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Foxes, Fruits and Fiascos
FRUITS AND ROOTS
LOSS OF SIMPLICITY IN CHRIST (II Cor. 11:3)
Foxes can spoil the grapes, taking what is luscious. marring the tender vines. Indeed, it appears from Song of Solomon 2:15, that there are "little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes."
In considering some of the fiascos of theology that can spoil the fruit, we have looked at certain little foxes. Not only to the ear, but to the eye has it come. A young couple acknowledge the devastating effect of wrong teaching in their lives, just as the Bible exposed such error from the place of its pronouncement. We revert for further exposition to the realm of The Pitter-Patter of Prophetic Feet Ch. 8 with its adjunct, Dawn of Light Ch. 1. There the reader may recall, there was that age-old but always potentially devastating error of trying to spruce things up, to increase the fruit, to have more results for assurance of eternal life. It is always perhaps tempting to any coach to try to make the team play better; and especially to Ministers in churches where there is a desire for more passion, more conviction, more fruit in the members, and such sorts of things, there is the danger of the Pelagian emphasis.
At once it is necessary, since confusion is one of the normal escape routes of the enemy of souls who delights in confusion as much as any captain of a weaker vessel in the presence of a one much more powerful, to clarify even further. The word of God does not flinch, though many run.
Thus a series of propositions may be articulated by someone, with the intention of exhibiting a principle or principles, for a particular theological position. This could be, as here, thought of as extreme Calvinism, though as we saw in Ch. 8 as mentioned above, this error of our concern here, is not what Calvin clearly said.
In such an extravagant thrust, such is the inviolability of the truth, that the implications grow to be or actually become the precise opposite of the position and principles in view, on the part of their protagonist; and this becomes, one may readily see, a kind of rebuke. It is as if an over-zealous coach wanted his team to do some extraordinary thing which he keenly insisted was NECESSARY, and this spoiled them for the game! The spoiling is a kind of rebuke.
So is it here. Even the dogmatic result by implication becomes the exact opposite of that sought.
The fruit case as we saw before, was this: it was stated that it is NOT enough to BELIEVE in Christ to be assured of salvation, but one must do this and that as well. The Bible, in I John 5 is of a different mind. He who believes THAT Jesus is the Christ is born of God is born of God, a child of God, "and if children, then heirs" (Romans 8:17). As to those born of God, I John 3:9 tells us that His seed remains in them, and Titus elaborates to eternal life in Titus 3:3-5. Now eternal life is very wonderful and not at all to be demeaned, and assuredly NO one who is not a Christian has it, nor can have it (Luke 14:27ff., John 14:6). UNLESS you forsake ALL you have you CANNOT be Christ's disciple, and HE is the ONLY way to it.
Indeed, we have already seen that IF you believe He is the Christ, you are born of God. This is what the apostle John says in the scripture (I John 5:1).
Hence the concept of this NOT being enough, is anti-scriptural, and that is all there is to it. It is false doctrine. You can call it an attack an easy-believism, or even pose as some sort of a theological hero, but it is false doctrine. You can argue, with the mind of Pelagius for this was a primary thrust in the ancient British monk, that it is NECESSARY to bring people to an awakened state, that all this formalism is dead, and so on; but it is still false doctrine.
ANY use of this kind of thrust is in the atmosphere and KIND of Pelagianism, and this particular proposition is precisely of his sort, so that it is a Pelagian proposition. The PERSON guilty of making it is not necessarily a Pelagian at all. This one does not claim, nor could one claim. Confusion sometimes befuddles the tongue and error makes tribute to zeal but not to wisdom. Known to God is the soul of everyone, and the man with one doctrine astray is by no means certain to follow some heretical position which includes it, in all its other tenets. People are frequently inconsistent, and one of the purposes of biblical theology is to prevent this darting off without reference to all of the Bible, so that false doctrine rattles around like static in a radio.
