2017-03-15 / Religion

Greater love hath no man than this

Sunday School Lesson
Rev. James Temples

Jesus Christ of Nazareth used man illustrations, as he taught the people the spiritual lessons. Often, these lessons were drawn from the immediate surroundings of the group. At that time, the economy of Israel was built upon the agricultural base. Thus, the illustration from that setting would be easy for the hearers to grasp.

Our Lord had instructed his closest followers — his disciples — under many different conditions. The lessons were not always simple, nor were they easy to understand. These men had heard him speak — on more than one occasion — regarding his impending death. This fact was difficult for them to grasp. No one wanted to see his close friend be put to death.

Shortly before this predicted action, the master celebrated the Passover — the Jewish Feast — with these men. At that sacred table, Jesus told his disciples that one of them would betray him into the hands of the jealous religious leaders. After Judas left the room, our Lord continued to teach the Eleven more lessons that would become the foundation of some of the greatest truths that the world has even know.

As a group, the Eleven and our master started toward the Garden of Gethsemane. As they walked through the streets of Jerusalem, our Lord used this time to continue his teaching. The fact of the vineyard became the mental setting for this very teaching. He told these men, “I am the vine, and my Father is the husbandman.” John 15:1. These men were able to grasp the picture, as the mental scene began to unfold.

No doubt, these men — even though some of them had been fishermen — had observed the scene that was described. “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth (cleanses) it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” John 15:2. The excess growth that develops on the fruitful branch might not be seen as a hindrance — at the present time — but the husbandman knew that problems could arise in the future. This process of pruning has the longterm effect of increasing production.

Our Lord wanted these men — and all of his followers — to know that the means of this continual cleansing was/is available to all who will accept it. He declared, “Now ye are clean (purged) through the word that I have spoken unto you.” John 15:3. Today, we must be certain that we have our “daily spiritual bath” by making a study of the word of God a part of part life.

Just as individuals can never “earn” salvation through good works and proper actions, neither can one earn personal sanctification. However, there is a responsibility for maintaining a spiritual focus. Our Lord told these men, “Abide in me, and I in you...” John 15:4a. He left no room for questioning the spiritual necessity for this action — “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except (unless) ye abide in me.” John 15:4b.

Jesus Christ repeated his opening statement of this discourse, and gave further information. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5. The self-sufficiency that plagues much of our society does not come from the teachings of our Lord.

For those who attempt to play the “self-sufficient game,” our Lord had/has strong words of disapproval. “If a man (any one) abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”John 15:6. These words of warning should cause one to examine his or her own motives, measuring them against the divine plan.

The divine promise to the faithful ones has not been amended not deleted. It is important for us to remember that the promised of God are conditional. “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will (desire), and it shall be done into you.” John 15:7. These words are not equal to “a signed blank drawn on the bank of heaven.” Our requests must be in accordance with the revealed word of God. We are to pray, “thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10.

The eternal purpose will always focus on the glory of our heavenly father — the creator of the universe. “Herein (in this) is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” John 15:8. Assurance is given to those who are faithful — “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.” John 15:9.

The expected action and attitude is described. “If ye keep (guard) my commandments, ye shall abide (continue; remain) in my love (agape); even as I have kept (guarded) my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.” John 15:10. We have a divine reference point.

Even though these men would experience extremely dark times — in the near future and beyond — our Lord gave them his assurance. “These things have I spoken unto you (1) that my joy might remain in you, and (2) that your joy might be full.” John 15:11. The divine commandment is simple to state. However, these men realized that human effort could not produce the expected result. It would, and still, does require the help of the Holy Spirit for the command to be obeyed. “This is my commandment, that ye love (agape) one another, as I have loved you.” John 15:12.

The divine plan for the lost human race is described — “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13. Jesus Christ loved us, and died for us. Please accept his provision, today. John 3:16.

Rev. James C. Temples’ Sunday School Lesson has appeared in the Early County News each week since 1967. A native of Early County, Rev. Temples taught in public schools 32 years and 10 years at Southeastern College of Assemblies of God, in Lakeland, Fla. He also served as pastor and evangelist during those years. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 1484, Swainsboro, GA 30401; 478, 299, 2068. Email: jctjet@aol.com.

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