Hebrews 12: 1-11
John 15: 1-6
Job 42: 1-6, 10, 11
DJW I wondered, beloved brethren, whether in these two readings we might be occupied with the matter of spiritual refinement, and how it is brought about. In this reading, what is in mind is largely what is individual, but in the next reading, God willing, we may see how it bears upon a company, a locality. I think it is clear from Hebrews 12 that one thing that God uses to reach His end in us, and to bring about spiritual refinement, is discipline and chastisement, and it is as well to note at the beginning that He uses those things because of love for us. His love lies behind it. I have been thinking somewhat of this verse 11 in Hebrews 12: “But no chastening at the time seems to be matter of joy, but of grief; but afterwards yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those exercised by it”. I desire for myself, beloved brethren, to be among “those exercised by it”, and therefore bring forth “the peaceful fruit of righteousness”; so we might enquire what that may be. This chapter refers to “the Father of spirits”, and as relating ourselves to the Lord what He allows brings about a change in our spirits, producing the spirit of Christ. Now, we have been through a good deal of exercise, beloved brethren, and God has allowed it, and it is clear that He has disciplined us and chastised us, and I think there is good in getting the gain of that. These things generally draw us to Himself when they are rightly taken account of, and thus there is the production of “the peaceful fruit of righteousness”.
Now chastening at the time, as it says here, is not a “matter of joy, but of grief”, and to that end there is reason why I read the beginning of the chapter as to “looking stedfastly on Jesus the leader and completer of faith”. Apart from that, we would be overcome, but our eye needs to be on the Man in the glory, but that Man has been here and He has suffered as no-one else did. “For consider well him who endured so great contradiction from sinners against himself, that ye be not weary, fainting in your minds”. It is as looking to Jesus that we become overcomers and gain in the knowledge of Himself and are maintained in this race, this race from earth to heaven. It is maybe a marathon. You are on the last lap of this race when you may be feeling tired and jaded and under pressure; yet in that last lap you can look to “Jesus the leader and completer of faith”.
I read in John 15; the Lord Jesus is spoken of as “the true vine” there, and also you get the Father spoken of as “the husbandman”. There again the thought of discipline enters into this scripture, that there is the taking away of “every branch in me not bearing fruit”, but what I would particularly like to draw attention to is the fact that “every one bearing fruit, he purges it that it may bring forth more fruit”. It is not that there is no fruit, but the Father in His love, in His chastening and discipline, has in view to remove anything that would hinder our growth, hinder spiritual progress, and bring about spiritual refinement. Without Christ we “can do nothing”, but, as Job comes to it, “I know that thou canst do everything”. Job is a remarkable person, one who came under the discipline of God in a real way. Satan said to God, “Hast not thou made a hedge about him”; He could not touch him. But God said, ‘Well, you can touch him, but you cannot take his life’, chap 1. God had a perfect understanding of the work of God that was in him. I do not think Satan can understand the work of God in us. He can take account of our weaknesses in the flesh and exploit them, but he cannot understand the work of God. Therefore, Job did not curse God. You might say he was a man that was exemplary; yet God allowed him to pass through this discipline in a severe way, and God reached His end in Job through it. One thing he comes to is “that thou canst do everything, and that thou canst be hindered in no thought of thine”. He has twice as much as he had before. Another thing he says is, “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee”. Upright man he may have been, but he had come into a fresh, close relationship with God: “now mine eye seeth thee”, and it brought an end to himself: “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes”. And then the verses 10 and 11 bring out how he could enter into fellowship in a real way with those who had been his acquaintances and they “condoled with him, and comforted him concerning all the evil that Jehovah had brought upon him; and every one gave him a piece of money, and every one a golden ring”. I think that is an expression of fellowship. A “golden ring” means they are bound together in links that are really eternal. I trust that will be acceptable to the brethren.
JBI I am sure it will. I was going to ask what it means to be “exercised” by chastening. It is easy to be stoical and to say, ‘Well, I put up with whatever happened’, but to be “exercised” by it is a positive thing.
