The Biblical principle of responsibility in man runs through Scripture from beginning to end, to one degree or another. This principle has a distinct history that can be traced. At different periods of time since the creation of the world God has dealt differently with this principle. All His dealings with the principle serve to bring out, in a progressive way, the enhancement and exaltation of His glory. In the final state of creation – the new heavens and the new earth of the eternal state – God will be all in all in the divine glory (I Cor. 15:28). This is where everything in the counsels of God is headed, and there is no stopping it. In view of this, we should be able to see God’s ways in dealing with this principle in man, and that it will be for the glory of God.
From the time man was created and placed in paradise to the sending of Messiah to Israel, God used this principle of responsibility as a means of testing man. When God is testing He gives a command or laws. He is looking for obedience. This is the fruit God is seeking to find in man. During this period of time God’s testing has only found failure in man. The history of man in the scriptures proves his failures, and this becomes the testimony of God concerning man. Failure is always the outcome in the testing of responsibility, and this usually immediately.
God’s first testing
To fully understand both the principle and the testing, we must look deeper at this period of time. Man was created and placed in the garden. His state and condition was one of innocence – he had no knowledge whatsoever of good and evil. In this state he would not even be able to define these words. He was given one command with consequences, and obedience was expected by God his Creator. This was the responsibility given to Adam and this is how it was tested.
Adam believed and trusted the words of the serpent rather than the words of God. He was convinced by Satan that God was holding a blessing back from him. He did this in the exercise of his ‘free will.’ His disobedience brought the consequences of judgment not just to himself, but onto the entire human race (he being its federal head). All mankind now had ‘sin’ passed on to them, and all men became sinners from this point forward (Rom. 5:12). There was failure by man from the very beginning when given responsibility. Man would never be the same as he was created by God at first. He could never return to innocence. What he became was quite different from what he was in the garden before his fall.
God testing responsibility by the Law
The next specific testing of man is the giving of the law to Israel at Mt. Sinai. With this we must have certain understandings of the differences involved in this particular testing. The law contained commandments from God that would test responsibility, and He was still looking for obedience as a fruit. The principle of responsibility is the same, and the testing is basically the same; but this time man is fallen and a sinner. Does this make a difference? The full understanding of the state of man before the fall compared to after the fall is of the greatest importance. Before, he was innocent and without the knowledge of good and evil. After? Well, let’s just allow the Scriptures to speak to this.
Mankind in Adam – Fallen Man and Utter Depravity
- Man was now a sinner, and this is true of all descendants of Adam (Rom. 5:8, 12, 19). All men were dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). In Adam, all are sinners.
- Man was fallen and lost (Matt. 18:11, Luke 19:10). In Adam, all are lost.
- All men walked according to the course of this world. All men walked according to the prince of the air. All men were sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2). In Adam, all men are of the world and disobedient to God.
- All men were by birth and nature, children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). In Adam, by natural birth, all men are destined for condemnation and wrath (Rom. 5:16, 18).
- All men are in the flesh, and have no ability or chance to please God (Rom. 8:8). In Adam means the unbeliever is in the flesh.
- All men are guilty before God (Rom. 3:19). All men fall short (Rom. 3:23). In Adam, man cannot have a relationship with God, or any hope of ever entering His presence and glory.
- All men are without strength to change their state (Rom. 5:6). In Adam, man has no resource to cause a change, no power to change, and most important to realize, no will to change.
- All men were enemies of God (Rom. 5:10, 8:7). In Adam, the carnal mind is nothing but enmity against God.
- There are none righteous among men, no, not one (Rom. 3:10). In Adam, all man’s righteousness is but filthy rags (Is. 64:6)
- There are none among men who seek after God (Rom. 3:11). In Adam, all men go their own way (Is. 53:6) and seek to do their own will (Dan. 11:36, John 6:38).
- All men are now slaves to sin (John 8:34, Rom. 5:21). All men now possess a conscience, but it is defiled and corrupted in sin. In Adam, all men’s wills are a slave to sin and under its reign in the flesh.
When man was chased out of paradise, this was his condition – one of utter depravity. He was lost, having no hope and without God in the world (Eph. 2:12). So when man was tested in responsibility this second time by giving him the law at Mt. Sinai, what do you think was going to happen? The law was given to sinners. They failed immediately.
