John 15:1
If these words were spoken in the house, they may have been suggested by a creeping, Clinging vine trained against the wall; if upon the footpath, by the vineyards on the slope of Olivet; if in the temple, by the golden vine wrought upon the gates.

I. THE VINE IN ITSELF IS A SUITABLE EMBLEM OF CHRIST. Its beauty, as planted, trained, or trellised; its grateful shade; its fruit, whether fresh and luscious or dried; its wine," that maketh glad the heart of man;" -all render it not only interesting, but suitable to set forth in symbol the excellence of the Redeemer, his nobility, beauty, preciousness, and use to man. Palestine was a land of vineyards: witness the grapes of Eshcol; Judah binding his foal to the vine, etc. Hence most naturally the vine was used in Old Testament Scripture as an emblem of the chosen nation, and hence Jesus in his parables put the noble plant to the same use. No wonder that our Lord applied to himself and to his people a designation so instructive.

II. THE VINE IS AN EMBLEM OF CHRIST, ESPECIALLY AS THE SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE.

1. He is the divinely appointed Root and Stem upon which the branches depend; the Superior with which they, the inferior, are related in dependence. The vine-stock survives even if the branch be cut off and left to die. We are dependent upon Christ; he is not dependent upon us.

2. A close and vital union joins the branches to the vine, and Christians to their Lord. The life which is naturally Christ's becomes ours through our union by faith with him.

3. Yet it is a mutual indwelling. As Jesus himself has said, "I in you; you in me." What condescension and kindness in this marvelous provision of Divine wisdom!

III. THE BRANCHES ARE INDEBTED TO THE VINE FOR THEIR FRUITFULLNESS; SO ARE CHRISTIANS TO THEIR LORD. The branches of the living vine evince the life and health of the plant first by their vigor, their verdure, their luxuriance, their comeliness; signs of spiritual life are manifested in the Church of God by the peace, the cheerfulness, the spiritual prosperity, of its members. But the great aim of the husbandman's care and culture is that fruit may be yielded in abundance. What shall we understand by spiritual fruit, the fruits of the Spirit?

1. Perfection of Christian character.

2. Abundance in Christian usefulness.

IV. THE TREATMENT OF UNFRUITFUL AND FRUITFUL BRANCHES FIGURES THAT OF THE NOMINAL AND THE REAL DISCIPLES OF CHRIST.

1. The cause of unfruitfulness is stated. "Severed from me ye can do nothing."

2. The doom of unfruitfulness is anticipated. To be cast out and burnt, like the vine-parings in the Kedron valley.

3. The condition of fruitfulness is mentioned. Close union with Christ.

4. The means of increased fruitfulness is also explained. Divine pruning and discipline, i.e. affliction and trouble tending to spiritual strength and fertility.

V. THE MOTIVES TO CHRIST-ABIDING AND FRUIT-BEARING ARE URGED. Stress is laid here upon two.

1. Thus the heavenly Husbandman, the Divine Father, is glorified.

2. Thus Jesus secures for himself true and worthy disciples. What powerful motives to induce Christians to be "neither barren nor unfruitful"! - T.







I am the True Vine.
Most of our Lord's figurative discourses were obviously suggested by some outward thing. What was the visible object here? It could hardly have originated in a thought about "the fruit of the vine," represented by what He had been pouring from the cup; nor is it satisfactory to say that He pointed to a vine in the garden; for the garden was not a vineyard. You will notice that although the words, "Arise, let us go hence," occur in John 14:31, the words that fill up chapters 15, 16, and 17, were spoken before we come to the entrance into the garden. Now, for these long utterances to have been spoken in this walk is to me inconceivable. Some think however, that when Christ said, "Arise, let us go hence," they rose, and that the words filling the next three chapters were spoken while they were still standing, just as a leader, after he has signified that the meeting is over, may say at the door, "Stop, a new thought strikes me," and may then linger to utter unpremeditated things. But it is inconceivable that Christ should leave His longest and most important parting instructions until the audience had, at His own request, all risen to go. My own opinion is that Jesus on His way to the garden went to take a farewell glance at the Temple, and that for the purpose of teaching the disciples lessons founded on its golden vine. Nations have often taken certain plants or flowers for their heraldic devices, such as the rose, the thistle, and the shamrock. If not as a matter of heraldry, as a matter of fact, the vine appeared to be the device on the shield of Israel. Striking passages might be quoted in proof, from the prophets (Isaiah 27:6; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 15:2; Ezekiel 17:8; Psalm 80:8-11). The Master then took the scholars up to the famous national emblem displayed over the porch of the sanctuary, and with that before them, prepared them to understand that now the sacred nation was about to lose its ancient place, and to be superseded and fulfilled by the nation of saved souls; teaching them to withdraw their trust in that vine, and to place their trust in Him alone, henceforth to be one with Him, as are branches with the tree they spring from.

