Luke 6:42-45: A Tree and Its Fruit

Read: Luke 6:42-45

After telling a parable concerning teachers, Jesus gives another parable talking about one’s deeds and speech. He illustrates how deeds and speech are like a tree and its fruit: Any given species of tree will only produce the kind of fruit that the species produces, not the kind of fruit from another species. The analogy here is that a good heart will produce good deeds and speech and an evil hear will produce evil deeds and speech.

In logic, the kind of relationship describe by Jesus is called modus ponens, which says “X implies Y. X, therefore Y”. What one cannot do under this kind of relationship is say, “Y therefore X”. This is called affirming the consequence, which is not valid. However one can say, “X, therefore possibly Y”, which is an inference from evidence. In other words, if one has a good heart, then one will have good speech and deeds, but good speech and deeds don’t prove a good heart, rather they serve as evidence for a good heart. At times, people can “fake it”. Likewise, one can say “not Y, therefore not X”, which is called modus tollens. James makes this argument concerning the relationship between works and faith. He saying that he will show you his faith by his works inductively and without works, faith is dead via modus tollens (James 2:14-26). Works and speech are outward expressions of the inward change that happens when one believe in Christ, and there can be used to determine the condition of one’s heart. A person that calls himself a follower of Jesus yet does not do good in keeping with that faith has a questionable faith. But at the same time this isn’t necessarily a tale-tell sign of a Christian either. Jesus illustrated this with parables too concerning wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30), which are practically identical. Likewise, not everyone who says “Lord, Lord’ will be recognized by Jesus even though they seemingly did good things in his name (Matthew 7:21-22)

The Bible is explicitly clear: salvation comes by faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). But at the same time, works are evidence of this faith. Christians therefore ought to examine his or her own faith to make sure that he or she is not trusting in works or something else entire for salvation, rather in the completed work of Jesus. Likewise, this is not a license to go on a witch hunt to weed out the tares – in fact Jesus warns against this. Rather, again each should examine his own heart asking, “Do I call Jesus, ‘Lord’?” If not, then repent and believe the gospel! If so, “Am I obeying his commands?” If one can honestly answer “yes” answer these questions, then there is no need to worry about others questioning one’s faith based on works.

Lord, You are my Lord! Help me to follow your commands!

2 Timothy 3:10-16: “Equipped for Every Good Work”

Read: 2 Timothy 3:10-16

After a strong warning of the sort of people to avoid, Paul shows Timothy the sort of person he should follow – none other than Paul himself. Paul was up in years by the this time, and had endured many hardships for the sake of the gospel. He endured persecution at Antioch, Lystra, and Iconium (Acts 13, 14). Nevertheless, Paul affirms that in all these places the Lord delivered him from the Persecution. Paul had gone to these places to spread the gospel and start churches, by he was met with fierce opposition. This basic pattern followed him pretty much everywhere he went, so much so that Paul makes a general statement concerning persecution: that those want to live lives of godliness in Jesus will endure persecution. And Paul is thinking that even the bad ones that he had finished describing will go from bad to worse. For Timothy, the worst was yet to come, even in the thick of things as they were for him in Ephesus.

Paul then encourages Timothy basically to stick to his guns. He says that Timothy had been taught the scripture sense his infancy which makes one “wise for salvation” in Jesus Christ. Timothy had a Jewish mother and a Greek father (Acts 16:1). Not much is known concerning Timothy’s father, but in any case, the faith that he had been given came from his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). The scriptures for them were what the Old Testament is in the Christian Bible, and this is what Timothy had been taught before he ever met Paul. These scriptures were what made one wise for Salvation in Jesus Christ, as the Old Testament spoke about Jesus (Luke 24:27). Paul then affirms the totality of scripture is “God-breathed”. The Greek word “θεοπνευστος” is as combination of the word for God and word for breath, and Paul uses this to describe the nature of scripture. In the manner in which breath comes from a person, so the scriptures come from God. For this reason, scripture is useful for a number of things: teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness. Paul says that this is so the “man of God is equipped for every good work”. The good works stand in stark contrast to the evil that Paul had described earlier in the chapter (2 Timothy 3:1-9) and the importance of doing the word is reiterated by James 1:23. A person who merely studies the scripture and does not apply it to his or her life and live accordingly to it is like a person who looks in the mirror then forgets what he looks like.

