John 15:1-17- The True Vine
Explanation- The passage before us is indeed weighty. It is one that we should not read over too quickly. In the first place, Christ gives us an analogy of the believer’s life in Him. He compares Himself to the great vine, strong and full of life. It is to Him that all men who begin down the path of truth are enjoined. The difference between the true believer and the apostate is that the apostate seeks to hold to the vine in his own strength, whereas the true believer is one that is securely engrafted to the vine. The Father is the vinedresser. It is He who attends to the vine, pruning those branches that bear fruit and discarding those that do not. This is a fitting example to give considering the message that Christ is seeking to convey. This is a call to abide in Christ. He tells the disciples that they are already clean because of the word that has been given and now they are to abide in Him. For what purpose should they abide? For the purpose of bearing fruit. A branch does not strenuously push in order to bear fruit, but the fruit bearing process is a natural product of the branch’s abiding in the vine. Similarly, the believer is one who has been engrafted to the vine of Christ, and although there is a daily toil against sin and striving toward holiness, all of this is possible because of the life-giving nutrients provided as a result of his attachment to the Christ. Certainly, one has never witnessed a branch bearing fruit apart from being attached to the vine. Such a branch is useless and finds its place in the burning pile.
It is a beautiful truth that our Father receives glory in our bearing fruit. God has so chosen that we who abide in Christ will bear fruit as a result of this union. The life-giving spiritual nutrients produced through Christ are trickled down the branches so that we are equipped to bear those fruits pleasing to God. As a result, we find that our joy is full. As Pastor John Piper is fond of saying, ‘God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.’ This joy that we receive is very similar to the peace that Christ speaks of in our previous section. The joy and peace of the believer are realities that are alien to the believer. They do not originate within us. They are the undeniable results of our union with Christ and the inhabiting of the Holy Spirit. As previously stated, we may not always feel joy and peace in difficult moments, but they are certainly present. And how can they not be? They are infused with our new nature. The Spirit at work within us is joy and He is peace. If that be His nature and He is in us, then joy and peace are always fully present; yet they may become clouded from vision due to certain circumstances.
Also, we must note again Christ’s command to love one another. He uses His own love for the disciples as a living example of what this is to look like. Although the disciples are most certainly servants of Christ it is not this aspect of their relationship that He chooses to highlight on. He calls them friends. Not only them, but all those who would believe in Him after. Christ has made His purpose known to the disciples (and in turn to us as well), and although they do not fully understand at this time, soon enough they will be given understanding from on high when the Spirit comes to reveal all truth.
Application- There is much that can be said about our abiding in Christ. Surely this has been the theme of numerous conferences and finds itself stamped on many Christian t-shirts, but as we consider what it means to abide it is imperative that we understand that our abiding is only possible because of Christ. As He says in verse 16,’ you did not choose me, but I chose you…’ Christ’s choosing of us is what constitutes our abiding in Him. Because Christ has chosen Himself a people it is an absolute certainty that those who are truly His will abide in Him. Abiding highlights our responsibility. No doubt we are to make a conscious, daily effort to draw near to Christ. This is done through the reading and meditation of His word, prayer, confession and the fight against sin, loving one another, and laying down our lives. But even after all of this, it is still Christ’s work in us that has accomplished anything worth value. We must fight, we must study to show ourselves approved, we must be careful to maintain good works, but at the end of the day we must no trust in any of these things. Our trust is placed in the completed work of Jesus Christ who accomplished all that was needed for justification, sanctification, and glorification on our behalf. At the end of a well spent day what we see is the fruit of a life that finds its abiding in Christ and even on those days where we did not find in ourselves the strength to battle sin or the endurance to tarry in the word as we should, we must still trust in the finished work of Christ to guide us into the next day. Let us be careful not to fall into a works-based mindset that only sees God’s hand at work on our ‘good’ days and not our difficult days as well. In doing so we are proclaiming a theology of works and not grace. We are trusting in our own doings rather than the doings of Christ. Surely a prolonged state of enduring sin is a motivation for deep examination and prayer, but we should never become so focused on our inability that we negate Christ’s ability on our behalf.