Summary: Jesus gives the last of the "I AM" statements in John and explains the relationship of the True Vine and true believers. He explains the principle of abiding in Christ in order to produce God-glorifying fruit.
The True Vine John 15:1-11
Jesus often used every day examples in His teachings and today we study the last of the “I AM” sayings of Jesus in John’s gospel, using the imagery of a vine. We read John 15:1-17 (NKJV): "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”
9 "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
The Image of the True Vine
Let’s look at the the PARTS of the PICTURE for a moment. The first figure is Jesus himself who is the TRUE VINE. In the Old Testament, Israel was referred to as the vine of vineyard of God, but it had come under God’s judgment for its disobedience and sin and failure to produce good fruit. Here in this context, Jesus proclaims that He is the TRUE (the faithful and fruitful) vine. Jesus comes to fulfill the temple and the ceremonial rituals, to fulfill the revelation of God as the very center of God’s people. Jesus comes to replace the degenerate vine of Jeremiah 2:21: “Yet I had planted you a noble vine, a seed of highest quality. How then have you turned before Me into the degenerate plant of an alien vine?”
The vine is the picture of the exclusive source of life- it’s how the branches and the fruit obtain nourishment. On the imminent basis of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and sending of the Holy Spirit, Jesus would fulfill the imagery of the Life-giving Vine, being the sole source of life for His people through Himself, and so TRUE LIFE can only be gained through the TRUE VINE.
The second figure is that of the VINEDRESSER, who is God the Father. The Father is the planter and the cultivator of the vine, always being close to the Son, the Lord Jesus, the two being intricately connected. His job is to intricately prune the vine, caring for it as He deems absolutely necessary. If you don’t prune a vine, it actually ends up not producing any quality fruit. Cutting away some of the stray branches or tying them up will actually cause the vine to produce more and better fruit. The goal is the bearing of fruit, the Father is the “mover” toward fruitfulness and the Son is the source of fruitful life.
Verse 5 explains the third part of the picture and explains that God’s People are the branches. The branches are necessary in order for the vine to be productive, but in order for them to bear fruit, they need to stay attached to the vine. They will be worth nothing if they are cut off, and if they do not bear fruit, THEY WILL BE CUT OFF.
The Purpose of the Vine
Jesus does not give us a complex picture…the only other part of the picture is the fruit…The main point of the analogy reveals the Purpose of the God-Glorifying True Vine, which is to bring God-glorifying spiritual life which will naturally bear spiritual fruit. To live a fruitful life of Christ-likeness, a branch HAS TO ABIDE in the vine. Jesus is clear in explaining this fruit producing principle when he said: “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
ABIDING to produce fruit is just common sense, and I don’t think the disciples were surprised with this statement at all: If you lop off a branch from a tree or a vine it is going to cease to exist on its own. You don’t have to be an arborist, botanist, or horticulturalist to understand that principle. The branch is dead if it is cut off, and so naturally, the branch is not going to bear fruit. Fruit-bearing is the result of abiding in Christ and Christ abiding in me.