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Previously Asked New Testament Questions
How does Hebrews 6 apply to us
How does John 15.7 apply to the reader of Scripture
Can a deacon be a woman as well as a man?
How did Jesus become sin for us? Did God the Spirit leave the body of
Jesus at that moment, separating body and soul? How was it that God forsook
How does Hebrews 6 apply to us today?
In the midst of the author's exposition about the high
priesthood of Jesus, he interrupts one exhortation to begin another exhortation
(5.11-6.8). This section begins with a rebuke, which is rather severe. The
author wants to say more about the priesthood of Jesus (5.11-12) but needs to
prepare his audience to be able to understand and appreciate what he has to say
to them. These Jewish believers were content with what they had learned and
were ready to settle for the status quo. To progress further would be to place
a greater distance between them and their Jewish roots for which they were
already suffering. For the writer, spiritual stagnation is dangerous. We grow
and we are fed solid food as we are taught and we are protected by spiritual
and ethical discernment.
For these Jewish believers the process of digestion
was going to be painful. Each of the elementary teachings (the ABCs 6.1-2) had
a place in Judaism but had been invested with new significance in Christian
teaching. The author was not going to go over these truths again. Rather, what
he had in mind was the error that sought to lure them away from the faith and
back to their Jewish roots. One cannot discard the basics even though they may
not be all sufficient. It is important to understand that believers need to
cultivate their spiritual life by being continually fed. Knowledge often leads
to deeper faith. He was ready to take them into a deeper understanding in their
There is a solution to their problem. He urged his
audience to go beyond the elementary teaching about Jesus and go on to
maturity. To continually review the fundamentals is to remain where one is,
kinda like being a perpetual child.
All the matters listed in 6.1-2 were in fact the
elementary truths on which the believers were wavering. Verse 3 tells his
readers that pressing forward toward maturity is his intended goal as God
There is an alternative to progress. It is tragic.
Choosing not to advance was in fact a retreat that held a gloomy result.
There are four ways this passage has been handled by
interpreters. 1) A believer can be in danger of losing his salvation. This is
often refuted because of other biblical assurances that salvation is a work of
God that cannot be reversed; 2) The warning is against only a profession of
faith which fell short of "real salvation", tasting but not partaking of
salvation. (This view is seen in the New Scofield Reference Bible) 3) A warning
that a believer could lose his salvation in which case there is no provision
for further repentance (This view is seen in the Ryrie Study Bible); 4) This is
a warning given of the danger of a Christian moving from a position of true
faith and life to the extent of becoming disqualified for further service in
We must remember that the background of Hebrews was
persecution of those Jewish people who had chosen to follow Jesus over against
Judaism. In any such time apostasy is the supreme sin. When a man can save
himself by denying Jesus, it is a hard blow to the church because this person
has counted his life and person more valuable than the life of Jesus and his
church. This is the condemnation of a person who loves his own comfort of life
more than he loves Jesus. It was not the author's intent to erect a doctrine
that there is no forgiveness of post-baptismal sin. What is meant to be
understood by those first hearers was the terrible seriousness of choosing
personal existence instead of loyalty to Jesus.
In that light this produces a timeless truth about
those who in our culture often choose the pleasantness of their comfortable
lifestyle over the claims of Jesus on their lifestyle. What we might ask
ourselves is what are we doing in our lifestyle that suggests to those looking
on and wondering about Christianity about who we are really loyal to? Finally,
in a similar time and space of persecution in which you could be called to
forfeit your own life, which would you choose? To know, one should continue
reading the rest of Hebrews to see what one needs to know and give him or
herself to in order to make the correct choice if that proposition should ever
arise in our culture. On a lesser note, it can arise in our relationship with
our employers, family, politics, etc. Will we have the integrity to stand
unwaveringly against the things we know are wrong and harmful, to do that we
may be called to do in our jobs, etc? Or, will we turn the other direction,
choosing to keep the comforts of life and denounce our loyalty to Jesus?
How does John 15.7 apply to the
reader of Scripture today?