Israel is the Test Case for man in Adam
This doesn’t even address another important issue that comes up with the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai. And this is a question that must be adequately answered. Why was the law only given to Israel? How can we possibly think that the law was for all mankind when God Himself only gave it to the Jews? We can’t. It wasn’t for all mankind. It was for the testing of responsibility, and Israel alone was the test case. When the test case failed it proved God’s point. God had no need of testing the Gentiles. Israel, as specifically chosen by God and privileged by God above all nations, had failed as the test case. Therefore, as proven, all mankind was guilty before God (Rom. 3:19).
The giving of the law proved the utter depravity of all mankind. Sin was passed on from Adam and had accomplished a comprehensive work in the entire human race. Truly the judgment which came from one offence resulted in condemnation of all men (Rom. 5:12, 16). The entrance of the law simply made the proof of this more obvious (Rom. 5:20). God wasn’t convincing Himself, He wanted to show and convince man.
The Final Testing
The last testing of this principle of responsibility was when God sent His Son into the world (Matt. 21:37). This was the last time God would test man in Adam, looking for fruit. He came unto His own as their Messiah, but His own did not receive Him (John 1:10-11). In this last testing by God, He found nothing but failure. Israel would not have the Son but delivered Him over to the Gentiles. God was looking for fruit, but only found leaves adorning the fig tree (Matt. 21:19). By this, God condemned the entire world at that time.
The history of man was complete – the world was judged (John 12:31). The result of man’s responsibility was fully brought out. When man was without the law he produced intolerable sin (Rom. 1, 2). When under the law he produced transgression. The prophets were sent to call him back to the law but they abused and killed them. And when visited by grace and blessing, man simply refused grace by killing the Son (Matt. 21:33-40). All the testing of responsibility proved that man, driven out of Paradise, naturally produced sin. Man in Adam could not be subject to the law of God. Man in the flesh was proven to be an enemy of God (Rom. 8:7-8). God had shown divine love in patience, however only received hatred from man, and that without a cause (John 15:22-25). Such was sin and such was man.
The principle of responsibility does not cease to exist at this time. It’s just that God’s ways in dealing with it, from this point forward, change. He was finished with the testing of man in his own resources. Man in Adam was proven lost. Yet the principle had to be addressed, and done so by God in a just and holy manner. Man in Adam could only offer sin and failure, lawlessness and transgressions. As I said, the testing of the principle was complete. The results were in. Man is proven by God as utterly depraved.
(23) “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (25) whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, (26) to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
God’s dealing with Responsibility
God’s ways in dealing with this principle would be through sovereign grace by the cross. He would freely justify through redemption in Christ. The believer’s responsibility in the first Adam has been addressed. God has taken it up and done so according to His own holiness and righteousness. The short version of these redemptive truths is found in this: Christ bore our sins and was made to be sin for us, and God condemned Him on the cross. Christ received the believer’s judgment and condemnation that was rightly ours in Adam. God was appeased and exonerated, the blood of Christ being the propitiation towards Him for man. The Son of Man had glorified God in all His work, and so He enters, as Man, into God’s glory. God remains just and becomes the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
The Believer’s individual responsibility
Once we are settled and secure in our salvation, we must realize that there now exists two areas of responsibility before God. Individually we were drawn by the Father to faith in Jesus Christ (John 6:44), by which we each became a son of God (Gal. 3:26). We were placed in this relationship first, being sealed by the Spirit of sonship (Eph. 1:13). This is personal. It is individual faith and individual sonship resulting in being individually sealed by the Spirit. From this relationship – that of the Father with a son – flows our individual responsibility as believers. We are sons of the Father God and our responsibility is realized in our sonship.
Professing Christianity’s corporate responsibility
There is a second area of responsibility found in professing Christianity – that of the spoiled crop of wheat and tares in the field of the unbelieving world (Matt. 13:37-43). This crop has a candlestick that must shine to this dark and sinful world. The candlestick, and the brightness by which it shines, is the corporate responsibility of all of Christendom (Rev. 1:12-13). On the earth the responsibility of professing Christianity has been placed into the hands of men. The testimony of Scripture is that from the apostolic days of the church, the light from the candlestick has been progressively diminishing.
The Spoiled Crop in the Field
· Professing Christianity – all that profess the name of Jesus Christ. It is wheat and tares mixed together. The Son of Man planted the wheat, while the wicked one planted the tares (Matt. 13:37-39). The mixture remains undisturbed in the field of the world until the harvest at the end of the age.
