Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Day Fifteen: The Purposes of the Promise, Part I

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:7-8).

In the original language of the New Testament, the word for “it will be done” in verse seven and the word for “so prove” in verse eight are the same word. The word literally means “to become,” and thus these verses could read like this: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will become for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so will become [i.e., show yourselves to be] my disciples.”

To this point in our text, Jesus has mentioned the fruit of the vine (15:2,4,5) but he has not defined what that fruit is. Here, by connecting verses seven and eight the way he does, he teaches us that the fruit of the vine is answered prayer. Thus, the way we prove to be branches in the vine of Christ is by successfully drawing the nutrients of the vine into the branches and so bearing fruit. The way we prove to be disciples of Christ is by calling down the blessings of heaven by means of earnest prayer, and obtaining a “yes” from the Father. In other words, the “yes” of the Father is the fruit that proves we are in Christ.

Why does the Father’s “yes” prove that we are in Christ? Because that “yes” is the Father’s way of testifying on our behalf that we, who once were children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3), are now children of God. And the Father has been testifying about his chosen ones in this way for a very long time. When Elijah was debating with the people about whether the Lord was God or Baal was God, about whether he was the true prophet or the prophets of Baal were the true prophets, God the Father testified on his behalf by sending fire from heaven to consume his offering. And this fire came in response to earnest prayer (1 Kings 18:17-40).

When Jesus came to seek and save the lost, the Father testified on his behalf by the works he gave him to do: “For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me…The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me” (John 5:36, 10:25). And even for Jesus these works were the fruit of much earnest prayer (Luke 5:15-16).

When the early believers went about proclaiming the gospel of Christ, the Father testified on their behalf by giving signs and wonders and miracles and spiritual gifts. “It [this great salvation] was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Hebrews 2:3-4). And he gave this testimony in response to much earnest prayer (e.g., Acts 2:42 & 4:23-31).

So, one of the main purposes of Jesus’ astonishing promise in John 15:7 is to teach the children of God how to bear fruit in the Kingdom of God, so proving to be his disciples. And in sum, here’s how to bear that fruit: abide in Christ, let his words abide in you, ask earnestly of the Father whatever you wish, submit yourself to his perfect will, and he will answer your prayers—this is the fruit of the vine.

Prayer Focus: Pray earnestly that God will make us a fruitful people who abide in Christ, passionately love his word, earnestly call on him in prayer, willingly submit to his perfect will, and regularly receive answers and blessings from him, for the glory of his name.

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