I am the vine, you are the branches: He that stays in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit…
Notice this union -
I. IN ITS NATURE AND SOME OF ITS LEADING FEATURES.
1. It is spiritual It is not physical and material, neither is it based on the same principles as the unions of this world, which are carnal and corrupt; but the principles of this union are spiritual, such as love, faith, and hope. It is the union of the human with the Divine, the spirit of man with the great Father of spirits - the union of life with life - the life of the soul with the life of the Savior, by faith and a Divine birth. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power," etc.
2. It is vital and real. It is not the union of a stone with a stone in a building, nor the union of an atom with an atom in a material body, but the union of life as that of the vine and the branches, the union of believing souls with the Almighty Savior, and that of living spirits with the ever-living Christ. It is real, though on the part of believers at best imperfect. It is not imaginary, but a fact - as real in spiritual growth as the union of the vine and branches in natural growth.
3. It is mutual. As the vine and the branches. Mutuality underlies and conditions every union. There is mutual affinity, adaptation, and willing consent. There is in this union a willing blending of Divine and human life and energies. It is mutual, and mutual conditions must be observed. Both are dependent on each other; but with this difference - the branches are more dependent on the vine than the vine on the branches; a branch may wither and fall, or be lopped off, but another will grow instead. The disciples are more dependent on Christ than he on the disciples. He will have other disciples, but they will never have another Savior.
4. It is natural. It is the natural consequences of things; as natural as the union of the vine and branches. The vine is in the branches, and the branches are the natural outgrowth of the vine. Christ is the Life and Support of believers, and they are the natural outgrowth of Christ. The union is not arbitrary, but according to the laws of spiritual growth. A vine without branches, and the great Teacher without disciples, would be unnatural; but the vine and the branches, and Christ and believers in real union, is most natural and beautiful.
5. It is very near. No union can be nearer than that between the vine and the branches. It is apparently and more permanently near than that of parents and children. The children may leave the parents and form other connections, and still go on in prosperity. But this can never happen with regard to the vine and the branches. Such is the union between Christ and believers. It is so near that they are ever in him and he in them, imparting to them his grace and Spirit in a continual flow, and through them carries on his grand purposes of love and salvation.
II. IN ITS IMPORTANCE. This will appear if we consider:
1. That this union is essential to fruit-bearing. "As the branch cannot bear fruit, except it abide," etc.; "Without me ye can do nothing."
(1) There is no spiritual life. There can be no life when it is disconnected with its only Source and Author.
(2) There is no spiritual support. Life must be supported ere it can thrive and be healthy. Apart from Christ there is no support and nourishment for the soul.
(3) There is no true inspiration. The very principle and stimulus of spiritual life is wanting; the very breath of it is gone.
(4) There is no real fruit. Luscious, strengthening, healing, and reviving grapes are the real fruits of the vine. Life-giving and inspired actions are the fruits of the soul united with Christ; but, apart from him, these are not merely absent, but impossible. "Ye can do nothing." Apart from him, we are ciphers in relation to the spiritual world, however active we may otherwise be.
2. Fruit-bearing is the essential consequence of vital union with Christ. "The same beareth much fruit." Let the condition be faithfully observed - abiding in him - and the consequence will inevitably follow. It would be as easy for the stream to cease to flow while the fountain springs, or for the earth to be in darkness while the sun is in its meridian splendor, as for believers to be barren while in living union with Christ. And this is all-important. If the branches fail in fruitfulness, they fail in all that is valuable; and so with regard to man.
3. Discontinuance of this union is attended with the most terrible consequences. "If any man abideth not in me, he is cast forth," etc. This implies:
(1) The awful possibility of being connected with Christ and yet be severed from him. This is illustrated by the vine and the branches. Many a branch, after bearing some fruit and long connection, becomes entirely withered and barren. In relation to the true Vine Judas was a striking instance of such a branch.
(2) The cause of this severance is in the disciple, and not in the Master. "If any man abide not in me," etc. It is not said, "If I will not abide in him." This must follow at last but as the effect. The cause of the withering is not in the vine, for other branches are still flourishing and fruitful, and it retains the withered one till it falls of itself, or is lopped off by the dresser; and even then a wound is left behind which will take some time to heal. This is true of the "true Vine." Look how he retained Judas till he left of his own accord; and Jesus on this account was often sorrowful. The cause of the sad severance is entirely in man, and the blame and responsibility are his.
