THE WORKING WORD
Copyright (C) 1997/2003
By Phil Scovell
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THE WORKING WORD
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.
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
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?
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
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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
"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.
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.
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.
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).
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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