Commentary

 

The Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles      

By Joe David

The Last Supper, an 1896 work by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret.

The Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles

The Lord left his apostles with instructions and with great gifts. The instructions are listed in several distinct places, but the the gifts are more scattered, both in the four gospels and in the book of Acts later, being given as the apostles needed them.

First, about the apostles... just to clarify, here I'm referring to "the disciples" as including anyone who has followed along to hear the Lord, and "the apostles" to mean the twelve men that the Lord recruited specifically, as listed in Matthew 10, Mark 3, and Luke 6.

Who were the apostles? From the lists in Matthew and Mark, which are the same, we have: Simon (Peter), James and John the sons of Zebedee, Andrew (Peter’s brother), Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew (the publican), Thomas, James the son of Alpheus, (as is Matthew, so they are brothers, too), Thaddeus, (also known as Libbeus), Simon the Canaanite (also called Simon the Zealot), and Judas Iscariot. Bartholomew is almost undoubtedly another name for Nathaniel, see John 1. The list in Luke includes another Judas, "Judas the brother of James" and doesn’t have Thaddeus.

The stories of how they were individually chosen differ, especially in the gospel of John, but that these twelve were appointed by the Lord is clear. A point of interest is that - other than Simon the Canaanite and Judas Iscariot they are all from towns around the sea of Galilee - and perhaps those two are as well. These twelve have their names inscribed on the twelve foundations of the walls of the holy city New Jerusalem, in Revelation 21:14 in which there are also the twelve gates. These men were chosen to represent all the different states of the natural human being that can be receptive of the Lord. They are from Galilee because Galilee represents that natural state of the human mind. The number twelve in the Word represents all possible states of mankind.

What is indicated here is that all people, everywhere, can be saved or regenerated if they repent and turn to the Lord in their lives. No one is "outside" of His reach. We are born natural, everyone is, but we are so formed that our minds can be raised to what is higher, called spiritual for our conceptions of Divine truth, or Celestial for our perceptions of Divine good. But we all start in a natural state and can only move upward by listening to the Lord’s teachings in His Word, and following Him as those Apostles did.

Not all of our natural states are states of good; they can be selfish, domineering, and cruel. But the Lord said that He came "not to save the just but to call sinners to repentance". Perhaps this is why Simon the Canaanite and Judas were two that He called. Simon is little known, but in some places in the Word, "Canaan signifies an external worship without a true internal worship". (See Arcana Coelestia 1060). Can the Lord work with that - with external worship that's internally barren? Yes, as a starting point. And, even Judas, who betrayed the Lord so terribly, we are told, repented of his betrayal of the Lord. (Matthew 27:3-5)

The Lord's Instructions to the Apostles

The two most comprehensive sets of instructions are in Luke 10:1-17 where seventy Disciples are sent out two by two, apparently to a specified list of cities that Jesus intends to visit, and then in Matthew 20:1-19 where the chosen twelve Apostles are sent out to all Israel. Later, as recorded in different epistles, the Apostles go out further, through a wide region.

The basic instructions were to preach that the kingdom of heaven is near, that all should be led to repent of their sins, and that all who wish should be baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles should not take any money or extra clothing along, and they were to depend entirely on the Lord’s providence with no doubt that they shall be welcomed, fed, and sheltered. If they were welcomed, they should stay and preach the good news about the risen Lord and His teachings, and if they were not, they should shake from their feet the dust of that place and go on to a place where they were welcome. See Matthew 10, 28, Mark 13, 16, Luke 9, 10:24.

There are several assurances for the twelve. The Lord has told them to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit is sent to strengthen them, and in John 20 where the ten are gathered it is said that He breathed on them and said, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit". Also, in his long talk with them in John 14, 15, 16) He assures them that his crucifixion and death are necessary to his mission and they should even rejoice that it is coming. He shows them from scripture that it has all been prophesied from long ago, (see Mark 4:34) and that what seems to them a tragedy, is truly His glorification and the end of the work He came to do. They, His twelve, are in the same steam of providence and will be protected. "Don’t be anxious," He tells them, "I will put into your mouths what you are to say, I will bring into your memories the incidents to tell to the people".

