A Voice in the
"I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit...I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for apart from Me there is not a thing you are able to do. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is dried up." (vs1-6)
First of all, before we get into this topic, let us dispel one popular error. Notice exactly 'who' the "Vine" is. It is -NOT- "Israel". There are many of the Hebrew Roots movement that wish people to think that the "Church" is grafted -into- 'Israel'. They distort Romans ch11 to come up with this, where Paul speaks of the "wild" branches being "grafted in". (Rom11:17) If they would read that verse carefully, they would see that the wild branches are grafted "in -among-" the natural branches; not "-into-" them. But both the natural and wild branches are grafted into Jesus Christ; as Paul also explains how the two have been brought to God through the death of Christ. (Eph2:13-16) Notice that Jesus proclaims, "I am the Root and Offspring of David.." (Rev22:16) It is not -Hebrew- "roots", but -Jesus- THE ROOT. Israel rejected Jesus in the Wilderness (1Cor10:4-5), as they continued to do when they "crucified the Lord of Glory" (1Cor2:8), and martyred His disciple, Stephen (Ac7:51)
Thus, both Israel and the Church are "branches" of the True Vine, which is Jesus Christ. He says to His disciples, "I am the vine, you are the branches."
Now, let's also dispel another popular false (reformation?) doctrine. Notice He says that every branch that does not bear fruit the Father "takes away" (vs2); a branch that is not abiding is "cast out..and is dried up..thrown into the fire and...burned." (vs6) If it was a branch, that indicates an origin with Life; at one point it was 'attached' to the vine, sprouted, and grew. Dead branches do not appear out of thin air that didn't first originate from the parent plant, with "life". We are not going to say any more on this at this time that we haven't said at other times, except, to exhort the reader to consider how this differs from the doctrine with the popular label: Once Saved, Always Saved.
Jesus speaks of -bearing- fruit. Notice that the branch does not "produce" the fruit. There are many who call themselves "Christian" who are busy being "soul-winners", and when they have a convert -they- boast in their -own- accomplishments, not remembering that Jesus said that no one comes to Christ unless the Father "draws" them. (Jn6:44) A sinner CANNOT BE SAVED, unless they have met Jesus Christ. Branches do not beget branches; they are to bear fruit. Many so-called soul-winners only beget more "baptists" (or whatever the congregation's name); but they are not bearing fruit. In a recent e-mail somebody was asking about some of these and their prevailing spirit (attitudes), noticing that, while they proclaim "???-onlyism", that they are typically lacking in the "fruits of the Spirit", those things mentioned: Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, etc... (Gal5:22-23) They proclaim adherence to a certain flawed translation, but don't even -obey- the translation they thump. We'll come back to this matter of 'obedience' in a moment.
When Jesus speaks of bearing fruit, what are some of the things an orchardist does? Well, certainly, there needs to be water and nourishment for growth. But what else? -Pruning- is necessary. Why?
I'm no expert in these things, but understand some basic concepts; although, don't necessarily have expertise when it comes to my own apple tree. This tree was bought 12-13 years ago, with 5 different varieties of apples grafted into one trunk; planted in the back yard. This past year, for the first time, it was absolutely -loaded-. During blossom time, the branches were utterly -covered- with blossoms, all lined up and down all the branches. And this year, for a change, it seemed like -all- the blossoms developed into apples. As the apples grew, I knew two things: 1) if I let them -all- grow, none would get very big; and 2) if I let them -all- grow, the weight would break all the branches off the tree. Now, not really knowing proper pruning technique, I did what I figured was necessary, clipping away here-and-there, over half the growth...trying to figure out what could grow, and still have the branches be able to carry the weight. And the apples came out lucious and tasty. I'd go pick the corn, tomato, zucchini for supper...and eat a fresh-picked apple for the appetizer. And still, there were more apples than I could handle...and since my neighbors on either side were not really 'into' apples to share with them, the birds and worms also got their 'fair share'.
Now, there's lots of people who think that "bearing fruit" consists of busying themselves in huge gigantic 'programs'. They go after the "hundreds, thousands and millions". But if their fruit were examined, one finds that most of their so-called 'converts' are not really saved. They 'went forward' at a Billy Graham crusade, or 'became a member' of that soul-winning Baptist church. Other congregations hire pastors to help them "grow-a-church", and so they make big 'splashes' into their communities, have mega-programs, and grow mega-churches. But how many of their members are actually saved?
When a fruit-bearing tree or vine is not pruned, it will grow wildly all over the place, sending out shoots with -many- leaves, growing big and tall, looking impressive...but if it is not pruned, those mighty, impressive-looking branches will break off...and then, what of that fruit? It is cut away and thrown into the fire. Now, when pruning is done, at least when I do it, what remains looks not impressive at all. All that 'glory' is gone. It appears to be a bit 'spindly'. Oh, but let me tell you, those apples were truly juicy yummy! (From one for whom, for years, fresh apples have been a source of allergic reaction.)
