"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .


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Saturday, July 30, 2022

PONDERING THE PARABLES – Part Ten, Concluding this Series

~ by James Fire

In these last two parables, we see the LORD Jesus as the primary focus – as He and His kingdom are in all of the parables. In these He is portrayed as both a shepherd and a vine. Both of these provide for the needs of others – the shepherd for his sheep, the vine for its branches and subsequent fruit.

Both are required for prosperous life; sheep would be a constant on the menu of wolves and bears if not for shepherds to guard them; branches and fruit could not have life if not for the nutrient provisions of the vine.

There is much we can glean from these two as we close this series on the parables. Certainly this is not an exhaustive examination, and there are likely other parables that have escaped my notice; I’ll leave to the reader to discover these miniature spiritual stories used to convey biblical truth for themselves.

We have a parable here that speaks of the LORD as the Good Shepherd and characteristics both of this Shepherd, His sheep, and still other sheep:

JOHN 10:1-9
1 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 "But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 "And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 "Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." 6 Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. 7 Then Jesus said to them again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 "All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture

The sheepfold are the saints, His people, the sheep of His pasture (PS 100:3). The door is that One by Whom access to the sheep is made possible. Others that would take the sheep for their own, don’t use the door, but climb up some other way.

In this sense, the LORD paints Satan, sin, as well as the religious leaders of the Sanhedrin in the light of thieves and robbers (vs. 8,10); a shared trait of these is that they exalt themselves – with the objective of climbing up and over a wall to steal what doesn’t belong to them.

In this parable, the LORD is both the door (vs. 9) as well as the shepherd (vs. 11). Elsewhere the LORD rightfully accused the religious leaders of coveting after the inheritance that belongs to the Shepherd Who is the Son of the Father and inheritor of that which the Father gives Him (MT 21:38-39).

It’s not all that different today, where some pastors claim the flock as “my church” and that the people are his to treat however he sees fit, unaccountable to anyone other than to himself. This is an obvious breach of pastoral authority and abusive behavior as seen in various Old Testament passages regarding bad shepherds (ISAIAH 58; JER 23; EZEK 34).

For more on the issue of pastoral responsibilities, how they are neglected, abused and how they should rightfully be implemented according to GOD’s Word see the following article:


What any overseer must bear in mind with the utmost of sobriety and reverence towards GOD is that these sheep, these born again souls that comprise the church are under the exclusive ownership of the LORD Jesus Christ (1 COR 6:19-20; 1 PET 1:18-19).

Anyone called into the pastorate by GOD must see his relationship to the church as one who is caring for the dearly beloved and precious bride of Christ (JN 3:29; REV 19:7)! How that should cause any pastor to maintain a meek and mild, gentle, and caring, passionate, and imploring temperament when dealing with the saints.

There are those who see the doorkeeper as the Holy Spirit; others see the Father in this role. Either way seems appropriate to me. The Spirit and the Father (JN 15:26; 6:44) are both mentioned as those who draw people to Christ, Who stands at the door of our hearts and knocks, seeking entrance (REV 3:20).

What would you classify as “the voice of the Shepherd”?
There are those who would strictly regard this voice as the Scriptures themselves with the Holy Spirit providing insight and understanding, and to this I agree conditionally.
However, some of the Cessationist movement would state that GOD speaks exclusively by this means, and here I would disagree, but in a provisional sense.

There are way too many people of the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches that declare a “thus saith the LORD”, or “the LORD told me”. As if they’ve received a divine revelation of some new truth, that they expect others to receive as from the very Spirit of GOD.

I want to make this clear: the revelation of canonical truth has been closed for 2000 years with the completion of the book of Revelation, written by apostle John.
There are no new revelations as inspired by GOD, much less any that could be equated with Scripture. There are only new insights into the already existing canon and these insights must be examined in the light of the whole counsel of Scripture.

However, I do believe that the Spirit of GOD may grant insights into immediate or forthcoming events that in themselves don’t provide orthodoxic truth, but directions for the flock. Agabus, a New Testament prophet spoke of a dearth (famine) that was coming (ACTS 11:28); the same prophet spoke of Paul being arrested in Jerusalem (ACTS 21:11). In both cases, no orthodox truth is imparted, only information that would be useful to the hearers that is not contained in the pages of Scripture.