· Christianity – all that adhere to some form of the Christian faith. When this term is used in its true meaning it references the body of Christ, the true church. When the world uses this term they are referencing all of professing Christianity, and usually the pope as its head, the Catholic Church as the main representative entity.
· The Church World – the great tree that grows up in the field of the world – Matt. 13:31-32. It becomes a great earthly power. This is similar to the meaning of the word ‘Christendom.’
All three of the above terms with their definitions could be used interchangeably with the idea of the spoiled crop in the field. What is important to distinguish is that none of the terms define the true church – the body of Christ, the wheat planted by the Son of Man. The spoiled crop is all that professes Christ. It is certain that it contains the true church, but it is far more than this. On the earth and in the world (field), it is always wheat and tares mixed together, and it is ripening in evil to the end. It is the work of the Son of Man and the work of Satan mixed together in one corporate entity – professing Christianity.
“…but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.”
The words ‘while men slept’ describe the corporate responsibility of leaders and ministers in professing Christianity, allowing the enemy to come in and sow tares. This allows evil and corruption to fester and grow in the church world. And the Lord knows that man cannot be responsible for rectifying the situation, and so the mixture of professing Christianity remains as it is until the harvest time at the end (Matt. 13:28-30). This is what the kingdom of heaven has been like for nearly two thousand years.
(1) “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. (2) Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. (3) Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, (4) but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. (5) But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.”
(6) “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ (7) Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. (8) And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ (9) But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ (10) And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.”
(11) “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ (12) But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’”
Christendom Slumbering and Sleeping
This also is a parable concerning the kingdom of heaven. It is symbolic of certain features present today in the church world, one of which is a view of corporate responsibility spanning nearly two thousand years. Let’s highlight some of the important features for our discussion.
- The ten virgins have the corporate composition of five wise and five foolish. This represents the mixture that exists in professing Christianity. The mixture is of the corporate entity, and that is the view we are given here, not individuals or individual responsibility.
- All the virgins look very similar to each other and therefore are difficult to tell apart. They all initially go out together, go back in to sleep together, and awake together to go back out. They all have the candlesticks of responsibility, regardless of whether they are foolish or wise.
- In the parable the one job or task of responsibility is distinct and clear – all were to remain awake and alert, looking and waiting for the bridegroom to return.
- The slumbering and sleeping (v. 5) is failure in responsibility by professing Christianity.
- At a certain time close to the bridegrooms’ return, a midnight cry is sounded. All ten are awakened by the cry in order to go back out. The awakening serves to expose the true differences between the wise and the foolish.
Jesus is the bridegroom. Before the day of Pentecost He went away, and He is still away. He promised to return (John 14:2-3). When He does, it is for those who are His, those that He personally knows (v. 12). The foolish virgins were told that He does not know them.
The singular task of responsibility was to remain awake and alert for the coming of the bridegroom. This is what the parable is teaching. His coming for us is the rapture of the church. His coming for us should be a constant expectation of the believer, as it was to be for the entire group of virgins. The promise of His coming for us was to be comfort in the midst of a world that only offers us hatred and tribulation (John 14:1-2, 15:18-19, 16:33, 17:14). All of professing Christianity has failed in this task and has been sleeping for hundreds of years (v. 5). After the first century this doctrine essentially disappeared from the church world, along with many others. Ephesus had departed from its first position and would not return, signaling the beginning of the decay and decline of professing Christianity in the world (Rev. 2:1-5).
The Awakening of the Reformation
Like Pentecost, the early sixteenth century Reformation was a sovereign work of God. Two great truths that had been lost to the church world for some time came to light by the work of the Spirit.
- The authority of Scripture as the only inspired Word of God and thus, for the Christian, the only proper guide to faith and practice. This is a biblical truth about the integrity of Scripture, declaring it as the only place from which we may find the truth of God (II Tim. 3:16 – 4:4). The church is not the authority of God on earth. Rather, it is the Scriptures.
- Justification of the believer by faith. This is a scriptural truth out of the Word of God, obviously of great importance.
Both of these teachings had been lost for centuries from the time of the early church. During the reformation the Holy Spirit brings them to light, and they, in a sense, are rediscovered.(20)
The Midnight Cry
The parable of the virgins speaks of a midnight cry going out awakening the church world (v. 6). It is an awakening to the original task the virgins were given – the expectancy of the bridegroom coming and being alert and ready for this event. The rapture of the church is taught in Paul’s epistles to the first century church. Then the teaching disappears for centuries. The midnight cry is the rediscovery of this particular doctrine and truth. It is an awakening to a teaching which has been long lost. Christ will come for His own and take them to where He is now (John 13:36, 14:3). The midnight cry was first sounded some 180 years ago in England in a movement known as the Brethren. This group brought back to the church world the doctrine of the rapture. Today His return for us is even nearer.
