Opening Prayer Thoughts.
Praise God for the fact that we can live our lives to produce thoughts, words and deeds that glorify Him. Praise God for the mercy he extends to us every day to be able to do so.
Confess the sin of thoughts, words and deeds that do not bring glory to God.
Please ask the Holy Spirit's help as you come to his Word.
Please read Luke 13:6-9
Fruit needs to be produced.
V6. Repentance bears fruit.
The parable Jesus now teaches is a direct follow up to what he has just said about the need to repent or face the terrible consequences of perishing eternally.
The parable is a simple one – it's about a fig tree growing in a vineyard that is not producing fruit, and what should be done with it. The idea that the fig tree is out of place and that it only has found its way into the vineyard by some random means, for example, a seed having been carried in by a bird, doesn't stand. The vineyard owner has deliberately planted the fig tree.
The issue is that the fig tree is not producing any fruit, and it hasn't done so for three consecutive years. Given that most fig tree varieties produce two crops a year, the vineyard owner has just cause to feel disappointed with the tree. So, he approaches the vinedresser, a man who works for him, and tells him to cut the tree down. The owner does explain his request – 'what's the point of it taking up space in the ground if it's not doing anything?' So, it's not just that the tree is not producing any fruit, it's that it is taking up a place in the ground where something else could grow and produce fruit. The vinedresser suggests a further season of patience, and in the interim, he will seek to give the tree every opportunity to produce fruit. He will tend to it by digging around its base and putting manure into the ground, which might fertilize life and growth. If the tree does bear fruit the following year, well and good, and if not, then the vineyard owner can cut it down. In other words, it's your tree, you can do with it as you please.
The commentators are not too helpful on this. One of those I use every day just says, "Jesus sets the scene with a Figtree in a vineyard," then tells the story and concludes with the sentence, "Jesus teaches that to the end God is merciful." Certainly concise, if not overly insightful. Another commentator goes through three pages stating what; the fig tree, the vineyard and the three years do not represent, and in the process, he indirectly states what he thinks they do represent. I make the point simply to show that it takes prayerful work to try and get to the bottom of what Jesus teaches on occasion.
Here is my wrestle; if God is the vineyard and fig tree owner, who is the vinedresser? Suppose we see the vineyard owner and the vinedresser as viewing the fig tree from different perspectives. The vinedresser sees his role as tending to the vines and, in this case the fig tree, doing what he can to help them grow. If his best efforts don't help produce the necessary fruit, then the vineyard owner can do with the trees as he wishes; they, after all, are his. If that is the scenario, then the conclusion can be drawn that the 'vinedresser' represents the men called by Christ to serve his Bride as under-shepherds, ministers, pastors. However, if the owner and the vinedresser are thinking the same but just discussing the duration of 'mercy', then they are one and the same. The vineyard owner is God the Father, and the vinedresser is Christ himself. J.C. Ryle says the following, "We learn, lastly, from this parable, what an infinite debt we all owe to God's mercy and Christ's intercession. It seems impossible to draw any other lesson from the earnest pleading of the dresser of the vineyard – 'Lord, let it alone this year also.' Surely, we see here, as in a glass, the loving-kindness of God, and the mediation of Christ." So, Ryle is clear and emphatic, as is R.C.H. Lenski, who writes, "This vinedresser is undoubtedly Christ."
Sorry for my indecisiveness on this, but it is what it is this morning, and I would rather give you from the labours of my own heart than just thoughtlessly trot out in my own words what others have written. Press me to come down on one side or the other, and I will come down on the side of Ryle and Lenski; God is the vineyard owner, and Christ is the vinedresser. I will probably look at this in a year's time and think, 'why was I so hesitant?' But that is what coming to God's Word is all about; thinking, praying, considering and learning over time. It is a process that we engage in personally, albeit with the help of others. But it is the personal aspect, that takes place between you and God, that is the wonderful thing about what we are doing here – learning at the feet of Jesus for ourselves.
The critical points to note here are the absolute necessity to produce fruit and understand God's mercy in that process.
The need to produce fruit.
I can't do any better than Ryle on the application of the necessity to produce fruit. In applying it to the church, he writes, "There is a plain warning here to all professing churches of Christ. If their ministers do not teach sound doctrine, and their members do not live holy lives, they are in imminent peril of destruction. God is every year observing them, and taking account of all their ways. They may abound in ceremonial religion. They may be covered with the leaves of forms, and services, and ordinances. But if they are destitute of the fruit of the Spirit, they are reckoned useless cumberers of the ground. Except they repent, they will be cut down."
Ryle also addresses the individual about fruit-bearing. He writes, "There is a plainer warning still in the passage for all 'unconverted professing Christians'. There are many in every congregation who hear the Gospel, who are literally hanging over the brink of the pit. They have lived for years in the best part of God's vineyard, and yet borne no fruit. They have heard the Gospel preached faithfully for hundreds of Sundays, and yet have never embraced it, and taken up the cross, and followed Christ. They do not perhaps run into open sin. But they do nothing for God's glory. There is nothing positive about their religion. Of each of these, the Lord of the vineyard might say with truth, "I come these many years seeking fruit on this tree and find none. Cut it down. It cumbers the ground."
Churches don't die for want of young people and money; churches are cut off because the people in them are not producing fruit. That happens because the people are either not being called to dwell in Christ and obey His Word or, they are unwilling to heed that call. Most people don't leave biblical churches or churches where Christ is preached because they don't like something. The reality is, although it is seldom understood as this, they are 'cut off' because of their unwillingness to make the sacrifices to abide in Christ (and I have italicized 'sacrifices' because of what sacrifice is to be in the Lord). Note, this being 'cut off' can mean that these individuals find their way to another community of people, where they will get what they want – namely personal happiness. They will be welcomed and tacitly encouraged to do what they want when they want, and importantly, at no cost to themselves. This will fulfil and give them the measure of religious satisfaction they desire. The fact that they will be barren in terms of eternal fruit sadly weighs little upon them – a sobering thought.
On the night he was betrayed, Jesus warned his disciples about this when he said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 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. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." John 15:1-11.
Who of us is abiding as we should? Who of us is really being as productive as we could? Are you, like me, not thankful for God's forbearing mercy, which means that He does not cut us off? Are we not incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to abide in Christ daily, and through His intercession, be exposed to his fertilizing Word in our life?
Psalm to Sing
Psalm 62A - Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.
It is a privilege to lay into our hearts and minds the light and truth of God's Word.
Romans 1:16 – "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,"
Truth for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 94 – To whom is Baptism to be administered?
Answer – Baptism is not to be administered to any outside membership of the church on earth, until they profess their faith in Christ and obedience to him; but infants descending from parents (one or both) professing faith in Christ and obedience to him, are, for that reason, within the covenant and are to be baptised.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you will find proof texts.
Thank God for the privilege of abiding in Jesus. Pray that the Holy Spirit would enable you to make the most of that blessing, that you might, by Christ's work in your life, bear much good fruit to the Father's glory.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley
Minister, Ottawa RPC