DJW It is, yes. Men who have no knowledge of God, if they enter into bitter circumstances, generally turn against God and say, ‘Why me?’; but with the believer it generally has the opposite effect, that it turns us to God, turns us to the Lord. Rebecca had a struggle within her. She said, “why am I thus?”, Gen 25: 22. Speaking for myself, there is a need to have to do with the Lord in this way in relation to present circumstances, present exercises, that there is a positive end in view. God has allowed things for a reason. He has in view that “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” might be seen, and that would establish us together in the truth and underlie links of affection in the truth.
DJW-s Does the reference at the end of verse 2 to “the throne of God” show that everything is under perfect control, and measured?
DJW Yes, I think that is right. He “is set down at the right hand of the throne of God”. There is a Man there who has completed everything to God’s full satisfaction and He is in the position of power, and He can be hindered in no thought of His. That is what Job came to. I think that is a good thing to hold to at any time, that things are in His hands, and we are in His hands, therefore we are in the best hands.
GMcK In verse 3 it says, “consider well”. We are to take time over that consideration. The note ‘g’ says, ‘Weigh so as to judge its value’. “Looking stedfastly” on Him is not a fleeting thing. It is deep contemplation, is it, of the One who endured?
DJW I am sure that is right. There is a note (‘d’) that is often referred to, ‘looking away from other things and fixing the eye exclusively on one’. Well, that One knew what it was to endure “so great contradiction from sinners”. When He brought near the love of God, it was rejected, and His pathway ended in rejection, going out of this scene by way of the cross. Who else could have endured that? But the contemplation of “him who endured so great contradiction from sinners against himself” has in view that we are “not weary, fainting in your minds”.
AEM The thought of spiritual refinement assumes that a spiritual work has begun. I wondered if the words “for whom the Lord loves he chastens” has that in mind that a spiritual work should continue.
DJW Yes, I think that is right, and He has His own way of bringing about circumstances to reach that end as He did with Job. I think that is with us, too, whether it be individually or collectively, but nothing happens without Him having in view a positive end and working towards that great cry, “the Spirit and the bride say, Come”, Rev 22: 17.
RDP I was just wondering about the expression the “completer of faith”, “the leader and completer of faith”. What is meant by the idea of completing faith?
DJW Well, that is something that could not be said of any other. In the previous chapter you have a long list of persons of faith, but none of them could be said to be “the leader and completer” of it. It is something that was introduced, do you think, in the Lord Himself coming into manhood, and it was seen triumphantly in His outgoing as One that had completed what was given Him to do, and He is now triumphantly seated at God’s right hand? That is the setting of it, is it not? You could help us more.
RDP There are various views of the believer’s pathway. One is that it is a waiting time, for instance, but this gives us rather a different view, does it not? It is a running time, and the “completer of faith” seems to involve that faith is not a one-off experience exactly, but a continuing exercise. It continues; it develops; it opens out. Faith involves light, for instance, does it not? I was just thinking of this aspect of the believer’s life, running as over against waiting, for instance. Perhaps it is something that may exercise us at the present time.
DJW Well, this race is a continuing thing. It will continue until the Lord comes, and I shall be in that race unless the Lord takes me to be with Himself, but the present time is a time of education. There is the side of God’s purpose, and we must cling to that, but these verses bring in the side of education. Each one of us is in the school of God, and that will last until the end of the dispensation.
DMC In a marathon, you would think that your body would faint, but it is the mind that is stressed. Why is that, do you think, “fainting in your minds”?
DJW Well, it would point to what we are occupied with. Peter left the boat in Matthew 14, did he not, v 29? He was all right while he kept his eye on the Lord, but his mind was diverted to other things like the waves and the storms, and he began to sink. The Lord outstretched His arms to save him, but his mind had not been “stedfastly on Jesus the leader and completer of faith”. Do you have some thought?
