Welcome to The Living Word for Sunday, May 2 (Easter 5)TLW17B. Read the Scriptures as they stand first and invite the Holy Spirit to speak to you about them. Then dig deeper with the verse-by-verse comment Ary and reflection notes. See also this week’s linked article drawing out the story that these Scriptures tell.
Theme: Receiving God’s love is the key to our fruitfulness
• See also the linked article ‘The big story — knowing we are loved enables everything‘
• And a short video telling ‘The Big Story of God’s love for us‘
Psalm 22:25-31 — A time will come when all people and nations are thankfully celebrating the Lord’s rule of love
John 15:1-8 — As God’s vine is Jesus, we are to be His healthy trimmed branches
Acts 8:26-40 — Philip is led by the Spirit to the right person at the right time and leads the Ethiopian to Christ
1 John 4:7-21 — Unselfish love sourced from God Himself is the stand-out quality shown by spiritually reborn believers
Psalm 22:25-31 — A time will come when many respond to God’s love
The psalmist sees all people and nations thankfully celebrating the Lord’s rule
25-26 From You comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear You I will fulfil my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise Him — may your hearts live for ever!
“I will fulfil my vows” — share praise as a response to answered prayer in “the great assembly” of worshippers.
27-28 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before Him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and He rules over the nations.
“All the families of the nations” — far-off nations recognising God’s grace to them.
29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before Him – those who cannot keep themselves alive.
“All the rich of the earth” — the proud and the poor of every nation celebrate God’s goodness together.
30 Posterity will serve Him; future generations will be told about the Lord.
“Future generations” — revival as future generations respond to the message of Christ crucified for us.
31 They will proclaim His righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!
“He has done it” — prophetic of Jesus’ last words: “It is finished!”
SUMMARY The psalmist praises God for His goodness, recognised by future generations — a picture of His kingdom embracing all kinds of people with love, justice and equanimity.
APPLICATION God seeks spiritual revival where people who are complete opposites find themselves receiving His love and salvation together.
QUESTION What part do we play in God’s dominion and kingdom coming?
John 15:1-8 — As God’s vine is Jesus, we are to be healthy branches
Branches are trimmed to produce more fruit, and taken out if they are barren
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener.
“The true vine” — begins an illustration in which Jesus is the vine, producing fruit through believers who are His branches.
2 “He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
“Branch… that bears no fruit” — removal of unproductive branches and attention to good ones to strengthen them during the growing season.
3 “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
“You are already clean” — by contrast with Judas.
4-5 “Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.
“Remain in Me as I… remain in you” — this simply describes a close relationship, connected spiritually.
“Apart from Me you can do nothing” — exaggeration makes the point that fruitfulness only comes through spiritual rebirth.
6 “If you do not remain in Me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
“Such branches are… thrown into the fire” — those claiming to belong to Jesus, but with unsubmitted hearts..
7 “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
“Ask… and it will be done” — in such a close relationship we are praying in line with His intentions.
8 “This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.”
“Bear much fruit [as] My disciples” — God needs us to “bear fruit” as the ones advancing His kingdom in changed lives.
SUMMARY Jesus’ first hearers knew about Israel as God’s vine. Now Jesus makes it deeply personal. His disciples are growing and producing the fruit of love and knowing God personally as Father — His kingdom on earth.
APPLICATION The lesson is, not trying to prove how much we can do apart from Christ, but finding His ways for us to be fruitful with Him.
QUESTION How have you become more fruitful through God’s pruning?
Acts 8:26-40 — Philip is led by the Spirit to the right person
He shows the Ethiopian Jesus in the Scriptures and baptises him in an oasis
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road — the desert road — that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”
“An angel of the Lord said to Philip” — introducing a story of fruitfulness from following the Holy Spirit’s leading.
27-28 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means ‘queen of the Ethiopians’). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet.
“Ethiopian eunuch” — this high-ranking Nubian courtier, was searching for the truth in Judaism.
“The Kandake” — queen mother who managed the king’s civic duties and exchequer.
29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
“The Spirit told Philip” — believers were confident in being guided where and when to go, and what to say, v.26.
