Summary: We are nourished by His Word, and cultivate our relationship with Him through prayer.
ABIDING IN THE VINE
In Psalm 80:8-16 Israel is poignantly portrayed as a vine which has spread throughout the whole land, only to be torn down, devoured and burnt at the time of the Exile. The vineyard motif is again taken up in Isaiah 5:1-7, where a moral reason is given for this destruction. Israel had failed God (Jeremiah 2:21), and it was her pastors who were to blame (Jeremiah 12:10).
The vine image was familiar to Jesus’ first disciples. A golden vine adorned one of the gates of the Temple. The symbol was so ingrained in the common psyche of the people that a vine was portrayed on the coins minted during the revolt against Rome which would eventually lead to Judah’s second Diaspora in the year 70 A.D.
In the seventh significant “I am” saying of John’s Gospel, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1), Jesus was identifying Himself with the Messianic “son of man” of Psalm 80:17. Jesus is the true fulfilment of Israel’s mission, and those who are rooted in Him are His ambassadors to a fallen world. The same God who once tended the rebellious vineyard of Israel is now identified as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The vine-dresser now tends to the branches of the true vine (John 15:2).
There are some people who become attached to the Church who are not true Christians (1 John 2:19). Such unfruitful branches are cut off once and for ever, and their sad fate is to be destroyed in the fire (John 15:6). It is therefore incumbent upon us all to “make our calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10).
The fruitful He cuts back, so that they might bear more fruit (John 15:2). When a Christian is going through trials it may not be some temporal judgment for some particular sin, but rather that the Lord is testing them for their own improvement (Romans 5:3-5). Will we keep His commandments in the face of trials, and go on abiding in His love, or not (John 15:9-10; John 15:14)?
We are rooted in the Word of God (John 15:3; John 15:15). We draw our spiritual life from the Lord Jesus Christ just as surely as the branch draws the sap from the root. This is seen both negatively (John 15:4), and positively (John 15:5).
We are nourished by His Word, and cultivate our relationship with Him through prayer (John 15:7). The proof of our Christianity is found not in our words, nor in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but in our possession of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). When we are spiritually fruitful, God the Father is glorified, and we are seen to be the disciples of Jesus (John 15:8).
When we abide in Jesus the true vine, not only do we dwell in His love, but we also partake of His joy (John 15:11). Jesus has a special joy in the redemption of His people (Hebrews 12:2), and we are privileged to share in that joy. We have such a special joy in His goodness to us that we hardly need to look for reasons to keep the Apostolic precept to “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).
Yet we should not be so insular as to make our receipt of Jesus’ love an end in itself. We should also love His people, sacrificially, as He first loved us (John 15:12-13). This is the love whereby the husband must love the wife (Ephesians 5:25), and whereby we must love the brethren (1 John 3:16).
The Lord exhorts us to “abide” in the vine, yet it is the Lord who first placed us there (John 15:16). It is He who first chose us, and not we Him, and who put us into the situation where we might bear fruit (Ephesians 2:8-10). It is our responsibility to “go” forward in our Christian lives, growing in fruitfulness, yet always dependent upon the one who hears and answers our prayers.