The representative analogy of the vine and the branches; John 15:1-16.

Title: The representative analogy of the vine and the branches; John 15:1-16.


John 15:16 "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.


In the upper room discourse on the night before His crucifixion, the Lord Jesus used the figure of the vine and the branches to describe His relationship to His disciples.


This revelation of the ministry of Christ to and through His disciples portrays the conditions for fruit bearing as well as the ministry of the Father, the vinedresser, the privilege of the branches in relationship to the vine, and the danger of superficial connection to Christ.


As in other figures that are used to describe spiritual truth, it is an illustration which should not be pressed beyond the proper bounds. Seen within the limitation described in the Scriptures themselves, the figure provides another important means of revealing the relationship between Christ and His own.


John 15:1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.


Christ is the true vine. The word for true (avlhqino,j; alethinos) refers to that which not only bears the name or resemblance but corresponds in its real nature to that which it is called.


This is the same word used in Heb 10:22, translated sincere.


 Alethinos has the connotation of that which is true, real, ideal, or genuine. In reference to Christ it means that He is the ultimate, perfect or infinite vine who always performs what a perfect vine must continually do – bear fruit through its branches.


The amount of fruit that God desired in EP will be produced by the church, therefore it is not correct to say that God needs me to bear fruit, while it is correct to say that I have the opportunity and privilege to bear fruit.


As is so well put by a wonderful theologian: I do not live as one who is trying to become righteous, rather I live as one who is righteous.


Christ is the true vine in contrast to Israel, which has proved to be a false vine not bearing proper fruit for God (Psa 80:8; Isa 5:1-7).


Ps 80:8

Thou didst remove a vine from Egypt;

Thou didst drive out the nations, and didst plant it.


Isa 5:1 Let me sing now for my well-beloved

A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard.

My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill [fertile crescent].


Isa 5:2 And He dug it all around [protection], removed its stones [evicted the prior inhabitants],

And planted it with the choicest vine [word of God].

And He built a tower in the middle of it [see enemies],

And hewed out a wine vat in it [production];

Then He expected it to produce good grapes [spiritually mature],

But it produced only worthless ones [apostasy, religions].


Isa 5:3 "And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,

Judge between Me and My vineyard.


Isa 5:4 "What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?,

Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?


Isa 5:5 "So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard:

I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed;

I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.


Isa 5:6 "And I will lay it waste;

It will not be pruned or hoed,,

But briars and thorns will come up.

I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it."


Isa 5:7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,

And the men of Judah His delightful plant.,

Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;,

For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.


Christ is the true vine in the same sense that He is the true life and the true bread. Those who are properly related to Christ, therefore, have a true fruitfulness and an abundant life.


Expositors of the figure of the vine and the branches, as given in John 15, have often erred by attempting to pursue the figure too far. It is obvious that every figure of speech or illustration is designed to teach a particular truth, and the figure cannot in all its particulars be made to agree with its corresponding spiritual counterpart. Accordingly, those who press this figure beyond reasonable bounds end with explanations of details contradicted by other portions of Scripture.


In any attempt at exposition of this passage it is necessary first to state clearly the purpose of the figure. The theme of the passage is indicated in the eightfold repetition of the word “fruit.” The major concept, therefore, is fruitfulness, such as normally would be expected of a branch properly related to the vine. Inasmuch as fruitfulness is in view, it is, therefore, an error to attempt to make this an illustration of salvation, condemnation, or imputation, as these great doctrines are not in view.


The central thought is that fruitfulness depends on the kind of branch in the vine. A fruitful branch must have a counterpart in regenerated souls who are supernaturally united to Christ and this qualified to bring forth fruit.


Fruit - divine good production in thought, word, and deed.


Divine good - production that is directed by the word of God, under the power of the HS, and motivated by love for God.


DG - a right thing done in a right way.


The only one who can judge divine good is God since only He can see the motivations of the heart.


The major problem in exegesis of this figure is to determine the character of the unfruitful branches. These branches, of course, do not reveal any true ministry of Christ, as they do not in any real sense partake of the ministry of the vine but are described as being cast into a fire where they are burned. Various explanations have been advanced to account for their character.


First rule of exposition: No expositor should build a doctrine from one passage.


John 15:6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.


Some have attempted to describe the unfruitful branches as genuinely saved Christians who, because of unfruitfulness, are taken from this life because they have committed the sin unto death (1 John 5:16). This point of view regards their ministry as being useless to the extent that God takes them out of the world.


A second view is advanced by A. C. Gaebelien who considers the fruitless branches as professing Christians joined to the professing church. These outwardly appear to be in union with Christ but actually are not joined to the true vine. This lack of vital connection is revealed in the fact that they are cut off and in the end reveal that they are fitted for destruction instead of fruitfulness.


R. H. Lightfoot states that point of view in another way: “Since true discipleship is bound to show itself in fruit-bearing (15:8), and fruitful branch is removed (in 15:2, 6 there is perhaps an indirect reference to the defection of Judas, as being typical of all faithless discipleship), and fruitful branches are pruned. To increase their capacity to bear fruit.”