The following is a commentary (Romans)
by William Barclay and should be read to set the context for the comments below
The Vine and the Branches: John 15:1-10
am the real vine and my Father is the vine-dresser. He destroys every branch in
me which does not bear fruit; and he cleanses every branch which does bear
fruit, so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean through the word
which I have spoken to you. Abide in me even as I abide in you. As the branch
cannot bear fruit in its own strength, unless it abides in the vine, so neither
can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The man
who abides in me, and in whom I abide, bears much fruit, because without me you
can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he will be cast out like a
withered branch. And they gather such branches and throw them into the fire and
they are burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask what you
will, and it will be given to you. It is by the fact that you bear such fruit,
and that you show yourselves to be my disciples, that my Father is glorified.
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love. As I have
kept my Father's commandments, so I abide in his love."
Jesus, as so often, is working in this passage with
pictures and ideas which were part of the religious heritage of the Jewish
nation. Over and over again in the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as the
vine or the vineyard of God. "The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel"
(Isaiah 5:1-7). "Yet I planted you a choice vine" is God's message to Israel
through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:21). Ezekiel 15 likens Israel to the vine, as does
Ezekiel 19:10. "Israel is a luxuriant vine," said Hosea (Hosea 10:1). "Thou
didst bring a vine out of Egypt," sang the Psalmist, thinking of God's
deliverance of his people from bondage (Psalm 80:8). The vine had actually
become the symbol of the nation of Israel. It was the emblem on the coins of
the Maccabees. One of the glories of the Temple was the great golden vine upon
the front of the Holy Place. Many a great man had counted it an honour to give
gold to mould a new bunch of grapes or even a new grape on to that vine. The
vine was part and parcel of Jewish imagery, and the very symbol of Israel.
Jesus calls himself the true vine. The point of that
word alethinos, true, real, genuine, is this. It is a curious fact that the
symbol of the vine is never used in the Old Testament apart from the idea of
degeneration. The point of Isaiah's picture is that the vineyard has run wild.
Jeremiah complains that the nation has turned into "degenerate and become a
wild vine." It is as if Jesus said: "You think that because you belong to the
nation of Israel you are a branch of the true vine of God. But the nation it
is; a degenerate vine, as all your prophets saw. It is I who am the true vine.
The fact that you are a Jew will not save you. The only thing that can save you
is to have an intimate living fellowship with me, for I am the vine of God and
you must be branches joined to me." Jesus was laying it down that not Jewish
blood but faith in him was the way to God's salvation. No external
qualification can set a man right with God; only the friendship of Jesus Christ
can do that.
When Jesus drew his picture of the vine he knew what
he was talking about. The vine was grown all over Palestine as it still is. It
is a plant which needs a great deal of attention if the best fruit is to be got
out of it. It is grown commonly on terraces. The ground has to be perfectly
clean. It is sometimes trained on trellisses; it is sometimes allowed to creep
over the ground upheld by low forked sticks; it sometimes even grows round the
doors of the cottages; but wherever it grows careful preparation of the soil is
essential. It grows luxuriantly and drastic pruning is necessary. So luxuriant
is it that the slips are set in the ground at least twelve feet apart, for it
will creep over the ground at speed. A young vine is not allowed to fruit for
the first three years and each year is cut drastically back to develop and
conserve its life and energy. When mature, it is pruned in December and
January. It bears two kinds of branches, one that bears fruit and one that does
not; and the branches that do not bear fruit are drastically pruned back, so
that they will drain away none of the plant's strength. The vine can not
produce the crop of which it is capable without drastic pruning-and Jesus knew
Further, the wood of the vine has the curious
characteristic that it is good for nothing. It is too soft for any purpose. At
certain times of the year, because the law laid it down, the people must bring
offerings of wood to the Temple for the altar fires. But the wood of the vine
must not be brought. The only thing that could be done with the wood pruned out
of a vine was to make a bonfire of it and destroy it. This adds to the picture
He says that his followers are like that. Some of them
are lovely fruit-bearing branches of himself; others are useless because they
bear no fruit. Who was Jesus thinking of when he spoke of the fruitless
branches? There are two answers. First, he was thinking of the Jews. They were
branches of God's vine. Was not that the picture that prophet after prophet had
drawn? But they refused to listen to him; they refused to accept him; therefore
they were withered and useless branches. Second, he was thinking of something
more general. He was thinking of Christians whose Christianity consisted of
profession without practice, words without deeds; he was thinking of Christians
who were useless branches, all leaves and no fruit. And he was thinking of
Christians who became apostates, who heard the message and accepted it and then
fell away, becoming traitors to the Master they had once pledged themselves to
So then there are three ways in which we can be
useless branches. We can refuse to listen to Jesus Christ at all. We can listen
to him, and then render him a lip service unsupported by any deeds. We can
accept him as Master, and then, in face of the difficulties of the way or the
desire to do as we like, abandon him. One thing we must remember. It is a first
principle of the New Testament that uselessness invites disaster. The fruitless
branch is on the way to destruction.