Remember Jesus' words; people typically simply don't understand them: "...wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many entering in through it. Because narrow is the gate and distressing is the way which leads unto life, and there are -FEW- who find it." (Mt7:13-14)
Now, what is involved in bearing fruit? "Abiding" in the vine; submitting to the "pruning" of the Father. In practical terms, this involves 'obedience'. Getting rid of all the flash and pizzazz, and allowing God to make of us that which is to His purpose and liking. I didn't really know what I was doing when I pruned the apple tree...but the fruit was yummy. Unlike me, God actually -knows- what He is doing when He prunes. He prunes away all the excess and dead twigs; which may help us understand better how "all things work together for good to those who LOVE God.." (Rom8:28)
Aaah yes..."love". What does Jesus say about love? The Father -loves- the Son, and Jesus also -loves- us. Therefore, what? "..abide in My love" (vs9) If we are abiding in the Vine, and submitting to the Father's pruning, by that very position, we are also abiding in His love, because "God -is- love". (1Jn4:8,16)
So now, 'how' do we continue abiding in Christ? How do we demonstrate our love? How did God demonstrate His love for us? "..Christ died for us." (Rom5:8b) Again, how do we demonstrate our love for Christ? Are you ready for this? Most people don't like this next little bit...
"If you keep My commandments, you will continue in My love..." (vs10) And Jesus has given us the example to follow in this, "..just as I have kept My Father's commandments and continue in His love."
Is not -love- a 'sentiment'? As I've heard Oprah proclaim, if you "-feel- love in your heart"? You get all warm and fuzzy all over, empty you mind, ask to be 'spirit-filled' and that 'feeling' that comes over you is so-called "God's love"...and you simply go spread the -feeling-?
No! LOVE is -OBEDIENCE-. These people continually want Jesus to "fill" them, but they do not obey Him. Notice how it works, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him." (14:23) In ch16 He is going to explain how this comes through the Holy Spirit.
Do you want God's presence in your life? Then OBEY Him. Do you say you "love" Him? Then OBEY Him. If you claim to love Him, but insist on dabbling in the various "doctrines of demons" (1Tm4:1), YOU ARE A LIAR. Is that -my- opinion? "He who says, I know Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." (1Jn2:4)
Now, if you are True, and obedient, then, and only then, is the following true: "If you abide in Me, and My Words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall happen unto you." (vs7) If we are in Him, and our own hearts, minds and desires are molded by His indwelling Word, then, the only things we will ask for will be "according to His will" (1Jn5:14), and thus, He will hear us; because with this abiding, "we have the mind of Christ" (1Cor2:16). This is something those who "name-and-claim" have no clue about, because they are of different spirits. They are not part of The Vine, Jesus Christ.
But our Lord has given us assignments: He has given us His 'joy'. And He has given us His Word in order that our joy may be 'full'. (vs11) He also commands us to "love one another". (vs12) This love is of the sort that will "lay down one's life for his friends". (vs13) But also, with this relationship of "abiding" is also a new thing: Friendship with Jesus. (vs15) After all, if we are part of His "body" (1Cor12:27, Eph4:12), we are His "bride". (Eph5) Yes, we are His servants, but we are -also- more. Our obedience is not necessarily just out of 'duty', but from love. The master-slave relationship includes a measure of "fear", where obedience is -required-. But where there is fear, there is not "perfect love". Such a relationship is not an "abiding". There is a distance. But as we abide in Christ and know His love, we love in return, and "perfect love casts out fear". (1Jn4:18)
So, when we obey His commandments, we are not doing so out of duty and fear, but because of love we WANT TO do His will. However, having said this, this is not license to live any ol' way we like. Certainly we can opt to -not- obey Him. But that is not grace. Such disobedience actually indicates (is a gauge of) our true heart, that we actually are not joined to the Vine; because if we are, we keep His commandments. By 'nature' dogs bark, ducks quack, cars drive down the road, airplanes fly; and Believers obey Christ... and sinners disobey. If a person is abiding in Christ, it is no longer "his nature to sin, because he has been born of God." (1Jn3:9)
Thus, as branches, His desire is for us to "bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.." (vs16) That we abide in Christ, and 'remain' with Christ; not being all cluttered up such that the Father needs to prune us, cutting away what looks like fruit but due to the clutter would never grow to maturation, but would "weigh down" the branch with "sins" (Heb12:1-2), with the possibility that the branch might break off. Fruit that remains: both of the branch, and also what the branch bears; growing to maturity and becoming juicy, crisp 'apples' that are 'yummy' to the taste.
"For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life." (2Cor2:15-16)
Related Topic: Vines