Here is a listing of the chapters and verses in John where such things are said: John 14:1-3, 10, 16-18, 26-28, 15:11, 16, 26-27, 16:7, 13-15, 22, 26-27, 33. Or simply read the three chapters and pick out your favorites.

A marvelous gift is mentioned in Matthew 10:13, "But blessed are your eyes for they see and blessed are your ears, for they hear…".

In the book of Acts, the Lord vividly shows the apostles that when they speak in their Galileen dialect every listener will hear their words as his own language in his ears; not gibberish, but Arabic to the Arabs, Greek to the Greeks, and Latin to the Romans.

When Peter starts to preach to a gathering of sympathetic Jews he speaks clearly and unafraid, saying that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God and that people should worship Him openly and repent of how they might have felt earlier. Peter’s talk in Acts 3 and 4 is a bold and powerful one. No more hiding behind locked doors.

The early history of the Christian church shows just how well all this worked out. You know what? The Apostles preached to the peoples in the Near East 2000 years ago, and their preaching is just as relevant today as it was then: "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Being at hand has nothing to do with the date or the state of political history in the world, it has to do with the inside of your mind. The Lord is just as close to you now as He was then, and He never turns away, though we might turn away from him. Remember that He said "behold I stand at the door and knock and if anyone hears and opens the door He will come right in." This hasn’t changed nor will it ever change, but He leaves us in freedom to ignore His knocking, if that is what we want. We have to make the choice, but He is always ready if we choose to open the door.

From Swedenborg's Works

 

Arcana Coelestia #1060

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)      

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1060. Verse 18 And Noah's sons who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham was the father of Canaan.

'Noah's sons who went out of the ark' means those who constituted the Ancient Church, 'who went out of the ark' meaning those who had been regenerated. 'Shem' means the internal Church, 'Ham' the corrupted Church, 'Japheth' the external Church. 'Ham was the father of Canaan means that from the corrupted Church arose worship in external things devoid of internal, which worship is meant by Canaan.

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Related New Christian Commentary

Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.

The Bible

 

John 15

King James Version         

Study the Inner Meaning

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1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.

11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.

18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.

22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.

23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also.

24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.

25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.

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Explanation of John 15      

By Rev. John Clowes M.A.

Explaining the Inner Meaning of John 15

Verses 15:1, 2. That the Lord is the all of spiritual truth, cherished and enlivened by divine good, by virtue of which good, all who are principled in truth and not in good, are separated, or cast out, whilst all who are principled in good united with truth, are purified.

Verses 15:3, 4. For all spiritual purification comes from the union of divine good and divine truth, and since this union is complete in the Lord, therefore all, who are principled in truth, ought to seek reciprocal conjunction with him in the good of his love, otherwise they cannot attain good.

Verses 15:5, 6. But if they attain that conjunction, they then attain heavenly good, which they acknowledge to be derived from such conjunction, since without such conjunction they are deprived of all spiritual life, and associated with infernal societies, and become a prey to all the evil of craving, and thus perish in eternal death.

Verses 15:7, 8. Whereas if they have reciprocal conjunction with the Lord, through obedience to his commandments, they acquire omnipotence over all evil and false principles, and exalt the divine good in their wills, and the divine truth in their understandings.

Verses 15:9, 10. For as the divinity is united by love with the humanity which he assumed, so is the humanity united by love with all those, who obey the truth, and thus attain reciprocal conjunction with him, which conjunction is effected by obedience to the truth, in like manner as the reciprocal union of the divinity and humanity was effected by the obedience of the latter to the divine good.

