Summary: “Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you
Theme: Branches of the true vine, Jesus Christ
Text: Acts 9:26-31; 1 Jn. 3:18-24; Jn. 15:1-8
The grapevine has always been central to Israel’s agriculture and economy and was an important symbol for Israel’s relationship with God in the Old Testament. Isaiah spoke of the house of Israel as the vineyard of the Lord and Jeremiah said that God had planted Israel as His choice vine. Israel, however, was unfaithful and therefore could not bear the kind of fruit God expected. Instead of producing large delicious grapes - the fruit of righteousness - as the vine of God they produced sour grapes – the fruit of hypocrisy, greed and all kinds of evil. God expected to find peace but instead He found bloodshed; He expected to find justice but instead He heard cries of oppression. Israel could not produce the type of fruit that God had intended because they tried to produce it on their own – they tried to produce it their own way and not God’s way. Jesus Christ came to enable God’s people bear the right type of fruit and He spent His life teaching them how to do this. Just before His death on His way to the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper with His disciples, they passed by the valley of Kidron, a vine growing area. Seeing the grapes and knowing that He would soon be leaving them, Jesus used the opportunity to again teach and remind them of what was involved in bearing the right type of fruit. This was very important to Christ because He would soon be leaving them and He knew the dangers they would face, dangers from the devil, from the world and from their own sinful natures. The only way for them to be preserved in the midst of these dangers and be able to continue to bear the fruit of saving faith is to be branches of the true vine Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ in His usual manner, using what He sees around Him and what the disciples could understand began to explain this to them with the words “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser.” When Jesus calls Himself the true vine He is referring to being the One who is able to bear the right type of fruit, the fruit that Israel failed to bear as God’s vine. God had expected Israel to bear large, juicy, and tasty grapes, but the only grapes He got from them were small and sour. The vine is a picture of the union between Christ and His Church. Christ came as the perfect vine to perfect His Church. In a vineyard, the vine is the main trunk of the plant. The branches depend on the vine for all their nutrients. Just like the vine Christ is the source of life, strength and every blessing to His people. We depend on Him for everything for it is in Christ that we have all the nutrients of God’s grace. When Christ looks at our lives He has certain expectations. He expects to see the fruit of the Spirit and this is only evident when we are united with Him as branches are to the vine.
Our union with Christ should be that of an intimate fellowship. But like all human unions this is not always the case and sometimes instead of an intimate fellowship we just have a casual relationship. We can understand this by taking a look at marriage. We realise immediately that there are different types of union in marriage. Some people are married, and they have the marriage certificate as proof, but live miserable lives because there is no intimate fellowship. For such people marriage is just a casual relationship. Such marriages can be helped when those involved are encouraged to have intimate fellowship with one another. Where there is intimate fellowship the signs of love and fulfilment are there for all to see. If you are not enjoying your Christian life you need to develop an intimate fellowship with Christ. He is the true vine and therefore the source of all that we need as branches.
A branch is part of the vine. As branches of Christ God does not allow any distraction to prevent us from living for Christ and bearing fruit. Jesus declared, “every branch in me that does not bear fruit He lifts up” NKJV. This is something that frequently takes place in vineyards all over the world. Every gardener is concerned about vine that does not bear fruit. Studying vineyards in the Middle East and elsewhere, you will realise that very often some branches lie on the ground where people walk on them and where they get covered with dust and dirt. This prevents them from receiving the needed sunlight that is necessary for bearing fruit. But the branch is still valuable and the gardener has the responsibility to lift us such branches, clean them and tie them to poles so that they would no longer be walked on and are exposed to the sun. This allows the fruit bearing process to begin. To Christians in fellowship with God who are not bearing fruit, this can only mean encouragement and this comes through the word of God. God starts the fruit bearing process by encouraging us and He does this especially with new Christians by answering their requests. The fruit bearing process begins when they give thanks and praise to God for the Scriptures say that the praise of our lips is fruit to God – Hebrews 13:15. The New Testament repeatedly describes the believer as ‘in Christ.’ Therefore, it is possible to be ‘in Christ,’ yet to be like the branch that produces no fruit. Every branch in Christ that does not bear fruit God lifts up. Once the process of fruit bearing has began, God prunes so that they might bear more fruit. Pruning is the horticultural act of removing unwanted branches and cutting back the true branches to promote growth. This is a way of removing unwanted distractions that get in the way and suck the life that ought to be going to the branch. These distractions include what are called sucker shoots. They shoot out where the vine and the branches intersect and they siphon off the sap meant for the branch. The branch becomes malnourished and therefore cannot produce good and juicy fruit. To enable it produce the right kind of fruit, the gardener clips off these sucker shoots, cuts back the branches, and removes all dead wood that can harbour insects and disease and affect the whole vine. The Gardener is so concerned about His vine that He is continually working to improve the health of the true branches and He is able to easily distinguish between the true and the false branches.