About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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The Vine And The Branches (ch. 15:1-17)

 

I could be wrong but I tend to believe that chapters 15 through 17 , or a least chapters 15 through 16 were spoken by Jesus in the upper room as they were about to leave.  Jesusí prayer in chapter 17 may have been prayed in the upper room or maybe somewhere else, like the Garden of Gethsemane. 

 

Wherever Jesus spoke this chapter, in verse 1 He now relates an allegory to the eleven apostles.  Jesus says that He is "the true vine and His Father is the gardener."  This is just one more analogy in a long list of analogies found in the book of John.  These men would understand this analogy because they were used to seeing grape vines used in the production of wine.  Jesus says that He is "the true vine."  By implication this suggests that there are false vines, which I believe would be in reference to the Jewish religious system of the day. 

 

In the Old Testament Israel at times was referred to as a grape vine, but, when it is, it is always in connection with God's judgment of Israel.  See Isaiah 5:1 to 7 as one example.  The fact of the matter is that Jesus, not the Jewish religious system, is the true vine. 

 

Jesus also says that His Father is the gardener.  It is God who looks after the vine.  It is God who rips up the garden to replant.  It is God's garden and He can do whatever He wants, as we see in verse 2.

 

Some suggest that when Jesus says in verse 2 that the Father cuts off those branches that do not bare fruit, He is talking about unfaithful Jews, those Jews who have rejected Him.   

 

There is a major difference between cutting off and pruning.  If a branch is cut off a true, it no longer is part of the tree.  When a branch is pruned, it still remains part of the tree.  The cut off branch dies.  The pruned branch lives and is more healthy than ever.    

 

So again, in verse 2 Jesus says that God will cut the branches off of the vine that donít bring forth fruit.  This indeed happened to Israel.  Paul uses this same analogy in his discourse in Romans 9 through 11.  Paul says that God has cut off those Jews from the vine, or tree as he puts it, and has replaced those branches with true believers in Jesus.  This is what Jesus is saying here.

 

Not all Jews were cut off because there were some who did have faith in Jesus.  For these, and for Gentile branches that would be grafted in, God would prune in order to bring forth more fruit.  By pruning we mean that God will clean up the branches that have some fruit.  He will take away any dead leaves and possible trim the branch back a bit.  This may hurt but in the long run it helps the branch bring forth more fruit.

 

This is true in the life of the believer.  If we forsake Jesus and become a dead branch, bearing no fruit, then He will cut us off.  We loose our salvation, or so I think.  On the other hand, if we are true believers and we have some fruit, God would like us to produce more fruit, so He prunes us.  The pruning can be through lifeís circumstances, direct intervention by God in some way, or whatever way He sees fit.  Pruning is never nice and easy.  It can be hard at times, but if we survive, we become stronger and more productive.

 

The words "cut off" in this verse have been debated for centuries.  It's the debate between those who believe in eternal security and those who believe you can lose your salvation.  These two words are often seen in the Old Testament in relation to Israelis being cut off from being from God's people.  As far as I understand, if you are cut off from anything, including Jesus, you are no longer a part of that which you have been cut off from.  I see being cut off from Jesus as losing one's salvation.  I can't see it saying anything else.  I believe what Jesus says later will confirm this.   

 

In verse 3 Jesus says that these eleven apostles "are already clean."  Jesus is now talking about being cleaned, maybe in terms that they have already been pruned, although we know they would have a lot more pruning to endure.  Why were they already pruned?  Jesus says because of the word I have spoken to you.   Jesus spoke the words of salvation.  These men had accepted these words and gave themselves to Jesus, thus they were cleaned.  Remember, back in chapter 13 in responding to Peter, Jesus told the disciples that they were clean.  They had taken a bath.  They simply needed their feet washed.  They just needed to have the worldliness cleansed from them. These eleven men were saved.  There was no doubt about that.  They had not been cut off from the vine. 

 

When we come to Jesus we are cleaned as well.  Does this mean that we donít need any more cleaning or pruning?  No, that is not the case.  We can go back to Jesusí analogy of the foot washing as I've mentioned above.  He told us clearly then that we have taken a bath if we trust in Him, but, from time to time we need to clean our feet because of worldliness that we pick up as we walk through this world.  The same is true here.  We have been pruned at initial salvation, but from time to time need extra pruning because of sin and the worldís influence on us.

 

In verse 4 Jesus tells these men that they must remain in Him.  They cannot produce fruit on their own.  If we donít remain in Jesus, we will soon die, meaning, we will soon loose our faith and in turn loose our salvation.  Jesus remaining in us and we remaining in Him means that the connection we have with Him through the Holy Spirit must remain in tact.  It is this connection that brings salvation to us. This connection must be strengthened as we live our lives with Jesus.