(3) This severance is attended with terrible consequences. "They gather them, and cast them into the fire," etc. The terrible process is gradual - the unfruitfulness, the withering, the casting forth, the gathering, the casting into the fire, and the final burning; but, although gradual, it is certain. In relation to Christ as to the vine, it is the natural and inevitable consequence of the discontinuance of union with him. It is spiritual failure, waste, and destruction. Hence the supreme importance and duty of continued and unbroken union with him.
III. IN ITS HAPPY RESULTS. Consider these:
1. In relation to believers.
(1) The highest end of being is attained. The highest end of the branches is fruitfulness. The highest end of man's being is the same, and is attainable in vital union with Christ, and thus alone. "The same beareth much fruit."
(a) It is visible and practical. It is fruit, the visible evidence of a Divine union and life, and is embodied in a useful form, in holy thoughts, devotional aspirations, and noble deeds - deeds of faith and charity; self-sacrificing deeds, which glorify God and benefit man.
(b) It is genuine in quality. It is fruit, the real outgrowth of the soul in union with Christ, and the same in quality as the fruit of Christ himself, and fit for use.
(c) It is great in quantity. "Much fruit." The soul is developed into its utmost capacities, and this is genuine fruition, the highest end of life, and the happy result of union with him who is the Life.
(2) Complete success in prayer. "Ask whatsoever ye will," etc. United with him, we pray in him. When we really pray in him, our petitions are according to his will, and in the interest of the highest end of our spiritual being. All these will certainly be answered. Union with Christ ensures to the soul all spiritual blessings. "Ask. and ye shall receive."
(3) Complete and permanent discipleship. "And so shall ye be my disciples." Union with Christ results in fruit-bearing, and fruit-bearing results in permanent discipleship. "So shall ye be," etc. Not probationers, but full disciples; not only in name, but in reality; not for a time, but for ever. This is a high honor and an inestimable privilege, to be under the direct and constant tuition of the Master, and within the circle of his guidance, light, and love, now and forever.
2. In relation to the Father. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye," etc. The Vinedresser is glorified, honored, and satisfied by the fruitfulness of the vine; his heart is gladdened at the time of vintage. The Father, as the Husbandman of the "true Vine," is specially glorified when the branches bear fruit, and much fruit. The greater the fruit, the greater is his glory and joy; he is infinitely happy to see his labor not in vain, his fatherly love, watchfulness, and expense are not for naught, but return with interest in fruitful branches. He rejoiceth over one sinner that repenteth, over one branch bearing a single fruit; what must be his over the "much fruit "? Our greatest good is inseparably connected with his greatest glory.
3. In relation to Christ. "So shall ye be my disciples." Complete discipleship is a great honor and blessing to the believer; fruitful discipleship is a great satisfaction and joy to Jesus. The branches bear fruit through the vine, and the vine through the branches. The disciples bear fruit through Christ, and Christ bears fruit through them; their fruit is really his. It is through them chiefly he blesses and saves the world; they are the mediums of his love and life, and in them he sees the travail of his soul, and is satisfied. They are proud of him, and he is proud of them, and refers to them with delight as his disciples; so that the Husbandman, the true Vine, and the branches together reap the benefit of, and are highly satisfied with, the happy results of the happy union.
1. This union on the part of Christ is perfect. Its bases are perfect, and its conditions are perfectly fulfilled. Its discontinuance will never happen on account of any lack in him as the true Vine, or in his Father as the Husbandman.
2. On our part it is as yet imperfect. It is at best and of necessity so. We are imperfect beings, and perfection under the best conditions and advantages is not attainable at once.
3. To make this union perfect is our most solemn duty, and demands our best effort. For it is all-important, involves our highest interest, and by neglect is in danger of being destroyed. In vain we attempt to realize the end of our existence - fruit-bearing - apart from him. Our solemn duty is, by diligent faith, watchfulness, and prayer, to abide in him, and all besides will follow. - B.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
WEB: I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.