Christian Articles

I am the True Vine

When Jesus says that He is the vine and His people are His branches, we understand that He is speaking in figurative language again. Jesus is not literally a vine with branches coming off Him and fruit hanging on Him, any more than that He is literally bread or a door. Rather, Jesus is drawing a figure that was very familiar to these Jewish disciples, familiar because vines were a common part of the landscape and of the farming of that day. There were many vineyards in Judea. The disciples would easily be able to grasp the truth of which Jesus spoke if He used this figure. Besides, this figure would be familiar because it was part of Old Testament, biblical language. In the Old Testament, Israel was called “God’s vine”-for example, Psalm 80:8, 9.

When Jesus calls Himself the vine, then, He is drawing a beautiful picture of Himself with His church. He and His people are one plant, one living organism. It is a figure similar to that of the church as Christ’s body with Christ as its Head. So here, Christ is the main vine and His people make up the branches joined to Him. Together they are a united, living organism.

Christ is the source of all life and strength and every blessing of salvation to His people. In a vineyard, the vine is the main trunk of the plant. The branches depend on the vine for their life, for their vitality and nutrients. The vine is the source, the tap of these things to the branches. The vine is the means of support, literally as well as physically, to the branches. Without the vine the branches have nothing. They die. That is why they have to be connected to the vine. It is this way, spiritually, with Christ and His people. His relationship to them and ours to Him is such that He is the vine, the source of our life, our strength, our salvation. He is our total spiritual support. We depend on Him for everything, just as the branch depends on the vine for everything. Without Christ we are nothing. It is in Christ that all the nutrients of God’s grace that we stand in need of are found: forgiveness and righteousness and life. That is why we must be united to Him as branches to the vine. That union is by faith.

Jesus is also the source of fertility. He is the One who causes the branches to bear fruit. This is one of the major points in this passage in John 15. Five times our Lord mentions bearing fruit or not bearing fruit. And it all hinges, you will notice, on being connected to the vine. Just as in nature the vine is the power of the branches being able to produce fruit, so also in the realm of the spiritual, Christ is the only power that enables His people to produce fruit. The spiritual fertility is in Him.

Therefore Christ stresses here, negatively, that without Him we can do nothing. We have no ability to produce good fruit without Christ. That certainly says something about our spiritual condition by nature, does it not? All we can produce, of ourselves, in sin, is the fruit of sin. More evil, more depravity, more death. The only reason, child of God, that you and I can bear any fruit pleasing to God is because Christ is our vine, the source of our spiritual strength and productivity. All our good is in Him. All our strength to do any good is in Him.

You know what that fruit of which Jesus speaks is, do you not? It is the fruit of faith: a real, visible, living, working faith. Not a mere profession but a faith that confesses the name of Christ personally, publicly, boldly, unashamedly before the church-world and before the unbelieving world. The fruit of which Jesus speaks is the fruit of a life lived for Christ in submission to His Word, in obedience to His commandments. The fruit of which Christ speaks here is the fruit of a godly character, bearing the image of Christ, such as: purity, integrity, love, faithfulness. It is the fruit of a holy walk, antithetical, separate from the world and pleasing to God. It is the fruit, dear listener, of daily repentance and conversion, sorrowing over your sins and turning from them. These are the fruits which Christ, the vine, produces in His people as branches. These are the infallible signs of a true Christian. We may ask ourselves today: “Do we have these fruits? Are we bearing them, and are they visible before others?”

It is at this point that we need to see how important this fruit-bearing is from the viewpoint of what the Father does as the Husbandman, or Vine-dresser, that is, the One who cares for the vine and its branches. That is part of the figure.

In the first place, Jesus says that every branch that does not bear fruit the Father takes away. There are those who believe that this verse teaches that believers can fall away and lose their salvation. But it is evident from the rest of Scripture that this cannot happen. So our text cannot mean this, either.

I believe the text is referring to hypocrites, to unbelievers who are masquerading as Christians. They are “branches” in the sense that they belong to the visible manifestation of the church and appear to be in Christ, even profess Him with their mouth, but in reality, they are not. So it is that they do not bear any real fruit, either. They only bear wild grapes. Because they do not bear good fruit, the Father prunes the vine of these dead, barren branches. He cuts them off from Christ, the vine, that is, from any connection to Him, because they must be shown that they have no part in Christ.

Let that purpose be an incentive to you to abide in Christ. Then the purpose of God being glorified will also be fulfilled in you. That is the ultimate purpose of being on the vine and abiding in Him, the ultimate purpose of your bearing the fruit of good works in your life-so that the Father may be glorified through your much fruit. Let the desire that the Father be glorified fill you. Go and abide in Christ and bear much fruit.

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