The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
February 16, 2014


1) I Am the True Vine (Jim McDonald)
2) News & Notes


I Am the True Vine
by Jim McDonald

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.  Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away and every branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it that it may bear more fruit (John 15:10.  These two verses are part of a long section in which Jesus likens himself to a "true vine."

Jesus is the True Vine

Jesus warned there would be many who would come, claiming they were coming in his name.  There would be many during the siege of Jerusalem who would claim to be Christ, but they were not.  Today there are false Christs and prophets who claim to offer life but their offer is a bogus one. Other plants or vines may grow but Christ is alone the True One.  He warns that every plant which his Father did not plant will be rooted up and in his parable of the wheat and tares, the tares are representatives of strange plants; planted by the evil one which at the end of the world will be burned by the Father (Matt. 13:24-30).  Let all who are disposed to follow someone other than the True Vine take heed.  

Many speculations abound as to what suggested this figure to him (as though he needed something to suggest such a figure!).  Some suppose that there was a golden vine with grapes on doors to the Temple.  Others postulate other scenes which suggest the figure.  None really knows.  Nor is it certain when the discourse was given, whether while they were at supper; or on the way to the garden, but from the closing verse of the previous chapter it appears the discourse was given after Jesus and his disciples departed from the upper room where Jesus had kept the Passover with his disciples and instituted the memorial he wished us to keep in his memory.  That passage reads: "Arise, let us go hence" (John 14:31). We do know that from 14:12-chapter seventeen, sublime thoughts on a variety of subjects were given the night Judas betrayed our Lord.  

The gospel of John is filled with different figures of Jesus in his relationships to humanity. He is the living bread, the good shepherd, the door, the way, truth and life, the resurrection and life, the door to the sheepfold as well as others.  There is something unique about each of these figures.  Figures abound which describe the Christian (member, disciple, priest, sheep, citizen, living stone).  The church (a body, kingdom, vineyard, bride, temple).  Elders (overseers, shepherds), and Christ (king, head, husband, shepherd, foundation).  In John 15 Jesus likens himself unto a flourishing vine from which branches grow and bear fruit.  

Ye Are The Branches

In this figure of the vine and branches, the like nature of the branches to the vine is obvious.  Branches take on the nature of the vine.  This likeness is not always evident in other figures.  For instance, the figure of Jesus as a good shepherd shows no such kinship.  Obviously, the shepherd is different from his sheep.  The figure of a Shepherd is designed to show the Father's care, provisions, and oversight for his sheep, not the nature of the sheep.  In the figure of the living bread, Jesus shows we must "eat" Christ if we would have life in ourselves. When he speaks of himself as the Resurrection and the Life, he extends hope for us beyond mortality.  But in the vine and branches it is evident that, amid several lessons for us, the branch shares the nature of the vine. James asks, "Can a fig tree . . . yield olives, or a vine figs?"  They cannot.  A vine produces grapes because its branches are grape branches.  A fig tree produces figs because the branches are fig branches.  An olive tree bears olives because its branches are olive branches.  We are not divine but we do have an eternal part in us for we were created in God's image (Gen. 1:27).  True, Paul states that the Gentiles were from a wild olive tree and "grafted" into the tame tree; and their being grafted in and bearing fruit was that which was "contrary to nature" (Rom. 11:24).  Still, Paul observes that "some of the branches were broken off and thou being a wild olive branch was grafted in among them that didst become partakers with them of the root and of the fatness of the olive tree" (Rom. 11:18).  The branches manifest the nature of the vine; branches in Christ manifest his nature.  We may be "grafted in," but Peter assures us that through God's precious and exceeding great promises we may become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).  God's promise is that at the resurrection our corrupted body will be raised an incorruptible one (1 Cor. 15:53).  We do not know what we shall be like yet we are assured that "if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is" (1 John 3:2).  

A branch depends on the vine for its life.  When a branch is cut off from the vine, it withers because its transfusion to life is severed.  We are repeatedly told that life is in the Son.  "In him was life and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4).  Our spiritual life comes from the son, who through his word, has begotten us (1 Pet. 1:23).  We have no hope of life if we are separated from the vine.  "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, so neither can ye, except ye abide in me.  Apart from me ye can do nothing" (John 15:4,5).

My Father is the Husbandman

The husbandman is the caretaker of the vineyard.  In Christ's figure, the Father is the husbandman (John 15:1).  The husbandman cares for the vines, seeking to make the vineyard as fruitful as possible.  God seeks to bring out our best, and he desires that the branch bear the best fruit.  Thus he prunes the branches.

