Vol. 7, No. 9
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"I am the vine, you are the branches" (John 15:5). There are various speculations expressed relative to the setting of this well-known parable spoken by the Lord. Some have suggested that Jesus saw a vine growing on the side of a wall. Others think it may have been the vineyards nearby, while others mention that Jesus had just instituted the supper that contained fruit of the vine. Nevertheless, he uses something very common to bring forth some vital lessons to his disciples. The Bible is replete with nature's symbolisms and made applicable in spiritual matters. Jesus has been referred to as being the rose of Sharon, a rock, a stone, a pearl, a lily and presently in our study as being the vine. Basically speaking, this Parable of the Vine and the Branches in John 15 deals with the various relationships of Jesus with others.
First of all, we observe Christ's relationship with his Father. The Lord said: "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser" (John 15:1). This would indicate that God is the proprietor as well as being the vinedresser. It is God who is spoken of as being the one who does the pruning and the purging of the branches. The prominent and prevalent attitude of Jesus toward his Father is always a submissive one (John 6:38). Jesus is the "true vine." Israel of old had been "a noble vine" of God in ages past, which was only a figure of the true vine, Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 2:21; Hebrews 9:24).
Second, there is Christ's relationship toward man. "I am the vine, you are the branches" (John 15:5). Jesus is the vine and the individual disciples are the branches--not nations, institutions or denominations. Jesus said, "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered" (John 15:6). Herein we learn of the vital connection between Christ and his disciples. Jesus is spoken of as being the head of the body (Ephesians 5:23). The branches must have the vine in order to live; however, the vine can exist without the branches. "For without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). "In Christ" speaks of human redemption. The cleansing agent is the Word of the Lord. "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you" (John 15:3; Ephesians 5:26: James 1:18). The apostle Paul taught that we are "baptized into Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:26-27). "In Christ" means that the Christian is in God because Christ is in God and God is in Christ (John 14:20). The branch abiding in the vine is conditional as we learn in this parable. The symbolism must not be pressed beyond its intended meaning and the clear teaching in the Scripture of the free moral agency of man.
Third, the parable suggests the relationship of Christ toward good works. Good, productive branches are pruned in order to bear more fruit (John 15:2). Meritorious works of mortal man are meaningless. The works ordained of God are essential and are the outgrowth of an obedient faith (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14-26). The outward evidence of a Christian's union with Christ is seen by the fruit one bears. The inward bond of union that is the cause of fruitfulness is love (John 15:10). The Christian's life is to glorify God (John 15:8; Matthew 5:16). Specifically, we can bring glory to God by leading others to Christ and by living in such a manner as to manifest the fruit of the Spirit (John 15:8; Matthew 28:19; Galatians 5:22-23).
Fourth, there is Christ's relationship or lack of relationship with severed branches. Unproductive branches are taken away (John 15:2, 6). This is positive proof that a child of God can so sin as to be eternally lost. The precept of this doctrine is herein presented as well as an example of the same in the person of Judas Iscariot (John 13:2). If the continuing in Christ is conditional and present, so is the purging and casting off of the branches. The final punishment of the unproductive branches shall occur when "the Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all that do iniquity, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 13:41-42).
It was in the springtime when sap flows freely that I cut off some branches from a grape vine. Later, I observed the life giving fluid actually flowing from the vine to the ground. There was a certain sadness that filled my heart as I contemplated this parable of our Lord. How tragic it is for Christians to sever their ties with the Lord through unfaithfulness. We can only live as long as we sustain the right relationship with Jesus Christ our Savior.