What did Jesus mean by abiding in the vine? Does this have application to us in specific ways? What is the meaning of abiding in the vine?
The vine is a symbol of ancient Israel. It was engraved on the temple as symbolic to being attached to the Vinedresser, which is God Himself. Israel was to be a witness to the pagan nations that surrounded her and she was supposed to produce fruit, or evidence, that faithfulness and obedience to God would produce good fruit and would be a blessing to all that are attached to this Vine. Being attached to the vine would necessarily produce fruit as grapes would be produced in a vineyard but if the vine is not attached or is broken off, fruit will not be produced, and in fact it would be impossible for fruit to even grown. The vine had a special meaning to the nation of Israel and it does today to the Christian as we shall see by Jesus’ using this in His teaching here.
Abiding in the Vine
John 15: 1-11 “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. I 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. 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. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 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. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
It is helpful to break down and comment on these verses to see exactly what Jesus was telling us. Everything Jesus taught was beneficial to believers but this teaching is especially important because it gives us evidence to the fact that we are His and that we are abiding in Him. If we are not, we will not produce fruit for no fruit has ever been produced that has not been attached to the branch.
John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.”
The identity of the Vinedresser is given in the first verse. The Father is the Vinedresser and Jesus is the vine. We are obviously the branches.
John 15:2 “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.”
What is interesting here is that if a branch (believers) is not bearing fruit, God will take it away and every branch that He prunes is pruned so that it will bear more fruit. We prune our roses every year. It looks like I might even kill it by cutting it back so much. I can understand why if someone who didn’t know about roses saw what I did by pruning it would think that I am destroying it. The roses may be hurt in the short term but pruning induces more growth in the long run. God also prunes us and it is certainly painful at the time but this pruning will produce more fruit in us. I love roses and so by my pruning them I reveal that I love my roses because my wife and daughter love roses. If I didn’t care about them then I’d leave them alone and if I left them alone, they would produce far fewer roses. The fruit is evidence of our abiding in the vine and the pruning is evidence that the Father loves us for what father doesn’t discipline his own children whom he loves (Heb 12:7)? Our pruning shows that the Father loves us and that we are His own children (Heb 12:6).
John 15:3 “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.”
Jesus reveals that these disciples of His are already “clean” because of their relationship to Jesus, even before the cross. That is because what Jesus did at Calvary goes back in time and forward in the future for all who have faith in God. This includes Abraham, Moses and all others who have trusted God or who will yet in the future trust in Him. The “word” has a cleansing effect on believers (Eph 5:26).
John 15:4 “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.”
What does it mean to abide in Christ? To abide means to dwell with, dwell in or live in. It can be said that we all abide in our homes. If we are in our homes we are abiding in them. If we are abiding in Christ…He is abiding in us…or living within us. Unless He abides in us it is impossible to bear fruit because a branch (us) that is not abiding in the vine (Jesus) cannot possibly produce any fruit at all. Jesus is called the Word of God (John 1) and if we are abiding in His Word, the Bible, we are abiding in Him and He is abiding in us. If we get into the Bible the Bible will get into us. If we go through the Bible the Bible will go through us. If we are in the Word the Word will be in us. If we read the Bible the Bible will read us.
John 15:5 “I 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.”
There is an interesting phrase in this verse where Jesus says “apart from me” the Greek says “severed from me.” The phrase “severed from me” is the idea of being cut off from Him. When a branch is severed from the Vine (Christ), it is little wonder that Jesus says “severed from me you can do nothing.” It will whiter and die. Christians will wither away, shrink, and die apart from the Vine but if we do abide in Him, clearly we will bear “much fruit.” If we don’t abide in the Vine, not even one grape can be produced.
John 15:6 “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.”
If a believe is not abiding in Christ then they will not produce any fruit and what use is the branch if it isn’t producing fruit except for the purpose of being gathered and thrown into a burn pile. Is this meaning that a believer who stops abiding in Christ will be cast into hell? No, because the context of this chapter gives no indication of this. It could be possible that the Lord can take someone home for if they are not producing fruit. If believers are not producing fruit, they are not glorifying God (John 15:8).
John 15:7 “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
This teaching takes a different turn as we see that the effectiveness of our prayers is tied into our abiding in Christ. If we are abiding in Christ and His words (the Bible) then whatever we asked He will grant if it is His will. This means that the opposite must also be true. If we are not abiding in Christ and in His Word, then even our prayers are blocked or made ineffective.
John 15:8-11 “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 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. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Verse 8 is actually tied to verse 7 which shows that if we abide in Christ and in His Word, whatever we ask for we will receive according to His will. Answered prayer glorifies the Father because we are honoring Christ and the Word of God, the Bible. Evidence of our abiding in Christ is that we are keeping His commandments for if we keep Jesus’ commands then we are abiding in His love. Just like children, we tend to obey whom we love and when we obey, this proves our love for them. We show God we love Him if we obey His commandments. Jesus taught that if we love Him we will obey Him (John 14:15).
We have a vineyard near our home. When I see the branch it is impossible for the naked eye to see if it is a dead branch that needs to be pruned or one that is abiding in the vine. Even the owner of the grape vineyard cannot tell whether the branch is alive or not. The only way he can tell is by bending it. If it is dead, the sap will not enter it and the vinedresser of this vineyard breaks it off and throws it into a pile that needs to be burned. He can’t tell if it’s attached or not until he bends it. If it breaks off, then there is no sap going into it. If it bends but doesn’t break, then the branch is truly attached to the vine and it’s being fed by the vine. God also bends us to see if we are indeed attached to the vine. Those who are not attached are broken off and burned. Those who are attached will produce fruit because they’re being fed by the vine. The analogy is perfect. If we are attached, we are feeding on the Vine (and His Word).
Jesus chose us so that we would bear fruit to God’s glory (John 15:8; 16). This was the same reason that Israel was a chosen people. If we don’t abide in the Word of God, which is like abiding in Christ, it is impossible for us to bear fruit. If we bear no fruit, we are good for nothing more than the burn pile. If a person is not saved, they cannot possibly bear any fruit at all except the fruit of the flesh which will ultimately send them to a fiery judgment (Gal 5:19-21) however if we are abiding in Christ and He in us through His written Word, we will produce godly fruit that glorifies God and testifies that we are the children of God (Gal 5:22-24). You prove what manner of spirit you are by what manner of fruit you produce. That is part of the reason Jesus told us to abide in Him, the true Vine, or else be cast into the fire.