OceanSide church of Christ
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THE TRUE VINE AND THE BRANCHES
Victor M. Eskew
Jesus is known as “The Master Teacher.” In His teaching, He used all kinds of figures of speech in order to enhance His message. One of the figures of speech He used is a metaphor. The definition of a metaphor is “a comparison that does not use the words ‘like’ or ‘as.’” One example is found in John 8:12. Jesus said: “I am the light of the world.” Jesus compares Himself to light. He does not say: “I am like light.” He says: “I am the light.” When a comparison like this is made, we know that Jesus possesses qualities that light also possesses.
In this article, we are going to briefly examine another metaphor used by Jesus. In the metaphor, He compares Himself to a vine. He also compares His followers to branches in the vine. The teaching is recorded for us in John 15:1-8. Let’s spend a little bit of time looking at this marvelous metaphor that has been entitled: “The Vine and the Branches.” We will examine four different sections.
First, let’s discuss THE VINE. Jesus opens with these words: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.” This one verse teaches us three things about Jesus as the vine. One, Jesus is the “true” vine. The word “true” means “real” and “genuine.” It is the opposite of what is fictitious, counterfeit, or pretend. Many other vines exist. They are not the real vine. Two, Jesus is the “singular” vine. Jesus alone is the real vine. He is the only vine that exists that can provide nourishment and life to the branches. Third, Jesus is a vine that is owned by another. He is owned by the husbandman. Jesus tells us who this husbandman is. It is His Father. He is the vine that His Father planted. All others will be rooted up (See Matt. 15:13). A fourth point about Jesus as the vine is found elsewhere in the text. Jesus is the essential vine. Without Him, a person cannot bear fruit (v. 4). In fact, Jesus says: “…for without me ye, can do nothing” (v. 5).
Second, let’s examine THE BRANCHES. There are only two kinds of branches, fruitful branches and unfruitful branches. Jesus discusses these two branches in John 15:2. “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch in that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Unfruitful branches are useless. They are not wanted by the husbandman. He removes them from the vine. Fruitful branches, on the other hand, are very useful. He cares for them in such a way that they bear him even more fruit. All who have done any gardening have seen both types of branches. They did to their branches just as God will do to those in the vine. They cut off the unfruitful branches, and they purged the good ones. The purpose of the vine and the branches is to bring as much fruit as possible to the owner.
John 15:3 is an unusual verse. Jesus tells His disciples: “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” It does not seem to fit the context of this discussion at all. It is as if it were just thrown into the story. Leviticus 19:23 helps shed some light on Jesus’ teaching. It has to do with the trees and fruit that Israel would plant when they entered the Promised Land. Moses writes: “And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.” In the context of John 15:1-8, Jesus is speaking specifically to the apostles. They had been with Him now for over three years. Now, they were clean and could be used to produce a bountiful harvest. They were clean. They had been made clean through Jesus’ words that had been declared unto them during their three-year internship with the Son. Some might argue that Judas was not clean (John 13:10). This is true. Judas, however, is not present to hear this teaching. He had been dismissed by Jesus to go and do his treacherous deed. The other eleven were clean. They could now be extremely profitable branches to the husbandman.
Third, Jesus stresses the obligation of the branches in verses 4-7. They must ABIDE IN THE VINE. Seven times in these four verses Jesus uses the word “abide” or a form thereof. Verse 4 begins with this exhortation: “Abide in me…” The only way for a branch to bring forth fruit is to abide in the vine. “…As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (v. 4). He repeats this teaching in verse 5. “…He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit…” The word “abide” means “stay in place, to remain, to continue to be present, and not to depart.” To continue in Jesus, a disciple must continue in His words (John 8:31; II John 9). When a Christian ceases to follow the commandments of the Lord, he becomes an unfruitful vine. The end of such vines is revealed by the Lord. “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” (v. 6). This verse is positive proof that a Christian can fall from grace. He is in the vine. Then, he departs from the vine. He is then cast into the eternal fires of hell. The branch that abides in Jesus, is profitable. He brings forth fruit and has wonderful blessings promised to him. “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (v. 7).
The final section of “The Vine and the Branches” reveals THE DESIGNS OF FRUIT-BEARING. When disciples bring forth much fruit, God is glorified. This end alone ought to cause every Christian to bear as much fruit as possible. In addition, when we bear much fruit we prove that we are the disciples of Christ. Jesus put it in these words: “So shall ye be my disciples.”
When we became Christians, we were grafted into the true vine, Jesus Christ. As we examine our branch, we need to ask ourselves a few questions. Are we fruitful? Or, are we unfruitful? Are we abiding in the vine? Or, have we removed ourselves from the vine? Are we glorifying God by our fruit-bearing? Do others know that each of us is a disciple of Christ because they can see our fruit? Remember, the end of those who fail to bear fruit involves being cut off, gathered, and being cast into the fire. We will conclude this study with an exhortation to each of us: Bear much fruit!