I myself have witnessed godly saints who’ve been led of the Spirit and declared something in specific detail that came to pass. These were also those firmly grounded in the Word as mature Christians.

Even in these cases, those who claim such insights should be judged, and if these occur as predicted, a measure of credibility may be granted, but even here, caution is necessary. Such should also adhere to biblical truth, and if not, such insights must be discounted as these declarations could lead to deception (DEUT 13:2).

I do however believe that such revelations of the Spirit to known prophets is becoming a rarity in these days. Often times when people are not reading the Bible, GOD will send prophets, and in doing so, it’s as though He is saying, “Fine, you won’t read my Word? Then you’re going to hear it!”

Such was heard in this nation from the likes of Leonard Ravenhill, David Wilkerson, Keith Green, and a handful of others, but even here, I see those who had a national platform are all but gone – and I can’t speak about those in local areas, but I haven’t heard of any personally.

In my opinion, this tells me that this nation is under judgment – GOD has said enough: in His Word and through the prophetic voice.

I also believe that pastors have a prophetic voice in the sense that they forthtell (rather than foretell) in the teaching and preaching of the Word of GOD.
But once again, I want to stress that the primary method by which we hear the voice of our LORD is written in the Scriptures, the inerrant, infallible, plenary exclusive truth source!

"To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”

What’s the significance of the Shepherd calling His sheep “by name”?

As we all know, names are significant in the Scriptures, especially when someone is given a new name by GOD (Abram becomes Abraham, Jacob becomes Israel, Cephas becomes Peter, etc.). In the book of Revelation, the saints in heaven are all given new names selected by GOD Himself:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.
Name changes are often the result of a calling of GOD upon a person’s life, or a changed and deeper relationship with the LORD; sometimes it’s both. So when the LORD calls us “by name” it’s with the understanding that GOD knows us through and through – our personality, our character, GOD-given abilities, and skills. It can also be seen as a declaration by the LORD as to who we are, or who He is making us into.

There is familiarity, even intimacy when He calls us by name. And He calls us with a purpose that suits the personality, character, gifts, abilities, and skills He has given us.
This is what I find exciting about our meeting with the LORD, when He presents us with these white stones!

First of all, in Jewish courts, whenever the accused was found innocent, it was because the jurors in the majority favored them by their vote of a white stone dropped in a bag that was passed around and counted.

The LORD declares all of us as innocent and will declare it anew when He presents us with these white stones.

Secondly, there are names written on them; unique, one-of-a-kind names especially chosen by GOD Himself! Think of it – your name was chosen by your parents prior to or at your birth.
But this is a new name selected by the Living GOD, our Creator, Who grants them to us; we’ll be known by them for all eternity! And the meaning of these names (I believe) will be indicative of what purpose(s) He has chosen for us to fulfill in loving service to Him! I’m thrilled to discover what name He has chosen for me!

The Shepherd goes before His sheep and leads the way; goat herders are different: they stay behind and drive the goat herd.

The best leaders are those who lead by example; they are the first in line in the advancement of any enterprise, displaying the proper conduct and activities to be carried out as the model for the rest of us to follow.
This is how pastors and church leaders are to lead, by examples to the flock, not as oppressive overlords (2 THESS 3:9; 1 PET 5:1-4).

The highest and greatest example is of course, our LORD Jesus Christ, Who as a faithful high priest was tested in every way conceivable (HEB 4:15), overcame each seduction and attack by the enemy (JN 14:30), and provided the perfectly appropriate example for us to follow in being filled with the Spirit and the power of the Spirit, just as He did (LK 4:1,14).

Our LORD led by example in His humbleness (MT 11:29; 18:1). The LORD led by example in being servant of all (MK 9:34-35) and didn’t “lord his authority over others by compulsion” (MT 20:25-26).

The LORD tells us not to follow a religious discipline, or a set of dogmas, or a denomination, or theological principles – He calls us to follow Him (MT 4:19): His Person, Who He really is as portrayed in Scripture – not traditions of men!

For an excellent, informative, inspiring (even humorous at times) series on “The Nature of Jesus” check out this four part series by Gayle Erwin of Servant Quarters ministry!

