THE WORKING WORD

                                       By

                                 Phil Scovell





                          Copyright (C) 1997/2003

                            By Phil Scovell

                          All Rights Reserved



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                            THE WORKING WORD


                                   By

                              Phil Scovell



                              JOHN 15:1-3

               I am  the true vine,  and my Father is  the husbandman.
               Every branch  in me  that beareth not  fruit he  taketh
               away: and every  branch that beareth fruit,  he purgeth
               it,  that it may  bring forth more  fruit.   Now ye are
               clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.  



                              INTRODUCTION

               Our Lord was the Master  Teacher.  He employed many teaching
          methods  to enable  His  hearers  to understand.    He taught  by
          contrast; comparing a  mustard seed to a  distant mountain (Matt.
          17:20).    He  likewise  taught   by  example  when  he  fed  the
          multitudes;  later making  reference to the  miracle in  order to
          emphasize   truth  (Matt.  16:5-12).    He  often  illustrated...
          Placing a small child before Him, He said, we all must  become as
          little children to  inherit the  kingdom of  God (Matt.  18:2-6).
          He, of course,  likewise taught symbolically as we  see in John's
          Gospel.

               As Jesus and His disciples walked through the narrow streets
          of Jerusalem,  John records  our Lord's  words:  "I  am the  true
          vine."    Perhaps questions  the  disciples were  asking  as they
          walked along prompted Jesus to point to a nearby vineyard when he
          spoke these words.  Their conversation undoubtedly focused on the
          fruitfulness of the  Christian life.  In another  words, how does
          the Word work?


                                      1

                                 STRIP


               As  our Lord  addressed the  question  of the  Word and  how
          fruitfulness is achieved, he began by saying, "Every  branch that
          bears not  fruit He takes  away."  Fruitfulness in  the Christian
          life, therefore, is intrinsic.   In fact, one might  say that the
          lack of fruit  in one's relationship with the  Lord is dangerous.
          God  expects  His own  to  be  fruitful.    He even  expands  the
          importance of spiritual fruitfulness by saying, "But every branch
          that bears  fruit, He purges  it, that  it may  bring forth  more
          fruit."

               The Greek term used for  "purge" in this passage is rendered
          (prune).   The dictionary  defines pruning as  (a lopping  off of
          superfluous  branches, to  trim, to  cut off  or out,  as useless
          parts).  Such connotes a process.


          ROD

               The  rod, or  staff,  of  a shepherd  was  perhaps his  most
          important implement.  It was used for balance over rocky terrain,
          for prodding  sheep, and  rescuing those sheep  which had  fallen
          into deep crevasses; hence the hooked top on some rods or staffs.
          It mostly  certainly  was used  as a  weapon when  needed.   Such
          implements were symbols of personal  identity.  The rod of Moses,
          Aaron's rod, and David's  references to the rod and  staff of God
          in the twenty-third  Psalm:  "Thy rod and Thy staff; they comfort
          me" all indicate personal identity.

               These rods  were carefully and  expertly made.   The  proper
          wood  was carefully  chosen and  the  branches stripped  from its
          shaft.  It  was sanded until perfectly smooth,  thus allowing the
          user  to  handle the  instrument  quickly  without injury.    The
          manufacturing of these rods was meticulous and arduous as well as
          personal.  They were often carved with intricate detail.  Jewels,
          precious  stones, and colorful ribbons likewise would adorn those
          rods  possessed   by  the   wealthy.     Each  owner   sought  to
          individualize his rod  which identified him  and his position  in
          life.  