The Constant Expectancy
One of the interesting things about this parable is that the same virgins that fell asleep are still the same ones who were awakened by the midnight cry. However, we know that the body of Christ has been on the earth for almost two thousand years. What this feature teaches is of great importance. The church, regardless of its point in time over its history, should have constantly expected the return of Christ – in their lifetime, in the coming week, or even in the next passing hour. It is what was meant by the teaching of the Spirit concerning this doctrine. This was to always be a constant expectation of the believer’s heart and affections.
“…so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, (21) who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”
“Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (24) For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? (25) But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”
In all three of these passages the believer/church is taught to eagerly wait for Him to appear. In both Romans and Philippians we are taught to eagerly wait for it with perseverance. The ‘for it’ refers to the redemption of our body – when we are conformed into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). To the Thessalonians when Paul discussed the doctrine of the rapture, he included himself among those who would be alive and remaining (I Thess. 4:17). The first century church was taught to expect His return. This truth is always to be before our minds and ever forming the affections of our heart towards Him.
Even so, come Lord Jesus!
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” This should have been the testimony of the church in agreement with the Spirit from the time these words were penned by John. Some of the very last words of Scripture are, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:17, 20) Do we have this eager anticipation for His return? Are we constantly expecting it as the early church was? I know the doctrine was lost in the church world for centuries. The wise and foolish together were asleep, man failing in responsibility. However, the midnight cry has been sounded.
Are we able to say from the depths of our hearts the words, ‘even so, come, Lord Jesus?’ Or do we have much hesitation in our thoughts? In thinking about our precious Lord’s return is it rather, no, not now, do not come yet? I am not ready. My children are not ready. I want grandchildren; I want to see them grow up before me. I have weddings to plan, other things to do, and places to see. Lord, please do not come now! How can this be the proper affections of the heart of the believer? How does this attitude fall in line with the teaching of Scripture? How are these thoughts pleasing to the Lord at all?
The Believer is called according to God’s Purpose
The above passage from Romans tells us that ‘we were saved in this hope.’ God gives us the specific hope of the glorified body conformed to the image of His Son as a definitive purpose and reason for our salvation.
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
“For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
The Thessalonians had turned from idols to God. They were saved for the purpose of serving the living God, and to wait for His Son from heaven. This was their expectation. It was the same in all the early church. They were all taught to wait, expecting the Lord’s coming for the church in their lifetime.
The Father would have many sons (Rom. 8:15-16) and He sent the Holy Spirit down to gather them into one body, the body of Christ. In His counsels we are ‘the called according to His purpose.’ (Rom. 8:28) And this purpose is spelled out for us in no uncertain terms and detail:
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (30) Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
All is already accomplished in His counsels, and these before time began. It is before the foundations of the world; and it ends with, ‘these He also glorified.’ We were saved and given life in Christ for this purpose and in this hope. The Father will have His sons. And this should be of the greatest comfort and security for the believer.
The Guarantee of the Indwelling Spirit
If you are saved and possess eternal life, then you have been sealed with the Spirit. He is God’s guarantee of these very things (Rom 8:23). God has set in stone a certain determined purpose in His counsels, and He is faithful to do all He wills in accomplishing that exact purpose. He has promised and given us sure and steadfast hopes. He has guaranteed it all by the presence of His Spirit.
2 Corinthians 5:1-5
“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2) For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, (3) if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. (4) For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. (5) Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”
It is all the same teaching. The Spirit given to us is His guarantee of future glory and the heavenly habitation. Presently we groan, being in these earthly bodies (v. 2). We suffer now with Christ, as He suffered in His walk on this earth (Rom. 8:17-18). In this world we have tribulation (John 16:33) and hatred (John 17:14), because we are not of the world and are only strangers here. But the above passage tells us again, that presently as believers, we are to earnestly desire the glorified body. And God has prepared us for this very thing – mortality being swallowed up by life.
