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This beautiful analogy teaches us an important lesson. The standard of sanctification is clearly exemplified in the relation between the vine and the branches. Christ is the vine, and every individual Christian is an individual branch; every branch is an individual member of the vine, and every Christian is an individual member of Christ.
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What a clear view of the church, and how plainly we can see that there is but one. Every regenerate soul is by one Spirit baptized into this one body. This vine is cared for and kept by God himself, who is the husbandman. Every branch must be a living, fruit-bearing one. It is placed into the vine by the hand which will care for it, and give it every necessary treatment to cause it to bring forth much fruit. If it bears fruit it will be kept in the vine; if it does not bear fruit it will be taken away. The same life which flows through the vine also flows into the branches. It is the branches that bear the fruit. It is the part of the vine to sustain the branches, and the part of the branches to bear fruit. The fruit is the production of the vine-life in the branches. The word of God teaches us that Christ is pure and holy, and in Rom.11:16 we are taught that if the root be holy, so are the branches. The manner of the induction of the branches into the vine is illustrated by the process of grafting. We are not grown into Christ, but grafted into him. The natural branches of a vine grow out of the vine, and accordingly bear the vine-fruit, but by grace we are grafted into Christ, the vine, and bear the vine-fruit.
A certain writer who advocates the repression theory of sanctification says: "But if I want a tree wholly made good I take it when young and, cutting the stem off on the ground, I graft just where it emerges from the soil; I watch over every bud which the old nature could possibly put forth until the flow of sap from the old roots into the new stem is so complete that the old life has, as it were, been entirely conquered and covered of the new. Now I have a tree entirely renewed -- emblem of a Christian who has learned in entire consecration to surrender everything for Christ, and in a whole-hearted faith wholly to abide in him. If in this case the old tree were a reasonable being that could co-operate with the gardener, what would the gardener's language be to it? Would it not be this: 'Yield now thyself entirely to this new nature with which I have invested thee; repress every tendency of the old nature to give buds or sprouts; let all thy sap and all thy life-powers rise up into this graft from yonder beautiful tree which I have put on thee, so shalt thou bring forth sweet and much fruit.' And the language of the tree to the gardener would be: 'When thou graftest me, oh, spare not a single branch, let everything of the old self, even the smallest bud, be destroyed, that I may no longer live in my own, but in that other life that was cut off and brought and put upon me that I might be wholly new and good.' And once again, could you afterwards ask the renewed tree, as it was bearing abundant fruit, what it could say of itself, its answer would be this: 'In me (that is, my roots) there dwelleth no good thing; I am ever inclined to evil; the sap I collect from the soil is in its nature corrupt, and ready to show itself in bearing evil fruit. But just where the sap rises into the sunshine to ripen into fruit, the wise gardener hath clothed me with a new life through which my sap is purified and all my powers are renewed to the bringing forth of good fruit.'"
This author has entirely reversed the scriptural order of grafting in his application of the graft and root, and has illustrated the relation of Christ and the believer by the natural grafting process which can in no sense scripturally apply to this holy relation. Christ is the vine or root, and not the graft. The natural process of grafting is to graft the good graft into a poor root. The graft will grow into a tree and bear the same kind of fruit as the tree from which it was taken, and thus the gardener increases the production of good fruit. But the divine process of grafting is just the reverse. In Rom.11:24 the apostle says we are grafted into the olive tree (Christ) "contrary to nature." The husbandman takes the penitent sinner out of the kingdom of darkness and translates him into the kingdom of his dear Son. In this regeneration process the sinner (the graft) that was sinful and bore fruit is by God's own process grafted into Christ, the holy vine, and from thence to bear holy fruit. This is certainly a great mystery, like all the works of God's grace, and is indeed contrary to nature, but in perfect conformity with the plan of redemption.