               The rod  symbolizes the ministry  of the Holy Spirit  in the
          life of  the Believer.   God's Word, Jesus said,  strips, prunes,
          lops off,  cuts out, trims, smoothes down our lives in order that
          we might become more  conformable to His Son  Jesus Christ.   The
          process is long, meticulous, and arduous.  The stripping away is,
          and can, often be emotionally painful, physically unbearable, and
          spiritually   trying.    Keep  in  mind  that  the  circumstances
          themselves are  not necessarily  of God.   The Word,  however, is
          always  available and if employed properly, will afford spiritual
          identity   in  our  relationship  with   God.    These  times  of
          difficulties, and what may even  seem as impossibilities, are all
          times when  we are quick to give up  and confess, "It isn't worth
          it."  Such  is temptation.   As the Devil  attempts to break  and
          severe  our relationship with  God through trials,  the Christian
          needs to remain sensitive to  God's Word.  Such implementation of
          God's eternal Word  will cause us, as the rod in  the hand of the
          shepherd, to  become a productive  tool and weapon.   Jesus said,
          "In the world you will  have tribulation/troubles; but be of good
          cheer:  I have overcome the world," (John 16:33).


                                      2

                                 SEVER


               The  working process  of God's  eternal  Word does  not only
          strip  away but  severs.  Jesus  said, "Every  branch in  me that
          beareth not fruit  he taketh away: and every  branch that beareth
          fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit."   When
          a tree is pruned, it is cut, deadness severed, and then comes the
          joy of  fruit.  When a rod  was made by the shepherd,  all of the
          excess  was stripped away, severed, so  that it could be a useful
          and  active part of his employ.   As the Word  of God is lived in
          the life of a Believer, this severing process is evident as well.
          The old,  the  unwanted, the  unproductive  is severed  from  the
          Christian  life  in   order  that  fruition  can  once  again  be
          experienced.   Such a  severing can indeed be  painful.  John the
          baptizer had something to say along these lines:

               And now  also the  axe is  laid unto  the  root of  the
               trees: therefore  every tree  which bringeth  not forth
               good fruit is  hewn down, and  cast into  the fire.   I
               indeed baptize you  with water unto repentance:  but he
               that cometh after me is  mightier than I, whose shoes I
               am not  worthy to bear:  he shall baptize you  with the
               Holy Ghost,  and with fire:  Whose fan is in  his hand,
               and he will throughly purge  his floor, and gather  his
               wheat into  the garner; but  he will burn up  the chaff
               with unquenchable fire. (Mat. 3:11-12). 


               John's  message was not pleasant.   His message revealed the
          Word  to be  one which  brought  a severing  and separation  from
          deadness.   The unfruitful  were separated,  cut, from the  fruit
          bearing  productive trees.    Furthermore,  those which  remained
          would be  baptized with  the Holy Ghost  and with  fire; flaming,
          burning,  scorching, consuming, blazing  examples of Christ.   If
          that wasn't  enough, Jesus  was going to  fan them  into greater,
          more powerful, more  consuming flames.  This  Word, therefore, is
          one  of separation  from  what  once was  and  anything which  is
          unproductive, that  is; deadness, must  be removed in  order that
          fruit may be produced.

               At  this  point the  reader  may  be  thinking the  fire  is
          terribly  destructive.  Certainly this is  true.  We must keep in
          mind, however, that such teaching is metaphorical.  This power to
          which  John referred  is spiritual  and likewise  the fire.   The
          stripping and severing is likewise spiritual.  God isn't going to
          kill your children, trash your house, bring physical plagues upon
          you, crash your car, rot your  teeth, or smite you with boils  to
          get  your attention and  make you a  better witness for  Him.  He
          promised to give you the Holy Spirit as your teacher to bring you
          into a  more fruitful, more  productive, more powerful life.   My
          point is, the process may seem painful.

               There is another aspect of  fire which is often over looked;
          it can be protective  in nature.  In early days when the west was
          being settled, it was not  uncommon for wagon trains to encounter
          prairie fires.   As  the smoke from  the approaching  brush fires
          rose in the distance, these hardy settlers would deliberately set
          fire to the  brush immediately behind  them.  As the  winds drove
          that fire away from them -  from whence they came - it created  a
          dead  zone.   Moving their  wagons back  within the  newly burned
          area,  the approaching  fire would  burn  out and  they would  be
          spared.   Perhaps this  is where the  cliche "fighting  fire with
          fire" came.   Similar tactics  are practiced by fire  fighters in
          attempting to extinguish forest fires today.

