Series: For Edification
Message – Branches – John 15
Last week worked through James 1:15-18 which says,
(15) Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin (EVIL FRUIT – PROOF of UNION), and when sin is finished, it brings forth death. (16) Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. (17) Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. (18) By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures.”
Well, we need to REMEMBER that Jesus warned us that our enemy HAS AN AGENDA! He ONLY (can anyone say ONLY)…He ONLY comes to steal, and to kill, and to destroy (John 10:10).
James – is telling us that the good and perfect gift is to become like your Maker – to be fully reborn in His image – spirit, soul & body! ANY OTHER THING will produce NOT union with God (LIFE) but separation (death).
- THIS Is where our desires and affections must lie!
- This is what we must NOT be deceived about!
James is telling us to not be deceived by fleshly desires. They are promising satisfaction and fulfillment – but they cannot deliver. The only thing which will satisfy is Jesus!
We were created for union and oneness with God through Christ Jesus both now and forever! Amen?!
Now, this week we are going to leave the lesson of desires right here and look at this same truth of fruit bearing from another angle as it is found in John 15.
Here Jesus was walking with His disciples from the upper room following the communion meal. The very meal Jesus said He had anticipated eating with them with great desire.
As they were walking towards the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus told them:
- Of their union with Him
- The necessity of bearing fruit
- The means of bearing fruit
- The results of bearing fruit
Let’s look at it, but let’s start at the end of the previous chapter so turn to John 14:22
John 14:22-31, “(22) Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” (23) Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. (24) He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. (25) “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. (26) But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (27) Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (28) You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I. (29) “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe. (30) I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. (31) But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.”
John 15:1-12, “(1) I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. (2) Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. (3) You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. (4) Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. (5) “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. (6) If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. (7) If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. (8) My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples. (9) “As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. (10) If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. (11) “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. (12) This is My command: love one another as I have loved you.”
Let me highlight a few thoughts…
The first thing you need to realize is the importance Jesus put on this issue of fruit bearing!
Consider that it was THE discussion He was led by the Holy Spirit to have with them before His separation from them and crucifixion.
THIS WAS IMPORTANT!!!
In fact, these words were IMMEDIATELY tested in the Garden, where Jesus told them, “Pray lest you enter into temptation…the spirit is willing (ready and eager) but the flesh is weak”! (SOUND FAMILIAR!?)
According to Vincent’ s Word Studies – this word Husbandman (γεωργός) Comes from two different words one means “to work” and the other “the earth”.
It is a tricky word in that on the surface the one working the earth “sounds” like a subordinate working for the land owner, when the word is used though – like with Noah planting a vineyard – clearly he was also the owner. So it could very well be that BOTH are intended.
Jesus Himself said that if you have seen Him you have seen the Father and that He was among His disciples as One Who serves. So, knowing the Father’s heart as revealed in scripture this would not be OUT of character for God the Father, as the Owner and Creator of hearts to be the One Who works them. Consider, Psalm 33:13-15,ESV
“(13) The LORD looks down from heaven; He sees all the children of man; (14) from where He sits enthroned He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, (15) He Who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.”
Secondly, the words “IN ME” & “ABIDE” are VERY important! In fact looking at them and their meaning may take our entire time together today. But the study is both necessary and worth it.
The meaning of the words “IN ME” is clear enough and is EXTREMELY intimate. It IS UNION!
The word “ABIDE” means – to remain!
So in such close connection with each other, it would seem these words work in concert to talk about being in union and continuing or remaining in union.
The one conclusion I have a hard time justifying from the text is that someone can fail to remain in a state they never were. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.
I mean it would be convenient for believers, but if I am going to allow the words to say what they appear to say without reading INTO the text – all of these words and even the larger metaphor itself is ALL referring to those who ARE His and ARE therefore ONE with Him in reality.
Now, THESE are HUGE – points and the entire point of salvation and union are addressed RIGHT HERE and the fact that SO MANY miss it or feel the need to interpret the text in a way that protects their dogma makes it all the more obvious just HOW important these words are!
When Christians miss the low hanging fruit in mass, it means that the enemy is working overtime to cause them to miss it! By low hanging fruit I mean – things which you would think are obvious.
I personally believe MUCH of the waywardness and dangers of wrong Christian theology would be completely derailed if this topic – wherever it appears in scripture were READ not simply INTERPRETED.
We do not ever want to forsake the love of the truth.
All those who want TRUTH – want to hold on to it – embracing it AS their only life say this with me!
I told you last week, and I find it both interesting and telling that the last two miracles Jesus did was to heal a blind man and restore an ear!
WOW! What a last statement to make! So Lord please open our eyes that we might see and open our ears that they might hear!