A productive branch must be pruned.  Jesus said, "Every branch that beareth fruit he cleanseth (purgeth) it that it may bear more fruit" (John 15:2).  Pruning the fruit tree may seem wasteful and unreasonable, yet the husbandman knows that the fruit spared from the knife will develop and grow into a larger, more tasty fruit than had pruning not occurred.  Branches in Christ must be pruned for the same reason.  Disease and decay must be cut away, otherwise the fruit will be affected.  And Christians must learn that intemperance, immorality, and lack of self-control of our minds or tongues must be pruned so that the fruit the Christian bears will not be blighted.  

God prunes the branches through his word.  God's word is light, seed, bread, and a sword (Ps. 119:105; Luke 8:11; Matt. 4:4; Heb. 4:12).  It is designed to comfort, edify, and convert (1 Thess. 4:18; Acts 28:32; Ps. 19:7).  In the same way, God's word is his pruning agent.  "Already ye are clean by the word which I have spoken unto you" (John 15:3).  The Psalmist asked, "Wherein shall a young man cleanse his way?  By taking heed thereto to thy word" (Ps. 119:9).  Earlier in the night he was betrayed, Jesus had washed the disciples' feet (John 13:4-11).  Peter protested when he saw what Jesus intended to do, saying, "Thou shalt never wash my feet."  Jesus said in turn, "If I wash not thee, thou hast no part with me."  Then Peter said, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head."  Jesus said, "He that is bathed needeth not, save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.  And ye are clean, but not all."  The one who was not clean was Judas.  He was not clean because the word had not had free course in him.  His old desires, his covetousness still was with him.  Rather than following God's word, he was doing exactly opposite to it.  A true disciple abides in Christ's word (John 8:31).  Thus Jesus urges: "Abide in me, and I in you" (John 15:8).  

God's word prunes off the old man.  Selfishness, pride, covetousness, falsehood, and sexual immoralities are all laid aside because following God's word causes us to cast off sinful deeds from our lives.  In their stead we will supply "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control" (Gal. 5:22f).  

Abide in Me, and I in You

One word appears repeatedly in this section in John. The words "vine," "branch," "fruit" are each found several times.  But the word "abide" is found ten times; almost as many times as the combined number of times the words "vine," "branch," and "fruit" appear.  We are commanded to abide in Christ (vv. 4,9).  We can choose whether we will, or will not, abide in Christ.  The results from abiding in him are stated.  If we abide in him, we will be fruitful, bear much fruit, and "whatsoever we ask will be given to us" (John 15:4, 5, 7).  And, how does one "abide in Christ," "abide in his love"?  Jesus leaves no doubt how such is done.  We abide in Christ and his love when we abide in his word (John 15:7,10).  Faithfulness to Christ demands faithfulness to his word.  There are dire consequences if we choose not to abide in Christ and God's warnings are clear.  "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" (John 15:6).

Some branches are unproductive.  When branches are such, it is the fault of the branch, not of the vine.  Other branches are bearing fruit and the sap and energy are available to all. The fact that a branch does not bear fruit does not mean it is not a branch; it is.  It was in the vine.  The teaching is clear: men can be lost who once had been saved.  

Herein Is My Father Glorified -- That Ye Bear Much Fruit

God is glorified when we bear much fruit (John 15:8).  A majestic building honors the architect.  A beautiful picture honors its painter. An humble, generous, loving, caring Christian honors God.  Like clay is molded and shaped by the potter, so the fruitful, faithful Christian is the handiwork of God.  Truly "we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:14).  Jesus has taught us, "Even so let your light shine before men, that they, seeing your good works may glorify your father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).  Peter urged us, "I beseech you as pilgrims and sojourners that ye abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.  Having your behavior seemly among the Gentiles that wherein they speak against you as evil doers, they may, by your good works which they behold, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Pet. 2:11-12).  Paul rebuked the Jews because, while they claimed to be God's chosen ones, their wicked and ungodly lives put God to shame.  "For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you, even as it is written" (Rom. 2:24).  There is no higher glory that can come to God than by Christians living as Paul directed: "Do all things without murmurings and questionings; that ye may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of Life" (Phil. 2:14-16).  As one has somewhere said, "The sharper the contrast, the clearer the image!"

The lessons from the figure of Christ as the True Vine are many.  We share his nature.  We must abide in him to live.  We must be pruned that our fruit will be abundant.  If we do not bear fruit, God will sever us from Christ and ultimately destroy us.  We glorify God by bearing much fruit.  

-- Via Truth Magazine, November 17, 2005, Volume XLIX, Number 22: http:// www.truthmagazine.com/archives/volume49/ 22-november-17.pdf


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians continue to remember the following in prayer for their health: Virginia Fontenot, Shirley Young, Cheryl Crews, Peggy Lefort, and Terry and Pam MacDonald.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

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