Today, Tobias continues his week-long look at the eternal purpose of God with the aspect of the Body of Christ. Here’s an excerpt from his larger project.
Created For Increase
In Genesis 2, we see the details of the creation of man. Having created everything from nothing, on the sixth day God formed man from the dust of the earth and He breathed the breath of life into his nostrils and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). Prior to receiving the breath of life, the man was just a body, a shell, like an empty container, formed with the elements in the land. A body’s main purpose is to express the life it has within. It was when God breathed the breath of life into him that man became a living being, having body, soul, and spirit. God’s desire was for man to be His image bearer upon the earth, thus His life would increase (Genesis 1:26a). As the image-bearer, man was to carry the image and expression of the life of the Son, but in order to do this, he had to have life breathed into him.
Death of the Image With Man
As the Scriptures tell us in Genesis 3, man didn’t do a very good job of being an image bearer. When God put man in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it, He also told man he could eat from any tree of the garden except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God told man that if he ever did eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil he would die.
When we read Genesis 3, we see that the serpent was crafty and tricked the woman into eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The woman then gave to the man, and he also ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In that day, everything changed, in fact, the image of God, as it was in man, was lost. To be more specific, it died, just as God warned him it would if he were ever to partake of the wrong tree.
Man and woman were no longer living in relationship toward one another in a continual giving over of themselves for one another. They were no longer expressing life for the benefit of one another. Where once they bore the image of a sacrificial love and the selflessness of their Creator, they now bore the image of self, and, in their newfound awareness of themselves, they were afraid and ashamed. What’s more is they were now living to express and preserve self.
“24, For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” – Genesis 2:24-25 (NASB)
“7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. 10 He said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.’ 12 The man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.’ 13b…And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.'” – Genesis 3:7, 3:10, 3:12, 3:13b (NASB)
Indeed, the loss of sacrificial love and oneness brought about shame and fear. And with it came hiding and blame-shifting in an effort of self-reliance and self-preservation.
Yet, God never gave up on His desire to see His life increase upon the earth.
Abiding In and Expressing Oneness
When Christ Jesus came to earth in bodily form, He gave visual expression of God on the earth. The first chapter of the gospel of John tells us that Jesus is the Word of God, He was with God, He was God, and that He became flesh and dwelt among us. Not only did He dwell among us, but in Christ Jesus, we beheld His glory as the unique Son of God. He possessed a fullness, of which we have all received. And even though, prior to Jesus, no one had seen God, John tells us that Christ, Who is in the Father, has explained or revealed the Father (John 1:1-4, 14-18).
Jesus also spoke of His oneness with the Father in a unique way. There was an “abiding” which took place with Him and the Father. In the abiding, the life of the Father was able to be expressed through the bodily form of the Son on the earth.
“9b He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.” – John 14:9b-11 (NASB)
The Increase of Oneness
“16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 After a little while, the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. 20 In that day you will know that I am in the Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” – John 14:16-20 (NASB)
Jesus was telling his followers there would be a new way in which the oneness He experienced with the Father would be expanded or enlarged. Not only would He be in the Father and the Father be in Him, but very soon, this oneness would be increased to include those who believed into Him. This was all capable because He was going away and there would be a new form of Him on the earth. Instead of coming back to them in a physical body, He would come as the Spirit, which would allow Him to be in them and them to be in Him.
“45 So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 15:45 (NASB)
Oneness In the Vine and Branches
“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 it so 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, so 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, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” – John 15:1-6 (NASB)
Jesus said He is the True Vine. As the Vine, the fullness of life to produce branches lives in Him. That same fullness of life, which produces branches, is also the same life by which the fruit will also be produced through the branches, and it is contained in Christ Jesus, the True Vine. It is important to note the way Jesus told them they would be able to bear fruit. It wasn’t by their own efforts; instead, the way they would bear fruit would be to simply abide in Him.
The Reality of the Vine and Branches
Have you ever looked at a vine tree or any type of tree for that matter? Could you tell where the vine or trunk of the tree stopped and the branch began? Could you distinguish between the two? I would dare say it was near impossible to distinguish between the two because, in reality, they are one. They share a oneness which is indistinguishable from vine to branch. In fact, the two share the same life. As the life within the vine increases, it flows through to the branches, causing them to grow. As the branch grows, the evidence of the life of the vine begins to show forth and eventually, fruit is produced.
This is how it is with the followers of Christ; we share a oneness with Him. The reality is that we are indistinguishable from Him as we abide in Him. In fact, we share His life, because He has placed His life within us. His life, and His life alone, will cause us to grow in Him. As His life flows in us, it begins to work through us to produce the fruit of the life of Christ, just as Jesus said the Father abiding in Him does His works (John 14:10). This is a simple, yet profound truth and reality for every believer in Christ Jesus.