In THIS ONE point however, which he is following it, and this doctrine cannot be excluded from such a name to itself, as ONE DOCTRINE, the error is Pelagian in kind. This is the nature of ITS failing. Thus one can say simultaneously that this is a Pelagian doctrine, but that one has no evidence that the perpetrator of the doctrine IS A PELAGIAN. He or she may be; there is ground for concern, there is certainly error, but the progression to outright denial is at least not self-evident. For all that, the deliverance from this thrust may take pains.
Confusion on this basis, however, when both propositions are clearly stated, soon becomes a ghastly mockery of logical thought, and could lead to misrepresentation and evil speaking, backbiting and all the rest, just as Paul so ardently condemns in II Corinthians 12:20:
"For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish: lest there be contentions, jealousies and outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbiting, whisperings, conceits ..."
Unwise are those who fall, as targets of Satan in such matters, instead of manfully or with virtue bringing the imagined wrong to the party concerned, and having the issues resolved, in private, as required by Christ (Matthew 18:15ff.). Whether the brother is held to have sinned directly or indirectly, it is one. If it breaches fellowship the duty is there. GO AND SEE HIM. Backbiting is the biblically condemned alternative. Some wish to cohere with these or those, but it is forbidden: that is selfish ambition. It may be for one's church or one's self, for one's nation or anything else appealing to the SELF, and not in accord with the COMMANDMENTS of the Saviour (John 17 with Matthew 18).
Those who want it this way, and so proceed, become rebels, and as to this, it is worse than witchcraft (I Samuel 15:23). That is what the word of God has to say. It is not good to mix with witches, and the dishonourable should never reach the level of church life. Is it for this that people would sacrifice Christian unity, adding rebellion against that, where it is Biblical, to this, which is never biblical but moral revolt!
Thus in the fruit case, where people MUST bear fruit in order to be righteously assured of their standing, lest they engage or indulge in 'easy believing' there is the mischief of false teaching. A man however may simultaneously have this true of him: that the proposition he wishes to pronounce is one thing, and sound may be the intention, but the implication is false in doctrine, and constitutive of heresy. This is the irony for the unspiritually zealous in such a thing.
It means that because you are not satisfied with the teaching and the system as GOD provides it in His sole written, authorised definitive declaration to man, the Bible, your desire to safeguard certain other things in it can put you in the very place you abhor. Wanting here to prevent easy-believism, a formalistic, dysfunctional defiance of the reality of holiness, the zealot may come to teach works as part of salvation, so that it is only WHEN YOU add your modicum to that of Christ that you are ENTITLED to think of yourself as a believer. This makes YOU and YOUR DOINGS part of the ground of faith; which is NOT biblical faith! (Ephesians 2:1-12, Romans 3:23ff.).
This may seem unfortunate, but divine ironies are God's business. This by no mans stops it from happening. You cannot arrest the truth, and expect no resurrection! When Christ Himself was arrested, He was careful to resurrected ON TIME to boot! There is no weakness if God, the strength of the heart of His people, and failure with Him simply doesn't happen with God. It does not happen in that or in any other way.
Death could not hold Him, who was crucified; and likewise, playing with His doctrines to contradict what He actually says in favour of some theory about some other doctrine, leads to the sure result: it is overthrown. God knows how to defend His name, and His ironies are like lashes on the backs of the unwary. To ignore them is not wise. To take refuge in one's good intentions is not sound; for contradiction is not for the student, but for the teacher. What is written stands.
But how sad to see people not sure whether they are saved, because quite illicitly and illicitly taught, contrary to the word of God, they examine their fruit instead of placing their faith and trust in the Lord, and being assured by HIS WORD of eternal life, receive it as a simple gift (Romans 6:23), and hence having both Christ and faith, infallibly bring forth good fruit in its time and place as Christ promises in Matthew 7:18. When the tree is planted by the Father (Matthew 15:13), it CANNOT do anything else. The root is basic to the fruit. It comes first and lasts till the end when the Father plants, as He does every believer (Isaiah 61:3-10, John 11:25-26).
It is because God never fails (Romans 8:29-39, Philippians 1:6). As He is on record with His free gift (Romans 6:23, 5:15, 5:9-11), so in parallel NOTHING will separate you. It may be painful when, as with David and Uriah, God separates some aspirant sin FROM YOU! but nothing will then separate YOU from HIM!
