Lesson Five – Spiritual Growth Expected

Spiritual Growth Expected

Lesson Aim:  To show how the combined forces of heaven and God’s people on earth join together in their concern for fruit in every member of the church.

Scripture:  Luke 13:6-9.

Historical analysis for reading the parable.

Place:  Galilee (Luke 13:1).

Occasion:  Preaching the life of the kingdom of God.

Time:  Jesus was well into His three and one half year preaching and teaching ministry.  Thousands were coming to hear Him (Luke 12:1).  Later Jesus would be “on His way to Jerusalem,” one of several trips John recorded (Luke 13:22).

Audience:  People in general but mostly Galileans along with Jesus’ disciples.

Aim:  Apparently, Jesus gave this parable in response to an “old wives tale.”  See Luke: 13:1-5.  The people appeared to believe if something bad happened to someone they must have been extra bad sinners.  Jesus responded to their superstitious fears with a truth.  All people are sinners and we need to repent or we too will perish.  Repentance for a Christian may mean we have changed our mind and we are now willing to produce fruit for God’s kingdom.  Jesus concurred with John the Baptist’s warning when he said, “Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with your repentance.”  Luke 3:8.


A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, and did not find any.  And he said to the vineyard keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any.  Cut it down!  Why does it even use up the ground?’  And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’   Luke 13:6-9

God Expects Fruit

The sphere of God’s vineyard is the “in Christ” realm where sinners reside who have been “called out” of the world (John 18:36; Col. 1:12, 13; Acts 26:18).  Christians are the “called out,” or church.  After having been born again, we function as the body of Christ (Eph. 1:19-23: Col. 1:18).  The body of Christ is “held together by that which every joint (member to member) supplies.”   Eph. 4:16.  The fig tree represents an individual Christian; however, we function in our niche in the body to produce fruit (Rom. 12:4-8; I Cor. 12:12-26).  God desires fruit from every Christian; therefore, every member who hopes to receive our inheritance must be number four soil.  See Part II, Lesson One.  Jesus expects fruit from the church collectively but no one member is excluded from fruit bearing.  See I Thess. 1:8, 14 (collectively); 5:4-11 (individually).

The farmer understands he must plan and prepare the needed arrangements before he begins to think about fruit.  Likewise, God’s plan was prepared in eternity before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-6; I Cor. 2:7; I Pet. 1:17-21).  His final preparation was made when He gave all authority and power to His Son, Jesus Christ to reign as king/priest in these last days (Matt. 28:18; Acts 2:17, 36; 5:31; I Cor. 15:22-28).  God also appointed the Holy Spirit to assist Jesus.  In a very personal way, Jesus Christ is the arrangement God made after He took the kingdom from physical Israel in order to have fruit.  See Part I, Lesson One.  What Jesus did, and is now doing, is God’s arrangement.  This is the only vineyard capable of producing sons for God and this is the only fruit Jesus will bring to God when He comes again (Heb. 2:10).

Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.  John 15:4, 5

God has planned and prepared His vineyard well.  Now let us discuss the fig tree as it represents an individual Christian.  The Scriptures identify a Christian as God’s workmanship and His field (Eph. 2:10; I Cor. 3:9).   A Christian’s goal is to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1).  Consequently, we are “now light in the Lord; (we) walk as children of light (for the fruit of light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), (we are) trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.”  Eph. 5:8-10.

God expects us to cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (II Cor. 7:1).  The Apostle Peter admonishes us to get our minds active, get sober in spirit, get focused on our hope and get holy (I Pet. 1:13).  We must test, or examine, ourselves to see if we are in the faith.  If we do not find the divine nature of Jesus in ourselves, we fail the test (II Pet. 1:4).  A Christian will not produce the fruit God seeks unless we “run in such a way that you may win.”  I Cor. 9:24.

In summation, Christians must have all of the blessings of the kingdom so we will have the proper spiritual and mental environment.  The Garden of Eden had the proper environment, spiritually, mentally and physically as long as Adam and Eve kept God’s covenant.  There was no fear because there was no death; there was no guilt because they had not sinned by breaking the covenant and thereby getting the knowledge of good and evil.  Equally important to their, and our spiritual environment, God was present.  In this environment we can give proper obedience to our Lord’s commands.  The blessings in Christ, plus our faithful obedience, will give Christians the spiritual environment of the original “Garden of Eden” and the fruit God desires.  The kingdom is designed to bring a Christian from the “babe stage” to full fruit production.

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.  I Peter 2:1-3

The fruit that God desires is revealed in every epistle written to the churches as well as in the teachings of Jesus.  Galatians 5:22, 23 is most often quoted.  Note that all nine of these attributes are combined to qualify for fruit in the singular tense.  The Colossian letter reveals the nature of these Christians when they were still in the domain of darkness (Col. 1:13; 3:5-7).  It also reveals the changes they were expected to make after their transfer into the kingdom (Col. 3:8-15).  Other exhortations given by the Apostle Paul are found in I Thess. 4:1-12; Phil. 2:1-4, 14-16; 4:8, 9.  It will be noted that love is like yeast, it permeates the whole.  Christians practice brotherly love and parental love (Greek-agape).  See II Peter 1:7.