So let’s look at John 15:1-12 thought by thought as it unravels before us…
“(1) I am the true vine,
My Father is the vineyard keeper.
Here we have the relationship of saved humanity and God. The Father is the owner and keeper of the vineyard, and Jesus IS the great and true VINE.
Israel was VERY familiar with this language and it was used quite purposefully by Jesus on His disciples.
You see, ALL Israelites knew THEY were the “good and choice vine” God had planted. It was common knowledge among the Jews and a bit of a bragging point I might add. However, (and this they were taught and remembered as well) EVERY prophecy in which they were mentioned as a vine – was negative!
Here is just one of many potential examples, and we read it from Jeremiah 2 just as we did 2 weeks ago:
In verses 20-22 it says,
“(20) For of old I have broken your yoke and burst your bonds; And you said, ‘I will not transgress,’ When on every high hill and under every green tree You lay down, playing the harlot. (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? (22) For though you wash yourself with lye, and use much soap, Yet your iniquity is marked before Me,” says the Lord GOD.”
So by using this analogy Jesus was getting their attention and re-writing their theological book all at the same time.
Jesus was saying that a fundamental shift was taking place….instead of Israel being the vine – Jesus now claimed that title and called them the branches – whose ONLY connection to the Father was THROUGH HIM!
Their great tutor – the Law had done its job and brought them to Christ. NOW their connection to God was ONLY through Him!
Jesus had JUST told Thomas (and all that were around the dinner table) in the upper room, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
So their minds are already reeling as He goes on to tell them more.
Inside this new concept, Jesus begins to tell them how – for the first time in Jewish history they could finally become the fruitful vine God has so long desired to eat the fruit of…but that it MUST be in the new relationship with God the Father through HIM.
Do you think He had their attention?
Can you see at least SOME of the significance of His teaching them on this as His LAST lesson before the cross? –
Let me explain… THIS isn’t just Christianity 101 – it is the entire course on through to the doctorate level. This is EVERYTHING!!!!
So He continues,
(2) Every branch in Me
Everyone say, “IN ME” or “In Him”
THIS IS NOT a “professing” Christian only or they would not be IN HIM. Which is why I pointed out the words in him earlier as we were reading John 14. It doesn’t mean one thing there and another thing here.
This is a VERY important and yet neglected or deliberately avoided topic, but we cannot claim to love the truth and avoid difficult statements all at the same time!
If Jesus had been teaching the Law, then perhaps “IN ME” could be understood as any Jew circumcised into the Jewish faith, but the law ENDED at John!
From John forward – the Gospel of the Kingdom was preached – you know that – I’ve taught you that MANY times because it is a PIVOTAL issue in our day!
So in keeping with this, we MUST understand that Jesus did not say, “IN ME” but meant “in Judaism” – He said what He meant!
Let me ask you – How does one get IN Christ?
Paul tells us very clearly in 2 Cor. 5:17, “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
So, let’s assume Jesus and Paul BOTH knew what they were talking about and just conclude these people who are “in Him” are true children of God. You can even see them the text.
“(4) Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. (5) “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.”
Now, at the time – the disciples were ‘in Him’ in that they kept the Old Testament covenant AND accepted and obeyed Jesus’ word.
Just like blind Bartimaeus we read about last week…his confession of Jesus as “the Christ” by calling Him by the name, “Son of David” – he was placing his faith in the Messiah and Jesus told him TWO THINGS. First Jesus told him “receive your sight” AND secondly He told him “your faith HAS saved you.” Adam & Eve, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David were all set apart for salvation the same way.
So, his disciples were as ‘IN HIM’ as it got, prior to His death and resurrection.
But just to settle this issue before moving on, let’s read two passages, just be to certain that we can claim that people could be said to be “in Him” PRIOR to the cross.
Matt. 19:28, “So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
John 5:19-24, ESV “(19) So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. (20) For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. (21) For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. (22) The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, (23) that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. (24) Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
Spiros Zodhiates, whose word studies of Greek New Testament words I find invaluable defines the words “in Me” found in this particular passage this way.
“Of those with whom someone is in near connection, intimate union, oneness of heart, mind, purpose, especially of Christians, in union with Christ by faith and who are become as branches in the true vine.”
So, let’s just be honest – if we challenge this obvious meaning to “those who simply have a profession of Faith but who never really came to know Him”, we do so NOT on doctrinal grounds, but based solely upon a doctrinal bias’. We are not lovers of the truth, but creators of our own “truth”.
Jesus clearly said,
(2) Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes,
Now you can see why so many are eager to interpret rather than simply believe what is read! It is easier to change scripture than the change your life…at least until payday comes!
