Monday, August 27, 2012

Jesus Christ is the VIne and We Are the Branches (John 15:1-6)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 29 July 2012 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church Singapore. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 15:1-6

It is only after Judas left that John14 starts, and it talks about the relationship between the church and the head of the church, Jesus Christ. Between John14-16 He promised the Holy Spirit to come on the Pentacost to the church.

The Holy Spirit is of greater importance than all teachings by the prophets and apostles combined. This is because the prophets are inspired by the Holy Spirit to write about the Holy Spirit Himself and the apostles are inspired by the Holy Spirit to write about things after the Holy Spirit came.

In John 14 and John 16, whenever the Holy Spirit is mentioned, He is also called the Spirit of Truth. And the Spirit of Truth is also the One who sanctifies us. Therefore Truth cannot be separated from the Spirit, and the Spirit cannot be separated from Holiness. If Truth is separated from the Spirit, the foundations of that faith cannot stand (e.g. the liberal theology) and if Truth is separated from holiness, that faith too cannot stand (e.g. the charismatics).

John 14-16 are talking about the coming of the Holy Spirit, that the Truth cannot be separated from the Spirit, and the Spirit cannot be separated from holiness. John 15 does not talk about the Holy Spirit at all but it still talks in depth about the relationship between Jesus and his disciples, which is an organic relationship/discipleship - a mystery in life.

In the seminary, people place emphasis on the topic 'Union with Christ.' From God's point of view, there are only 2 types of existence: In Christ or without Christ. Before we believe in the Lord, we are people physically descended from Adam. Christ once told Nicodemus, unless a person is born again, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. A person is only truly born again when the second person of God accomplishes the will of the first person of God in us through the third person of God. In Christ, the relationship between man and God becomes a live and organic relationship. While we were dead we receive a new life and joined with Christ - this is something that is not possible by human effort neither human will. This union is mysterious, organic, and eternally unchanged (Note: This is different from what the Roman Catholic teaches as organic relationship as they refer to it as a structural relationship between church and God, a concept borrowed from Aristotle's teachings. In it, the pillars do not interact with one another).

God uses lamb, the most meek animal, to illustrate Jesus Christ. Jesus is the source of life, connected to the actual lives. God also uses the vine, to symbolise the relationship (v1). Why vine and not some other strong and big trees? The wood of a vine has no economical value; it looks weak and gentle. Even so, it is the most fruitful plant on earth. A vine is hard to draw, just as Jesus Christ does not have his own image but is of God's image.

Many Christians listen to sermons but have never really received life from God. These are people who didn't respect God in the first place, so God does not want them. Christians are supposed to bear fruit so that others can see God, but these people do not bear fruits. Jesus Christ is the vine, and Christians are the branches. Apostle Paul once said that he was afraid, after he himself have shared to others, he would be cut off. This is possible if one shares the gospel with false motives. Those without fruit will be cut off (v2) - Note that this verse does not justify the Arminian thinking.

The other type of people are those really born again, but are unable to bear much fruit. So God prunes these people. He will not cut wrongly. When there are few leaves, a vine is able to absorb much more nutrients and hence it can bear a lot of fruits.

What leaves do you need God to clean you of?


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