Verses 15:11, 12. That thus it is the end of the divine commandments, to introduce man to a participation of divine blessedness, by filling all his natural delights and gratifications with corresponding spiritual joys, which end is accomplished by mutual love and charity derived from the divine love.

Verses 15:13, 14, 15. Which love and charity is perfected in proportion as a man renounces self-love, and prefers another's good to his own, since in so doing he attains to a state of spiritual freedom, whereas otherwise he is in a state of spiritual servitude, through ignorance of the divine loving-kindness, inasmuch as all true freedom is derived from heavenly knowledge.

Verses 15:16, 17. Nevertheless, that the power which man possesses of conjoining himself with the Lord by love, is not of himself, but of the Lord, who alone instructs man in truth, to the intent that he may live accordingly, and thus attain to heavenly good, and that this good may be operative in good works, and thereby put man in possession of all that he can desire, since all is comprehended in mutual love or charity.

Verses 15:18, 19. Yet that they, who have attained such love, through the acknowledgement of the divinity in the Lord's humanity, will be opposed and vilified, as the Lord himself was opposed and vilified, and for the same reason too, because their affections and thoughts are in contrariety to those of the worldly-minded.

Verses 15:20, 21. They are therefore to keep in mind, that if the divine love itself be opposed, and the divine truth itself rejected, they also will be opposed and rejected, who are only receivers of that love and truth, and for this reason, because the divinity in the Lord's humanity is not acknowledged.

Verses 15:22, 23, 24. That this non-acknowledgement of the divinity in the Lord's humanity is the source of all human disorder and condemnation, since whoever opposes the Lord's humanity, or divine truth, opposes at the same time his divinity, or divine good.

Verse 15:25. Thus fulfilling divine prediction.

Verses 15:26, 27. Nevertheless the operation of the Lord's humanity, when fully united with the divinity, will prove to every believer that he is the Only God by virtue of that union, and every true believer will also confirm this testimony, because he will perceive that all of regeneration from the first insemination of truth, is from that divine source.

From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

Apocalypse Revealed 553, 618


Other references to this chapter:

Arcana Coelestia 51, 618, 650, 1017, 1069, 2009, 2343, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 6, 54, 97, 222, 294, 376, 463, ...

A Brief Exposition of New Church Doctrine 97, 112, 119, 120

Conjugial Love 9, 124, 126, 201, 526

Divine Love and Wisdom 19, 116, 149, 359

Divine Providence 30, 88, 92, 128, 159, 172, 173, ...

Doctrine of the Lord 10, 20, 32, 35, 51, 61

The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem Regarding the Sacred Scripture 51, 89, 114

Doctrine of Life 2, 17, 29, 38, 102, 104

Heaven and Hell 11, 15, 16, 81, 147

True Christian Religion 8, 38, 70, 100, 106, 107, 111, ...

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 154, 222, 267


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 15, 25, 27, 33, 43, 84, 109, ...

On the Athanasian Creed 39, 211

Canons of the New Church 37, 39

Charity 201

Coronis (An Appendix to True Christian Religion) 15, 25, 47

Divine Love 19

Divine Wisdom 11

Spiritual Experiences 509

Marriage 8, 38, 70, 100, 106, 107, 111, ...

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 6, 14, 68, 88

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Psalms 35:19, 80:9, 135:4

Hosea 14:9

Haggai 2:23

Bible Word Meanings

husbandman
'A husbandman,' as mentioned in Amos 5:16, signifies the man of the church, because 'field' signifies the church regarding the implantation of truth. 'A husbandman,'...

beareth fruit
In Revelation 22, to yield fruit signifies to produce goods.

the Word
In general, we tend to be very aware of how knowing what's true leads to doing what is good. That starts as children, with parents...

word
'Sayings' denotes persuasion. 'Sayings,' when related to Jehovah, signify informing or instructing.

spoken
Like "say," the word "speak" refers to thoughts and feelings moving from our more internal spiritual levels to our more external ones – and ultimately...

bear fruit
In Revelation 22, to yield fruit signifies to produce goods.

cast
For something to be cast down or cast out generally refers to a rather dramatic move from a higher spiritual state to a lower one....

withered
In the Bible (and in life), the idea of withering is usually connected to plants, and plants generally wither if they don't get enough water....

glorified
'To glorify' signifies acknowledgment and confession.

disciples
A disciple in Matthew 10:41 signifies charity and at the same time, faith from the Lord. It disciple signifies the truth of life, and a...

might
'Might' denotes the forces or power of truth.

