The True Vine
In John 15:1-17, Jesus turns once again to his immediate surroundings to illustrate the spiritual life of a disciple. He uses a vineyard to explain how a believer bears fruit. He starts with one of His seven I AM statements and says I am the True Vine.
In other parts of the Bible, He says, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, I am the Light, I am the Gate, I am the Good Shepherd, I am the Bread of Life.
Before I go through this Scripture, let’s first break it down. What does this illustration represent?
- Jesus is the Vine (verse 1)
- We are the Branches (verse 5)
- God is the Gardner/Vinedresser (verse 1)
This passage is addressing the born-again believers, it’s not about salvation. It is for the disciples of Jesus and it’s a command as well as a warning, which is something Jesus often does when teaching His followers.
He tells them how to have a full, abundant life In Him and also explains the consequences of not obeying His commands, but He presents it more like a choice. What do you want; to remain in Me (Jesus) and have life or to disconnect from Me and be thrown in the fire?
“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. 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.” (John 15:5-6)
Apart From Me, You Can Do Nothing
This passage is about bearing fruit as believers in Jesus Christ because that is what we are meant to be doing. When a person gives their life to Jesus, they become a new person, the old has gone, the new has come, and the sign that this spiritual transformation has taken place can only be seen in the actions of the believer.
Jesus said you will know them by their fruits. He said this when he was teaching his disciples to beware of false prophets and told them, not to worry as they can be identified by their fruits.
What Are These Fruits?
Well, there are two parts of the fruit that a Christian should manifest if he is abiding in the vine. Abiding in the vine means staying connected to Jesus, the giver of life, and obeying His commands found in the Word of God, and staying in prayer, both individually and corporately.
When we disconnect from Him, we lose the fruit. We can no longer bear fruit. Jesus said we can do nothing if we do not abide in Him.
The first part is like the fleshy part of the fruit, the outer part which is the fruit of the Spirit: ‘love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.’
These fruits give pleasure to the believer as we get to experience the sweetness of God’s love, peace, gentleness, etc in our daily lives, but not only that, we can also be a blessing to others.
“You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
The other side of this fruitfulness is like the seed in a fruit. It’s when the believer is actively encouraging, edifying, and witnessing to others. They start to produce new believers from the seed (a new tree of life). In other words, they become fishers of men, expanding the kingdom of God.
You must keep in mind though, all this is done through the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s a supernatural work of God in every believer.
I do not have to worry about producing the fruit myself, for He will produce the fruit. He wants to do the work, we just have to learn to rest – to rest in Him, not once in a while, but all of the time.
“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.”
Don’t Waste Your Life
The sad reality of this passage is that again Jesus has to warn the believers to stay connected. You would think when people find salvation and start to enjoy the fruits of being a child of God that they would never go back to the world, but often they do.
Many leave and go their own way. This is why Jesus has to reiterate that being a follower means TOTAL commitment. If we don’t abide in Him (our source of life) we will go astray and lose all our peace, joy, and love, as these gifs come from remaining in Him. In other words, there is no life outside of Him. He is our sustenance (the bread of life).
We are to remain in His love and to keep his commands. His commands are that we love one another as God has loved us.
So, we have talked about Jesus, the true vine, and us, the branches. Now let’s look at the vinedresser (the Gardner). The Gardner is The Father and He is the one who cuts off the branches that are not bearing fruit and He prunes those that are bearing fruit so that they will yield more fruit.
All through the gospels, we clearly see how Jesus relates intimately to The Father. He is constantly referring to The Father for He was abiding in Him at all times.
Connected – as Christians, we are never alone. We don’t work alone, if we try to work alone (without the spirit), we can’t do anything. We can’t bear fruit, we are dead, like the dead branches that Jesus referred to in this Scripture.
“If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown into the fire and burned.”
“If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown into the fire and burned. “The fire mentioned in this verse is not referring to hell, it’s just an analogy of what happens when you’re spiritually dead, you are like a dried-up branch that is thrown in the fire.
Those who refuse to stay connected to Jesus will be cast into the fire. They will not go to hell but will lose their rewards in heaven. On judgement day, we will all have to give an account for how we lived our lives (both believers and non-believers).
The Gardner will prune you if you have some fruit so that you will bear more. Jesus says you are already clean (saved), but at this point, you will go through a purification process, also known as sanctification. (See my blog on the transformation process)
Although pruning is painful, be grateful that The Father cares enough about you to cut you back a bit. Who wants to be like a wild vine with weak branches that bear little fruit. A good Gardner wants the vine to thrive and bear much fruit.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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.” (John 15:1-3)
Ask Whatever You Wish and It Will Be Done For You
It all seems too simple to be true. We are being told not to strive or do anything in our own strength, but to simply remain in His love.
It is about trusting and waiting on God to do the work in our life to fulfill His purposes.
What About Me?
This is where the problems start. The ego, the flesh, pride, the self-life, our ambitions all have to be examined. We may have to lay down some of our aspirations if they are not in line with our God-given calling, but this is the paradox of the gospel.
At first, we don’t want what God wants for us, but then when we learn of His faithfulness, eventually our desires come into alignment with His. It makes me laugh how it happens really as we are the foolish ones, who don’t know anything. We are lost sheep in need of a Good Shepherd.
I struggled with this for years as I somehow felt manipulated and so I would wrestle with God, in prayer. It becomes like a dance – we try to hold onto something (an idol – a thing, a person or idea/attitude) and The Father tries to take it away from us (his child) because it’s not good for us.
Eventually, when we do let it go, we find ourselves thanking Him for saving us from something very painful. It’s really all about a relationship with The Father, based on complete trust. This is how Jesus lived and it’s how we should live too.
So, in a nutshell, the more we abide, the more we become like Him. This is what it means to be transformed into the image and likeness of God. This is the gospel.
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)