LORD’S DAY MORNING SERVICE, 1 March 2020
Sermon Text: John 15:1-17
Sermon Recording: CLICK HERE to listen to the sermon
I. The true Vine and the Vine Dresser
II. Two kinds of branches? No!
III. Being grafted in the Vine
IV. Bearing fruit and glorifying God
V. Bearing fruit and abiding in Christ
I’d like to describe this section we’ve just read from John’s Gospel as one of the sweetest sections in the Bible. I say this not because Jesus talks about grapevine and its fruit, but because His message gives us Christians sweet joy. He talks about ‘glorifying the Father’ in v. 8, and ‘joy’ that belongs both to Him and us in v. 11. In all these verses, I taste sweetness. The more you understand Jesus’ words, the sweeter it becomes to your soul. Jesus is saying in our text, “Abide in Me,” and He sounds like, ‘Taste the sweetness of being with Me and you’ll be satisfied forever.’ So, I want you to come along with me into this sweet word of Jesus and taste heavenly joy Jesus introduces and gives to us.
I. THE TRUE VINE AND THE VINEDRESSER
This sweet message of the Lord is pictured in a beautiful and jubilant vineyard. Jesus introduces Himself as the true Vine and His Father, our God, as the Vinedresser. And, the believers, such as you and I, are branches of this true Vine. The Vinedresser is the best of the best; He is the perfect One with perfect knowledge of how to care for vines and branches and everything in His vineyard. Nothing is unknown to His mind; all things are under control; He is the source of life for all things.
The true Vine is strong, lively and beautiful with healthy trunk and roots, as well as its branches and leaves and fruit. This Vine has not only endured but also defeated severe storms and tempests and now stands victorious. Nothing can hinder what this true Vine does, namely, pumping up water from the ground and supplies its nutritious sap to every branch in order to bear much fruit. So, the picture Jesus draws here in our text passage is painted with bright and happy colours. It’s a jubilant and delightful image. What makes us greatly excited is the fact that you and I belong to this vineyard, being fruit-bearing branches of the true Vine. Whoever believes in Christ Jesus and worships God, calling Him Father, is a part of this beautiful picture! If you’ve repented of your sins and put your trust in Jesus, you are a branch of this true Vine.
II. TWO KINDS OF BRANCHES? NO!
Having said, I want to take a moment and deal with a confusion/misunderstanding some people have. They say that man’s salvation could be dropped off, cancelled, if he doesn’t bear fruit. They point out v. 2 of our text passage as the basis of their claim. What does v. 2 say? It says this: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He [that is, the Father] prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” According to their interpretation, the beautiful and jubilant vineyard of which a believer, like you and I, is a part could be no longer beautiful because you could be cut off from the vine and taken away if you don’t bear enough fruit. No wonder why this verse is an important proof verse for the followers of the Arminianism who claim that our salvation is ‘not by God’s grace alone, but by grace and our good works’ which is completely wrong and against the teaching of the very word of God.
Truth is that this second verse never teaches such doctrine. It is never designed to communicate a message that there might be two kinds of branches in the vine. No. Jesus’ point is that the branch the Vinedresser prunes is actually not a branch of the Vine from the beginning; in other words, it has never belonged to the Vine. And that is why that branch cannot bear fruit. Hear what v. 4 teaches as a proof of this. There, Jesus says: “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.” Do you see what our Lord says? A branch by itself cannot bear fruit, He says. But, if a branch abides in the vine, then, there’s only one result, that is, bearing fruit. V. 5 proves this explanation further and clearer. Jesus says: “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.” I believe you hear what Jesus clearly teaches in these verses. He teaches that all branches that abide in Him, the true Vine, will bear fruit, while all others that do not belong to the Vine will bear nothing and be taken away by the Vinedresser. Let’s have a look at just one more proof verse – that is, v. 6 – which says, “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.”
So, Jesus’ focus has always been on the branch that belongs to Him. Especially on the fact that the Vinedresser prunes for a specific purpose, that is, to make the branch bear more fruit. He wants us to know that the Father will do a great work for us; He wants us to take note of the nature of the work our Heavenly Father does for us. He prunes; He cuts off what might disturb the branches that abide in the Vine from bearing much fruit. His skilled hand will form us, the branches, according to His good plan for each of us. You and I and all believers will enjoy His work carried out by His blessed hand.
III. BEING GRAFTED IN THE VINE
Therefore, if you believe in Jesus, you’re a branch of the true Vine, Jesus Christ, in the vineyard of God the Father, the Vinedresser. What you need to be convinced of is that you belong to Jesus and He’ll continually supply you all that you need for bearing much fruit. So, never doubt your salvation, once you repent of your sins in the name of Jesus and believe that He is the Son of God and your Saviour. Never doubt God’s promise that He’ll be your God and you’ll be His forever. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, then you’re saved; you’ve been removed from where you were and is now grafted into the true Vine. You used to be members of various clubs and societies and groups which had no relationship with Christians or church, no connection whatsoever to any Christian gatherings, but you’re members of Christ’s Church now, being surrounded by Christian brothers and sisters. And most of all, you’re in the mighty hand of God!
And once you’re grafted in this Vine, then no one can reclaim you because the Vinedresser is the Creator and Ruler of the Universe! No one is greater than He! All you need to remember and fix your eyes and heart on is the truth that you have a job as a branch, that is, bearing fruit in the name of the Vine, Jesus Christ. And v. 8 of our text passage says that our bearing fruit is our act of glorifying the Father – hear what our true Vine says, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.”