This is far from imagining that pastoral care is not needed, if available, or exhortation; but it is at the level of salvation and eternal life, to put that matter behind one at ONCE, for it depends on the STATEMENT of God in His word.
The real trouble is simply that some fail to take account of how the Bible defines 'faith'. You see that in James. It is that on which one in fact operates. If one believes, one does; if not, one does not, but rather does what one does believe. Of course: how otherwise! But this does not alter the fact that believing THAT Jesus is the Christ has the certainty attached, that this one, this person of whom this is true, is ALREADY born of God. Expediency and teaching zeal cannot stand against the word of God, and the pastoral results of such presumption are grievous to behold.
Now it is true that the sort of doctrinal and spiritual error involved in denying I John 5, here, may in pastoral fact deal more with assurance of being saved, than the basis of salvation. But both aspects are alike dissatisfied with the concept of having an assured saved status simply in the way I John 5 declares. The energy of the flesh INSISTS in each case, on part in the entry, thus confusing if it were possible the very elect.
Some may say, CHRIST PLUS is the basis! They are of course wrong (John 6:47, I John 5, John 6:51-54, 10:9,27-28, Romans 5:1-11). Others may say BELIEVING THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST PLUS gives you assurance. They too are wrong and they have in common this feature: each contradicts what is written, neither stops at Christ where the word stops, and both add flesh to the potion. IF CHRIST, as in I John 5 is not sufficient for ASSURANCE, then the Bible is wrong. If you must ADD to this for assurance, then you are a theological alchemist interfering with the basis of salvation.
Not your intention ? Very possibly, but it is your result! It is faith that assures; fruit merely re-assures. It is the Spirit of the Lord who both seals salvation and assures the believing heart (Ephesians 1:11-14, Romans 8:9-11,16).
So falls every tilt at the simplicity of salvation, and the precision of the word of God. How justly Paul bewailed, how rightly he was grieved for those at Corinth in danger of losing "the simplicity which is in Christ" (II Cor. 11:3). The subtlety of the serpent can deceive both teacher and taught, if they depart from His word.
says Paul, "I am jealous
for you with godly jealousy.
For I have betrothed you to one husband,
that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
But I fear, lest somehow,
as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness,
so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ."
is LORD of His own word.
God is LORD of His own salvation.
HE paid for it (Hosea 13:14, Matthew 20:28) and He not only OUGHT to know, has the RIGHT to know and to prescribe, but DOES KNOW. His word is truth (John 17:17).
Traditionalists of the right or left must face their various predicaments, for the irony of their discomfiture in no way lessens the RESULTS of their error.
Their predicament leaves no extrication, be it never so heavy a burden to them, and at ANY level ever so sophisticated a substitute for the doctrines of grace; for indeed, not only are we saved, that is in a saved state (Greek) by grace through faith, and not only is it not of works (Ephesians 2:1-10, Romans 3), but the grace itself is a GIFT. It is the gift of God, not flesh (Romans 5:15), and in fact flesh has nothing whatever to do with it, arousing itself to fight the very word of God! The essence and the procedure, both are gift. To take a gift takes faith when it is invisible.
It takes nothing more.
It is the presence of Christ according to His word, and the crucifixion WITH HIM which infallibly results (II Cor. 5:15-21, Galatians 2:20, 5:24), and is part of the redemption (Romans 6, Titus 3), it is this which results in the Spirit producing fruit. The LORD is the vine. WE who are His are the branches. IF He is in us, and the case is not merely that we are 'in' Him in mere form, like some sport, or reversion to original botanical stock, as can happen in the orange tree based on lime stock: then fruit is certain. You do not need to test your fruit gauge all the time. You do need to ABIDE (cf. Questions and Answers 6); and if you need discipline, the One who is then your heavenly Father is a massive expert at that! (Hebrews 12:12-29). If you are His, you will speedily find out this very palpable fact, as does a child at a good school!