 

I think this command to remain in Jesus might well suggest that it is possible that we will not always remain in Jesus.  Again, those who believe in eternal security would believe that if some depart from remaining in Jesus they don't lose their salvation.  They simply lose their fellowship with Jesus.  I don't see it that way.  If you don't remain in Jesus, you will be cut off from Him, and, if you are cut of from Him, you have no part of Him.  That suggests a loss of salvation.

 

In verse 5 Jesus clearly says that if He remains in us and we in Him, we will bring forth much fruit.  There is no question about it.  Now the amount of fruit may vary from person to person, but there will be fruit.  Remember the analogy of the sower who sows seed.  The seed that falls on good ground produces 60, 80, or 100 fold in various people.  Not all produce the same amount of fruit.  So, we should not compare ourselves to each other.  There are valid reasons why some are more fruitful than others.

 

There is something else to consider when thinking of producing fruit.  Jesus said, "by their fruit you will know them" (Matthew 7:20).  That simply means that if you do not see any fruit in one who says he is a Christian, then he is not a Christian.  It's not a matter of judging that person.  It's a matter of recognizing who that person is.  If you look at an apple tree and see its apples, you know it is an apple tree and not an orange three.  It's not rocket science.         

 

Then Jesus says "apart from me you can do nothing," hat is, nothing of any consequence as you serve Him.  Sure, we can do lots of things without Jesus, but if we think we are enhancing the Kingdom of God, well, we arenít.  For those so called Christians and churches who have forsaken the true gospel and the Holy Spirit, they are producing nothing that is good for Godís Kingdom.  They may be doing all sorts of things to build their own kingdom, but that is of no consequence to God's Kingdom.  They may also be doing many beneficial things that meet the needs of many, but without being connected to Jesus, these things do not put them in good standing with God.  

 

In verse 6 Jesus describes the branch that tries to live on its own.  He says it will be cut off the vine and is gathered up and burned in the fire.  I believe the word "firs" and the word "burned" is an allusion to the Lake of Fire where all unbelievers will end up.  How important it is for us to remain in Jesus.  If it was not possible for us to depart from Jesus, He would not have told us these things.  It is clear to me, that people can decide for a number of reasons to depart from Jesus, and once they do, they loose their salvation, as is referenced by burning in the fire. 

 

In verse 7 Jesus repeats what He says in the last chapter.  He says it slightly different though.  He says that if we remain in Him and His words remain in us we can ask "what we wish" and it will be done.  He doesnít say anything about asking in the name of Jesus here, but that does not neglect that truth which we learned in the last chapter.  We ask in accordance with Godís will in Jesus' name.  Jesus is not saying that we should ask for every little thing our hearts desire and crave after.  As a matter of fact, I believe the context of this asking shows us what to ask for.  The context tells us to ask for things that help us produce fruit for Jesus.  The context does not suggest we ask for a new car and lots of money. 

 

In verse 8 Jesus basically says that you prove that you are my disciples if you bring forth fruit, which in turn gives glory to His Father.  In the last chapter Jesus says that people will know that we are His disciples if we love each other. Now He says that people will know that you are His disciples if you bear fruit.

 

I believe verse 8 confirms what I just said. It's to God the Father's glory that we produce much fruit.  The way in which we produce much fruit is by remaining in Jesus and having His word remain in us.  Then we can ask for such things that will help us produce fruit.  Concerning the word remaining in us, I see the word to be the Bible.  We cannot produce fruit if we neglect the Bible.  It's the spiritual fertilization that produces fruit.     

 

What really does producing fruit mean?  It means that there should be things in our lives that give evidence that we have given ourselves to Jesus.  Our way of living should be godly and loving.  We should be doing things that bring glory to Jesus and helps build His Kingdom and the Body of Christ.  If none of these things are evident in a life, then we can question whether a person is a true believer.

 

In verses 9 and 10 Jesus says that the Father has loved Him and He has remained in the Fatherís love.  The proof of this love was that Jesus obeyed God His Father.  In like fashion Jesus wants these eleven men to know that He loves them and He wants them to remain in His love.  The way in which they, and we, can remain in the love of Jesus is to obey Him says Jesus.  That means to put our trust in Him and do whatever He wants us to do.  Much of what Jesus wants us to do is seen in the Bible, thus it is important to do as the Bible says.  Jesus has been saying these things for the last few chapters.  It's all about having a good relationship with Him and a good relationship is based on obedience. 