DMC I think that is right. Do you think the believer’s mind is a very important part of him? His mind would control his body and what he does; so it speaks about having a renewed mind, Rom 12: 2.
DJW I think that is right, and it is an exercise how much my mind is controlled by the Holy Spirit to channel me into this spiritual line of things because now is the time of growth; now is the time of education. When we are with Christ in glory, this opportunity will be over, but the present time is for education and growth and increase in the knowledge of God, as we see in Job.
RDP Of the Galatians it is said, “Ye ran well”, and then Paul says, “who has stopped you …?” chap 5: 7. I was thinking of what our brother said as to the mind and the fact that it seems to involve a person, or persons. As we get in Revelation, “that no one take thy crown”, chap 3: 11. It speaks here of “sin which so easily entangles us”. I was thinking of the Galatians: they “ran well” and they are credited for that.
DJW It is an exercise with us how we end, whether our last days will be the brightest days. They were with Jacob; his days went on and brightened, as the hymn-writer puts it in hymn 403. He increased in the knowledge of God as he went through this race, increased right to the end. He was morally a great person. I think you might say typically “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” was seen in him.
IMcK You chose the word ‘refinement’ deliberately. Can you say some more as to that?
DJW I think it relates to what is morally beautiful in the eyes of God. To me it means the development in features like Christ, that you are formed after that order of manhood. It is only that order of manhood that God finds delight in, and the Spirit, as free in us, would form us in that order of manhood. The present time and the circumstances and exercise and pressure we are in are to that end, do you think?
JBI Could you say more as to our spirits? Our spirits would be refined. Is it the way that something is expressed in a man or in a woman that is pleasurable to God that He is looking for?
DJW I am sure that is right. It is really the Spirit of Christ, which is alien to us in the flesh. I have been exercised myself: what about my spirit? How is it developing? How has it been formed under the influence of Christ? How has it been formed under the influence of the Spirit? I believe there is moral power seen in spiritual refinement. There is a dignity attached to it.
JBI Was that seen in Naomi? She says, “the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1: 20), but at the end of that book you see that she is restored. Do you think it is as she goes back, as she finds her life in the land, that her spirit is refined?
DJW I think that is a good illustration of it; she went back to the point of departure. She says, “I went out full, and Jehovah has brought me home again empty”, v 21. But it brought her back to the Lord, brought her back to God, the God that she knew beforehand, and she was used in order to bring another one, Ruth, into the knowledge of the man of wealth, Boaz. It shows that there is a spiritual influence through a person that has this kind of spirit and has to do with God in the bitter circumstances in which she was found.
HTF In the first verse you read, there is an emphatic word, “Let us also therefore”; I just wonder if that is inclusive. We may tend, as a first reaction, to opt out in our minds, but there is a compulsion about this. I was thinking of the reference to Naomi as well because that family tried opting out and it did not work for them: it was ruinous. But God had His end anyway. It was the cry of Job’s wife, “Dost thou still remain firm in thine integrity? curse God and die” (Job 2: 9); but it was not God’s way.
DJW I think that is good. We are not in this race alone, are we? “Let us”. Previous to that you have the reference to “so great a cloud of witnesses”. Well, I believe they are here today, the “cloud of witnesses”. It is a sympathetic atmosphere whereby we can encourage one another to run this race with Him in view, do you think?
DCB I was wondering if this refinement was related to sonship, and sonship not as something abstract, but sonship as something forming a person.
DJW I think that is right. Normally a father takes great delight in seeing his son having the same interests as himself and if you transfer that thought, the Father has great delight in us as sons having the same interests as He has. So if discipline comes along, it comes from One who has affection for us. It is illustrated naturally; there is no-one like your father that has affection for you as a son, and the Father in divine things has affection for us, and it is in view of us being brought into the liberty of sonship. You have some thought yourself?