I highly recommend it; it’s been a fruitful blessing to me every time I’ve watched them, these dozens of times already.

The Nature of Jesus – Part One; Part Two; Part Three; Part Four.

True sheep not only hear the voice of the Shepherd, but they also know it!

Shepherds in the land of the Middle East would bring their flocks into corrals for any overnight stay, and all those sheep from different herds would all mingle together. Come the next morning, it would seem an insurmountable task to distinguish one shepherd’s sheep from another’s (sheep weren’t branded), but it wasn’t at all difficult!

All any shepherd had to do was call out to his sheep; they knew his voice and responded, while other sheep would ignore that voice and go about their business.
The true sheep of GOD, both those found and those who are yet lost – they all recognize or will recognize the LORD’s voice when He calls them to join His flock. Even those sheep who have gone astray and are lost (again), will be sought after by the Good Shepherd and be brought back, causing Him to rejoice (LK 15:4-5).

For this reason, I don’t believe that anyone who is a genuine sheep of the LORD can remain deceived – because “the voice of strangers they will not follow”.
I’ve known some Christians who get caught up in a movement or a doctrine, and when presented with biblical rebuttals, will sometimes persist in their waywardness. Yet the Good Shepherd doesn’t leave them there! He may wait for quite a while, but sooner or later, He calls them back home.

Yet, this causes me to wonder about some professing Christians who are caught up in various false doctrines like the Word-Faith movement and whether or not they are genuinely saved, as they’ve adhered to such, not for years, but for decades!

If they are truly GOD’s children, then the Spirit of Truth resides in them – how then can they continue to embrace falsehoods?
This is tricky territory here: I can’t definitively declare such people to be unregenerate if they have had least genuinely believed from the heart the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He and His Gospel are the foundation – but how one builds on that foundation could be with spiritually faulty materials (I.e., false doctrines).

If they are genuine, then the LORD will call them back to Himself and the way of truth. If not, then sadly, they will persist in falsehoods, and “a different Gospel which is not another” or a legitimate alternative Gospel.

This goes back to the idea of the LORD “speaking to our heart” in conviction, persuasion, direction as the Good Shepherd.

He also states in JOHN 10:16 that He has “other sheep not of this fold that [He] must also bring”. Up to this point, His sheepfold comprises of Jews – but the other fold He speaks of here I believe are Gentiles, which aren’t brought into the church until ACTS 10 when the Centurion Cornelius and his household come to saving faith in JESUS!

JOHN 10:10-14
10 "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. 11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 "But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 "The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 "I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep and am known by My own

True pastors will lay down their lives for the sheep, just as the LORD in His supreme example did in the very literal sense. Ideally pastors are considered slaves of Christ, with no rights of their own, but will always follow the LORD’s direction out of loving obedience. There is nothing as important to them as the LORD and His flock!

Hirelings are found more and more in pulpits today, who see their position as “a job” that requires payment, and if ever the money isn’t there for them, to their satisfaction, they’re gone!

They don’t care about the flock, just the money (and, or fame, prestige, position, etc.– and even if the money is there, but they feel themselves endangered in some way (“he sees the wolf coming”) he will bail and let those under his care fend for themselves!

The thief here may be represented by the religious leaders of that day, or ours; it can also be seen as a portrayal of Satan as well as sin.
Sin will add nothing to life but momentary exhilaration and pleasure; at times it may seem profitable in obtaining the riches of this world, but exhilaration, pleasure and riches are short lived in view of eternity.

It's been said before,
Sin will give far less than it promises and take far more than you’d expect”.

“The wages of sin is death”, and this is death in all of its bitter varieties: the eventual death of the body, just as the spirit is dead (from birth); but the death of health, of family relations, financial stability, the death of companionship is all included here – sin steals and destroys our lives.

Then in contrast to Satan and sin, we have the Good Shepherd who offers “life abundant”.

This is life in all of it’s wondrous varieties! And the Greek word for “abundant” refers to the “superabundance in quantity as well as the superiority in quality, in superfluous generosity” from our GOD!

