Jesus’ “I Am” Statements – 08 (“I Am the True Vine”)
(Message by Kobus van der Walt, Three Rivers Baptist Church – Sunday, 24 March 2019)
- 1. INTRODUCTION:
During the previous 7 Sundays, we’ve been looking at seven “I AM”statements by Jesus, namely:
- “Before Abraham, I AM”
- “I AM the Bread of Life”
- “I Am the Light of the World”
- “I AM the Door,”
- “I AM the Good Shepherd,
- “I Am the Resurrection and Life,”
- “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
This brings us to the eighth and last “I Am”statement, namely, “I Am the True Vine.”
The last verse in John chapter 14 tells us that Jesus and the Disciples are about to leave the upper room. They are heading to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus will pray His great High Priestly prayer and, then later be arrested by the mob led by Judas. Apparently, Jesus spoke the words which make up chapters 15 and 16 on their way to the garden. Let’s listen to what He said in chapter 15:1-11.
- 2. SCRIPTURE READING:
John 15:1-11 (ESV) ~ “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. 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. 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. 7 If 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
In today’s message, we will look at our topic according to the following three main points:
- The Personality of the True Vine (15:1-3);
- The Purpose of the True Vine (15:2-8);
- The Promise of the True Vine (15:7-11).
Down through Jewish history the vine became the symbol of Israel. During the Maccabees period of history, the symbol of the vine was on the coins of Israel. It was over the main doors of the synagogues, etc. The vine is used right through Scripture as various symbols, e.g. Is.5:2 where Judah is described as a vineyard that would be destroyed ~ “He 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.”Here Isiah, in the form of a song, pictured Judah as a vineyard on a fertile hillside who was planted by his Loved One, i.e. God. God has removed the stones and planted the best vines. He even built a watchtower, a stone structure from which to guard the vineyard. And He made a winepress in anticipation of producing good wine. However, only poor grapes grew on His vines and therefore, God would destroy it – Judah would be destroyed.
Jesus also used the vine as an example to convey the truth and fact about His character and calling, when telling them that He is the “True Vine.” It was mid-April when Jesus and His disciples walked to the Garden of Gethsemane and the grape vines would begin to blossom with the promise of a fresh harvest, so Jesus probably stopped by one of these, to use it as a visual aid in preparing His disciples for a new era after His ascension that would take place within a couple of days. He was preparing them to continue the work of the Lord and if they were to carry on that work, they needed to know how to produce the correct kind of fruit in their own lives.
As we already know, it was not only expected from “the eleven”to carry on the work of the Lord, but all of His disciples, throughout the ages – as an example we can quote Acts 1:8 ~ “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”Jesus’ eighth “I Am” statement is therefore, all about becoming a genuine Disciple and about how to bear fruit for the glory of the Lord and becoming more like Him.
- 3. THE PERSONALITY OF THE TRUE VINE (15:1-3):
Jesus says on 15:1 ~ “I am the true vine,” or literally: “I am the Vine, the real,”implying He is the only true Vine. He is the true Source of real life and fruitfulness. The fruit produced by a branch is only as good as the life (sap) flowing into it and through it, which is only as good as the original vine stock. Other sources that you cling to will fail, but if you are joined to Jesus you will produce good fruit in your character and life (work). If Jesus is not your Source, you cannot bear good fruit.
In the second part of 15:1 Jesus says ~ “My Father is the Vinedresser.”The Father is the expert Farmer (or Gardener), who personally inspects and tends to all the branches to ensure they are as fruitful as possible. This task is so vital, that He does not delegate it to an angel. He is inspecting your life, expecting to see fruit!
While describing the function of each part of the vine, Jesus cleverly compares the vine to the Trinity. In 15:1 we see that Jesus, the Son, is the vine. The Father is the Vinedresser or the Gardener and the Holy-Spirit is the Life-Sap, flowing out of Jesus Christ into branches and according to 15:2, the branches are the believers (15:5), who are in Christ– united to Christ by the new-birth. Upon believing, we were put (baptised) into Christand were regenerated as a new-creation ~ “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come”(2 Cor.5:17). Upon believing, we are made one spirit with Christ ~ “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him”(1 Cor.6:17). We are in Him and He is in us. Through Christ Jesus and in Him, we are connected and united with God, with His life now able to flow into us!