DCB Well, it is very attractive when it says, “God conducts himself towards you as towards sons”. That is, from His side, He has taken it upon Himself to act in that way as a father acts with the desire that there is not simply a title to sonship, which we blessedly have, but something that answers to His affections.
DJW I am sure that is right; so it is not only the advantages for ourselves, but there is what is for the Father and that is in view, is it not?
GMcK How does the chastening come about? Is it a direct action of God and the Father? They speak to Job about the evil that Jehovah had brought upon him. Or is it more along the lines of what God might allow? Help us about it.
DJW My own impression is that it is more the latter, what He allows, but there is nothing negative in His mind in allowing it. As we see in John 15, the husbandman brings in the pruning in order that there might be more fruit. There may be things in me that need to be judged and done away with because they may be hindering my spiritual progress, may be hindering this spiritual refinement that is taking place. What it has in mind is the removal of all that would hinder that in order that we might be more pleasing to Him and “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” might be seen.
GMcK I suppose the “contradiction from sinners against himself” was something that was allowed. The Lord said to Pilate, “Thou hadst no authority whatever against me if it were not given to thee from above”, John 19: 11. Do we see in the Lord’s life in a unique way what was allowed to come against Him?
DJW I believe that is right, but it was all borne “in view of the joy lying before him”. He never lost sight of that. He never lost sight of what would be secured for the heart of God. It meant much suffering for Himself, but He came here specifically to do the will of God “in view of the joy lying before him”. Think of the joy that He had in seeing a seed sown: “Except the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, it abides alone; but if it die, it bears much fruit”, John 12: 24. It is the same order as Himself: “such as the heavenly one, such also the heavenly ones”, 1 Cor 15: 48. Think of the joy He has in an assembly answer to Himself! All these things helped Him to go through, do you think? The joy that lay before Him entered into that.
DMC Could you help us to understand verse 8, please?
DJW “But if ye are without chastening, of which all have been made partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons”. Well, I think that underlies that chastening is an avenue that He uses to bring about His own end in us.
DMC It says, “and not sons”, so that it is really God seeking to establish His full relationship with us in sonship because a bastard is not a true son.
DJW No, that is right, but there is also the work of God that can be appealed to, and the chastening has in view to bring that to light, the work of God; so there is a positive end in view, a near, close relationship established with God in liberty which sonship would speak of.
SDP For Jonah in the belly of the great fish, the circumstances were not in his control. His prayer entered into the holy temple of God, and there was a voice of thanksgiving in the terrible circumstances, chap 2: 7. Is that an example of it?
DJW I think it is. God puts us in circumstances sometimes which are beyond our control, but He has allowed them. He has allowed them in order that we might prove His delivering power as Jonah did. He proved the delivering power of God in being brought out of the belly of that fish, v 10.
DJW-s Is fruit always for God? Sometimes discipline makes us introspective, but if we grasped the fact that the fruit was for God, it might help us to look outside of ourselves.
DJW I think that is right. Romans 7 is a great chapter of fruit-bearing, is it not? That chapter teaches us we have to look outside of ourselves to another: “who shall deliver me out of this body of death?”, the extremity of exercise; “who shall deliver me out of this body of death? I thank God though Jesus Christ our Lord”, v 24, 25. Sometimes, do you think, we are allowed to go to the extremity in order to have a greater appreciation of the way God has brought us into a fresh knowledge of Himself?
RDP You have used the word God ‘allows’. Do you think this chapter brings out that you can also say that He orders, because it says, “for whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives”? That is not just an allowing; we may say there is something deliberate in that. The whole book of Judges, for instance, is very much the same as Joshua, but He brings them a certain way in Judges that they might learn war (Jud 3: 2), for instance. It was necessary, something that they needed to do. If you read the beginning of Judges, it specifically says that: conflict was something they were to know. We might think we just have to go through that, but we need to see that it is part of the way that God uses.
DJW I think that is right, and it is important, do you think, to understand that God knows what He is doing? We may not understand it at the time. At the time of going through chastening we may not understand it, but He knows what He has set out to do and He uses it in order to reach that end.
