The Vine and the Branches
John uses different metaphors to describe the person of Jesus Christ. He is referred to as bread from heaven, the living water and many more. In our text Jesus is described as the true vine (Cf. John 15:6) and His disciples as the branches. In the Old Testament Israel is described as a vine God planted (Psa. 80:8-11; Jer. 2:21), and for Isaiah Israel is the vineyard (Isa. 5:5-7). Here the imagery differs significantly from the Old Testament. Jesus is the true vine and this indicates the secret of the branch’s life, strength, vigor, and beauty. Branches have no life, strength or beauty apart from that which flows from the vine. The union between Christ and His disciples is just as real. This is why Jesus said, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” There are two major views regarding the branches that have been debated through the years: 1) The Calvinistic position is that the “fruitless branches” are genuine Christians who, because of their fruitlessness, undergo divine discipline and that their “removal” is physical death, not spiritual death and therefore they will remain saved forever. 2) The “fruitless branches” are genuine Christians who, because of their fruitlessness, lose their salvation. This is the position that is taught elsewhere as well and is clearly established throughout the Old and New Testaments.
As you read through the text you are impressed with the fact that Jesus promises that if we remain in Him we will bear much fruit: “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” The key to our fruit bearing is found in the word “abide.” This word means to stay, remain, and continue like a branch abides in a vine. As a Christian you can be assured of success, of being fruitful, if you abide in Jesus. That is a choice that one must make. Paul stated it this way: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16).
“My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Jesus presents His Father as the vinedresser, the greatest vinedresser Christians could have. Jesus is always presented as cooperating with His Father in this tremendous work of salvation (John 5:19-23). Notice that God will prune the branches that bear fruit so it can bear more fruit. This is the discipline that Christians need. The writer of Hebrews speaks of this: “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:5-6). This pruning probably represents lesser priorities and anything that distracts us from being as faithful as we should be.
“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” One thing the New Testament makes crystal clear is that uselessness invites disaster. Jesus said, “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46). Abide in Jesus and you will succeed in living the Christian life.
From Walking in Truth
“Daily Devotionals by Guy Roberson”
From Expository Files 22.4; April 2015