The True Vine
John 15:1-17

After they finished the Last Supper, Jesus and His disciples left the upper room to go to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. They would have passed through Jerusalem on the way and on one of the Temple gates there was a vine carved. Seeing this may have set the stage for Jesus to remark “I am the true Vine.”

John 15:1-5. “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.”

In the Old Testament, and particularly in the Psalms, God often used the vine to describe Himself and His people.

A vine’s main purpose is to bear fruit. The wood of a vine is not good for lumber or furniture. It burns too fast to be good firewood. But a vine in its proper state is very good for bearing fruit.

God intended all Israel to bear spiritual fruit that would glorify His Name before all the nations of the world. It hasn’t always worked that way. Hosea 10:1. “Israel is an empty vine, he brings forth fruit unto himself.” And, in Isaiah 5:2, God said, “I expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes.”

God has presently put Israel aside as His earthly vine because of their unfaithfulness. Consequently, all Israel has suffered since long before Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70. They are scattered throughout the world of the Gentiles, but they still acknowledge the one true God with one exception. They do not accept Jesus as the Messiah so they have no testimony for God. They have borne fruit only unto themselves.

God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to bear fruit for Him. Jesus realized that men would not accept Him and, in this scene, He was already on His way to the Garden of Gethsemene where He would be betrayed by one of His disciples. There would be a quick, unfair trial and He would be crucified and return to the glory of heaven.

How could He bear fruit for God in the world if He was no longer in this world? His fruit would come through His disciples. He said, “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.”

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are branches of the living Vine. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, the most important thing we are left in the world to do is to bear fruit to the glory of God. In Galatians 5:22 we see the fruit of the Christian character that God wants and the Holy Spirit enables this to be produced in the life of the believer. Those fruits are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (self-control). In our Christian life, all of these bring glory to God the Father.

No matter what we profess to believe or be, if we are not living in fellowship with God and walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, we will bear no fruit for God.

The fruit we bear, as Christians, will be the result of faithful service to Him. It will not be burned up when we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ in the coming day.

We are branches of the Vine. It is our responsibility to bear fruit. The greatest way we can glorify God is by leading souls to Christ. In fact, it’s our primary calling. Mark 16:15. “And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

There are a number of vineyards springing up in our part of the state. Every time I pass one I think of how God, as the Husbandman, constantly tends the branches of His Living Vine. The farmers prune their vines each year and that encourages growth and the vines in turn produce more fruit. God may do something similar in our lives if there is little or no fruit evident from us. The usual result in either case is more fruit.

In God's dealings with us, we shouldn’t be discouraged if that “pruning” brings some severe trials. It’s a sign that He loves us as sons. Hebrews 12:7. “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?”

If we are sincerely living for God, we may have some very difficult experiences. It’s God’s way for bringing forth more growth in our lives and more fruit for Him. 1 Peter 4:12-13. “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings.”

It’s a strange but interesting thing that in this world God sometimes seems to treat His best friends the worst. But keep in mind that the treatment of His own Son was the worst of all but it brought the world the greatest blessing that God could bestow on sinful mankind.

We don’t really have a legitimate complaint when He allows us to pass through trials and sorrows. It shows that He loves us and cares for us. His love for His own Son was at its fullest when He heard His cry from the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” And yet, He allowed Jesus to suffer and die a horrible death for us because He loved us so much. What precious fruit that was! We are branches of His Living Vine. He “prunes” us so that we may bring forth more fruit.

In verse 3, Jesus said to His followers, "You are already clean through the word which I have spoken to you." The Holy Spirit had enabled His disciples to believe in Him. They were washed by the Water of the Spirit. Now He asked them to abide in Him, meaning to stay faithful to Him, serve Him, and enjoy fellowship with Him. Verse 4. "Abide in Me, and I in you, As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can you, except you abide in Me.”

Scripture tells us that it’s only through the Holy Spirit that we understand any message from the scriptures. How forgetful we are of that sometimes!

Verses 5-6. “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.”

Jesus leaves no doubt as to where we stand in these verses. It is only through Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit to guide us, that we can bear “much fruit” for Him. There can be no fruit for God if there is no communion and fellowship maintained with Him. When the spirit of prayer is lacking and the Word of God is neglected, men will utterly ignore the testimony of those who profess to belong to Christ. Their testimony counts for nothing. However, the unsaved do take note of those who live their life in fellowship with God.

Jesus likened those who talk about being saved by grace and show little or no evidence of it in their lives to branches being cut off and thrown into the fire and burned.

Verse 7-8. “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 is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”

Verse 7 is the key to answered prayer. To abide in Christ is to feed on the Word of God daily and to live it, and obey it.

We often ask for things that we never receive and it sometimes seems that many of our prayers never reach heaven. There are two reasons for this; either God has something better in mind for us or it is because we are not abiding in Christ. Sometimes we ask for things that would not be right for us. I have a good Christian friend who has said several times that he has often thanked God for unanswered prayers. On the other hand, God has never promised to answer the prayers of the unsaved nor those who are out of fellowship with Him.