Full
'To satiate' relates to the extent of a person's will, for good or evil.

friends
A friend, as in John 15:14, 15, signifies the spiritual man.

all things
The Lord is life itself, is the Creator of the universe, and is the source of life on an ongoing basis. So in a literal...

heard
Thanks to modern science, we now understand that hearing actually happens in the brain, not the ears. The ears collect vibrations in the air and...

made known
In natural language the word "manifest" simply means to make something clear or obvious. A unique use, in fact, has to do with shipping; a...

go
In the physical world, the places we inhabit and the distances between them are physical realities, and we have to get our physical bodies through...

world
The term "world" has both general and more specific meanings in the Bible, including the relatively literal sense of the natural, physical world. In more...

own
In many cases, the spiritual meaning of "own," both as a verb and as an adjective, is relatively literal. When people are described as the...

remember
'To remember,' as in Genesis 41:9, signifies conjunction. 'Remembering' denotes conjunction because the remembrance of anyone in the other life joins them together, because as...

said
As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

persecuted
There are only a few references to "persecution" in Swedenborg, but they say it means "to harrass and slander out of hatred," and it generally...

persecute
There are only a few references to "persecution" in Swedenborg, but they say it means "to harrass and slander out of hatred," and it generally...

come
Coming (Gen. 41:14) denotes communication by influx.

seen
The symbolic meaning of "seeing" is "understanding," which is obvious enough that it has become part of common language (think about it; you might see...

fulfilled
When the Lord said that all things which were written concerning him were fulfilled, he meant that all things were fulfilled in their inmost sense.

written
If knowing what’s right were the same as doing what’s right, we would all be thin, healthy, hard-working, law-abiding, faithful to our spouses and free...

The Comforter
'The Comforter' signifies the divine truth proceeding from the Lord.

send
'Being sent' everywhere signifies, in an internal sense, going forth, as in John 17:8. In similar manner, it is said of the holy of the...

spirit
'The seven spirits' in Matthew 12:45 signify all falsities of evil, and as a result, a total extinction of goodness and truth. 'The seven spirits'...

Spirit of Truth
In the Word, the 'Holy spirit' means divine truth, and also the divine virtue and operation that proceed from God. (True Christian Religion 139)In another...

truth
In John 14:6, 'the way is doctrine,' 'the truth' is every thing pertaining to doctrine, and 'the life' is the essential good which is the...

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


 Ask What You Desire Bookmark
Meditate on a verse from the Word and let it inspire you in a spiritual task. Cut out the color picture bookmark to keep or share.
Activity | Ages over 15

 Bearing Fruit
Project | Ages up to 6

 Bearing Good Fruit
Heaven is a kingdom of uses. Being useful is bearing good fruit.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Branches of the Vine
If the Lord is the Vine and we are the branches, how would you draw a branch showing the kinds of things you do to help other people.
Activity | Ages over 15

 Discipleship at Easter
The final events in Jesus' life unfolded quickly. The disciples responded to the changes in different ways. The twelve disciples picture qualities in us that follow the Lord. How do we respond when our faith is challenged?
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Elijah Calls Fire from Heaven - Level C
Complete lesson with activity choices: build an altar out of stones or a human pyramid, discuss what the prophets of Baal are in our lives, scripted story discussion, and a meditation and task on a verse from the Word.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 14