 

In verse 11 Jesus speaks about joy on this solemn occasion.  He says that what He has been saying should put His joy into the lives of the believers and make their joy complete.  We see two joys here.  One joy is from Jesus, and the other joy is a natural joy that we have.  As Christians we can have Jesusí joy and we can also have human joy elevated to a higher level than what we are used to.  Joy is not necessarily bouncy happiness.  Joy to me is a deeper rooted thing than simply being happy.  Christian joy is a matter of the heart that comes from a life of contentment to Jesus.

 

Depending on what version of the Bible you read the word "joy" appears about 16 times, 8 of which appears in John 15.  

 

Verse 12 tells us one of the commands of Jesus that we need to obey in order to stay in His love and experience His joy and our joy to its fullest.  It must be important because He specifies it.  The command is to love one another, or, as the Greek text puts it, "continue to love one another."  Love is not an option.  It's a command that will keep us, not only in Jesus' love, but also keeps Jesus' joy in our hearts.  We should realize that if we don't obey this command we have problems with Jesus.  We can't have the joy we aspire and that Jesus has promised us.  If we have problems with Jesus then things are not going to go as they should as individual Christians and as the church.  This is why we are so divided in today's church.  We do not love as we should.        

 

In verse 13 Jesus tells us what kind of love He is speaking of.  He is speaking of a Godly love that lays down oneís life for his brother, just as He Himself was about to do for us.  Godís love requires sacrifice.  Love without sacrifice is not Godís love.  It is this kind of love that Jesus commands us to have for one another.  This kind of selfless love does not come natural to any of us.  We are inherently selfish.  Only submission to Jesus can help us overcome our selfishness so we can lay down our lives for those to whom Jesus has joined us.  Only obedience to Jesus can produce this kind of love in our lives.  In this passage, love is associated with obedience.    

 

Jesus clearly says that "greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."  He then says that these eleven men, and us too, are His friends if we obey His commands.  If we donít obey Him then we can conclude that we are not friends of Jesus.  We arenít friends, not because of Jesus lack of desire to be friends, but because of our choice not to obey Him.                

 

The idea that being Jesus' friend depends on obedience to Him is hard to figure out in our modern world.  We think of true friends as not placing demands on each other.  When thinking of true friends we don't ask them to obey us, but this is not the case with Jesus.  Friendship demands obedience.      

 

In verse 15 Jesus tells the eleven men that they are no longer servants to Him but friends because He has told them everything they need to know.  How great it is for us to know that Jesus considers us friends.  That being the case, you will note that the Apostle Paul, and really other early apostles, did consider themselves as Christ's servants.  However, they believed they were servants by choice, not by constraint on the part of Jesus. 

 

In verse 16 Jesus says that these eleven men did not choose Him but He chose them.  How true this is.  Jesus was the one who went up to these men and told them to follow Him, yet, beyond this choosing comes a sending.  Jesus sent these men to bear fruit.  Jesus not only chooses us to be with Him which is relational, but He sends us out as His representatives to do things that produce fruit.  Our relationship with Jesus is both relational and functional.  We are to be friends with Him and yet work for Him as well.  He is both friend and boss.

 

What Jesus says here is often used to defend predestination, but I don't think it does.  Who is Jesus talking to here?  He is talking to eleven men, not the human race.  He says that He chose them.  He says that He appointed them.  These words should not be taken to include all of mankind.  That being said, I believe in the cross of Christ, Jesus has chosen that all men to be saved.  To have this salvation realized into one's life then "whosoever will believe" will be saved.  Also remember that back in chapter 6 Jesus said that no one can come to Him unless, by the Holy Spirit, the Father draws him to Jesus.  We can preach the gospel until we are blue in the face but without the Holy Spirit leading a person to Jesus, that person will not find Jesus.       

 

The fruit that Jesus wants us to produce is "fruit that will last."  So often we produce fruit that rots way too quickly.  The results of things we do for Jesus and the things He does within us should not be temporary.  They should be long lasting.  We are not in a one hundred yard dash.  We are in a marathon, and we need to complete the race.

 

Jesus then says, "then the Father will give you anything you ask in my name."  You see the qualifications of asking the Father for things here.  First of all what we ask for must be in His name, in His service.  Secondly we can only ask if we are being productive in bearing good fruit.  It is not a matter of naming it and claiming it as the Prosperity Gospel teaches.

 

It is so important to understand that it is Jesus and Jesus alone that initiates our salvation.  We see this here.  It is impossible for us to decide to come to Jesus and be saved.  It's all about Him and His timing.  He is the one who calls and appoints.  It's His will, not our will.

 

This section ends with Jesus stating the command He wants these men to obey, and that is that they love one another.  How many times has He said this in this chapter?  Remember these are some of the last words of exhortation that He is giving His disciples.  They must be important to Him.

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