THAT, it is the way it goes. You are NOT left without correction! There is no need to institute some ultra-gospel and anti-Biblical intervention to allay the realities of the gift or the adequacy of faith. God continually moulds to His own likeness, and it in His presence that we seek better conformity, more initiative in spiritual things, deeper love and freer communion. Faith freely accepts what is freely given and assured in His word (John 5:24, Romans 3:23ff., Galatians 1, 3, 5, Ephesians 1:11, I John 5:11ff.). It welcomes help; needs no artificial struts. It is God who both justifies and assures, His word absolute.
Pre-occupation (instead of due occupation) with results, instead of seeking and resting in causes, what is it like ? It resembles polishing the towers of the new World Trade Centre, before they are built. IF you believe, then you know. If you merely hope, you do not believe, for they are not one, hope and belief; and belief is REQUIRED. ONCE you believe, the towers are there, and polish may be apt. UNTIL then, polish is vanity and woe, pre-occupation and fuss, an imaginary and imaginative delusion.
In the celestial city, the kingdom of heaven, the building
is wrought entirely by God: it is like a birth. He also undertakes the upkeep;
but in this, when the regenerated building is actually up, and clearly known to
be so, He condescends, then only, to co-operate with His servants (Romans
9:12-16). This, it is
called sanctification (I Thessalonians
5:23), and one should aim that
this be entire in body, mind and soul. If one is crucified with Christ, this is
not entirely unexpected. As Paul points out in Romans 6, death is incapable,
when it comes to sin! Certainly, the spirit and flesh have their fights, but
this is the victory, even your faith (Romans 8, I John 5:4).
LOSS OF SALUBRITY
In any great system, organisation or life, there is sure to be a result from change. It may even be disastrous. No wonder that Proverbs warns us about those given to change (Proverbs 24:21), and Paul is lethal on such lordliness (Galatians 1), making even himself subject to its sanctions!
How often, however, in the history of desire, delusion and that profusion of confusion that sometimes comes into decaying bodies, and at other times leads to their decay, does this sort of unfortunate, traditionalised work of departure from the Bible, have a booster.
Thus instead of the dissidents receiving correction from the word of God, they backslide, seize without due care, or moderation, on something said, distort it from context, alter it or omit the integrity of the whole statement, assume change when in fact a diversity of elements has been given, reconstruct what is said and so forth, fabricate some romance which they then charge to the account of the corrector (II Tim. 4:2).
Ignoring wisdom and unversed or inadequately so, in the wiles of Satan, and rejecting the meekness and the love of God as if exempt from Matthew 18, noted earlier, they DO NOT take to the brother, the trouble which is imagined or felt or held to have occurred, between them. Nor do they deal with it privately first, and only then with witness; but may rather act as they would like NONE to act with them, so being free for distorting and judging in one fell sweep, rather like a hawk, clawing with strange satisfaction in the air, in the absence of their victim. This is like slapping the face of a surgeon, because it hurts (not the face, but the knife, and in our case, the word of God! it is this which hurts, but which must be faced).
So is the second commandment broken, and so the procedural requirements of Christ. So do you get the pathology of which Paul spoke so sharply at Corinth (II Cor. 12), and the desires of the flesh being met, deviation, decline and false doctrine can become fast comrades.
But this! It ignores that Christ as LORD is present and judges. HE is not mocked. Many who are first will assuredly be last. The kingdom of heaven is spiritual.
The narrow way is not something you merely THINK about, but follow, as in orienteering, as up a perilous mountain pass, pursue with precision.
There is in the narrow way of God (Matthew 7:15), because it is His and pre-chosen, only ONE orientation that applies, and that is to Him, as LORD!
Ignoring what follows from not following is like a second degree burn.
Proceeding incorrigible is the third degree (Proverbs 29:1).
But God has provided for His people those who watch for them, and to reprove or rebuke as needed is a function like washing the dishes, not readily avoided (II Tim 4:2). Open rebuke is, in very deed, better than 'secret love'! The church is ONE BODY!
