identity of Israel in order to fulfill what Israel failed. Compare the failed servant of the Lord in Isaiah 41:8-9 with the victorious Servant of the Lord in Isaiah chapters 42-53. Just as Jesus took up the identify in Isaiah of the failed servant as the victorious Servant, likewise He delares in John 15:1 that He is the True Vine, assuming the identity of the failed vine in Isaiah 5:1-5 so that He can fulfill as King what the nation had failed. For the sake of simplicity, I removed this reference from the article. The "True Vine" reference is important though. We in our old identity are failures. We are the vine which produces bad grapes in Isaiah 5:1-5. Jesus however, is the True Vine who takes our failed identities, fulfills all we have been called to do, and grafts us into His victory. In such light, we can understand John 15:5 in which the True Vine tells His branches, "... without Me, you can do nothing" (NKJV) We in our old identities accomplish nothing, but when abiding in the Vine, we bear fruit!
2. ibid.
3. The word "forgiveness" in our English translations, including 1John 1:19 literally means "release." Sin in the new testament is bondage, creating the need for someone to release us from them.
4. This understanding hinges on the "foundation of the apostles," which cannot be easily encapsulated in a footnote. I wrote about this at length in my latest book "Forgotten Gospel." A shorter explanation can be found here.
5. I believe this was the original commission of Adam and Eve from God to rule the world, taming wild plants and animals so that this physical world glorifies God. As Christians, we cannot divorce the physical from the spiritual. Instead, we understand them to be equally real and understand that the physical serves the spiritual.

Except where otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author's translation from the Byzantine Greek. "The Third Truth" by Matthew Bryan was first published at www.matthewbryan.net on April 15th, 2015. All rights are reserved.