AEM Is it attractive that the end is “peaceful fruit of righteousness”? It is a very attractive word that there is what is “peaceful”. Chastening seems anything but peaceful, and what our brother has referred to may be full of strife, but the end is “peaceful”.
DJW Is it like being “a son of peace”, Luke 10: 6? We need “a son of peace” in our localities, do we not? I think “a son of peace” helps towards His end in a locality. The collective side of things perhaps will be before us this afternoon, but it is something to bear in mind.
JBI Can you help us with what it means to partake of His holiness? It seems to precede this fruit coming to light.
DJW Well, God Himself is holy. I wonder whether the chastening and the purging is in view of bringing that element to the fore in me, so that I am more sensitive to what is pleasing to Him and what is not pleasing to Him. But I would be glad of your help.
JBI It must involve coming into the presence of God and being influenced by Him, His holiness.
DJW Yes, indeed. I think this creates a certain atmosphere, holiness, which you carry away with you from the presence of God.
DJW-s Can you say something to help us as to this word “exercised”?
DJW Well, I think exercise involves that you turn to God. You are not stoical. You are not saying, 'It does not involve me', but you are exercised, maybe as to your own individual state, but also in relation to what is collective, like Rebecca, “why am I thus?”, Gen 25: 22. I think when anybody draws near to God in this kind of genuine exercise, there is an answer to God, something is worked out morally in the soul, so there is “the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those exercised by it”. I am not just to coast along, but if I am to get the gain of the present time; it involves that I am “exercised by it”, and that draws me closer to God. What would you say yourself?
DJW-s Sometimes we try to run away from the difficulty, but it only follows you. I think what you say as to prayer is helpful, and often you find that answer in the company of the saints: “Let us also therefore …”. Do you find that yourself?
DJW Yes, I think so. I thought the “cloud of witnesses” provides an atmosphere. It is not entirely individual; it is a sympathetic atmosphere, “the cloud of witnesses”, which helps us forward so that we encourage one another along the last lap of this race.
RDP If you take a longer look at the chapter, you come to what is in view: “but ye have come to mount Zion; and to the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem” (v 22) and so on, a tremendous scope of things that is outside this world altogether. I just wondered if in the setting of this book, this matter of chastening and so on is in view of moving in relation to another scene; not just a scene or a Person, but there is a whole variety here: there is Zion; there is “heavenly Jerusalem”; there is “myriads of angels”; “the assembly of the firstborn”; “God, judge of all”; “the spirits of just men made perfect”, and so on. Mr James Taylor has some fine ministry on this, as the brethren know, vol 78 p116-205. I just wondered if what is in view here is that somehow the view of the saints had dropped in Hebrews. I think Mr Stoney says that what the Hebrews had fallen into was to try to make the earth a religious place (vol 3 p304), but what the writer is drawing attention to is a whole new sphere of things, outside of this scene and centred in that Man.
DJW I think that helps; so those individuals in the previous chapter, like Abraham, for example, did not have the experience of what is spoken of at the end of chapter 12. He saw them “from afar off and embraced them”, chap 11: 13. He did not actually possess it, but he embraced it in faith. Our position is so much more blessed in that we have come to these things. Let us enjoy them!
DJW-s Sometimes in an exercise we may look for an answer straight away, but He does not always give it, does He? Sometimes you learn in retrospect. You say, ‘Why did God pass me that way?’. You look back and say, ‘Now I can see why’.
DJW I think that is right. God is the One who created time. He can do things quickly as “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor 15: 52), but He can also allow things to be prolonged. We need to understand that in view of working out fully what He has in mind in the exercise.
DMC Sometimes we do not like the answers we get. Sometimes we may resist the answers we get.
DJW Well, I think one thing spiritual refinement does is that it subdues our wills to His; so that would help us to accept what comes from God.