- 4. THE PURPOSE OF THE TRUE VINE (15:2-8);
It is clear from these opening verses of Jesus’ last “I Am” statement, that the Father is the vinedresser who is involved in everything that has to do with the Vine.
He has two specific “duties” and we need to be deeply involved in it:
- Protection: The Father (Gardener) provides care and protection for the Vineyard ~ “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Prov.15:3).
- Purification:The Father (Gardener) desires fruit from the vine”, which is mentioned eight times in this chapter.We can see a clear progression in our text – in 15:2, He mentions “fruit.” Then also in 15:2, He speaks of “bearing more fruit”and in 15:5, 8, He refers to “much fruit.” uses two primary methods of purifying His vineyard. But, He then goes on to be very explicit about His second “duty”:
- Cleaning: The Gardener also removes things from the branch that weakens the branch from its vitality and strength. Things like sucker branches, useless buds, misdirected shoots, spots, discoloured leaves, etc. Anything that consumes life and prevents more fruit must go! This means that when we get to a place in our Christian lives where we tend to become unfruitful and barren, the Lord will reach into our lives, disturbing our slumber and prune us, thereby challenging us and shock us to growth. There are times when the Lord can only accomplish this through chastisement. Which, if responded to with repentance, will help us to be fruitful for His glory.
How is this pruning accomplished? By the Word of God ~ “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebr.4:12)and James 1:23-24 ~ “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.”
Apart from the fact that fruit-bearing proves to the world that we are disciples of the Lord, 15:8 reminds us that if we take these words to heart we will stay firm in our relationship with Jesus. We will continue to bear fruit and, in doing so, glorify the Father. This ought to be the burning desire of every child of God. That is, to live our lives that every waking minute is bringing glory to the Father in Heaven ~ “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”(1 Cor. 10:31). There is something wrong in any life when there is no desire to bring glory and honour to the God who loves us; sustains us and cares for us.
We must however, keep in mind that fruit bearing only requires from us, to abide in the Vine (i.e. Jesus Christ) – if we abide in Him, He will produce the fruit – we are not required to do anything but abide. It is the Vine’s responsibility to produce His fruit in our lives. That frees us from having to work and labour to get His approval. If we will yield, He will live through your life and mine! This also applies to the quantity of fruit that we deliver. We don’t have to work or produce fruit ‘till “we drop dead.”This is not the responsibility of the branch. Some will produce much, some will produce little. Which depends upon the will of the Vine. Our duty is to abide in Him – that must be our priority!
However, it is also clear from our passage, that God anticipates a steady progression in the level of our fruitfulness. I’ve already mentioned the progression in 15:2, 8 – no fruit, fruit, more fruit, much fruit! The closer we abide in the Vine, the more fruit He will produce through our lives.
We find a stern warning in 15:4. If a branch does not abide in the Vine as it should and it is fruitless and withered, four certain things will happen to such a ‘fruitless” branch:
- Cutting: A branch that bears nofruit is obviously dead. Therefore, like Judas, it is cut off. Every year in Palestine gardeners prune their vines. They cut off the dead wood which has no life in it and trim the living branches so that their yield will be greater. This means that every person who professes to be Christ’s disciple (a ‘branch’) is not necessarily a true follower.
- No Fellowship:If the branch however, does not start anew, drawing “life giving” sap, he will surely be cut off and cast out and the chance to start drawing sap at a later stage again will be over for ever. Such a person will forever loose the privilege of enjoying fellowship with the Father.
- No Reward:When this life is over, there will be many who name the name of Jesus and were unfruitful. They will experience the loss of every reward ~ “…each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:13-15).
- 5. THE PROMISE OF THE TRUE VINE (15:7-11):
Jesus, in sharing His eighth “I Am”statement with His disciples, had good news to those who abide in the True Vine, because they can rest assured of certain precious and sure promises!
- Effectual Prayer (15:7):In 15:7b Jesus promised His disciples that they can… ~ “ask whatever (they) wish, and it will be done for (them).”This promise is a repetition of the promise in 14:13 ~ “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it,”also 16:23 ~“In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”
This astounding command and promise is not without conditions and limitations. There is a prerequisite – 15:7a ~ “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you.”Asking whatever they wish and receiving it, involve however, such an intimate union and harmony with Christ that nothing will be asked out of accord with the mind of Christ and so of the Father, because such a believer will always ask in the spirit of… ~ “…not my will, but thine, be done”(Luke 22:42), and in complete harmony with all that Christ has revealed concerning Himself, i.e. the person that abides in Christ will always ask “in Christ’s name.”