IV. BEARING FRUIT AND GLORIFYING GOD
What does this mean? How is our bearing fruit an act of glorifying God? Let us think about it with an example found in church history. Christians in the second and the third centuries experienced great troubles in their lives because of persecution from every direction. But their way of life was always the same; they devoted themselves to the teaching of the Bible and loved God and loved one another in Jesus. They loved God and each other to the point of death. And by that, they proved that they were disciples of Jesus and glorified God.
One of the most impressive things they did in love was taking abandoned children into their midst and raising them up with love and care. Saying ‘abandoned children,’ I don’t mean simply ‘orphans’ or ‘lost children’; it’s much worse than that. The Roman world regarded those children they abandoned as ‘wastes.’ And that was one of the weirdest practices of the Roman world; people gave up of handicapped children; they threw them away soon after their birth or after discovery of their disability and let them die. Each city had at least one place, but usually more than one, to abandon such children. But Christians, knowing that every life is a gift of God and life belongs to Him, took those abandoned children and raised them up with care and love of Christ. And many people, knowing their practice, found God and repented from their sins and began trusting in God and worshipped Him. As you can see, one of the fruits they bore in their life caused many people to praise the name of God, thus, through bearing fruit, those believers glorified the Father in heaven. So, if you haven’t really understood or known what it means to glorify God and what to do to glorify Him, you have an answer now and it is bearing fruit in Christ!
V. BEARING FRUIT AND ABIDING IN CHRIST
Then, what sort of fruit are we talking about here? Our Lord Jesus doesn’t say much in detail, but, through His Spirit, He tells us in other parts of the Bible, such as in Gal. 5:22. That famous verse tells us that love, joy and peace are the fruit of the Spirit. Patience, kindness and goodness are also in this list of the fruit of the Spirit. Faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are as equally important fruit of the Spirit as are the others. Jesus our Lord is talking about bearing these fruits and bearing them is our act of glorifying the Father.
For example, if any of you has a quick temper, you could learn to be patient and controlling self for the sake of Christ. If any of you worries a lot, being anxious about many things, you could seek peace of the Lord and give yourself over to the Lord’s gracious peace – if not immediately, then, gradually and steadily. If anyone lacks love, ask love and practice it in one’s life and do it for the sake of Jesus. These are your bearing fruit and, through bearing such fruit, you glorify the Father!
Jesus also tells us that He supplies to us all we need for bearing fruit. Not alone does Jesus supply, but together with His Father, our God. After all, God is the Vinedresser and Jesus the true Vine. As the Father and the Son work together, we bear much fruit in His vineyard. This is what Jesus means when He says that He is in His Father and His Father loves Him; and, as His Father loves Him, He loves us too. This is why Jesus tells us to ask Him whatever we wish and it’ll be done for us, in vs. 7 and 16. This is great news! Why? Because if you and I had to bring up any of these fruits by our own wisdom and might, we would’ve never been able to bear any fruit, and our life would’ve been wasted away trying and trying and trying, but remaining barren forever. But that’s not the case; Jesus together with the Father supplies to us all we need for bearing much fruit. What a sweet, joyful message this is!
Then, what is Jesus’ provision for our bearing fruit of the Spirit? What does He supply to us? Is it something mysterious and secretive? Would it be anything mystic, invisible, inapproachable, ‘members only’ kind of thing? No. The sap the true Vine supplies to every branch for bearing much fruit is neither secretive, nor mysterious. Rather, it is openly known to the eyes of the world; every ear in the world hears this Jesus’ provision for His branches. It is His Word, as Jesus repeatedly says in vs. 7 and 10. Jesus’ word, His commandments, the Bible and all it contains and communicates is the sap the true Vine supplies. Have a look at v. 7 of our text passage. There, Jesus says, and please listen carefully to what He says: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” You see? “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you,” says Jesus. He means that ‘If you’re with Me, if you keep receiving from Me what I supply to you,’ then, ‘My words will fill you, My words will feed you, and you’ll bear fruit.’ Let us read another verse, v. 10: “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love.” ‘If you keep My commandments, My words, you will abide in My love.’ So, with this love, we’re able to start loving one another in Jesus!
Through these verses, Jesus is telling us that His words, His commandments, are the nutrition He supplies to us for our bearing much fruit. No magical spells, no secret formulae, no sacred practices, but His plain words given to anyone and everyone in the world which is comprehensible by reading and meditation and preaching. This word is the living water which our Lord Jesus gives to all who come to Him. And this word, when it reaches our heart, it accomplishes the Lord’s purpose, as Isa. 55:11 says, and it shall succeed in the thing for which He sent it!
Do you see the full picture now? There’s the true Vine in the Vinedresser’s vineyard; this Vine pumps up living water and sends it to every branch. This sap is nutritious that enables all branches to bear much fruit in time and in season according to the Vinedresser’s perfect plan. No one can stop this; no one can snatch any branch from His vineyard; but all branches rejoice with the Vine and the Vinedresser as they bear much and sweet fruit. This is the picture of God’s church; this is the reality of us here in this church to the eyes of God and Christ.
Jesus wants you and me to grasp this full picture of our relationship with Jesus and the Father in His vineyard, that is, His Church, His kingdom, so that we may have joy in our hearts and souls. Hear what Jesus says in v. 11, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
My dear fellow branches of the true and blessed Vine in the perfect Vinedresser’s vineyard, let us receive from our Lord what He supplies to us, namely, His word. Let us read it, take it to our hearts, meditate it with deep fervour and appreciation, and live it out. By this, we abide in Jesus and glorify our Father in heaven. So, Jesus’ word, “Abide in Me,” is the sweetest invitation of Him who loves us. ***