GJR The mind often goes to God’s governmental ways when we think of chastening or discipline, but you are directing us as to what is refined. Do God’s governmental ways have any bearing on this, or is this a different level altogether?
DJW It has a bearing on it. God’s governmental ways become favourable, do they, as accepted from God?
GJR Thank you for reminding us of that. I just wonder if this is actually quite a wide scope that is embraced. In your next scripture you have the Father’s work in relation to fruit bearing, but are we to take this as having quite a wide embrace?
DJW I think so. There is the individual side, and there may be things in my circumstances and pressures which do not exactly affect anybody else, but I have, in a positive way, to be exercised in relation to the Lord about that, that there is some fruit to Himself. On the other hand there are assembly exercises and, in a certain sense, there is nothing like assembly exercises because it involves others. It involves how we work things out together, whether there is a certain dignity attached to us. If there is, this spiritual refinement comes to the fore.
GJR Well, in that connection, I would not want to be without the exercise of the present time. I think the Lord is instructing me, and I would not want to be apart from that. I think He is instructing us all.
DJW I think so. I think it is important for us to keep that in mind. There is a positive end in view in any exercise as we relate ourselves to God in it.
RDP We often speak of sonship. Is sonship for God? I was thinking of what was said earlier. It comes in in Romans 8: “for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God”, v 14. That is perhaps the first view of sonship, but it is for God. That is refinement when the believer’s thoughts, objectives and actions begin more and more to move away from what is for himself and what is for here, but what is for God. Would that be a fore fruit of sonship?
DJW I think so. The gospel meets our needs, but sonship, speaking reverently, meets God’s need; it is what is for Him, the delight He has in persons who are after the order of the Man in whom He found His delight; so it is for God.
RDP It speaks in this chapter of those who are sons and those who are not sons. They may appear to be; there may be a certain link after the flesh and so on; but he speaks about the distinctiveness of sonship and the emotions and the relations that are peculiar to that particular relationship. As the believer goes on, that begins to become pronounced and affects the believer’s life. It affects our lives here, but the object of it is for God.
DJW And God is satisfied with nothing less. The prodigal son would have settled for something less, ‘some lone place within the door’, but God’s mind was sonship, that he should have the liberty of the house, Luke 15: 19. In a certain sense it is the top stone, and that is what He is working through to.
DJW-s We can also carry one another’s exercise, to profit.
DJW Well, I think that is another reference to the “cloud of witnesses”. It does not substitute for you having to do with the Lord and with God directly, but it does help sometimes to go over an exercise with a sympathetic person. That is “a cloud of witnesses”. You have something more in mind.
DJW-s There is a good deal of bodily discipline, for instance, amongst the saints at the present time. I was thinking of Romans 8: “all things work together ...”, v 28. The exercises that you are going through and the exercises I am going through all “work together”. They are not against one another; they are working to a common end.
DJW I am sure that is right, and we need to bear that in mind in exercises so that we seek to carry our brethren with us.
DCB Would the Book of Psalms show some of this working out? There is discipline, and David in particular goes through it, but there is something that is out of it that is serviceable for the people of God.
DJW I believe that is right, and another aspect, do you think, therefore, of spiritual refinement would be seen in the enrichment of the service of God? There is a certain tone about a person that has had to do morally with God, do you think?
DMC In Samuel’s day, when Jesse brought the sons, the most important one was left out. Samuel had to say, “Are these all the young men?”, 1 Sam 16: 11. There was one left out.
DJW Well, we do not want to leave the Lord out, do we? Nothing happens unless the Lord is brought in. Nothing happened in that meeting until the Lord came in, typically in David, and when he did come in, “he was ruddy, and besides of a lovely countenance and beautiful appearance”, and spontaneously there was, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he”, v 12.
DMC That made all the difference.
DJW It makes all the difference, the place that Christ has in our hearts, firstly individually and then collectively.
DJW-s You referred in your opening remarks to the Father as the husbandman. Do you have more in mind?
