“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 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. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 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.” (John 15:1-4).
John 15 begins with the seventh, but not the final “I Am” statement by Jesus. The first was “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35). The second was “I am the Light of the World” (John 8:12). The third was “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7-9). The fourth was “I am the good Shepherd (John 10:11-16). The fifth was “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25-26. The sixth was “I am the way, the truth and the life (John 14:1-6). Again, Jesus used the significant phrase “I Am” (ἐγώ εἰμί; ego eimi) to indicate that He presently and actively exists as Yahweh Incarnate.
What did Jesus mean when He compared Himself to a vine and for that matter, a true vine? The word “true” (ἀληθινός; alethinos) means genuine or real along with not being imaginary. The word “vine” (ἄμπελος; ampelos) specifically refers to a grapevine. Jesus spoke of a fruit bearing vine. Coupled together these two words, Jesus was expressing the inward and intimate fellowship He has with each of His disciples: then and now.
As one commentator explains, ““Vine,” is applied metaphorically by Jesus to Himself in the NT (Jn. 15:1). The allegory of the vine tended by the gardener, from which the sap flows into the branches, denotes in the first instance the inner fellowship of the disciples with Jesus, which rests on their utter dependence and in which they must abide and bring forth fruit (v. 4ff.). It then denotes the intensive nurture of the community of disciples by God (v. 1ff.).”
For Jesus to say that He is the “true vine” presumes that there are those who pretend they are either true vines, or connected to such, but in reality are liars and deceivers. This would include Satan who is the father of lies (Genesis 3; John 8:44) along with those who follow him (I John 2:26).
The Epistle of Jude describes those who are described as united to an untrue vine and are also within the church. Jude 10-13 says, “But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.”
Dr. John MacArthur provides an insightful explanation of this significant metaphor of the vine and the branches. He says, “Through this extended metaphor of the vine and branches, Jesus set forth the basis of Christian living. Jesus used the imagery of agricultural life at the time; i.e., vines and vine crops (see also Matt. 20:1–16; 21:23–41; Mark 12:1–9; Luke 13:6–9; 20:9–16). In the OT, the vine is used commonly as a symbol for Israel (Ps. 80:9–16; Isa. 5:1–7; 27:2–6; Jer. 2:21; 12:10; Ezek. 15:1–8; 17:1–21; 19:10–14; Hos. 10:1–2). He specifically identified himself as the “true vine” and the Father as the “vinedresser” or caretaker of the vine. The vine has two types of branches: 1) branches that bear fruit (John 15:2, 8), and 2) branches that do not (vv. 2, 6). The branches that bear fruit are genuine believers. Though in immediate context the focus is upon the 11 faithful disciples, the imagery also encompasses all believers down through the ages.”
We have much more to glean from this text but we will conclude today with this thought: Are you joined to the true vine, Jesus Christ, by grace alone, through faith alone? If not, then you are not joined to the true vine. If you are, then what kind of fruit is Jesus producing through you for His glory and honor?
More to come!
Soli deo Gloria!