As we consider our sin-nature to be dead indeed, the new nature we have in Christ empowers us to be “dead indeed to sin” (ROM 6:11), and we enjoy the new life in Christ:
3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
Seeing that our life is hidden with Christ in GOD, the Author of all life, we have ‘tapped into” the reservoir of eternal life, tasting the heavenly gift (HEB 6:4), partaking of the very nature of JESUS (2 PET 1:4), bearing the fruit of the Spirit (GAL 5:22-24).

All the aspects of this supernaturally potent life includes love, peace, joy, goodness, etc. as we identify with Christ on the cross in mortifying the deeds of the flesh (COL 3:5) and allow His Spirit to dominate us (ROM 8:5-11) in the awesomely loving way that only He can!

JOHN 10:15-18
15 "As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. 17 Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 "No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father

The knowledge that the Father has of the Son and vice versa is entire and complete. They are a united Deity along with the Holy Spirit, which is why we refer to the Three as the Tri-unity or Trinity.
When the LORD prayed to the Father, that we would all be one even as they are, He wasn’t praying that we’d all become one person, but rather, we would enjoy a unity that they enjoy; and we shall once we are given our glorified bodies with the sin nature entirely extracted and made complete by the Spirit.

When I did a study on this chapter for an assignment, I entitled this chapter, “The GOD Shepherd” for obvious reasons.

In light of the fact that some hold the view that the Jews are “Christ killers”, such a statement is ludicrous. The only way anyone could “kill GOD” would be if He let them – and He did, but it wasn’t just the Jews of that day that were responsible.

I’m also responsible for the death of Jesus – it was my sin that led Him to be nailed to the Cross and die for such a wretch as myself. Jesus was not a martyr in the typical sense. Martyrs die for causes, Christ died a propitiatory death for the sins of the world.

In the abstract sense that His cause was as an atonement for our sins, to grant us new and eternal life, I suppose one could consider Him to be a martyr. Yet martyrs are usually hapless victims of their captors, and this certainly is not the case. No one took His life from Him. He laid it down willingly and had the power to take it up again. He could have called twelve legions of angels to come and defend Him (MT 26:53) – He didn’t.

This final and beloved parable is about the Vine and the branches – that is, the LORD Himself and His disciples, and the relationship that they have with each other.

JOHN 15:1-8
1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples

I will occasionally see a fellow saint with stooped shoulders and a drawn, tired expression on their face. I’ll inquire on how they are doing, and they’ll say, “I’m hanging in there” and I’ll respond with a smile, “Perfect! That’s exactly what a branch is supposed to do in the vine!”

In trials and hardships, when we are bereft of any resources to access, when it’s apparent that “we ain’t got what it takes”, we may rejoice because all that we have need of is in Christ Jesus – the true vine. Note that: “true vine”.

Israel was to be the vine of the LORD as described in ISAIAH 5, but they didn’t produce the fruit that the Father desired; they failed to meet His expectations. So where Israel didn’t grow spiritually the way GOD intended, He brought forth from the nation, One Who is the True Vine; the One Who has produced all that the Father intended!

Regarding the branch that isn’t bearing fruit: He “lifts up”- stated as “takes away” in KJV. The idea here is that branches which are laying on the ground won’t produce any grapes. So the vine dresser will tie that branch to the vine, thereby lifting it off the ground, and then will wash the dirt off the branch so that it’s enabled to produce fruit.

And those branches that produce fruit, the vine dresser snips off any area that isn’t producing, so that the nutrients aren’t wasted there and resorts to those branches already being fruitful, and this enables that branch to produce even more fruit.

The LORD declares us clean “by the word” He has spoken – and we know that the Word of GOD has a washing, cleansing effect on us spiritually (EPH 5:26).

There are times when we engage in trivial pursuits that are perhaps not sinful in themselves, but they don’t produce spiritual fruit to the glory of GOD the Father. So He will prune such excess from our lives. We might balk at such snipping away of things that we consider fun and worthy of our time, but in His wisdom He knows that His snipping now will prevent our sinning later and will ultimately yield the fruit He desires to see in our lives.

In this final parable we read that there are two that are to abide:

The LORD abides in us by virtue of the spiritual rebirth (JN 3:3; COL 1:27) and the subsequent indwelling of the Spirit (JN 14:17); this is something Christ has committed to and has accomplished in the hearts of all born again believers (1 PET 1:23).