A Case of Fruitlessness

The parable in our text tells of a plant that had not produced fruit for three years.  In the spiritual application, this could be a person rated as “number three soil.”  See Part II, Lesson One.  The vineyard owner’s response was “cut it down!  Why should it even use up the ground?”  A non-producing plant uses substance from the ground and air, thereby robbing other potential fruit producers.  It is expensive and time consuming to rear a plant to the point where it can produce fruit but does not.  The Hebrew writer borrowed Jesus’ point in his effort to stimulate the Hebrew Christians to see the folly of not being a fruit producing Christian:

For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.  Heb. 6:7, 8

Let us now direct our attention to the appeal made concerning this fruitless member.  “Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer.”  The point we want to consider is just what is God’s program to restore a non-producing Christian?  How does the number four soil help numbers two and three become fruit producers?  Obviously, it is possible to restore some but perhaps not all.  The Hebrew writer speaks of a Christian who had attained a certain level of spiritual growth and then turned away.  He said, “it is impossible to renew them to repentance.”  Hebrews 6:4-6.

The Godhead works with each individual Christian to help us produce fruit (II Cor. 13:14).  God’s power is available for righteous Christians (I Pet. 3:10-12).  Jesus Christ is Lord of both the living and dead and makes intercession for the faithful (Rom. 14:9; Heb. 10:19-21).  The Holy Spirit indwells and fellowships Christians who allow Him to do so (I Cor. 6:19; I Thess. 4:8).  So we know “heaven is interested in helping non-fruit producers in the church.”

God’s program to restore a Christian breaks down without the church family.  Of course the fruitless Christian has responsibility.  He or she must repent; however, the church must step in and help.  It must be done by members who do have God’s spiritual power working in us.

Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourselves, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.  Gal. 6:1, 2

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.  James 5:15, 20

When a Christian becomes unfruitful and turns away from the blessings of God, God cannot help him or her until they repent.  This Christian may be “too far gone” to help him or her own self (Jude 20-23).  This is where God works through other Christians to restore and save a fruitless Christian.  God’s power and the Holy Spirit make contact with the spiritually weak Christian through the faithful church members.  The ordained elders have a specific charge in this matter.  Read Acts 20:28-30; I Pet. 5:1-4; Heb. 13:17.  But the Lord has given every Christian a charge to love our brethren.  We will want to help restore him or her if they stumble for they are our eternal family.  We have all been born again by an imperishable seed – the word of God (I Pet 1:22- 25).

Some Christians may never be restored to a fruit-bearing condition.  Some churches may not restore their weak brethren.  There is no evidence that God will make a direct intervention.  A soul could be lost to hell because of the neglect of the church.  If the church does her job, she will not be held responsible should this Christian fail to become a fruit bearer.  Whether or not the church does her job, the Christian who does not bear fruit will still be cut off.  The Lord’s church is the temple of God and each Christian has a vested interest in her ability to produce fruit for God. (I Cor. 3:16, 17).  The “number four soil” must restore those who are caught up in a trespass because we are the only ones in the church who can (Gal. 6:1, 2).  We will want to be sure to catch the point from Jesus’ parable in our text that Jesus thinks we have been caught up in a trespass if we are not fruit producing Christians.

This lesson should not be confused with God’s commands to the church to practice discipline by disfellowshipping a member in a local church.  Disfellowshipping a brother or sister is a means of restoration (I Cor. 5:1-5; Rom. 16:17-19; Titus 3:10, 11; Jude 4, 10, 16-18).  False teachers in general should not be fellowshipped as brethren  (II John 9-11).   It is not the church’s responsibility to “cut one off for not bearing fruit.”  This will take place in heaven.  The church has been given the job to “dig around it and put in fertilizer.”  In a practical way, fruitless Christians cut themselves off.  They are spiritually inept and do not respond to God’s help through the church.  They do not respond to spiritual thoughts (I Cor. 3:1).

We should constantly be aware that the citizens of God’s kingdom on earth are being watched.  The rulers and authorities in heavenly places understand God’s wisdom by watching the church (Eph. 3:10).  “Angels watch.”  (I Cor. 11:10).  The devil is on the prowl like a roaring lion and always scheming (I Pet. 5:8; II Cor. 2:11).  The non-believers watch God’s people (I Pet. 2:12; Phil. 2:15).  All number four soil Christians preach the gospel of Christ with the fruit of our lives.  We worship God in this same manner (Rom. 12:1, 2).

Questions for Discussion

  1. Spiritually, who does each of the persons in the text parable represent?
  2. What does farmers expect to do before they look for fruit?  What did God do?
  3. Read Eph. 2:10; 5:1, 9, and write a paragraph in relation to our lesson title.
  4. Why would it be just for God to “cut off” a fruitless church member?
  5. Some members cannot be restored.  Why?
  6. How do fruitless members work against themselves?
  7. Why is the church family’s care so very crucial in restoring a fruitless member?
  8. How do the powers in heaven work to help the fruitless church member?
  9. List those who are watching the church.
  10. What are the lessons we can learn from Jesus’ parable?

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