But we need not be afraid. This passage is LARGELY misinterpreted! I know that is a BOLD claim, but it is both verifiable and is supported by other scripture!
I deliberately placed some concordances on some of your seats so that a few people could look up this word and tell ME what it says. So if you are near a concordance, look up the words “He taketh away” you will find it is number 142 in the Greek.
What is the PRIMARY meaning given? To lift (9) remove or carry (6)
According to James Montgomery Boice, a reformed Theologian best known for his writings in defense of Biblical Inerrancy, this word airo have four basic meanings:
- To list up or pick up
- To lift up figuratively, as in lifting up one’s voice or eyes
- To lift of with the added thought of carrying away
- To remove
But he argues that the verse makes the most sense by translating it with it’s FIRST and PRIMARY meaning – that of lifting up…and I agree with him.
In context, you have a branch that is decidedly IN Christ – yet remains fruitless. What should we expect God to do – How would He respond? Chop it off and cast it away or lift it up and tie it off so as to get it closer to the Sun and further from the ground in order to encourage photosynthesis? All of these symbols really work well here!
Being closer to the earth – would be to have one’s mind on earthly things (which causes us to walk carnally).
Being closer to the Sun – well that one is obvious!
Photosynthesis is a wonderful process in which cells receive, store and convert energy directly from exposure to the sun.
Jesus IS our life in a very literal way. The more we are exposed to Him, the more we bear fruit.
So Jesus is telling us that those branches who are not bearing fruit are lifted up.
This is COMPLETELY consistent with the God Who says, “a bruised reed He will not break and a smoking flax He will not quench until He has led justice to victory (or possibly “vanquished separation”)”
Now I could easily drag you through a study on the words “in Him” or “in Christ” as they appear throughout the New Testament but I will simply summarize.
In the entire Gospel of John, Jesus uses the phrase “IN ME” 16xs (6 of them in the analogy of the vine and branches). In all of them some aspect of relationship is in view – either due to belonging to Him and being part of Him or in terms of our active communion with Him.
Paul’s use of the phrase (including “in Christ”) carries the same meanings. Truth is, I cannot think of a single example of the phrase “in Him”, “IN ME” or “in Christ” being used to describe someone who has NO relationship or communion with Him at all.
In fact, a good number of the times it is used it is referring to God IN Christ or Christ IN God – but it is with great significance that is is ALSO used in the same sentence structure and words here in this chapter regarding our union with them.
God takes this seriously!
It’s time we allow… No, require…that our hearts to do the same.
What else can we honestly do with statements like Jesus made like earlier in chapter 14… glance over there now… chapter 14.
1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.
2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? A valid question! One that was self answering which only guess to prove this point.
He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.
11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.
12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever-
17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.
20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.
21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
Do you see the connection we truly have…WE ARE TABERNACLE…WE ARE THE MENORAH!
Oneness AND communion koinonia all at the same time.
No wonder if one ‘in Him’ is not producing He is not quick to lob them off!
Turn to Luke 13:6-9,
“(6) And He told this parable: “A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. (7) He told the vineyard worker, ‘Listen, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it even waste the soil?’ (8) “But he replied to him, ‘Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. (9) Perhaps it will bear fruit next year, but if not, you can cut it down.'”
So what is this verse saying.
Are their true believers who lack fruit? Apparently… but this is more than likely referring to young and immature Christians though a backslidden or carnal Christians could certainly be in view as well.
Consider the Corinthian church who not only allowed GROSS sin in their church, according to Paul they actually took pride in it!
1Cor. 5:1-2 HCSB “(1) It is widely reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and the kind of sexual immorality that is not even condoned among the Gentiles–a man is living with his father’s wife. (2) And you are inflated with pride, instead of filled with grief so that he who has committed this act might be removed from among you.”
– and Paul called them “carnal” when he said, “I, brethren could not speak to you as spiritual but as to carnal, like babies in Christ…for where there is envy, strife and divisions among you are you not carnal and act as mere unchanged men?”
Or using James’ words who speaking to Jewish believers called them Adultresses and sinners in chapter 4 of his letter to them.
The man 1 Cor. 5 was just talking about who was living with his mother-in-law and who would not repent at first…what sort of fruit was he likely bearing?
Sticking close to the analogy – no natural grapevine branch even bears fruit in the first year anyway. Though even baby Christians do bear some fruit.
So, I believe we are on good ground to say that this first group who is bearing no fruit – He lifts up.
Similar wording is used for young – immature physical grapevine branches in today’s world. They are attempting to train these branches and get them closer to the sun for productivity.
I hope this teaching will challenge you and encourage you to place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
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