Abide In Me
Scripture Reading: John 15:1-11
This parable of the vine spoken by our Lord must be considered in its historical background. When this background is understood the parable becomes simpler.
At supper wine had been in use, and if, as some assert, the Lord’s Supper was instituted, then all had heard it blessed and all had partaken. It is not difficult to see how the wine would suggest the vine, the natural source of “the fruit of the vine.”
From the upper room one of the disciples had gone out and would not return; he would never again associate with them. In speaking of Himself as the vine and His disciples as the branches, the Lord had to explain the true relationship of Judas Iscariot during the years he had been one of them. The Lord also had to explain his untimely and tragic end. Throughout the centuries poor Judas has certainly been consumed in the fires of human gossip. The branch cut off from the vine suggests the final severance of Judas from the Lord and His disciples.
Israel of old was likened to a vine (Isaiah 5:1-2, Jeremiah 2:21), but she failed to yield fruit to the glory of God; her grapes were sour and unpalatable. In contrast the Lord Jesus declared, “I am the true vine.” In John’s Gospel the Lord employs the adjective “true” several times to describe Himself. He is the “true bread”, (6:32), the “true vine” (15:1), the “true light” (1:9). Christ was the true, the genuine, the antitype of all shadows, the real substance.
The Lord Jesus said., “My Father is the husbandman.” What a blessing! The owner of the vineyard is a father, one who loves little children and knows how to treat them. The allegory was used by the Lord in anticipation of the new relationship between God and the believer, as this was announced immediately after His resurrection: “I ascend unto my Father and your Father” (John 20:17).
“Ye are the branches,” said the Lord Jesus to His disciples. In what He said about the branches there appears to be three different concepts.
1. Of the twelve disciples which had entered the upper room, one had left. Judas Iscariot had gone out never to return; he, the son of perdition, went out to betray the Lord Jesus. He had been a disciple in name only, not in heart; in pretence, not in reality. His act was a proof that he was merely a counterfeit. Judas was the dead and fruitless branch in the entire Vine at that time in the upper room, so he was taken away, cut off rather than cut back.
This concept suggests that the professed union and communion between Christ and the betrayer was hypocritical, it was false.
2. The next picture is that of the vine with all its branches, all in union with the stem, growing and producing fruit in various degrees, under the care of the husbandman. This image intimates a union of life between the vine and the branches. Each separate branch is dependent upon the vine for life and sustenance.
This consideration, of course, indicates the closest possible relationship between Christ and His people —the organic oneness of all to Christ.
3. The final idea is not one of organic union with Christ but one of experiential communion between Christ and His own. The idea here is one of responsibility on the part of the branch. The branch must “abide” in Christ for vigor, and for sustenance through communion.
The word “abide” or “remain” is used ten times in the first eleven verses of this chapter. Thus would the Lord emphasize the importance of making this experience constant throughout the Christian life. The Christian is positionally and positively safe in Christ (Romans 8:1); conditionally, he should experientially remain in Christ, as a man during many years dwells in a home. Through communion the life and vigor which are available in the vine flow freely into the branches. In Christian experience they flow from Christ to Hiw own.
“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit He taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:2). In the original of this verse there is a play upon words. One commentator has expressed it thus, “The Father cleanseth away the unprofitable branch and cleanseth the others that they should bear fruit.”
Still another commentator paraphrases the verse in quite strong language: “The Father cutteth away (off) the unprofitable branch and cutteth back the others that they might bear fruit.” That is, the Father would remove the false professors like Judas. Their pretence would be exposed like that of Simon Magus (Acts 8:9), and they suffer the consequences of their hypocrisy.
“He purgeth,” just as the vine-dresser prunes branches in order that they may bear more fruit; even so does the Lord as He cares for His own. The suggestion of pruning corresponds with divine chastisement within the family of God (Hebrews 12:5-11). Such chastisement has as its objective “the peaceable fruits of righteousness.” Many a saint has been able to say with the psalmist, “It was good that I was afflicted” (Psalm 119:71).
There are three salient points here: the quality of the fruit, the amount of the fruit, and the objective of fruit bearing.
The quality of the fruit. There are some who have the idea that fruit bearing is limited to the winning of converts to the Lord. Thank God for all such fruit (Romans 1:10-16)! Fruit, according to several passages in the New Testament, is also seen in the character and conduct of the Christian (Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 1:11). Fruit in the believer is likewise seen in the contribution of His generosity toward others (2 Corinthians 9:1-10).
The amount of the fruit. This passage teaches us that we are to bear fruit (v. 4), to bear more fruit (v. 2), and to bear much fruit (v. 5). As in plant life, so in the Christian life, fruit and fragrance are produced and increased only as the branch submits to the care of the gardener and as it remains in the stem of the plant. The believer is successful in these only as he abides in Christ.
The objective of fruit bearing. “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (v. 8). The entire life and ministry of the Lord Jesus were fulfilled with this in view. At the close of all His activities here, He could say, “I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4). Christ in this, as in all else, is the perfect example. May His desire also be ours; that is, to glorify the Father in a faithful, fruitful life, a life of spiritual produce.
The Lord implied much, very much, when He said, “Abide in me.” To simplify His imperative, we suggest that He meant:
1. Abide in Me for communion.
2. Abide in Me for enrichment.
3. Abide in Me for strength.
4. Abide in Me for fertility.
5. Abide in Me for all that you may ever need.
“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you (John 15:7).