DJW I was just going on to the operations of the Father as the husbandman in John 15. “As to every branch in me not bearing fruit, he takes it away; and as to every one bearing fruit, he purges it that it may bring forth more fruit”. There is that which is dead, morally dead, and it has no place in the things of God, but what I particularly want to draw attention to is the purging. There is some fruit in that branch but there is also something hindering and that needs to be removed, and the Father in His love would bring that feature to bear upon us in order that we might judge it so that there is more fruit. It would be included in “the peaceful fruit of righteousness”.
DJW-s It is a strong word “purge”. I thought that perhaps linked with the previous scriptures. It is not a “matter of joy”. The purging is a severe exercise.
DJW Yes; it is a complete clearance, complete cleansing; there is no vestige allowed or remains.
PWB It is a skilful activity as well, is it not? Because there is fruit there. It is very easy to damage the fruit by the purging, but the Father would never do that. He would value the fruit, and He would work that there might be more fruit. There is skill in that, is there not?
DJW There is. The Father knows everything about us. Therefore, He knows how to bring in the purging and the pruning because He has perfect knowledge of what is there of Himself, and He has perfect knowledge of what is hindering the development of that. So we are having to do with One who knows all about us. He is skilful in a way that no-one else can be.
PWB There is a huge difference between being punished and discipline. The judicial consequences of what I am and what I have done were borne by Christ, and therefore discipline is not punishment. Sometimes perhaps if we get down in our souls we think God is punishing us, but God does not do that to His own. The discipline that you are bringing before us has a very positive end that there might be things removed, but He is not punishing me for something, but it is to bring out the preciousness of what the work of God is and to develop it and grow it.
DJW I am sure that is right. Sometimes when I have got a bit low, I have felt that way, as if I was being punished, but we are having to do with One who knows all about us and His love is behind it.
HTF There is another word in John 6 which the Lord uses: “But this he said trying him”, v 6. I was thinking of what you said earlier that God knows what He is doing: “for he knew what he was going to do”. There was food; I wondered if it linked with this chapter where it is fruit that is in mind.
DJW And Job came to it that God could be hindered in no thought of His. He knew what He was going to do, and He could not be hindered in it. Let us cling to that, beloved brethren! “Without me ye can do nothing”, it says here. In contrast to that Job says, “thou canst do everything”. We are in His hands.
RDP I notice it is, “Abide in me”. One of the hymns commonly sung around is ‘Abide with Me’, but this is “in me”. What do you make of that? I was just thinking verse 3 is unusual in a way. It says, “Ye are already clean by reason of the word”. Cleanliness is introduced there as if there is something that has been cleared away by reason of the word, but “abide in me” seems to be a progression in our experience.
DJW Yes, I think that is right. It conveys to me that there is a peaceful, settled relationship, and it is not just a visit: it is characteristic of the Lord as the Vine that He speaks of abiding in Him. There is a moral state in which this can be known and enjoyed and it is a settled relationship.
RDP And abiding in Him must involve that there is an inward drawing of resource from Him. It is more than an external clearance of things; it involves that the source of life is in Him.
DJW-s I recall a comment of Mr Stoney’s that wine can only be obtained by bruising or beating, a severe process; and that you can never store grapes unless you dry them, but you can store wine, vol 12 p124-5. We are never really outside the area of God’s discipline in order that there might be more refinement for Himself.
DJW Where the fruit is crushed, it involves discipline for us. “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” means I have completely come to the end of myself, and then there is nothing to hinder progress in the knowledge of Himself.
DJW-s That applies not only to the grape but to the olive. When the olive is pressed, that is more discipline in view of oil which is for the light.
DJW I am sure that is right, but the fruit of the vine brings in joy. There again it is what is positive. You are not left feeling downhearted or browbeaten at all, but the fruit of the vine brings in joy, joy in the heart of man and of God.