A third view, probably the least satisfactory, is that the unfruitful branches have reference to Israel, and Judas in particular, who are cut off to make way for fruitful believers in Christ. A parallel is cited in Rom 11:17 where the unfruitful branches are broken off the olive tree and new branches are grafted in which will bear fruit.


Dried up - divine discipline (warning, intensive). Burned - sin unto death.


Undoubtedly the major problem in the exposition of this passage is the attempt to make explicit that which is only implied. The practice of pruning the vine and cutting out unfruitful branches was common in the care of natural vines.


There are many representative analogies in the Bible and every one of them are taken out of their boundaries by someone which almost always leads to false doctrines. God has protected us from doing this by repeating His doctrines throughout the scripture. There are many passages that teach eternal security and so to say that the burned branches are believers who have lost their salvation means you are on a bridge too far. By the way, vine branches don't burn very well at all.


The purpose of this analogy in vs. 1-16 is to teach fruit production and not the great doctrines of salvation or discipline.


The major point is that true fruitfulness is derived from proper connection to the true vine. It apparently was not the intent of the passage to develop at length the precise relationship to the unfruitful branches. In John 15:6 the appeal is made to human customs rather than to divine activity n this regard.


The ministry of the true vine to the true branches has as its main thought the truth that Christ is the source of life and fruitfulness for all who are related to Him.


The branches have both their existence and life because they are joined to Christ. Apart from Christ they can do nothing.


In the figure the thought of sanctification is obviously indicated because the branches are purged by the work of the Father as well as by the word of Christ (John 15:2-3).


John 15:2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit.


John 15:3 "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.


Experiential sanctification: the work of God through doctrine and the filling of the HS, as applied to suffering and testing, in separating the believer from the influences of the sin nature and the world.


This is the analogy of pruning. God the Father through His plan is cutting away excess endeavors that are drawing energy away from fruit production. 


As vines are seldom fruitful unless properly pruned, so the work of Christ through His word is designed to make the fruitful branches bear more fruit.


The main condition for the fruitfulness is embodied in the words “Abide in Me” (John 15:4).


John 15:4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.


Abiding describes the relationship in which a believer has the full benefit of union with Christ.


Abide - to remain without leaving. The full benefit of union with Christ is realized through fellowship with Him in time through consistent use of the rebound technique and daily perception of doctrine.


The believer produces the action to abide by taking advantage of grace. He guards the many categorical doctrines as precious.


John 15:10 "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.


The fruitful branch is both yielded to Christ and in complete dependence upon Him.


Answered prayer is assured the believer who is abiding in Christ and praying according to His will.


John 15:7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.


John 15:16 "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.


The passage emphasizes degrees of fruitfulness which are stated as (1) fruit [vs.2], (2) more fruit  [vs.2], and (3) much fruit [vs.5].


Attending fruit production fills the heart of the believer with wonderful joy, the happiness of God.


John 15:11 "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.


The joy of the Christian is in sharp contrast to the pleasure of the world. True Christian joy is the byproduct of fruitfulness and is wrought in the heart by the Spirit who produces His own fruit of love, joy, and peace.


It is most significant that the branches of the vine are useless for anything other than bearing fruit (Ezek 15:2-5).


Ezek 15:1 Then the word of the Lord came to me saying,


Ezek 15:2 "Son of man, how is the wood of the vine better than any wood of a branch which is among the trees of the forest?


Ezek 15:3 "Can wood be taken from it to make anything, or can men take a peg from it on which to hang any vessel?


Ezek 15:4 "If it has been put into the fire for fuel, and the fire has consumed both of its ends, and its middle part has been charred, is it then useful for anything?


Ezek 15:5 "Behold, while it is intact, it is not made into anything. How much less, when the fire has consumed it and it is charred, can it still be made into anything!


The character of branches of the vine makes it impossible to use them for building, they are of no use as firewood, and their beauty as branches is negligible. Only in fruitfulness can an branch related to the vine fulfill its divine purpose and function.


In a similar way in Christian experience, the secret of an effective service does not lie in natural endowments or in advancement of self-interests but is rather expressed fully in permitting the life of fruitfulness of Christ to be manifested through the believer.


The result of abiding in Christ as symbolized in the vine and the branches has been summarized in the triad “Fruit perpetual; joy celestial; prayer effectual.” (John Walvoord)


The joy mentioned is given special character by Christ as being “my joy” (John 15:11), that is, the joy that was in the heart of Christ in fulfilling the will of God in His life.


When understood in their proper significance, the vine and the branches teach the basic lessons of proper relationship to Christ, dependence, faith and fruitfulness together with the wonderful life realized by the true branches.


John 15:16 "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.


Fruit that doesn't remain is production that on the surface looks like divine good, but in reality it is human good from defective motivation.

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