This is the sermon for Wednesday November 4th, 2009.
John part 66
The vine and the branches
John 15:1-11 ESV – 1“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 does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I 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. 11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
In John 14:31 Jesus ended the last supper. More than likely, they are now headed toward the garden of Gethsemane. Though they have left the room they had the meal in, Jesus still has many more things to instruct the Eleven in because His time is short. In just a few hours, He will be taken from them; so Jesus does not waste this moment. The next hours are precious to Him.
In tonight’s study, we are going to see Jesus use the earthly, natural imagery of vines and branches. “Jesus regularly used object and customs from daily life to illustrate profound spiritual lessons.” – (Life Application Commentary of the book of John, Page 305)
Here Jesus used an illustration that the Eleven could understand: vines and branches and pruning. Let’s begin.
Jesus reveals Himself as the true vine and the Father as the vine dresser.
John 15:1 ESV – I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
I like what John Calvin says about this verse in His commentary: “The essence of this comparison is that by nature we are barren and dry except insofar as we have been grafted into Christ and draw a new power from Him, outside of ourselves.”
This is the last I AM statement in the book of John. You will notice that Jesus calls Himself here “the true vine.” What did He mean by that statement? Well, our 21st century Gentile minds miss it, but I’m sure the Eleven would have caught it. In the Old Testament Scriptures Israel was known as, “God’s vine”, or, “God’s vineyard.” But they never kept God’s commandments, therefore God had to remove them.
Isaiah 5:1-7 ESV – 1Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 5And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. 7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!
Jesus on the other hand is the true vine. While Israel refused to keep the commandments of God, Christ lovingly humbled Himself and kept the Father’s commandments perfectly.
Jesus goes on to state in verse 1 that the Father is the vinedresser. A vinedresser was the gardener who would tend and care for the vine insuring its growth. He would also cut away and prune it, and if there were any branches of the vine that were bad or fruitless, he would cut them off from the vine and throw them away.
Israel had become fruitless branches of the vine, therefore God had cut them off in the sense that they were no longer the vine of God, but Christ was.
Romans 11:21-22 ESV – 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.
Christ, through the gospel and His disciples, is the true vine producing good fruit. God cares for the true vine and the branches it produces and insures its growth.
The results of branches not bearing fruit – they are cut off and burned in the fire.
John 15:2&6 ESV – 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
Branches are the believers or disciples of Christ. Truthfully, the branches mentioned here are actually both true believers and false believers.
We must understand that throughout church history there have always been true believers and false believers. Even when Christ had His Eleven – He also had His false follower – Judas.
Now how do we know the difference between the two? Well, we will look at the marks of the true believer in a moment; but let’s first look at the marks of a false believer according to the gospels.
Marks of a false believer:
- They are recognized by their false fruit.
Matthew 7:15-20 ESV – 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
- They have a false confession.
Matthew 7:21 ESV – Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
- Performing miraculous signs is not true fruit that you are a true believer.
Matthew 7:22-23 ESV – 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
- Both false believers and true believers will grow together until the end of the age.
Matthew 13:24-30 ESV – 24He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”
What is the end result of false believers?
- Cut off or removed.
John 15:2a ESV – Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away…
- Burned in the fire: eternal torment.
John 15:6 ESV – If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
The results of branches abiding in the vine.
John 15:4-5 ESV – 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:7-11 ESV – 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I 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. 11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Branches that continue to abide in the vine are true believers. These are those who have been made clean and pure through the Word of Christ – the gospel.
John 15:3 ESV – Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
Signs of a true believer:
- True believers abide in Christ. They continue in Him, persevering to the end.
- True believers are not cut off but pruned by the Father. This is what suffering and persecution is all about – pruning.
- True believers bear fruit. They share the gospel, pray for one another, love one another.
- True believers pray and the Lord hears and answers. Remember, these are not selfish, carnal prayers, but praying the will of the Father.
- True believers are obedient to the Lord.
- True believer’s joy is the joy of the Lord.
Before we conclude, John Calvin in his commentary on the book of John says something I believe is rather powerful concerning the “asking whatever we wish” portion of this text: “He is not giving us permission to indulge ourselves. It would be a bad way of helping our salvation if God gave in to us so readily and indulgently, for we know what foolish and extravagant desires people have. But here He limits His people’s wishes to praying aright; this subjects all our desires to God’s judgment. This is confirmed by the context, for He means that His people not desire riches, honor, etc… which the sinful nature foolishly desires; rather, they want the vital tap of the Holy Spirit, which enables them to bear fruit.”
As we conclude tonight, find comfort in abiding in Christ. Persevere through every hard, difficult time.