 Elijah Calls Fire from Heaven - Level D
Complete lesson with activity choices: look at the differences between mazes and labyrinths, explore how evil appears in the light of heaven, scripted story discussion, and a meditation and task on a verse from the Word.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 15 - 17

 Family Worship: Abide in Me
Religion Lesson | All Ages

 Friendships: Men and Women
Getting to know a variety of men or women helps us learn about the opposite sex and ultimately helps us learn what qualities we care about and will want in the person we marry.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Friendship: The Outward Expression of Love
How does the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Church define friendship and what do they say we should base it on?
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Fruit of the Vine
Talk about grapes and other fruit that grows on a vine. Consider making "a grape vine" of good deeds with "grape" beads to put on a green cord.
Activity | Ages 4 - 10

 Greater Love Has No One Than This
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 I Am the Vine
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 I Am the Vine
Download and print this beautiful poster with words from John 15: 4-5. 
Picture | Ages over 7

 I Am the Vine
Make a picture of the Lord as the Vine. Children may want to draw a branch for each member of the family while teens and adults may choose to draw a branch that represents their life, showing the fruit it is bringing forth.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 I Have Chosen You
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Illustrate the Lord as the Vine
Make a picture of the Lord as the Vine. Children may want to draw a branch for each member of the family while teens and adults may choose to draw a branch that represents their life, showing the fruit it is bringing forth.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Imagine the Lord's Joy!
 Picture the Lord's joy each time we take a step toward heaven. 
Activity | Ages over 15

 Inspirational Quotation - Love One Another
Poster illustrating the Lord's commandment to love one another.
Picture | Ages over 8

 Living a Significant Life
The Lord tells us what we must do if we wish to live a significant life.
Worship Talk | Ages over 15

 Love
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Memory Verse: I Am the Vine
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Prayers for Adults: Dealing with Other People with True Charity
Activity | Ages over 18

 Prayers for Adults: Loving the Neighbor
Activity | Ages over 18

 Quotes: I Am the Vine
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Seeds Bearing Fruit Wreath or Ribbon Hanging
Make a wreath or ribbon hanging with various fruits, adding a piece of fruit each time you use the seeds of truth the Lord has given us.
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 The Importance of the Ten Commandments
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Lord's Example of Friendship
The Lord is able to see our true spiritual character, and He loves the good that He is able to see in us. He constantly seeks to build on that good. We must follow the Lord’s own example and seek out what is good in others.
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 The Parable of the Vine
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Parable of the Vine
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Parable of the Vine (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Parable of the Vine (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Parable of the Vine (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Purpose of Creation
Birth brings a person into the natural world, but God's ultimate purpose is that a person be born again into heavenly life, the life of the spirit.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 The Vine and the Branches
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Visible God
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Wonder of the Lord's Word
When we read the Word, we have to reflect on what we have read and try to live according to it. Only this will lead to our happiness, which is why the Word has been given.
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Treasure Hunt
Make a treasure hunt, starting at the Lord's Word and ending at a bowl of grapes. Discuss how the truths of the Word, such as the Golden Rule, can lead to good fruit.
Activity | Ages up to 10

 Unless We Acknowledge the Lord
Make a picture of the Lord as the Vine and people as the branches, bearing the fruit of useful activities.
Project | Ages over 15

 Vine and Branches
Family lessons provide a worship talk and a variety of activities for children and teens..
Religion Lesson | Ages 4 - 17

 Vine and Branches
Explore the image of the vine and the branches, which illustrates our complete dependence on God.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 What Is Charity?
New Church teachings extend the idea of charity, making it more than compassionate actions towards others.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Why Is the Word Holy?
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Why Stay Connected?
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 You Are the Branches
It is important for people to be connected to each other and even more important to be connected to the Lord.
Worship Talk | Ages 11 - 14

 You Are the Vine (sheet music)
Song | Ages 4 - 14


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