Unwise are they who trust in their churches, that follow not God, but the convenience or statistics of their flock. Indeed, here is a test: is the church to promote its own flame, or as Paul puts it, to PLACARD CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED! (Galatians 3). It is to rejoice, for that matter, in the liberty of Christ, not to imagine and in fact bind the body with nostrums of its own (as in Galatians 3 and 5). STAND FAST in the liberty of Christ, the apostle declares with power and authority.
It is easy to find those who add themselves and their
perceptions to the word of God (as in II Cor. 11), whose buffetings you may
foolishly heed! But this, it is towards a decline specified, like drinking and
driving. So be it. The church is not really less because some rebel, but this is
a purging, in which those who believe the church, never the criterion, not
Christ, always the criterion, show by their deeds the direction of their
PATHOLOGY AND BEAUTY DO NOT MIX
A head stretched from the body is not beautiful. A body leaving its head active, while it sleeps on the pillow is a ghastly thought. There is no beauty in such spiritual pathology. If reader you are caught in these extras for the faith, disband them from about your heart, detach them from your hands, follow your divine Head with liberty, knowing that salvation is freely given, freely received, and that having received it by faith (as in Galatians 3) you do not secure it by law! Thus comes the sheer splendour of the simplicity of the salvation in Christ, not bound in the confines, the Reserves of religion but liberated into the Lordship of Christ; and it is in HIM that you have that joy which is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10), transforming (II Corinthians 3:18), transporting (Ephesians 2:6) and full of glory (I Peter 1:8), free from the unspiritual shackles of the flesh, yours or anyone else's!
The removal of pollution does not destroy the air; rather it preserves the very reality of cleanness. Thus is purity attested and so is the Lordship of Christ implemented. Follow another book, be it ecclesiastical and Protestant or Roman, Moslem or other, and you have another look. This is mere self-verification!
So does the pathology mount! The path of HOLINESS, indeed the HIGHWAY OF HOLINESS as Isaiah 35 has it, it is THIS in which even a fool may proceed, and not err! There is no such guarantee for being headstrong, and incorrigible by the word of God. Indeed, in the end, as in Romans 16:17, when those who teach INSIST on their unapostolic doctrine, one MUST separate, with grief because of the loss to the kingdom but with decision because that is the PROGRAM for purity and the path of holiness, in the life of LOVE and God who IS love, has said so!
The captives of either pope or assembly, church or philosophy are alike, not under the dominion of Christ. NO MAN can serve two masters. The office of the church is to apply the word of God, not contradict it!
As Isaiah 29:12 tells us, to draw near with the lips, even to honour God in name with the lips, this is not at all the same as being close in heart. Indeed, what does it say ? :
"Inasmuch as this people draws near with their
And honour Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear towards Me is taught by the commandment of men,
Therefore behold, I will again do a marvellous work
Among this people,
A marvellous work and a wonder:
For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden."
Paul cites this in I Corinthians 1 of the simplicity and surety of the Gospel, and it remains a stunning rebuke to sophisticated meddling, however unintentional, and indeed, with whatever intention (cf. Galatians 2:4 with 5:1ff., II Corinthians 11:3). What is written stands, always has stood and remains today as green in effectiveness and freshness as when first provided; all else is fallen before it even hits the earth. Spying out liberty to detract from the simplicity in the Gospel of Christ is an unattractive invasive force. It can take the form of another christ, another gospel, another spirit, a Christ whose words are not heeded, not the Lord and so on, or even a non-reliance on the Christ, mistakenly called faith.
There is reality in the actual relationship with the Lord, but fruit is the RESULT of faith, and waiting for assurance through the impact of one's own works is making faith itself a resultant, and not a cause. If it is not to be taken as such before it works, then how can it work, since it is mulled and annulled before it begins. It must BE and that is a PERSONAL matter. No fruit can be a substitute for it, but only a confirmation. Being unsure (by direction) whether you have saving faith is to question the cause of the fruit, and that, it is not faith but doubt. You are not saved by doubt!