For Christians, scriptures consist of the 27 books if the New Testament and the 39 books of the Old Testament. This is called the “canon” which means “measure”. What was included in the Bible as scripture was not something that was decided by an ad hoc council as many skeptics like to suggest. Exactly why the books of the New Testament were chosen is unknown, but there was surprising agreement among the early Christians what books were to be included when the New Testament was decided. Some scholars have proposed 4 criterion and on these criterion the council established the New Testament:

  • Apostolic Origin – that is the material was associated with one of the original apostles associated with Jesus.
  • Universal Acceptance – that is the book in question was widely accepted by a broad spectrum of early churches rather than a few.
  • Liturgical Use – the book was useful for worship and all matters, as Paul suggests, for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness
  • Consistent Message – the theology communicated in a book is consistent with other books.

For Christians today, there is also the question of closure to the Bible: is it complete? Any new material under the aforementioned criterion would not have Apostolic Origin if all the apostles have died. For this reason, it is reasonable to think that the New Testament was completed before the passing of the apostle. Any other “new inspiration” then is not possible.

The scriptures through the ages have proved themselves to stand up to scrutiny and have proven themselves to be effective standards by which to live by. Christians can therefore apply what Paul said concerning the scriptures of his day, the Old Testament, to the Christian New Testament and use it for training in righteousness. But Christians should also be about the work of applying scripture to one’s life all the time every day. This way one will not be like the one, as James describes, who forgets what he or she looks like after looking in the mirror. The study and application of scripture is how one avoids sin and lives according to the teachings of Jesus, “equipped for every good work”. Inevitably, the ones who live according to the scriptures will come under fire. Following the commands and using scripture to rebuke and reprove some will make them lash out because the scriptures speak truth into the lives of many. Paul’s pattern of persecution should be expected, so when it does come, one should not be surprised. In all things though, Christians know that there reward is great in heaven with God because of persecution!

Lord, equip me by your word so I can be ready to do good work!

John 14:7-15

Read: John 14:7-15

Knowing Jesus is knowing God, because they are one and the same. For the disciples, they had a difficult time understanding this because Jesus was sitting there with them, and they saw the Father as a spiritual being whose existence transcended the world in which they existed. Jesus had just promised that he was going away to the Father to prepare a place for them, and Philip, the one Jesus tested when he fed 5000 (John 6:5-6), suggests that Jesus showing them the Father would be enough. Jesus then answers Philip, saying that he had he known Jesus, then he would also know the Father. Apparently, Philip hadn’t fully understood at this point. Jesus points Philip to the “works” that he was doing as a means to know that Jesus was one with the Father, and that the Father is working through him.

It’s not certain as to what “works” is referring to here. The word translated “work” and “works” is the Greek word “εργον” and is used exclusively in scripture to refer to deeds and works, but works can refer to miracles, acts of kindness, service, among other things. The deeds to which Jesus is appealing to are perhaps the entirety of his ministry from his words and deeds. Jesus follows this saying that they will do greater works then he does because he goes to be with the Father. One could mistakenly take this to mean that the disciples are greater than Jesus, but that’s not what Jesus is saying. Jesus says in John 6:29 that the work of God is to believe in Jesus and around work center his works. The works that they will be doing are greater than those of Jesus because Jesus will not be present because he is going to be with the Father. Jesus knew that they would go out from Jerusalem and declare to gospel to the ends of earth (Acts 1:8). The greatness of this work is greater in scope.

One of the most often misquoted passages in all of scriptures comes from John 14:12-13. Taken in isolation, it would seem that Jesus is offering the disciples a cosmic genie who will grant their every wish. What is certain is that the disciples early on were able to perform miracles. The purpose however was to authenticate their message and for the propagation of the gospel beyond Jerusalem to Samaria and Judea, to Antioch, then to the rest of the world. Knowing that the work of God is to believe in Jesus, this makes sense. Three observations in the text support this. First, Jesus says that he acts on the Father’s initiative because the Father is abiding in him. Christians have the same sort of relationship with the Father with the Holy Spirit abiding in them such that they should act on the Spirit’s initiative. Second, the purpose of asking for something from God is so that God would be glorified. Third, these verses are immediately followed by a statement concerning love and commandments. Those who love Jesus will obey his commandments, such that asking for something in Jesus’ should be in accordance with his commandments. The context indicates that asking for Jesus’ help should be done in the context of his abiding in one’s life, for his glory, and in accordance to his commands.

