The Object of the Pruning
Finally, the work of the Husbandman, the Father, with His pruning knife, has as its object the preserving of true character. That is true in all pruning, as you know. You go along the path there in the garden. You will see some grafted rose bushes which once bore beautiful roses. They were not pruned. Now they have run wild: the wild stocks have been allowed to supplant the beautiful grafted forms, and they are only bearing what we call dog-roses. They may be pretty, but we know that the plant has run wild for want of the knife. The result is not the real thing - it is a wild thing; it is something inferior, it is not what it might have been. It is so easy for us, if the Lord spares the knife and leaves us alone, to lose distinctive character. Just let us get out of the Lord and run free, take our own way for a bit, and we lose distinctiveness of character. There is a wildness, a foreign element that comes in, and the real pleasure of the Lord is lost. It is not until that knife comes back and does some pretty hard work, saying, "No, no, not that way, not that way," that the Lord recovers the thing which He first intended as His own satisfaction. But what is the result? "These thing have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." We have to admit, after all, that it was not in that independent way that we really found our joy; our joy is being in the way of the Lord's first appointment and choice, and our joy is restored very often by the knife. "That my joy may be in you."
If you go to Hebrews 12, you will see the fuller interpretation and explanation. It is the Father's hand that is upon us to get that which, firstly, justifies our existence - the satisfaction of His nature, the fulfillment of His purpose - and in so doing brings His joy into our hearts. It is not our joy in the first place, but His. Then our joy is His joy - and our joy is fulfilled.
With the phase of John's revelation of spiritual truth that is marked, in our arrangement, by the beginning of chapter 16, we are presented with an immense development. It is nothing less than the grand turning point in the dispensations. There is here coming into view another dispensation, with its own particular and peculiar nature; an altogether new economy is about to be inaugurated. It is -
The Dispensation of the Spirit
For many centuries the Law had reigned. Then came the brief interlude of the Incarnation, in which as to the past - for the first and only time, the Law had its perfect fulfillment in a Man, and - as to the future - the new reign of the Spirit also in a Man was exemplified.
Now, the "going" of that One to the Father is shown to be imminent. It is also shown to be essential in order that all in Him through faith should move on to that new basis.
There are one or two things in this part of the Lord's discourse which had a point and edge that startled those who heard them, and which need to be recovered from the blunting effect of familiarity and tradition where we are concerned. That the invisible should be of value far transcending the visible, that the intangible should transcend the tangible, the inward the objective, the inaudible the audible, was by no means a simple thing to believe. That this change was "expedient" was far from easy to accept. To let go the personal, physical, present embodiment of all hope and expectations of all that He had come to mean to them - for One who seemed so impersonal, incomprehensible, and mysterious, was a change to be contemplated only with misgivings and fears.
And yet it was being categorically states that the one was incomparably more important then the other - the Spirit than the Incarnate Christ as visibly present!
(continued with # 63)