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THE VINE AND BRANCHES

Victor M. Eskew

 

            Jesus, as the Master Teacher, often used illustrations in His teaching in order to implant spiritual truths into the minds of His listeners.  In John 15:1-6, we read of His teaching about the vine and the branches.  In this article, we will examine this illustration briefly.

            Jesus begins with two IDENTIFICATIONS.  He first identifies Himself as “the true vine.”  “I am the true vine.”  The word “true” means “genuine and real.”  It is the opposite of what is fictitious, counterfeit, imaginary, simulated, or pretend.  He is the true “vine.”  A vine is essential for life.  It is what brings all the needed elements to sustain the life of every branch in the vine.  My friends, there is no other vine that brings spiritual life to mankind.  Others may pretend to be the vine.  They are counterfeits.  They can never bring eternal life that Jesus brings.  In John 1:4, John affirms:  “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”

            Jesus also identifies His heavenly Father as the husbandman.  “…and my Father is the husbandman.”  The word “husbandman” means vinedresser.  The Father is the owner of the vine.  It is He who is responsible for planting the vine and making all of the blessing that come to the vine and its branches possible.  It was the Father who sent His Son into the world that all might obtain life through Him.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

            John 15:2, Jesus presents a SUMMATION of His teaching.  “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.”  The result desired by the husbandman is fruit.  The branches that do not bear fruit are removed.  The branches that do bear fruit are refined so that they bear more fruit.  Every Christian needs to examine his life on a regular basis, and ask:  “I am bearing fruit for God?”  Fruit can involve two different things.  A Christian can bear the fruit of the Spirit in his life (Gal. 5:22-23).  He can also bear fruit by bringing others to Christ (Rom. 1:13).  If we fail to produce fruit, the husbandman is aware of it.  Eventually, we will be removed from the vine.  Those who bear fruit, on the other hand, are pruned.  The Father enables them to produce even more fruit.

            In verse 2, Jesus told His listeners that the Father would “purge” them to make them more fruitful.  The word purge means “to cleanse of filth and impurity.”  It is a word that refers to the pruning of trees and vines from useless branches (Thayer).  Jesus gives the EXPLANATION of the purging process in John 15:3.  “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”  It is interesting that the word “clean” is a term that refers to “a vine cleansed by pruning and so fitted to bear fruit” (Thayer).  The resource God uses to purge, prune, or cleanse His branches is the Word of God.  In Colossians 3:8, Paul exhorts the saints in Colossae with these words:  “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.”  The Word of God exhorts us to put off the things that keep us from being a fruit bearing branch.  The more we heed God’s Word, the more fruitful our lives will become.

            Having laid out the basics, Jesus sets forth an EXHORTATION to His listeners.  He wants them to remain in Him.  “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.  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” (John 15:4-5).  Four times Jesus tells His listeners to abide in Him.  The word “abide” means “to stay, remain, endure, continue, and last.”  It also involves the negative admonition of “do not depart.”  Jesus states a possibility that some man-made teaching denies.  It is possible for a branch to be removed from the vine.  It is possible for a Christian to remove himself from Jesus Christ.  If this is not possible, Jesus’ words of exhortation are non-sense.  If a person remains in Christ, Jesus promises that he will bear much fruit.  If we are ever tempted to remove ourselves from the true vine, we need to remember Jesus’ words:  “…for without me ye can do nothing.”

            Perhaps it is not enough for a person to understand that without Christ a person cannot bear fruit.  Maybe this is not motivation enough to cause one to remain in Christ.  Jesus, therefore, continues in John 15:6 with a warning of DESTRUCTION if one fails to abide in Him.  He said:  “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.”  Divine retribution rests upon all those who chose not to bear fruit.  They wither and die spiritually.  Their ultimate end is to be burned.  The fiery flames of hell await those who do not remain as a fruitful branch in Christ.  If this is not the teaching of Jesus in this verse, what is He attempting to say? 

            Those who have obeyed the gospel of Christ are in Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27).  It is up to them to remain in Christ.  There are many things that can clip the branch from the vine: sin, indifference, materialism, selfishness, slothfulness, conformity with the world, false doctrine, etc.  Dear Christian, bear fruit.  Remain in the vine.  Understand that Jesus Christ is the source of your spiritual life.  Where are you right now in your Christian life?  Is God pruning you so you can bring forth more fruit?  Or, is God making plans to cast you aside to be burned?  We will close with Jesus’ words:  “Abide in me, and I in you” (John 15:4).