Fruitful or Faithless? Part 6 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #18)

The Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:3-6: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Bible Knowledge Commentary by Dr. John F. Walvoord and Dr. Roy B. Zuck:

To further buttress his argument Paul cited the commonly accepted teaching about God and His work in Christ. Verses 5-6 may represent a fragment of a familiar confession of the first century. In any case, Paul cited these unquestioned truths of the gospel: (1) There is only one God. (2) There is only one way for men to approach Him — through the Man who was God in the flesh, Christ Jesus. (3) This Jesus gave Himself up to die on the cross as a ransom for the human race. This act is a clear testimony, offered at just the right time, of God’s desire to save all men.

Today’s quote is from Martin Luther. He said: “If ever a monk could get to heaven through monastic discipline, I was that monk. And yet my conscience would not give me certainty. I always doubted and said, ‘You didn’t do that right. You weren’t contrite enough. You left that out of your confession.’ The more I tried to remedy an uncertain, weak, and troubled conscience with human traditions, the more I daily found it more uncertain, weaker, and more troubled.”

Our topic today is titled “Fruitful or Faithless? (Part 6)” from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

How can our lives be made more fruitful?

Two answers emerge from our Lord’s teaching on fruit-bearing in John 15:1–17. He told His disciples (Judas already having left the group) that He had appointed them to go and bear fruit, and in the preceding conversation He told them how to do that.

The two things involved are pruning and abiding.Those who are already bearing fruit need pruning in order to bear more fruit, and those who are bearing more fruit need to abide in order to bear much fruit.

PRUNING

First the Lord said that the vinedresser (God the Father) does something to those who are fruitless. Are these people genuine believers or professing believers? Many understand them to be professing believers who outwardly associate with the church but who have never personally received the Savior. Verse 6 would seem to support this view if one believes in eternal security. In other words, since true believers are eternally secure, the branches that are taken away or are cast into the fire must be professing believers since true ones cannot lose their salvation. If one does not believe in security, then these can be true believers who lose their salvation.

But others see fruitless believers as true believers since they are said to be in Christ, and since the Lord was talking only to the eleven disciples, Judas having departed the others. If this is the case, then what does the vinedresser do to fruitless Christians? He cuts them off or He lifts them up (the verb may be translated either way). If we are to understand that He cuts them off, then this means that He removes them from the earth through physical death. It is a warning similar to the one in verse 6.

If we understand the verb to mean that He lifts fruitless believers up, then the idea is that God encourages the fruitless person to bear fruit by exposing him or her to the sunshine of life.

To conserve moisture in a dry land, vines were allowed to run on the ground until the blossoms began to appear. It was then necessary for the gardener to lift the vines off the ground so that the blossoms could germinate. Vines were lifted up either on sticks or on stones. The vines thus were put in a place where they could produce fruit.

So if these are fruitless believers, then either the gardener removes them in judgment or, more likely, in my opinion, He lifts them up in blessing and guidance, positioning them so that they can bear fruit.

But what about the branches that are bearing fruit? Those He prunes in order that they may bear more fruit. In pruning, the wise and loving vinedresser removes all useless things that would sap the strength of the branch and keep it from bearing more fruit. This may involve removing from our lives unhelpful things, useless things, and harmful things. It could include discipline, physical limitations, material losses, family losses, and unjustified persecution. Whatever it takes, our Father wisely does in order that we may bear more fruit.

These processes of pruning or cleansing come because of the Word of our Lord. The disciples had already experienced this but, like others who would come after them, they would continue to be cleansed. The Word is inseparably linked to pruning and cleansing.

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