Summary: “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me" John 15:4.
Theme: Christ our true vine
Text: Acts 8:26-40; 1 Jn. 4:7-21; Jn. 15:1-8
Jesus Christ has commanded all believers to “go and make disciples of all nations”. (Mat 28:19) A disciple is someone who learns to become like the teacher. Jesus Christ chose twelve men as His disciples. He spent three years teaching them about the Kingdom of God. He taught them about humility, service and dependence on God saying that “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it”. (Mark 10:15) However, just before His death, His disciples were still more concerned about greatness and being served rather than about humility and serving others. Jesus revealed to them His expectations saying “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father”. (John 14:12) He also revealed how this would be possible using the vine to explain how they could produce the fruit of Christ in their lives. Today we also need to know how to produce this fruit in our lives to accomplish Christ’s work and will in the world by abiding in Christ our true vine.
Jesus Christ says “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser.” Jesus words “I am the true vine” is referring to Himself as God who is the only One who is able to bear the right kind of fruit.
Christ, as the true vine, is the source of life. He gives life to His Church and is responsible for perfecting it. The vine supplies all the nutrients the branches need. Just like the branches of the vine Christ supplies all the nutrients of God’s grace that believers need. Christ is our source of life. Our salvation does not depend on anything we have done but on what Christ has done for “By grace are we saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God”. (Eph. 2:8)
The branches of the vine represent different types of believers. We often change the message by using trees we are familiar with to explain what Jesus taught. The Jews were familiar with vineyards and therefore understood exactly what Jesus said. Jesus declaration in John 15:2 is translated differently by different translators and has lead to misinterpretation of Scripture. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit sometimes ends with He takes away or cuts away.” In the NKJV it ends with He lifts up. (John 15:2) 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 and air that is necessary for bearing fruit. Such a branch is still valuable and the gardener has the responsibility to lift up 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 who are not bearing fruit, this can only mean encouragement. God starts the fruit bearing process by meeting our needs so that we can give Him thanks and praise 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 removes 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 concerned about the health of the true branches and can easily distinguish between the true and the false branches.
God is not satisfied just because we are saved. Salvation is important but the reason we are saved is to bear fruit. It is like looking for a job but after being employed you turn up at the office only to converse on the phone and play lotto. The reason for your employment was to work and bear fruit for the company. In the same way the reason we are saved is to bear the kind of fruit that will reflect the character of God and make an impact on the world. This is the Gardener’s purpose when He begins to cleanse, cut and prune to remove those dead things from our hearts, such as bitterness, resentment, selfishness, anger, self-centeredness, arrogance, and pride. Our Heavenly Vinedresser is constantly removing what hinders our spiritual growth to make us more effective witnesses. There are many around us who either have not heard the gospel or understood the Scriptures. We are the only ones who have experienced salvation and are best equipped to witness to others. Pruning makes us fruitful. Every Christian undergoes pruning in life because even the best Christians are still weak and sinful and often associate with the wrong people. Pruning helps build character as it removes the hindrances to spiritual growth.