In this passage there is much about abiding in Christ.
What is meant by that? It is true that there is a mystical sense in which the
Christian is in Christ and Christ is in the Christian. But there are many-maybe
they are in the majority-who never have this mystical experience. If we are
like that, we must not blame ourselves. There is a much simpler way of looking
at this and of experiencing it, a way open to anyone.
Let us take a human analogy. All analogies are
imperfect but we must work with the ideas which we possess. Suppose a person is
weak. He has fallen to temptation; he has made a mess of things; he is on the
way down to degeneracy of mind and heart and mental fibre. Now suppose that he
has a friend of a strong and lovely and loving nature, who rescues him from his
degraded situation. There is only one way in which he can retain his
reformation and keep himself on the right way. He must keep contact with his
friend. If he loses that contact; all the chances are that his weakness will
overcome him; the old temptations will rear their heads again; and he will
fall. His salvation lies in continual contact with the strength of his
Many a time a down-and-out has been taken to live with
someone fine. So long as he continued in that fine home and that fine presence
he was safe. But when he kicked over the traces and went off on his own, he
fell. We must keep contact with the fine thing in order to defeat the evil
thing. Robertson of Brighton was one of the great preachers. There was a
tradesman who had a little shop; in the back room he kept a photograph of
Robertson, for he was his hero and his inspiration. Whenever he was tempted to
carry out a bit of sharp practice, he would rush into the back room and look at
the photograph and the temptation was defeated. When Kingsley was asked the
secret of his life, referring to F. D. Maurice he said: "I had a friend." The
contact with loveliness made him lovely.
Abiding in Christ means something like that. The
secret of the life of Jesus was his contact with God; again and again he
withdrew into a solitary place to meet him. We must keep contact with Jesus. We
cannot do that unless we deliberately take steps to do it. To take but one
example-to pray in the morning, if it be for only a few moments, is to have an
antiseptic for the whole day; for we cannot come out of the presence of Christ
to touch the evil things. For some few of us, abiding in Christ will be a
mystical experience that is beyond words to express. For most of us, it will
mean a constant contact with him. It will mean arranging life, arranging
prayer, arranging silence in such a way that there is never a day when we give
ourselves a chance to forget him.
Finally, we must note that here there are two things
laid down about the good disciple. First, he enriches his own life; his contact
makes him a fruitful branch. Second, he brings glory to God; the sight of his
life turns men's thoughts to the God who made him like that. God is glorified,
when we bear much fruit and show ourselves to be disciples of Jesus. The
greatest glory of the Christian life is that by our life and conduct we can
bring glory to God.
Comments by Dr. Winn
The above commentary (Romans)
is by William Barclay and gives the context for which understanding any group
of words within John 15 should be understood. The John 15.7 passage is in the
context of abiding. Prayer that is effective is based on the prayer abiding in
Jesus so that the words and works of Jesus control our minds in such a way that
we pray in conformity to the will of God. We can ask for anything that is in
the will of God for us and he is faithful to answer.