The Biblical Truths of the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt. 25:1-12)
- The return of the bridegroom is Christ returning for His body, the true church. Even though there are five foolish and five wise virgins looking and acting the same, the parable proves the Lord knows those that are His. The foolish say, “Lord, Lord, open to us!” He replies, “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.”
- The ten virgins were five foolish and five wise. This is professing Christianity consisting of wheat and tares (Matt. 13:24-26). They all have lamps, but the five foolish ones have no seal of the Spirit, no oil. You cannot see the seal of the Spirit; that is why they all look and act the same in the parable, and they are all found together.
- All the virgins fell asleep. To do so they sought out a more comfortable place – all had to be called back out to their original place by the midnight cry (Matt. 25:6). Because all ten sleep together, it is failure in corporate responsibility in the professing church. Many Christian truths are lost while men sleep, and for centuries the church world has not expected the Lord’s return. Also while men sleep many tares are given the opportunity to enter into the crop in the field (Matt. 13:25-26). This also allows the growth and spread of corruption and evil, and the spoiling of the crop. This is what has been playing out for centuries in the kingdom of heaven.
- The return of the Lord for His own should be the constant expectation of the believer. The virgins were to remain awake and alert to the coming of the bridegroom. This expectation was to be true for the church in the first century as well as the twenty-first century. It is to be a daily looking for the Lord, and an eager waiting for our glorification. But if any servant says, ‘My Master delays his coming…’ it is for his own ruin. It also reveals the moral state of his heart as evil.
- The moral state of the kingdom is that all have gone asleep and the coming of the Lord is forgotten by all. The entire reason for the ten virgins going out had been forgotten – this is a commentary on the moral condition of the external professing body. They were no longer waiting for the Lord; although some had oil, none of their lamps were trimmed. It is he who awaits the Lord who watches to be ready to receive Him. All that was manifested was negligence and sleeping. Where was the love for the Lord when no one is occupied with His return? Where is the loyalty to Him? The true character of the believer is formed by the object that governs his heart – waiting for the Lord detaches your heart from this world. Are all the things in our life agreeable to His presence? There is nothing like having the expectation of His coming for us that will search our hearts and govern our conduct.
- The five unwise had to go away to buy oil. This simply shows that it was too late for them to have anything to do with the bridegroom. Also it was too late for the wise to give the unwise any oil. You have to have the oil in order to trim your lamp – this is the rendering of service. Only the wise could do so for the Lord.
- The midnight cry awakens all ten virgins. This doctrine of the rapture has been rediscovered by the church world, the Spirit bringing light to it during the mid-1800s. We are certainly closer today to the return of the bridegroom.
(35) “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; (36) and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. (37) Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.”
The Lord is returning and the church will be gathered unto Him. Our waists need to be girded and our lamps burning. We should be constantly waiting and anticipating His return. This is the blessed hope of the church.
Chapter 7: Endnotes
 I always contend the Scriptures teach that the only time man’s will was truly free was in paradise before the fall. When man was in innocence, he exercised his free will. But when he freely chose to disobey God, sin entered in and became a master over man. Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin (John 8:34), and all men in Adam were doing just that (Rom. 5:12, 19). Man’s will was no longer free.
 When God gave the law to Israel, He was looking to see if man in Adam could produce righteousness as a fruit before Him. Until this time the question of righteousness in man had not been addressed, not based on the principle of responsibility in man. Abraham was justified by faith – by believing the words and promises God spoke to him (Rom. 4:17-22). God’s dealing with Abraham was on the principle of sovereign grace (Rom. 4:13-16). This principle of grace is opposite to that of the principle of responsibility (Rom. 11:6). The doing of the law was based on the principle of responsibility, and man in Adam, or man in the flesh, could not please God. Failure was certain. However, the giving of the law was God specifically looking for the fruit of righteousness. Yet if the law was completed perfectly over one’s lifetime, it still only represented human righteousness (Phil. 3:9). The law represented what man in Adam should be before a holy and righteous God, in man’s relationships – with God and with his neighbor. This is not the righteousness of God, and never could be, regardless of who was performing the law.
 The rejection of the Messiah sent to Israel represents the end of God testing the principle of responsibility in man on his own in the first Adam. Man has not only sinned, but he is a sinner. Man in Adam is condemned. The entire world is condemned (John 12:31). The ending of this last testing can be distinctly seen in two separate scriptures.
