The Word and the branches

“You are already clean through the message that I have spoken to you” (John 15:3). Jesus continues to speak to the Eleven about the relationship between the Vine and the branches. The Father as Gardener prunes the branches. Jesus uses a noun form of the verb translated as “prunes” in verse two to describe the condition of the apostles. They are already “clean” (cf. 13:10) or “pruned”. Jesus reassures his core group after telling them about others who would be cut off because they were not fruitful (like Judas, 13:30). They were fruitful branches that were clean.

What caused the difference in their lives? It was the word or message of Christ that he had spoken to them. The message includes everything about his person, teachings, and redemptive mission that he had already told them. They had received the message, and it had produced an internal, cleansing effect in them (cf. Ephesians 2:20-21; cf. John 6:44-48). Jesus is the source and substance of life for his people.

Jesus wants us to know that we continue or remain in him in the same way that we began (cf. Colossians 2:6-7). We begin through faith in Christ. The Father by the Spirit causes us to be born again as he uses the word of Christ in us (1 Peter 1:23). We are his new people. We are ready to bear fruit. This continues to occur as Christ uses the word in us (Ephesians 5:26). For this reason, when we read the word, we ought to seek the Lord by his Spirit to use it in us. And a gathering of believers should want the word to operate in us powerfully (Colossians 3:16). This is a conscious, deliberate activity. It is something that we must want and have room for. Like anything in life, it requires an investment of time. How much time are you investing in listening to the word of God? May God bless you with grace and peace!

The Gardener and the branches

In the Gospel of John, we hear a lot from Jesus about God the Father. (A good place to dive into this subject is chapter five.) Here, Jesus tells of the Father’s activity in tending to the branches that are connected to him, the Vine. The Father has a great interest in the productiveness of his people. But first notice that everything is focused on Jesus Christ. “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (John 15:2 NIV1984). The Father is concerned about Christ and his people. He wants Christ’s people to produce fruit for the glory of his Son. For this reason God the Father performs actions on the branches, the people of God.

First, he cuts off every branch that doesn’t bear fruit. (Fruit represents everything godly that comes from a living union and communion with Christ, such as peace, obedience to Jesus’ commands, joy, love for one another, and witness to the world, cf. 14:27; 15:9, 10, 12, 27). Sadly, there are some who have an outward connection to Christ, but who lack a real, vital, organic connection. They do not bear fruit (Matthew 13:18-22; Col 1:23; 1 John 2:19.) The Father acts to remove them from the people of Christ.

Second, the Father prunes every fruit bearing branch. A few years ago, I was pruning the bushes in our backyard. The old, unproductive branches had to be cut off, so that the living branches could increase. A friend of mine was watching as I basically cut off well over half the branches. They looked scrawny. He said, “I hope you know what you’re doing, because there isn’t much left.” I did know, and the bushes thrived, but at that moment in time, it seemed counterproductive. It can seem that way in our lives, when the Father prunes away stuff that needs to go. It is too easy to focus on what is gone, instead of what will grow and bear fruit for the glory of God in Christ.

How is the Father pruning your life now? You should be observing the removal of unproductive stuff from yourself. And you might be shaken and shed tears when you see the pile of discarded ideas, attitudes, and activities. But this is only for your benefit. You do not want to be like discarded branches that bear no fruit. No, you want to be a fruit-bearing branch that becomes increasingly productive. So then, how are you concentrating more on Christ? What new godly interests is the Father developing in you as you draw upon the life-giving power of the ascended Christ?

First thoughts on the Vine and the branches

God likes to use stories and illustrations to help us know the story of his glory in the Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, when God sent his one and only Son into the world, he came teaching with stories and illustrations. In John 15:1-8 Jesus gave the illustration of the Vine and the branches.

When Jesus told his disciples (learners) this word picture, he used imagery from the Old Testament Scriptures (Psalm 80:9-16; Isaiah 5:1-7; etc.) God had pictured his people Israel as a vineyard from which he expected fruit. Now in the Gospel of John, Jesus says that he is the “true vine”. Christ is the ultimate reality of what God had expected of Israel. The members of Christ’s new people (his followers or learners) are branches in him. Jesus is the fullness of God’s plan; in him are a people that will bring forth the righteous fruit that God desires. The good news is that if we are in Jesus Christ by grace through faith, we are part of God’s people.

Jesus also tells us that the Father is the gardener; he cares for the Vine and his branches. In the Christian life we too often forget that God the Father is active in our lives. We can wrongly think that producing fruit for God is a matter for our best efforts. And we fail miserably! But Jesus wants us to know and to experience that fruitfulness comes from our union with him, as the Father acts in our lives. So believer in Jesus, rejoice today! You are connected to him who has power to produce fruitfulness in you, and the Father kindly acts to help you bear fruit.

Welcome to Mission FifteenFive

Welcome to the blog of David and Sharon Frampton! We hope that what we share will be an encouragement to those who are disciples (learners and followers) of the Lord Jesus Christ. Either David or Sharon will be sharing what the Lord has taught us from the Word by the Holy Spirit. We want you to know how much God the Father cares for you. Look for something new often.