Now, in this condition, there is a certain requirement of the graft necessary that it may bear the vine-fruit; it must =abide= in the vine. This abiding requires a careful watchfulness lest there might be some sprout of the old inward nature, which yet exists within the newly grafted branch, which would spring up and hinder the perfect fruit-bearing of the vine-life. And in this early life, in this new relation of the branch with the vine, it is an attested fact that in quantity this fruit production is more or less hindered by the presence of the old inward nature, in the branch, which if permitted to sprout and grow would certainly prevent the growth of the vine-fruit entirely, and thereby cause the branch to be cut off. That the branch is in the vine there can be no question, for its environments are completely changed and it finds itself a stranger to all of its former associations, customs, and habits. That the vine-life is in the branch there can equally be no question, for the branch has the inward consciousness bearing witness that it belongs to the vine, and it enjoys the sweet fellowship of the vine and all its branches. Also it bears the vine-fruit which brings upon itself the approval of the husbandman.
But this early and new relationship is only the justified life of the branch. The standard of sanctification of the author from whom we have just quoted is in no respect any higher than this, and were it not that there is a higher standard taught in this lesson and in many other scriptures, we would have to be satisfied with justification only.
"Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." This purging is another process quite contrary to nature, for the term signifies an inward cleansing. A vine-dresser can prune or trim a branch and thereby practically make it clean outwardly from all unnecessary or harmful sprouts which would hinder it from bearing fruit, but there is no known natural process by which the grafted branch could have its inward conditions changed which would affect its nature.
We can see clearly that the entire process of grafting the inferior branch into the good root, and the subsequent purging is wholly contrary to nature, for no man with an object of profit would do any such grafting, neither could anyone reasonably expect the inward conditions of such a graft to become changed.
This purging is wrought within for the purpose of an increase of holy fruit. How beautifully it pictures the experience of sanctification, and subsequent work wrought in the soul of the justified fruit-bearing child of God. It is not a pruning of any unholy sprouts, for they are to be wholly kept from sprouting in the process of the life of bearing holy fruit in this justified relation. The branch is now bearing the very fruit of the holy root, but there is something to be done in it that it may bring forth more fruit; it must be purged from its inward depraved dispositions which it possessed from its parent stock -- its "old man ... that the body of sin might be destroyed." Before the purging there was much time and energy occupied in keeping its depraved nature from sprouting. The holy nature of the root was indeed being manifested in the production of holy fruit which was a source of satisfaction, but there was that inward consciousness of an unfavorable condition which hindered the root-life from producing in the branch the quantity necessary to the perfect satisfaction of the husbandman, the vine or the branch.
But now what a glorious change: the old nature is entirely gone, and the sweet soul-rest which the purged branch now enjoys is beyond the power of mortal to express; it can now repose itself so sweetly in the holy vine in its perfectly consecrated life, without any inward hindrance to a perfect flow of the vine-life through its entire being. It can now bring forth more fruit, for every energy from the root is sent direct into the fruit-buds of the branch, and the result is glorious. This purging is just what perfects the inward harmony of the branch with the vine. It could not continue very long in the abiding condition without a consciousness of the need of the purging process. This process becomes a necessity to every branch which abides. "He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit," which is equivalent to the text, "Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." It is purged that it may bring forth "more fruit," and now the object of purging is realized, it brings forth "much fruit." Thank God for the purging, the subsequent work in the heart!
The apostles had not yet received this experience. They were clean through the word which Jesus had spoken unto them, to the extent of their knowledge and experience. Unquestionably they were clean from guilt and condemnation, for they were taken out from the world -- were no more of it, and the world hated them. They were living in perfect obedience to all the known word of God and were clean through that word, but they had not had the pentecostal purging, "purifying their hearts by faith," as Peter himself testifies of the sanctification of himself and all who were at Pentecost, as well as the experience of Cornelius and his household.
Truly we have much reason to praise God for his wonderful grace in which he brings man, his fallen creature, into such a position that he may become a son of God, then made pure from all the depraved dispositions of his fallen nature. "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work." -- 2 Timothy 2:21.