“I am the true vine,” Jesus says in John 15, “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.” (John 15:1-2, ESV)
By itself, a branch is weak and brittle. If it weren’t for the fruit a branch may produce, it would be worth little more than a stick for whittling. You can’t build a house or construct a bench with a branch. In fact, branches are only used for one of two pur- poses: bearing or burning. Either they are left on the vine to bear fruit or they are gathered into a bunch and burned.
What makes a branch useful is not what it is in itself, but how connected it is to the vine. You can see how Christ’s analogy is taking shape, and Scripture affirms it repeatedly. We are the bride and Jesus is the bridegroom (Eph. 5:25-33), believers are the mem- bers and Christ is the body (1 Cor. 12), and we are the sheep and Jesus is the shepherd (John 10). By ourselves, we are nothing but kindling; connected to the vine, the body, or the shepherd, we find our purpose. Indeed, you, as a branch, can do nothing apart from him. The more quickly you realize this, the more quickly you will acknowledge your dependence on him and your need for his strength.
Remaining in the Vine
So what is our role as a branch? In this metaphor, God’s role is to plant and cultivate the vineyard; it is Christ who is the Vine, and we depend entirely on the Vine for strength. How does this happen? Jesus elaborates in John 15:4: “Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.”
The Greek word for “remain,” as some translations put it, is a difficult one to translate into English. Of the 120 occurrences in the New Testament alone, the word is translated as abide, remain, dwell, continue, tarry, and endure. The word is used eleven times in the first eleven verses of John 15. Rather than trying to pin down an accurate English word for it, however, it would serve us well to figure out how it is we are to abide, remain, dwell, tarry, and continue.
When a person submits to the lordship of Christ, he begins to work in us so that he can work through us. When we make him our home, he takes up residence in us. Think of your home. Your home is your base of operation. It is a place of comfort, security, and familiarity. It is what you await after a long, difficult day. It is where you find refreshment and renewal. It is where you keep the things you love the most. If Christ tells us to abide in him, what he is saying is, “Draw all of your hope, security, satisfaction, joy, refreshment, and renewal from me!”
True Comfort and Security
Just as we feel most protected in our homes, where we are comfortable and secure, we are strengthened likewise in Christ. But Jesus takes it a step further. He asserts that, not only do we find our comfort and security in him, but without him, we can produce nothing, and we prove that we’re lost.
But when we abide in him, we bear fruit, and we prove that we’re saved. Jesus said in John 15:5, “The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit.” In this verse, the point of Jesus’ talk about vines and branches culminates. Look at verses 2, 4, 5, and 8-the good and the bad, the positive and the negative, the godly and the worldly are, in this context, determined by the fruit of one’s life.Bearing fruit is a sign of reproduction. Are you witnessing Christ's life in your life? Click To Tweet
Bearing fruit is a sign of reproduction. Are you witnessing Christ’s life in your life? If so, it will show on display. If a branch produces grapes, it’s for others to eat or press into wine. We don’t eat our own fruit; others do. Our fruit is for those around us. Our fruit is a sign of our relationship with Christ and is a tool for building up the people God has placed in our lives.
The above is an excerpt from Bearing Fruit: What Happens When God’s People Grow. You can learn more about the book on our website. You can also download a FREE copy of Chapter 1.