“He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
It was morally the end of the world; sin was complete. All the ages and all the phases of man’s probation, after he was chased out of the garden, had been tested. All the privilege and advantage God had given man was found in Israel. Christ appeared at the end when the testing of man in Adam was complete. God had proven by Israel’s failure that man in Adam could not produce righteousness as a fruit, and could only be a sinner.
However, at the moral end of the world, God turns to His own working and strength instead of looking at man’s work and strength or man’s nature and will. The believer’s sin has been put away by the sacrifice of Christ. Further, the believer is now the righteousness of God in Christ. This is all based on the principle of sovereign grace. God had to eventually deal with man’s sin nature and sins. He could not indefinitely forbear and pass over them (Rom. 3:25). The holy and righteous God would have to be appeased and propitiated, or all mankind would be lost (Rom. 3:19, 23). He deals with man’s sin nature and his sins by Christ bearing sins and being made sin; this dealing is according to His own holy and righteous nature. Christ bears the responsibility of man in the first Adam, and God justly condemns Him on the cross (Rom. 8:3). God is no longer passing over, but has now dealt with the problem by an eternally accepted sacrifice, and through the principle of grace. The times of God testing man in the principle of responsibility had come to an end – it was the end of the ages (also see Gal. 4:4 – ‘when the fullness of the time had come’).
 Jesus came to the fig tree and only found leaves. This symbolically represents the law adorning the Jews in the flesh and by outward appearance. The law could not result in life, and therefore no fruit was found in Israel as representing mankind. They were a very privileged people by God, but still could not produce any fruit. Now, the Arminian thought and leaven would say this, “Surely Israel had to produce some fruit. It cannot be this bad. There had to be some fruit on the tree. Surely not all is lost. This has to be a mistake.” However, Jesus came to the fig tree and found no fruit – then the tree was judged.
 Our individual responsibility as believers stems from our new position as sons of our Father God. Christ is our brother and we are His brethren in the house of God (Gal. 3:26, Heb. 2:10-11, John 8:35-36). We have been placed in the same relationship as Christ – He saying, “…My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.” (John 20:17) We act and speak as sons in the house of our Father. So now we are to emulate how Christ walked on the earth. We are to love the brethren as Christ loved us, giving Himself for us (John 15:12-13, Eph. 5:2, 5:25). We are to be a light to this world as we see that Christ was the light of the world when He was here in it (John 9:5, Eph. 5:8, Phil. 2:15). We are the epistle of Christ before this world (II Cor. 3:3). This is the believer’s responsibility as a son with Him.
The principle of responsibility for all who profess Christ (the spoiled crop of wheat and tares) can be seen individually in John 15:1-6. Judaism is the vine of the earth (Rev. 14:18-19). However, Christ is the true vine of God. All the branches that do not bear fruit are the tares in professing Christianity. These cannot light their lamps for they have no oil. They cannot bear fruit for they have no life. They do not abide in the vine at all and therefore do not have the life of the vine flowing to them. The Father takes these away from the vine (v. 2) and they are eventually cast out and wither (v. 6). They will be gathered and burned (judgment).
The branches that bear fruit are the wheat in the crop of professing Christianity. These have eternal life and so have the life of the vine flowing to them. Therefore they are said to abide in the vine and produce fruit (v. 4). The Father prunes these so they bear more fruit (v. 2).
As believers we abide in the vine. As believers we are the wheat. As believers we are the sons of God and we produce 30, 60, 100 fold (Matt. 13:8, 23). As believers we are the branches that produce fruit. We are the branches that are pruned by the Father because the Father loves the sons (Heb. 12:7-11), and they will bear more fruit. We do not abide in the vine by our own strength. We do not abide in Him by stressing and straining and trying hard. These are all foolish Arminian thoughts and teachings, and serve to rob the true believer of security and peace. When was the last time you looked at the branches of a tree and thought these branches are doing a great job in their efforts to just stay attached to the trunk?
Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1) – how is this? It is through our Lord Jesus Christ, not through stressing and straining and good performance. We have this treasure in earthen vessels (II Cor. 4:7) – why? It is so that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us! When Paul could not be with the Philippians he says, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” How is this done? It is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13). We are believers by the choice and power of God and we are kept by the choice and power of God (John 10:26-29). We are branches that produce fruit. We are the branches that abide in Him, but it is the life from the vine that does the work of producing fruit. “A branch cannot bear fruit of itself… for without Me you can do nothing.” It is Christ in us, and we in Him (John 15:5). This is not Arminian teaching. But it is Biblical teaching and the thoughts of God from His Word.