GJR I do not know whether it helps or not, but if I could just say that , “as to every one bearing fruit, he purges it that it may bring forth more fruit”, refers to summer pruning and generally involves restricting growth and reducing the leaves, taking away what is evil. It is the refinement that you speak of. The other branch “not bearing fruit” is dealt with in the wintertime. This is a vine growing well and if it is left alone, it will just carry on but these shoots are shortened back and some of the leaves are taken off; that is the purging “that it may bring forth more fruit”.
DJW I think that what you say is helpful; so certain things happen in the wintertime and others in the summertime. Wintertime may be a time of trial and pressure, but when things appear to be going well in the summertime, you are suggesting there is still this need of pruning. That is an interesting thing because naturally I am more drawn to the Lord in exercise, in pressure, in wintertime, but we are to draw near to Him “for seasonable help”, Heb 4: 16. So whatever season is prevailing, we take account of that, exercise it. That is a very exercising thing in itself so we are characterised by it whatever season may prevail.
GJR I might appear to the brethren to be going on very well, a lot of growth, lot of leaves, but there is the Father’s skill operating.
DJW Am I abiding in the vine? That is an inward thing, is it not? When Ephesus fell from their first love, outwardly things seemed to be just the same, but the departure was inward. Individually persons had ceased to abide in the vine and to draw resources from the vine.
JBI Would abiding in Him bring about the result we see in Job as seeing Him as over against what he had heard? Do you think we may be satisfied with hearing about Christ, but seeing Him for ourselves would be the result of this purging.
DJW I wondered that. It is “the peaceful fruit of righteousness”. That was really seen in Job. One thing I will draw attention to is in verse 10: “And Jehovah turned the captivity of Job, when he had prayed for his friends”. Now that was the spirit of Christ; I think that was spiritual refinement, and God came in for him and turned his captivity at that point. Now his friends were not much help to him: they condemned him without convicting him. They said right things and applied them in the wrong way; they were no help. But then Job prayed for them; he overcame evil with good: there was spiritual refinement there.
JBI Do you see that in his spirit, in the way that he prayed for his friends as not being vindictive or remembering things against them but in praying for them?
DJW That is exactly what I was thinking. It is the spirit of Christ, really.
DJW-s And it led to what is attractive. It says his friends “came to him”. There was something that drew them to him.
DJW I think there was something morally beautiful in Job. He was an upright man before, but there was something that was morally beautiful in Job that was not there before so that persons were attracted to him and he had influence, but then he was also in a state in which he could enter into fellowship and enjoy it.
RDP Can you explain your references to the money and the rings?
DJW Well, the money was not to meet any need exactly, was it? It was a gesture, you might say, of fellowship that is to be known and enjoyed in a sympathetic atmosphere. And the golden ring binds us together, do you think? But you have some thought.
RDP No, you mentioned it at the beginning, and I think it is very interesting: “and every one gave him a piece of money, and every one a golden ring”. If you think of it and apply it, that is a very precious thing that we prove amongst the saints that we know.
DJW As a result of discipline; therefore, fellowship was known and enjoyed in a way it had never been known before.
TI I was wondering, just going back to the purging, we do not want to go back exactly to yesterday’s fruit or last season’s fruit, but God is looking for what is fresh. Is that why this goes on?
DJW I think that is right so we will be in that race while we are here. It is an ongoing thing but there is something positive being arrived at in that time. The time of education and growth is now, not for when we are eternally with the Lord. That time will be over then, but it is now.
22nd November 2015
D C Brown, Edinburgh; P W Burton, Taunton; D M Crozier, Warrenpoint;
H T Franklin, Grimsby; J B Ikin, Manchester; T Ikin, Manchester; G McKay, Manchester; I McKay, Witney; M T B Matthews, Birmingham; A E Mutton, Witney;
S D Patterson, Spaldwick; A S Pittman, Grangemouth; J W Pittman, Grangemouth; R D Plant, Birmingham; G D Richards, Malvern; D J Wright, Havering; D J Willetts, Birmingham