Then we are called to abide in Christ: What does this look like?
We abide in His Word: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you…”
The fruit of the Spirit is love (agape – the love only GOD can express, and those who are born of GOD’s Spirit; JN 13:34-35). The LORD said that they will know that we are His disciples and belong to Him, because of our love (agapeo) for one another (JN 13:35).

Likewise all who continue in His Word are identified as His disciples (JN 8:31).
This isn’t merely reading the Scriptures, but studying and learning the truth contained in them, and applying truth to our lives in loving obedience.

This is how we abide in Christ. The child of GOD may walk in the flesh – and not abide in Christ by doing so, but when they repent and return to the LORD and begin once again to do the first things first and return to their first love (REV 2:4-5), they are once again abiding in Christ.
On a side note: Christ ever abides in those who are truly His children and has sworn to never leave nor forsake them (HEB 13:5) and proves it by giving the “earnest of His Spirit” – the “seal” of the Holy Spirit (2 COR 1:22; 5:5; EPH 1:13; 4:30). This is the sort of seal that was placed on the stone that covered the tomb of Jesus; the same kind that will seal up Satan in the abyss for the one thousand year reign of Christ.

This is a seal of authority – as in the case of Pilate, any who would break that seal on the stone of Joseph of Arimathea's tomb (and presumably steal the body of Jesus) would be arrested and executed for violating the authority of the governor. Satan is unable to break out of his abysmal prison due to the fact GOD’s authority has sealed him in. Thus, we are also sealed so that nothing can escape (GOD Himself Who alone resides there with us), and nothing can break in (such as demons).

The earnest of the Spirit – the Spirit of GOD Himself is the “down payment” for the saint’s salvation with the promise to return to claim the possession in full, thus completing our salvation that began with our justification, continues in our sanctification, and will be completed in our glorification in Christ (ROM 8:23).
It's when both are happening that we produce an abundance of fruit, an impossibility without Christ working in our hearts: “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” And it’s when we are in such a spiritual state that we can ask what we will, and we will receive what we desire (vs. 7), because our hearts will be in unity with the LORD’s, and we would not ask for anything contrary to His perfect and holy will (1 JN 5:14).

The vine is identified, as are the branches, and what else do we see here? This might seem like I’m splitting hairs, however, I think I’m simply seeing the sharp precision of GOD’s Word here:

Vs. 6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”

This isn’t “a branch” but someone who doesn’t abide in the LORD and is withered – without life, absent of fruit. They are cast out “as a branch”. In the case of a vine dresser, such a branch that isn’t producing fruit and so he casts it into the fire – the fate of all branches of any vineyard that doesn’t produce fruit.

The LORD doesn’t identify them as His branches, but as one like “… a branch”. They are like His branches but aren’t; similarly we see the tares that are like the wheat but aren’t.

They likewise will one day be gathered up and burned in the fire (MT 13:38-40), which can only refer to the lake of fire, the second death (REV 20:14) – the eternal destiny of all those not saved by the blood of the Lamb.

Some final words on abiding in Christ to wrap up the exposition of this last parable as well as this Ten Part series:

“To abide” carries with it the idea of continuing in an abode with a sense of belonging and comfort, with well being and welcome to the invited guest or family.
The LORD is faithful to abide with His own, and as His children, bearing the fruit of the Spirit we recognize that this fruit includes faithfulness (pistis in the Greek). Of course we are not perfectly faithful as our LORD is, due to our sin nature, but as with holiness and sanctification, we grow in our faithfulness as we mature.

To abide in the Vine is to draw from the Vine all things needed to be robust and fruitful; so for the saint who glorifies GOD, all that’s needed is to abide in JESUS. From Him we receive everything we need to live a victorious Christian life.

May I encourage our TTUF readers to get the awesome devotional book by Andrew Murray, Abide In Christ! A very worthy addition to your library!
You can listen to an audio book version here!

So ends this series on PONDERING The PARABLES! If you've stumbled on this series and would like to start from the beginning with Part One, click on this link!
Please pray for me that I will be led of the Spirit on which study and, or subject matter to engage in next!

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