God’s commission to all who believe is to be involved in his work – that is to believe in Jesus. Even the purpose of John’s writing of his gospel so that some might believe (John 20:29-30). When Christians ask something from God, he or she should ask in accordance to what God would want so they can point others to Jesus. When the world asks about Jesus, Christians should be able to point to Jesus in their lives as Jesus should be making a difference in their lives. In other words, the deeds that people do should be a testimony to that brings glory to God. This way, many can know and believe that Jesus is God and that Jesus can save them from their sin!

Lord, let the works of my life and the things that I ask for bring glory to your name!

John 5:30-47

Read: John 5:30-47

Jesus, after laying his claims for equality with God, Jesus says that if he testifies about himself, then his testimony is not true, but if there is another witness, then the testimony is true.  In the Jewish legal system, truth was not established by a single witness, but my two (or more) witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6, Deuteronomy 19:15). Jesus then gives 5 other witnesses to the veracity of his testimony: the Spirit, the witness of John the Baptist, the witness of works, the witness of the Father, and the witness of Scripture.

The Spirit (John 5:32):  The “another” is uncertain, but given that Jesus testifies about the Father later on, it seems that Jesus is alluding to the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who speaks truth into the lives of believers (John 14:17, John 15:26, John 16:13, Romans 9:1, 1 John 5:6, 1 Corinthians 2:10-16). The Spirit here is testifying about Jesus and Jesus, being one with God and the Spirit, knows that the testimony is true.

John the Baptist (John 5:33-35) John the Baptist gave a testimony about Jesus, calling him the Lamb of God and the one who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:19-36, John 3:22-36, Mark 1:1-13). Jesus calls him a “lamp” – a light bearer as described in John 1:6-8. John made the way for Jesus, pointing people to Christ so that they would not only have Jesus’ testimony, but also the witness of another.

Works (John 5:36): Jesus claims that his works were a sign from God that his testimony is true (John 7:31, John 10:24-38). John the Apostle recorded many of the signs in his gospel to that people might believe in Jesus too (John 20:30-31). The ultimate work of Jesus was his death, burial, and resurrection on which the Christian faith stands or falls (1 Corinthians 15:11-19).

The Father (John 5:37-38):  Matthew 3:17 and Matthew 17:5 speaks of a voice from heaven calling Jesus “My son”. Peter recalls the transfiguration of Jesus in 2 Peter 1:16-21. Perhaps Jesus is talking about the voice from heaven, although they may have audibly heard it, they did understand it because it was not abiding in their hearts. This is the condition described in Isaiah 6:10 where the ears are receiving sound, but is not received. The Father’s words abiding in one’s heart should compel them to believe in the Father, the one who sent Jesus.

The Scriptures (John 5:39-47): Moses wrote about Jesus (Genesis 3:15, Genesis 12:3, Genesis 18:18, Genesis 49:10, Numbers 21:8-9, Numbers 24:17-18, Deuteronomy 18:18-19). The scriptures for the Jews in New Testament times varied depending on the sect, but they all agreed that the writings of Moses were scripture. Jesus reasons that if they believed the scriptures they would believe in him. They do not believe in him, so they do not believe the scriptures. The reason Jesus gives is that they seek glory from one another rather than God – perhaps they were looking to make themselves the prophets the scripture spoke of rather than Jesus. In that matter, they were abusing scripture. In any case, if one does not believe scriptures, they cannot believe Jesus.

Claiming equality with God would require extraordinary witnesses, but Jesus nevertheless had the witnesses he need to prove his case. Christians today, perhaps, have even more of a witness concerning Jesus. Not only do Christians have the five aforementioned witnesses, Christians have the message fully revealed and expounded on by the New Testament writers and the Holy Spirit living within. Christians have a personal testimony to share and they can also point skeptics to the veracity of scriptures that have been verified as accurate and reliable. One does not have to affirm some pie-in-the-sky claim concerning what he or she believes, but have evaluate it based on real history and verifiable facts.

Lord, your testimony is true. Help me to point others to the truth!