• For further study, see Acts 9:15, 10:19-20, 11:12, 16:6; 1 Cor. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:12.
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
“Heard the man reading” — usually aloud in the ancient world.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
“Unless someone explains it” — for the born-again Christian the Holy Spirit reveals the Scriptures and gives us the words, as Jesus promised, Luke 12:12, John 14:26.
32-33 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
34-35 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
“Who is the prophet talking about?” — Jews, unable to imagine a suffering Messiah, taught Israel as the suffering servant.
“Told the good news about Jesus” — that all and any can come to Jesus, believe in Him and receive Him as their Lord in salvation. Philip led this man to receive Christ.
36 As they travelled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptised?”
“What can stand in the way” — the rules of Judaism would not admit him but he knew Christ had died for him.
38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptised him.
39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.
“Went on his way rejoicing” — by church tradition he became a missionary to his own people. Philip had been more fruitful than he knew.
40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and travelled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
“Azotus… Caesarea — both with a large Gentile population, underlining the urgency of the mission to Gentiles.
SUMMARY Philip, one of the seven “men full of the Spirit and wisdom” of Acts 6:5 obeys an extraordinary prompting to head south on the desert road and encounters the Ethiopian minister of finance who is reading Scripture aloud. He is invited to explain it — and he shows the connection between the Suffering Servant of Isaiah and Jesus’ sacrifice and what it means for this man. He seeks to be baptised at the next watering place.
APPLICATION Philip, listening to the Spirit of Jesus, took some risks and found this man at the right time and place and led him to personal faith. That is being fruitful.
QUESTION What would Philip want to teach us from his story and experience?
1 John 4:7-21 — How the source of love is God’s love for us
Unselfish love is the stand-out quality shown by spiritually reborn believers
7-8 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
“Everyone who loves… knows God” — a spiritually reborn believer’s love for others is evidence of their connection to the source.
“God is love” — but also spirit, light, faithfulness and justice, and goodness, John 4:24; 1 John 1:5, 1 John 1:9, Luke 18:19.
9-10 This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
“God showed His love” — in a concrete way, sending His only Son into a cruel world to pay the price for sinful men to receive forgiveness and new life.
11-12 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.
“Love one another” — those who have received God’s love experience a fellowship with all others who have received the same.
13-14 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world.
“How we know” — introduces a section predicated on “He has given us of His Spirit” which sets out the spiritual hallmarks of genuine disciples, as distinct from unregenerate false teachers.
Spirit… the Father… His Son — a clear reference to the Trinity of God
15-16 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
“If anyone acknowledges” — in 1 John 4:2 it was to affirm Christ’s full humanity; here it is to affirm His deity. Believers hold both to be true.
16-17 God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus.
“Whoever lives in love” — living in God and living in love are inseparable (also v.12).
18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
“No fear in love” — fear as an insecurity is linked to condemnation and eternal punishment. When our experience of God is complete in knowing His love, that anxiety has nothing to feed on.
19-20 We love because He first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
“Claims to love” — we cannot claim to love God and not love those who are His.
21 And He has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
“Love their brother and sister” — the claim to love God is verified by unselfish love within the fellowship, and beyond.
SUMMARY John writes about love being such an essential part of who God is, it will be an outstanding characteristic of anyone who truly belongs to Him in Jesus.
APPLICATION To be fruitful for God is first and foremost to be channels of His grace and love. This comes from the close relationship and spiritual bond that Jesus spoke about in the branches fed by the vine, and that Philip knew when he was prompted to head off into the desert for a strategic encounter. In the growing churches, John emphasises showing the life of God by giving away the love of God.
QUESTION Why does John portray God’s love as an antidote to the devil’s fear?
PRAYER Father God, we reflect again on Your gracious love that sent Your only Son to an ungracious earth. We consider how He showed that love by taking on Himself the suffering of the Cross to purchase our freedom. May we live lives full of Your Spirit and overflowing with Your love for others, to grow in fruitfulness for You and Your kingdom. Amen.
PRINT EDITION There is a print edition of TLW and you can download a PDF from the link below. This prints on A4 paper to produce a Bible-size four-page folder. Permission given to copy for your own use, your house or home or other small group, or include with your church’s bulletin.