Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Ultimate Purpose of the Resurrection, Part 3

I do not know much about agriculture or how to grow plants or trees for food. Frankly, this is something I have never had any interest in. However, the Lord used an agricultural metaphor as one of his primary metaphors to describe how believers relate to him. Namely, that he is heavenly Vine and we are branches connected to him (John 15:1-8). So a city boy like myself will need to learn something about this and think about the implications of what God is seeking to teach. Now that I have admitted my ignorance of nearly all things related to horticulture I will attempt some theological reflection.

The vine grows in the ground and the branches which are connected to it, on which the fruit appears, must remain connected to serve their purpose. In some sense then the ground represents God, as Christ is “in” God the Father. “The Father and I are one.” (John 10:30, NLT) Thus, if we are “in” the Vine (Christ) then we can receive the nutrients from the Vine to live and bear “fruit” for God. 

The Lord told the disciples this prior to his death and resurrection and assured them they would be given insight and wisdom to understand this (and much more) about how God wanted to relate to them (see John 15:26; 16:12-15). Clearly, he was preparing them for what they would experience when the Holy Spirit was sent to take up permanent residence within their spirits. And thus, it seems to me, the death and resurrection of the Lord was necessary for the spiritual reality he was describing to become actualized in them.

So then, I have some questions: What makes it possible for a human being to become a “branch” in the Vine? What about Christ (the Vine) makes him suitable for us to be united to him as branches in a vine?

One answer is obvious: To become a branch requires faith on our part. But I am not thinking of our human choice now; rather, I have in mind what God did to make it possible for us to become these branches of the heavenly Vine. Once again, we need to look to the Person of the Lord Christ and what he did for us in suffering death and being raised to life.

Andrew Murry wrote something on this point that I have found to be remarkably insightful and helpful. He says the following:
“The suggestive expression, ‘Planted into the likeness of His death,” [see Romans 6:5] will teach us what the abiding in the Crucified One means. When a graft is united with the stock on which it is to grow, we know that it must be kept fixed, it must abide in the place where the stock has been cut, been wounded, to make an opening to receive the graft. No graft without wounding—the laying bare and opening up of the inner life of the tree to receive the stranger branch. It is only through such wounding that access can be obtained to the fellowship of the sap and the growth and the life of the stronger stem. Even so with Jesus and the sinner. Only when we are planted into the likeness of His death shall we also be in the likeness of His resurrection, partakers of the life and the power there are in Him. In the death of the Cross Christ was wounded, and in His opened wounds a place prepared where we might be grafted in.(Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ, chapter 11, emphasis added [cited from The Andrew Murray Collection, Barbour and Company Inc., p.66-67])

The Lord himself was made by God the perfect human vessel who could suffer and die on our behalf, for our sins, and his resurrection makes it possible for us to become, in an actual spiritual way, a part of Christ. Murray writes of our being grafted into the very wounds of Christ. His observation here is certainly true and lines up with the teaching of the New Testament.
Is it not most remarkable that we miss such an obvious truth? Do I not understand that I will only be able to receive true spirit-life from God except through intimate and permanent connection with Christ? The implications of this teaching are so radical because they demand everything of me. I would, to be honest, prefer that God sent me daily a package of spiritual vitamins and other nutrients which only required water and some stirring to prepare; then I can be ready for the day to serve God. Yet this is not how he has arranged to give his own life, power, wisdom, righteousness and holiness to his beloved people.

The holy Triune God decided that all the fullness of God would dwell in the human Person of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:19; 2:9). And it is in Christ that we “have been made complete” (Colossians 2:10, NASB). Further, it is Christ who is “the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.” (Colossians 2:19, NASB) This is how we receive the resurrection power of God that God willed to be in Christ for us.

Thanks and praise be to God alone! The Holy One is good and wise and knows how to give the best to all who come to him by faith.

“Let them praise the name of the LORD,

For His name alone is exalted;

His glory is above earth and heaven.

And He has lifted up a horn for His people,

Praise for all His godly ones;

Even for the sons of Israel, a people near to Him.

Praise the LORD!”
(Psalm 148:13-14, NASB)

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