Before we pray, we might ask ourselves if there is anything in our lives that we need to confess. God already knows all about it but He wants us to admit it, just as Jacob was forced to do when He wrestled with the Angel of the Lord all night. (Genesis 32)

We might ask ourselves “Am I really abiding in Christ? Am I conscious of anything that is hindering my prayers from reaching God?” There should be nothing in our lives that will in any way hinder fellowship with Christ. If we clear away everything that is hindering our communion with Him, then we can bear “much fruit” to the glory of God the Father.

Verses 9-10. “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.”

Jesus said, “I love you just as much as My Father loves Me.” God loves those who believe in His Son just as much as He loves His Son. And the Lord Jesus loves us just as much as He loves His Father. That brings to mind an old hymn.

“In that circle of God's favor,
Circle of the Father's love;
All is rest and rest forever,
All is perfectness above.”

Jesus has every right then, to ask us to show the love we have for Him by obeying His commandments. These are not the infamous ten commandments from the Old Testament. These are His new commandments and are found in this chapter in the next few verses.

Verses 11-12. “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Here, in verse eleven, Jesus speaks of sharing His joy with us. "These things have I spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." We are told in the Old Testament that the joy of the Lord is our strength and the Lord wants us to be a joyful people.

It’s one thing to talk about love and another to make it known to the one you love. The Lord Jesus says, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love.” That is, we will be conscious of His love at all times and obey His commandments. His joy was to do the Father’s will, even when it meant going to the cross. If we are living for the Lord and are willing to do our best for Him, we’ll have joy in our heart. When we really show our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are also making known our love for Him.

Verse 13-14. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. 14. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”

The ultimate expression of love reaches its highest point when someone willingly sacrifices his life for a friend. Shortly after this, Jesus would show them how much He loved His disciples by making that sacrifice. Jesus really did a lot more than lay down His life for His friends. He died to save His enemies as well.

Verse 15. “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

Jesus makes it very plain that the disciples are more than just His followers, they are His friends. As true friends, they had been taken into His confidence. “I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

We all have good friends but most of us don’t have a lot of really close friends. We don’t like to share our secrets with just everyone but we do like to share certain things with our close friends.

The Lord Jesus says, “You are My friends.” Every believer in Him is His friend and He makes known His precious things to His friends. Those who deny Him as their Lord and Savior are strangers and cannot share in these things.

Another thing we do is tell our friends special things that we don’t tell to strangers. Jesus said, “For all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you.”

He wants His own to enter into such an intimate sense of fellowship and communion with Him that we can pray to God the Father in His name as friends. God the Father will delight to hear those prayers because they glorify the name of Jesus.

Praying in Christ's name doesn’t merely mean to close by saying, “These things we ask for in Jesus name.” In the first place, if you are not saved you are not authorized to go to God in Christ's name.

Neither are you authorized to go to God like that if you are not in fellowship with Him. John 9:31. “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.” Those who are not saved are not authorized to go to God in this way. I believe the first prayer of a sinner that God hears is the one when that person confesses Jesus Christ as their Savior.

If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior and are living a life in accordance with that fact, you can go to the Father and He will guide your requests.

God loves to answer the prayers of the redeemed. In answering prayers, He is showing His love for us and His confidence in His own beloved Son.

Verse 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 the Father in My name He may give you.”

There is something here in verse sixteen I must not pass over. Jesus said, “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” If you are saved, you most assuredly chose Christ over Satan. However, the thought here is that He included you in those He chose to redeem when He went to the cross and died for the sins of the world.

His choosing also comes into play when it comes to our realm of service. He chooses us for a special work. We may refuse to accept it, but we’ll miss out on the blessing. That work will be given to another and the blessing will go to them, but all in all, His will will be done.

Remember when Jesus cast legions of demons out of a man and he wanted to follow Him? Jesus told him that his mission was to “Go home to your friends, and tell them how great things the Lord has done for you.”

We can glorify Christ in whatever place or circumstance He puts us. But we have to recognize that He has chosen us for that task. That is the Lord's prerogative.

The Lord told Paul, when he was still called Saul of Tarsus, “I have appeared unto you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of these things which you have seen, and of those things in the which I will show unto you.” The Lord Himself wants men first to know Christ as their own Savior, and then he sends them forth to preach. Paul was an orthodox Jew and a Pharisee, about as Jewish as you can get, but after his conversion God sent him to preach to the Gentiles he previously had hated.

Jesus closes this particular section with these words. Verse 17. “These things I command you, that you love one another.” We become His friends by obeying His words. We show that we are really friends of Christ by walking in obedience. Love for one another is evidence of the grace of God working in our souls.

1 John 3:23. “And this is His commandment:
that we should believe on the name
of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another,
as He gave us commandment.”