               As the Holy  Spirit ministers the Word of  God, sometimes it
          burns,  creating   spiritual  friction   and  eventually,   heat.
          Certainly such  is uncomfortable but  necessary as the  Spirit of
          God  creates  a "dead  zone"  of safety  where,  not only  are we
          protected, but able to produce the will of God prolifically.


               For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper
               than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing
               asunder of  soul  and spirit,  and  of the  joints  and
               marrow, and is  a discerner of the thoughts and intents
               of the heart. (Heb. 4:12).


               The Word  of God likewise may pierce  us in order to divide,
          separate, those things  which hinder the Believer  from spiritual
          fruitfulness.   The word  "quick" in this  passage - The  Word is
          (quick) and  powerful  -  means  (alive).   The  pruning  process
          quickens, makes alive, and  is not intended to kill but  to bring
          life  more abundantly.  We either  accept it or reject; we either
          embrace it or rebel; we either face it or flee.


                                      3

                                SCOURGE


                            HEBREWS 12:5-11


               5  And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh
               unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the
               chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked
               of him:  6 For whom  the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and
               scourgeth every son whom he  receiveth.  7 If ye endure
               chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what
               son is he whom the father chasteneth  not?  8 But if ye
               be  without chastisement,  whereof  all are  partakers,
               then are ye  bastards, and not sons.   9 Furthermore we
               have had  fathers of our flesh which  corrected us, and
               we gave them reverence: shall  we not much rather be in
               subjection unto  the Father of  spirits, and live?   10
               For they verily for a few days chastened us after their
               own pleasure; but  he for our profit, that  we might be
               partakers  of his holiness.   11 Now  no chastening for
               the  present  seemeth  to   be  joyous,  but  grievous:
               nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable  fruit
               of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.



               The  Scriptures  are  filled with  symbolic  language.   The
          reason for  such is obvious:  we are simply unable  to comprehend
          God.   Jesus  taught largely  by  parables to  enable hearers  to
          understand  spiritual  truth.   The  writer  of  Hebrews  uses  a
          metaphor in order that we  might clearly understand the nature of
          God and His eternal Word.

          GREEK TERMS

               There  are  several  interesting Greek  terms  used  in this
          passage that are worthy of our observation.  Verse  (11) uses the
          word  "exercised" when attempting to explain how the "chastening"
          of the Lord works:

               Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous,
               but grievous:  nevertheless afterward  it yieldeth  the
               peaceable  fruit of  righteousness unto them  which are
               exercised thereby.

               The  word "exercised"  is  an unusual  word employed  by the
          inspired writer and was very  likely in reference to the olympian
          games in  Rome.    It's  root means  (in  the  nude).    olympian
          participants generally stripped themselves of all clothing during
          training in  order that they  would be uninhibited.   This writer
          used  such metaphorical language  in his teaching  throughout the
          letter; including  liking the  spiritual to  the olympian  games:
          [See  Hebrews 11 and  12].  There  is, of course,  a more obvious
          comparison  in  this  verse  and  that is  God's  Word  strips  -
          exercises - us for "scourging."

               This passage  of Scripture  is  generally misinterpreted  by
          those  who wish  us to  believe  that bad  things, wrong  things,
          painful things happen to the Christian to teach us a lesson or to
          punish  sin.   Jesus  said the  Holy  Spirit was  sent to  be our
          Teacher,  thus, immediately  eliminating  such an  interpretative
          fallacy.  We must remember that the writer of Hebrews was using a
          child's relationship with his father to  teach a spiritual truth.
          Jesus, of course,  taught symbolically as was  already mentioned.
          Regardless  of  what we  have  been taught,  one  need  not be  a
          theologian to observe this passage is not literally teaching that
          God  "scourges"  His  own  children;  stripping  them  naked  and
          lacerating their exposed back with a whip.