Contemporary English Version gives us this translation of 15.7: Stay joined
to me and let my teachings become part of you. Then you can pray for whatever
you want, and your prayer will be answered. The emphasis of the passage is on
staying joined with Jesus, not on asking and receiving. The asking and
receiving are conditioned by staying joined with Jesus. What we think may be
his will may not. What God wants is not always in line with what we want. The
story of the blind man that Jesus healed is an example that things happen in
life so that God gets the glory that he determines will best suit his overall
plan for the redemption of the world. To heal or not to heal is his prerogative
and not our ability to muster enough faith or belief to control his choices. We
must remember that Christianity is about our worshiping God and not about what
we can get from him to make our life easier. It is all about him, not all about
As long as we live in this Present Evil Age, it is our
job to continue to bring the Rule (Kingdom) of God into it. The war over
healing has already been won in the event of the life of Jesus (birth, life,
death, resurrection, and ascension). However, as we remain here between the
ages (the Kingdom come and coming) we will suffer losses and even lose battles.
But sitting in heaven, (Rev. 4) is God on his throne, victor over all
circumstances. What often appears to us as defeat is so that God can work good
for his eternal purposes and calls us to our knees to sing with the angels in
"Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God
who was, and is, and is to come
worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and
for you created all things,
and by your will they
and have their being."
I agree with what you wrote in
Liberating Women for Ministry and Leadership. But I have one question. You said
that Phoebe was a Deacon, which I agree with. But how do you deal with 1 Tim
3:12 which reads, "Let the deacon be the husband of one wife...." This will
lead some to believe and teach that Paul is saying that a deacon has to be a
man, and cannot be a woman
A short answer would be that the problem Paul was
trying to get Tim to solve in the Ephesian church centered around men who were
deacons having more than one wife, not women who were deacons having more than
The local context, the author's intent, and the
listener's ability to understand, all control the meaning of the text. The text
can only mean what it first meant. As you know, verses are useless for anything
but finding some bit of content and quoted as proof text they are downright
As Jesus our Savior and God hung on
the cross, and was about to experience the sin of the world, He said, "My God,
my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Knowing that God cannot look upon sin, 1.)
How is it that He became sin for us? 2.) Did God the Spirit leave the body of
Jesus at that moment, separating body and soul? 3.) How was it that God forsook
Knowing that God cannot look upon sin,
1.How is it
that He became sin for us?
The beginning of an answer to this question is found
in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Theology in the article
2.Did God the Spirit leave the body of Jesus at that
moment, separating body and soul?
This question is answered in the attached PDF file
called "Got Soul (32K)." You will
need the FREE Acrobat Reader
to view this file.
This is an old form of belief that the church
repudiated in the second century called Gnosticism. Gnosticism was a form of
belief that was most dangerous at the close of the second century. It most
likely began much earlier than this date. There had been a tremendous influx of
Gentiles into the early church. This influx brought with it several elements of
the Greek philosophical mindset. The basic presupposition of this philosophy
was dualism. This dualism says that spirit is good and material is evil.
Salvation was an escape from the realm of matter to spirit via knowledge. This
conflict became most acute in the understanding of the person of Jesus. The
gnostic asked the question, "How could infinite pure spirit have anything to do
with an evil material body?" There were two solutions to this dilemma.
- Jesus was not really human - he only appeared to
be. This was called Docetism that came from the Greek word dekeo which is
defined as "to seem." This made Jesus a ghost, an illusion; he seemed to be a
man but had no real existence.
- Jesus' spirit did not inhabit his body until his
baptism and his spirit left before his death. This was called Cerinthianism,
from its leader, Cerinthus. This made Jesus a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde; one did not
know when Jesus was human or when he was divine.
The dualism of good and evil may be the background for
what Jude says in v. 4a, i.e., ...who changed the grace of our God into a
license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
© 1999, Dr. Winn Griffin, All Rights Reserved
3.How was it that God forsook Jesus?
It may well be that Jesus was simply quoting the first
verse of Psalm 22 which is a Psalm of victory to his mother, John, and others
who were watching this awesome gift occur right in front of their eyes.
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