The Son of God always had a peculiar way of revealing spiritual truths using the visible world. One of them would be the passage of the True Vine, found in John 15. The metaphor not only portrays a unique relationship between Christ and his disciples, but of a God who identifies himself as the necessary source of life.
Why would God choose to use the image of a Vine to communicate a spiritual truth? A closer look at the chapter’s content and language could be of assistance. Following is the passage from scripture and are words by Christ:
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. 2 Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.
3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. 6 If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
7 If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. 10 If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love.
11 “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you.
13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you.
15 I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.
16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. 17 This is what I command you: Love one another.
First and foremost, it is Jesus, himself, who reveals the identity of the Vinedresser, Vine and the branches. By revealing their identity, their responsibility is worth mentioning as well. I listed them here :
- The Vinedresser = Father (He cultivates and replenishes his vineyard)
- The True Vine = Jesus Christ, the Son (He is the fruits vital life source)
- The branches = Us (We are where the fruit is produced)
If a branch does not yield good fruit, scripture says the Vinedresser will sever it from the vine and throw it into fire. While some assert that one can lose their salvation by being “cut off” from Jesus, I don’t believe this interpretation aligns with the rest of the biblical narrative.
No Fruit and Spoiled Fruit
What I do see evident here is the lack of perseverance to trust in the Vine as its exclusive life source. Many times do we see and hear of Christians renouncing their faith because of their inability to accept Christ as the only True Vine. 1st John provides a clear understanding of those who leave the faith.
They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us. -1 John 2:19
Branches will be cut off. Though professed Christians seem to bear good fruit before leaving the faith, I believe the fruits that were produced were out of one’s own efforts, thus spoiling and capable of contaminating other branches.
John MacArthur comments that they are considered as the “unbelieving and false disciples.” True believers continue in Christ,and bear everlasting fruit if they truly belong to Him. Evidence of a branch connected to the Vine is their fruit, meaning we should learn to walk by the Holy Spirit and allow him to work in us.
Remain or Discontinue in Christ?
In verse 4, Christ tells us it is only possible to produce good fruit if we “remain” in him. Other translations will use the word “Abide,” but the term “remain” can be translated from the original Greek term “Meinate” and Hebrew term “yashab” where it also means to “remain,” “dwell,” “continue,” “endure,” and “await.”
This term implies the following counterfactuals:
- Remain; Depart
- Dwell; Abandon
- Continue; Discontinue
- Endure; Leave
- Await; Lose Hope
Listing the antonyms present the possibility that if one doesn’t not remain, dwell, continue, endure, or await – then one will depart, abandon, discontinue, leave and lose hope. How does one discontinue in the Vine?
One example is explained in Job 24:13. It talks about how bad company can actually influence your decision to stray the righteous path. “Others have been with those who rebel against the light; They do not want to know its ways or remain in its paths.”
Disobedience then becomes effortless the moment we’ve discontinued in Christ. 2nd John 1:9 further contextualizes the term for us:
“Anyone who goes too far and does not remain in teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who remain in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.”
Good Fruit = Obedience = Love for Christ
To remain in Christ is to stay connected to the True Vine.
When we stay connected to the True Vine, we will be capable of following his teachings (by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us).
And when we follow his teachings, we profess our love for him and adhere the greatest commandment ever found in scripture (found in Matthew 22:26-40). Jesus says,
“If you love me, you will keep my commands.” – John 14:15
This isn’t a cause and effect statement – rather what happens as a result for abiding in Him. Continuing with and in him. Enduring to the end; Remaining and Dwelling. Paul says we are to “work out” our salvation, “for it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his purpose” (Phil. 2).
Make no mistake, our salvation is based on our works, as in what we do, but is based on the finished work of Christ, who was able to fulfill the law we couldn’t. Works are merely an indicator as to whether us, as branches, will bear good fruit.
It’s important to note that all three subjects work together. Without one the vineyard is lifeless.
Do you have any thoughts on this passage? Let me know in the comments.