PFOA : John 15 :1-8
Read John 15:1-8
BREXIT: To Remain or To Leave? That is the question the British people voted on. Proponents on both sides argued their case vigorously and, towards to voting date, aggressively leading to the death of a Member of Parliament. In the end, the people chose to leave the EU, freeing themselves from some of the restrictive and burdensome rules of being a member of the community, but losing, as a result, some of the benefits of membership.
Disciples of Jesus too face the question, “To Remain or To Leave”. On a daily and continuing basis, they must choose whether to remain in Jesus or not to remain in him.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NIV).
The grape vine is often used in the Old Testament to represent Israel allegorically. “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.” (Ps. 80:8); “Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine,” (Ps. 80:14). Israel had been planted and nurtured by God, but in her unfaithfulness and rebellion had produced wild grapes instead (Isa. 5:2,4).
Now Jesus calls himself the “true vine” (John 15:1), differentiating himself from the old vine of Israel. This new vine, or new Israel, has the life of [the soon to be resurrected] Christ. Branches that are connected to this vine draw life from it, and will flourish and bear fruit. In order for each branch to draw life and nourishment from the vine, it must remain connected to it.
Perhaps one of the disadvantages of the Remain party in the Brexit Referendum is that it is seeking the status quo, to passively “remain” in the EU. In the case of John 15, the more active verb “abide” as used in the KJV and ESV is preferable. There is a sense of participation on the part of Christ’s disciple – he needs to abide, to stay connected, to be faithful.
What Jesus says is that when we abide in Christ, we will bear much fruit. Being vitally connected to the vine means that the branch would receive all the nourishment it needs to be fruitful. What does it mean to bear fruit? Some have suggested that to bear fruit is to win someone to Christ; or to make disciples. Others think it means doing good works; or using one’s spiritual gifts in service.
In the allegory Jesus describes himself as the vine and the disciples as branches of the vine. Winning a new convert or making a disciple is to have a new branch connected or grafted into the vine, disciples are not fruit. On the other hand, others who do not have the life of Christ in them can do good works or acts of service also, so these are not fruit either. The ESV renders v.8 as “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples”. Bearing fruit is not the things we do. It is the proof or evidence that we are disciples.
Gal. 5:22,23 tells us what the fruit of the Spirit is and this is the fruit we bear when we have the life of Christ in us. It is what defines the believer, a lifestyle characteristic. Just as the apple is the fruit of the apple tree, so the fruit of the Jesus Vine shows forth the characteristics of Christ. This is what sets believers apart.
Paul said in Galatians “the fruit (singular) of the Spirit is (singular) love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”. It is one fruit, not a fruit of love, or of joy, etc. You could say this fruit is 9-faceted or 9-dimensional. There is no choosing to develop one dimension and neglecting another. We do not grow in love or patience and continue to lack joy or self-control. We are to bear fruit, bear more fruit (v.2), and bear much fruit (v.5), in every dimension, increasing as we abide.
Vance Pitman sums up this neatly as, “Fruit is the life of Christ in me being lived through me as I abide in him”.
Let us pray for one another, and encourage one another, to remain in Christ so that the life of Christ remains in each of us, and through us the life of Jesus is seen and God is glorified.