Jesus often used familiar objects and examples to explain spiritual mysteries. For example, some of his parables or analogies began with references to bread, light, sheep, doors and so on. In the passage above, He used the example of a vine and its branches.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus referred to Himself as the true vine, and not just the vine? The Greek word αληθινη actually means real. There are other vines but they are not the real fruit-bearing vines.
When Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener,” He was explaining that His relationship with His followers is as the vine’s is to the branches, and the branches’ to the vine.
Verse 2 starts with a warning: “He [the gardener] cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit.” Adam Clarke, in his Commentary on the Bible, explains: “As the vinedresser will remove every unfruitful branch from the vine, so will My Father remove every unfruitful member from my mystical body—such as Judas, the unbelieving Jews, the apostatizing disciples, and all false and merely nominal Christians, who are attached to the vine by faith in the word and Divine mission of Christ, while they live not in his life and Spirit, and they bring forth no fruit to the glory of God; and also every branch which has been in Him by true faith—such as have given way to iniquity, and made shipwreck: all these he taketh away.”
Although some will disagree with this, Jesus was very clear that those branches not bearing fruit will be cut off. “He taketh away” in the King James Version clearly indicates that the fruitless branch is removed and is no longer part of the vine.
The verse continues with a promise: “While every branch in me that does bear fruit, he prunes that it will be even more fruitful.” Here, “prunes” means that everything that might hinder fruitfulness is eliminated. The Greek word is καθαιρει and it means to cleanse, purify or purge. Pruning makes the branch, which is still part of the vine, more fruitful.
One day, Jesus was speaking to His followers and said, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 7:16, 19)
In verse 4, we read: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.”
“Remain in me” means there is something you must do as a believer: hold on to your faith, persevere, and don’t let trials and worldliness turn you away from the truth. Just remember that some of your problems and disappointments maybe a pruning process to make you more fruitful.
While you remain connected to the vine, you will receive every help and strength you need to persevere to eternal life. In verse 5, Jesus said: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing.”
Then, in verse 6, Jesus continued His warning about being unfruitful: “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers, such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
Some people believe and insist that a person can never be removed from Christ and they only lose rewards, or they may say that the person was never actually part of Christ. That’s like saying that the branch was never part of the tree. As Adam Clarke points out: “No man can cut off a branch from a tree to which that branch was never united.”
Verse 7 says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish…” In order to remain in this union, we must be regulated by Christ through His Words: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. That my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (verses 10-11)
Jesus gave us both warnings and directions, so that we may remain faithful in Him.
Pastor Joseph Hovsepian