Apart from answered prayers, abiding in Christ has three more glorious results:
- Glorifying God (15:8):Jesus gives His disciples a second promise if they would “abide in Him”and that is that they will bear much fruit. I have already expanded on this point and therefore I would just like to add the following. These fruit that Jesus spoke of, is obviously spiritual fruit – the spiritual fruit of the Holy Spirit as mentioned in Gal.5:22-23 ~ “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”Those disciples of Jesus will become more Christ-like.
The ultimate goal for the disciples of Christ, is to glorify God the Father and Jesus tells His disciples that when they abide in Him, they will bear more fruit and when bearing fruit, believers will glorify God.
- Abiding in Christ’s Love (15:9-10):Jesus declares in 15:9-10 that if we keep His commandments, we will abide in His love. Many Christians have been so frightened off by the idea that obedience is works righteousness that they fail to understand what keeping commandments are all about. It is wrong to try to keep God’s commandments in our own strength – such a person will inevitably fail (just as the Jews did when they went about trying to establish their own righteousness). On the other hand, Jesus regularly commands us to obey Him (as He does in our text for today). We must follow the Scriptures in the wisdom and strength of the Holy Spirit and do what we are told to do.
Abiding in Christ’s love is to be controlled by Christ’s love. Paul says in 2 Cor.5:14-15 the following ~ “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
Colin Smith says (© Colin S. Smith. Website: UnlockingtheBible.org), “…to be controlled by the love of Christ means to be energised by this love and moved into action and directed by it. To be filled with the love of Christ would mean that you enjoy this love. But to be controlled by the love of Christ means that others are touched by this love through you. Here is something marvelous. This is at the height of what can happen in the life of a Christian believer in this world – to be controlled by the love of Christ.”
- Experiencing Fulness of Joy (15:11):The Greek word χαρά(chara)that is used in 15:11 is one of the glorious results from abiding in Christ. If we look at the meaning of the word “chara,”we see that it is often used to express the feeling and experience of people, experiencing God’s presence by the Holy Spirit. Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit’s presence and work in the lives of believers (Gal 5:22). Joy enables believers to endure trials and suffering of the Christian life. The Thessalonians received the Word ~ “…in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit…,”which probably means joy given by the Holy Spirit (1 Thess.1:6). At the same time, believers are to count their difficulties as joy ~ “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (Jas 1:2), and God gives joy along with patient endurance (Col 1:11).
Furthermore, joy is connected with and is evidence of faith ~“Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith”(Phil 1:25). For example, Peter tells his audience that though they do not see Jesus Christ, they believe and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and full of glory (1 Pet 1:8). Paul experiences joy when he prays for believers (Phil 1:4). Jesus teaches that, one who finds the kingdom of God will, with great joy, give up all of one’s possessions to gain it (Matt 13:44). “Chara”thus refers to both an internal, emotional response and an action that one does.
- 6. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
The question this morning is this: Has the Lord been speaking to you through His Word? If so, you have to obey and listen to the call from the Lord? I challenge you to allow the Lord to prune your life with His Word. If that is not accomplished, He will take further and far more drastic measures.
I want to ask the following to those who are saved: Do you experience effectual prayer? Is your love for God, glorifying Him? Are you abiding in Him? Do you experience joy, even in difficulties?
For those who are not sure of salvation, I want to say that you are not in the vine and that you are not abiding in the vine and you are not bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is the True Vine. His desire is to live through your life so that you might bear fruit unto the Heavenly Father.
You must ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you “in the Vine”? Have you ever been saved and grafted into Jesus?
- Are you “abiding in the Vine”? Are you drawing your strength from Him so that He is able to produce His fruit through your life?”
- Are you bearing His fruit today? Where do you stand with Jesus today?
If God has revealed areas in your life that need to be pruned back or otherwise dealt with today, then I challenge you to come to Jesus and let Him take care of your need. If you have never been saved, please come and let me show you how you can be placed into the Vine and become a child of God. Is there a need? If so, Jesus is the supply! You come if the Lord has called you!