          CHASTENED

               The word for  "chastened" in this text  is rendered (tutor).
          This immediately brings the correct interpretation into spiritual
          focus.   "My son, despise  not the  "chastening/tutoring" of  the
          Lord..."   With  this correct  interpretation,  we can  then view
          God's Word  in its  proper prospective,(  I.E. for our  spiritual
          benefit).

          REBUKED

          "Nor faith when you are rebuked  of Him."

               When we use  the word "rebuke" today, we  generally mean (to
          call down),  or (to criticize).  The word  used by the King James
          translators, however,  was appropriate  in their  day.  It  meant
          (correction).   The Greek term  used is translated  (to confute).
          This  word  isn't  commonly  employed  today  but  it  means  (to
          overwhelm  with argument,  to bring  to  naught, to  prove to  be
          wrong).   Job immediately  comes to  mind  when considering  this
          interpretation  because he  was  proven wrong  by  the dozens  of
          questions God asked  of him.  In  another words, God's own  words
          overwhelmed Job's incorrect  reasoning; His words brought  him to
          naught; His words  proved him wrong.  Could  we thus conclude Job
          received tutelage  of God?  Most   certainly he  was corrected by
          God's Word  because repentance followed.   God's written  Word is
          our  personal tutor  and we  are instructed  not to  despise such
          tutelage -  have  little regard  for it.   In  another words,  we
          should  consider   it,  the   tutoring,   of  great   importance.
          Furthermore, we are told "not to faint when rebuked of Him."  The
          word "faint" literally means (not to  relax).  We could say  that
          the  tutoring of  God's  Word should  be  embraced as  personally
          beneficial and not wilt  or shrink from it's teaching.   What did
          Job do?  He repented - changed  is mind - literally, he conformed
          to it.  Such is  the nature and purpose of God's  tutelage by His
          Word; it is that we might change, repent, become more conformable
          to His eternal Word;  Christ Jesus the Lord.  The Hebrews passage
          additionally confirms  that such instruction  is out of  love and
          identifies us as the sons and daughters of God.

               Spiritual  reasoning is then employed by the inspired writer
          of this letter  to the Hebrews.   If we have earthly  fathers who
          correct us, why not  God?  If we reverence, or  respect them, for
          such,  why not God.  In fact, we have the promise that such Godly
          chastening  insures  life:  "Shall  we  not  much  rather  be  in
          subjection unto the  Father of spirits,  and live?" (Heb.  12:9).
          Similarly, Jesus said He purges every branch and those unfruitful
          branches  are cut  out  and discarded;  burned;  destroyed.   The
          promise of life lived within this relationship with God implies a
          fruitful existence; such is the nature of God's Word.


                                      4

                                SEPARATE


               God's   Word   also   has   a   separating,   or   dividing,
          characteristic.  By  its own nature, it divides  light from dark,
          right from  wrong, good from bad, holy from  unholy.  We are told
          that our Lord cast out unclean spirits and healed the sick by His
          Word (Matt. 8:16-17).  John's Gospel records that the teaching of
          Jesus brought division among the  Jews (John 10:19).  We likewise
          have the account  of the disciples coming to Jesus  to inform Him
          of  the   effects  His  teaching  was  having  on  the  religious
          community.   He  responded by  telling His  disciples that  those
          plants which are not  planted by the  Heavenly Father must be  up
          rooted (Matt. 15:12-13).

               Following salvation, the  devil will attempt to sow bad seed
          in our lives through  difficult circumstances, situations  beyond
          our control, and  perhaps even by  sin committed.  If  the plants
          which the Heavenly Father  has not planted must be  rooted up, so
          must  these which  are attempting  to  take ground  in our  lives
          again.  The tree must be  pruned, the deadness separated from the
          life giving  branches, in order  that fruit may be  produced once
          again.  Such is the nature of God's working Word.

