“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing”,John 15:5
When looking in the Old Testament, God often portrayed and compared Israel to a vineyard. This can be seen in passages such as Isa. 5:7, and in Jer. 2 whereby God rebukes Israel, which Jesus uses indeed as a backdrop here in John 15. Christ is just about to go to the cross, and is giving some final instructions to His disciples. Therefore what did Christ emphasize to His eleven disciples, because recall there was one of them that was not present at this proclamation of Christ, hence Judas. Having this backdrop can now allow us to get to what Christ was actually getting at in this passage. The various persons represented in the illustration, the aspects of relationships, the whole reality of what fruit bearing is, and the timing of this passage is things which must be looked at in order to really unpack passage.
First let’s look at Who’s who. God is the vinedresser who is responsible to protect, water, prune the fruit bearing branches and remove the unfruitful branches. The vine represented Christ Himself who gives life to the branches that are connected to the vine. The branches are those disciples and the fruit was the result of that which would come from the branches connected to the life giving vine.
Secondly realize there were eleven fruit bearing disciples, and one non-fruit bearing disciple. When looking at the lives of the disciples and Apostles from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, one can clearly see that those that followed Christ as His disciples produced fruit, the fruit of the Spirit which produced Christ likeness but ultimately to the fruit of other disciples. In his book The Secrets of the Vine by Bruce Wilkerson focused on the fruit. He shared that there were four baskets beneath the vine and that each basket had a certain amount of fruit in each. Basket one had no fruit (v. 2a,6) , basket two had some fruit (v. 2b,4), basket three held more fruit (v. 7) and finally the fourth basket contained much fruit (v. 26). The problem that the author gets wrong deals with the fruitless branch, believing that God lifts up the fruitless branch so that it becomes fruitful. However, that is not what the passage states; it states that the vinedresser does something very different. John MacArthur states, “The picture is of the vinedresser (i.e., the Father) getting rid of dead wood so that the living, fruit bearing branches may be sharply distinguished. This is a picture of apostate Christians who never genuinely believed and will be taken away in judgment (v. 6; Matt. 7:16; Eph. 2:10); the transforming life of Christ has never pulsated within them (8:31, 32; cf. Matt. 13:18–23; 24:12; Heb. 3:14–19; 6:4–8; 10:27–31; 1 John 2:19; 2 John 9).” The unfruitful branch Christ is speaking of is none other than Judas! There are many false converts (Judas’) that sit among the people of God, they may look like branches, but God is the fruit inspector and when He looks at them He sees them in truth, and unless they repent and put their faith in Christ, will cut them off and see that they are burned (end up in Hell)! Does this sound like God is a mean cruel and judgmental God to you? God is certainly judgmental (He is the perfect Just Judge of the universe) but He is certainly kind, so kind as to save His people from their sin Hence upon removing the dead branches, he also prunes His children, which are bearing fruit, so they might bear more fruit for His glory. The purpose for bearing fruit is that God is glorified, and true disciples will bear fruit because the power and life is in the vine and will flow through to the branches.
Thirdly, what does God use to both punish the unfruitful and prune the fruitful? He uses a Blade which is His Word (Heb 4:12; 2 Tim 3:16), the Handle of His Sword is the affliction and persecution He allows to come upon His children to make them more Christ like (Mark 4, Matt. 13; 2 Tim 3:12), and he uses His Church to spur one another (Heb 10:24-25, Prov. 27:17; Gal 2:11). He uses His pure unadulterated Word to condemn, punish and cut off the ungodly (Exo. 20; Rom 7, Gal 3:24, John 3:10-21). Yes this is a picture of judgment. In contrasting Peter verse Judas both that were chosen by Christ, one can see that Peter denied Christ, and Judas betrayed Him. Christ pruned Peter (Luke 22:31-34; John 21:15-17) and condemned Judas (Mark 14:17-21).
The branches give nothing to the vine, but by it’s fruit it glorifies the vine. What must a branch do to produce fruit, it must ABIDE! The relationship in Christ must be cultivated; it must stay dependent upon Christ, and must stand in total reliance upon Christ for apart for Christ His children can do nothing.
Application (based on 2 Tim 3:16): If you are connected to Christ, how has your abiding been lately?
- Teaching. What did I learn?
- Reproof. Where do I fall short? Why do I fall short?
- Correction. What will I do about it?
- Training in righteousness. How can I make this principle a consistent part of my life? Blessings Pastor Phil