There has to be the love of the hand, the foot and indeed of the eyes, to follow, to be the willingness therefore to alter direction, when astray. Who is that LORD obeyed in disobedience ? Who is He loved in rebellion ? whose servants are ignored who present His word, and whose teachings are transgressed with specious and spurious wisdom! This 'wisdom' is not of God!
Who is such a Lord ? Alas, unless correction is met as biblically required, for the church so placed, it is not then the Lord Jesus Christ, who said: "WHY do you CALL Me, Lord, Lord and NOT do the things which I say!" (Luke 6:46).
The world is astray, some churches go astray, many who are at the first, merely mislead. All this is basic Biblical fact. AS MANY AS I LOVE, I rebuke and chasten, said Christ (Revelation 3:19). Love has its ways (I Cor. 13), and there is simply no substitute for it. Not perfection but obedience is needed; not to secure salvation by carnal devices, but to express it by spiritual provisions, as is the blessing of branches, where the vine is in them and they are in the vine, mutually intimate as occurs in due sprouting from true stock.
Where the heart is in the hand of God, whatever discipline is needed, the feet come to follow. The tension never produces bodily severance, the feet learning to follow. So it was, has been and must be; and so it is. What is regenerated is not merely rejuvenated, but placed in the hand of God, with His seed, His constitutive control, as a head OF COURSE has over its own body (Ephesians 2 and 4).
Thus even in the case of decay in disobedient churches, the word of God rules, and in the revival of churches, there again. God is merciful, but not mocked; and His word rules in this domain as in every other. Blessed are they who keep His commandments, for the fear of the Lord, that gleaming thing of grace from His own heart, it is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10): indeed, a good understanding have they who keep His word. This comes from Him, and results from Him, and is to be sought for Him, and when He is loved first, how will He be denied!
Though a righteous man fall seven times, yet in love he is
raised; but then falling, it is not often done ON PURPOSE! Then it is a matter
of practical experience, as you wait on that Lord in whom ALONE you trust, from
whom ALONE you take your salvation as from ONE NAME, HIS, that rise up with
wings as eagles, your youth being so renewed in heart, spirit and understanding,
that you run without weariness as the Shepherd asks it of you, you walk and do
LOVE, JOY AND TRUTH IN CHRIST,
ARE MORE EXPLOSIVE THAN BOMBS,
SAFER THAN MOUNTAINS
It is proportioned with that very intelligence, imagination and love which created in the first place. He loves His own to the last place (John 13:1), and what a verification is this, that as you so abide in Him according to His word, and He disciplines as needed as any father but to perfect ion as the Father of spirits and the Redeemer of souls, there is a wonder of rejoicing, not a sullen doubt, an energising for your appointed task, not a failure in ashes, indeed, the beauty for ashes is LIFE and not only word.
remember this one thing:
"I WILL MAKE MENTION OF THY RIGHTEOUSNESS, THINE ONLY" -
Psalm 71:16, that is a touchstone.
RIGHTEOUSNESS - to be mentioned ?
Anyone else's ?
When considering your placement, never make mention of your own imagined righteousness, or allow anyone else even to raise it as a ground of your salvation which, having received, you know, so that this being so, you grow, not disturbing the roots, but putting out shoots. Ephesians 2 and Romans 3 echo this song with distinction. Proceed as prescribed and joy has arrived.
Performance ? BELIEVE in HIM! Even that, it is the work of God (John 6:29, Romans 9:16), so rejoice that He did it! If you doubt, then confess your sin and seek HIM with all the heart. Remember HE would have ALL to be saved (I Timothy 2:1-6). You are not fighting an enemy of salvation, but its purchaser and friend: believe in and receive Him, repent and rejoice in the liberty He confers.
Then you can sing. YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, YOURS ONLY. That, it is sufficient
(Isaiah 61:10, Romans 3:27-28, 8:17,29ff., Ephesians 2:1-10, Hebrews 9:12ff., I
John 5:13, 3:9, I Thessalonians 5:9-10). It is however an ancient song, and it
NEVER changes. If you pass through trials, keep the way, do not deviate, be not
deterred. Trials will pass; but the word of the Lord endures forever.