          INVALIDATION

               Jesus was often rejected as He taught the Scriptures because
          He preached  against religious  traditions.   Mark records  Jesus
          preaching  on the  subject  of  traditions in  chapter  7 of  his
          Gospel.  Jesus  told the hearers that their  traditions cause the
          Word  of God to  be of  "none effect).   The Greek  word used for
          (none effect) literally means (to invalidate).  Its root means to
          nullify the authority.  This is a shocking statement by our Lord!
          If  we examine  this statement  carefully, we  can begin  to gain
          insight to  reasons why  God's Word  looses effectiveness  in our
          lives as  Christians.   If we revert  to living  our relationship
          with God by rule and regulation, His  Word is no longer valid; it
          has lost its effectiveness.  No wonder our prayers go unanswered.
          In short, living by traditions, by rule and regulation, by things
          we think makes us more favorable to God, such conduct  causes the
          authority of God's Word to  loose effectiveness.  In short, God's
          Word looses ability  to separate and divide; it's  pruning nature
          no longer able to up root.   Fortunately, this can be reversed by
          simple  repentance; mind  and  heart  changing,  and  once  again
          walking in agreement with God's eternal Word.


                                      5

                                STRENGTH



                              LUKE 6:47-48

               Whosoever cometh  to me,  and heareth  my sayings,  and
               doeth them,  I will shew you to whom  he is like: He is
               like a man  which built an house, and  digged deep, and
               laid  the foundation  on  a rock:  and  when the  flood
               arose,  the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and
               could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.



               As we have seen,  the purging of God's Word strips  away the
          deadness;  the unwanted or needed; that  which gets in the way of
          fruitfulness.  The Word likewise severs in order for the fruit of
          the Holy  Spirit to  manifest.  Then  we are  scourged/tutored by
          God's Word in  order that we might learn  His ways.  We  are even
          separated  - set a part - in  order that we might be pressed into
          service for Him.  Finally we experience strength.   This does not
          mean, however, that  our problems are  over and we can  lean back
          and watch the world go by.  Jesus reminded us that our foundation
          be set deep and that we in fact should be prepared for the coming
          storms.  If  we have done our  part by allowing God's Word  to do
          its part, the  storms can rage all  they wish; they will  have no
          effect against  the Rock Christ  Jesus.  To yield,  therefore, to
          the working of the eternal Word of God is strength in His name.

               There is a price to pay, however, if we reject, or otherwise
          fail to embrace the working of God's Word:  "But he that heareth,
          and doeth not, is  like a man that without a  foundation built an
          house  upon   the  earth;  against  which  the  stream  did  beat
          vehemently, and immediately  it fell; and the ruin  of that house
          was great" Luke 6:49).



                               CONCLUSION


               Behind our  house grew an apple  orchard.  Every kid  in the
          neighborhood played within its boundaries  summer and winter.  We
          of   course  at   the  apples   uninhibitedly.     The   orchard,
          unfortunately,  was never  taken  care  of by  anyone.   Yes,  it
          produced hundreds of  apples without personal care but  they were
          wild apples  I.E. marred,  disfigured, blemished.   Although  the
          trees produced many eatable apples, the orchard was infested with
          insects,  the grass  grew wild  along  with the  weeds, and  most
          tragically, most of the fruit fell to the ground where it rotted.
          In  short,  the  orchard never  produced  to  its  full potential
          because no one cared.  How much more could it have done, how much
          more beautiful, how much more  fruit could have been harvested if
          only  someone would  have  cared enough  to prune,  and otherwise
          dress, the orchard.  As Christians, we will bear fruit because we
          have the  Spirit of God living within us.  How much more would we
          produce if  we were to  allow God's Word  to dress and  prune our
          relationship with him.


                            End Of Document
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