(C. Stanford, D. D.)

I. THE VINE.

1. The method of Christ's teaching seems to have depended largely on chances and occasions. Seeds of truth were blown from Him who is the Truth by every breeze of circumstance, like thistledown by the wind. This allegory was suggested, perhaps, by a portion of a trellised vine outside, peeping in through the latticed window, rustling in the evening breeze, or showing through its veined, transparent leaves the golden light of the setting sun; or, more probably still, the wine cup before Him on the supper table.

2. But while the form of Christ's teaching was determined by the accident of the moment, it fell in with the general analogy of Scripture teaching. The vine is one of the most familiar images in the Old Testament. No less than five of our Lord's parables refer to it.

3. The Land of Promise was a land of vineyards; and Juaea especially, with its temperate climate, and elevated rocky slopes, was admirably adapted for the culture of the vine. A vineyard on a terrace or brow of a hill is the first object that strikes the eye of the traveller when he approaches Judaea from the desert. A vineyard on a hill, fenced and cleared of stones, was the natural emblem of the kingdom of Judah; and this heraldic symbol was engraved on the coins of the Maccabees, on the ornaments of the Temple, and on the tombstones of the Jews. It is not without significance that the vine should be thus peculiar to Judaea. One of the most perfect of plants, it belongs to one of the most perfect of countries as regards its physical structure. Contrast the grapes of Eshcol with the variegated scenery of that valley, and its geological conformation, with the hard dry woody fruits of the parched plains of Australia: a low type of fruit with a low type of country. There is a close typical relation between the character of a country and the character of its productions; and this relation ascends even into the world of man. As the monotonous plains and innutritious fruits of Australia reared the lowest savages; so the picturesque mountain scenery, and the rich nutritious grapes, pomegranates and olives of Palestine developed the noblest of the human races.

II. THE FITNESS OF THE VINE FOR OUR LORD'S PURPOSE.

1. He wished to represent —(1) The permanent spiritual union of His disciples with Himself; and therefore a perennial and not an annual plant must be selected, a dicotyledonous tree with branches, and not a monocotyledonous tree without branches. The image of the lily suited Him when His own personal loveliness, purity, and fragrance, and His own short-lived single life on earth were intended to be shadowed forth; and the image of the palm tree, which has no branches, suited the disciples when their own individual excellence was portrayed.(2) The fruitfulness of Christ and of believers in Him; and hence the plant that can do this adequately must be a cultivated one — not a mere herb of the field, like corn, yielding fruit only on the top of a stalk, but a tree yielding fruit on every branch.(3) The subordinate relation to and dependence of Christ upon His Father in the days of His flesh; and this idea manifestly excludes all fruit trees that are capable of standing alone and unsupported, such as the apple — the pomegranate, or the fig tree.(4) Believers exhibit, with general features of resemblance, considerable personal differences; and the plant which is to represent this quality must admit of considerable variability within certain distinct and well-recognized limits. All these qualifications meet in the vine, and in the vine alone.

2. The vine belongs peculiarly to the human period, and was planted in the earth shortly before its occupancy by man. It came into the world along with the beautiful rose, and the fruitful apple, and the fragrant mint, and the honey-laden bee, to make an Eden of nature for man's use and enjoyment. The former ages were flowerless; green, monotonous tree ferns and tree mosses, destined to become fuel for man, alone covered the land. Prophesied by all previous vegetable forms, whose structure approached nearer and nearer to its type, the vine appeared in the fulness of the earth's time; just as He whom it shadowed forth was announced in type and prophecy from the foundation of the world, and appeared in the fulness of human history when the world was ready for His reception. And thus the symbol and the Person symbolized belong peculiarly to the human world, and were destined specially for human nourishment and satisfaction.

3. A strict correlation exists between the culture of the vine and the intellectual and spiritual development of humanity. Wherever the grape ripens, there flourish all the arts that chiefly tend to make life nobler and more enjoyable. The spread of the Christian religion, as a general rule, has been co-extensive and synchronous with that of the vine, so that wherever the allegory of our Saviour is read, there the natural object may be seen to illustrate it.

4. In the symbol of the vine our Lord recognizes the prefiguration in plants of animal forms and functions. In the stem, branches, and foliage of the vine, we discern the ideal plan on which our own bodies are constructed: the stem being the spinal column; the branches the ribs and members: the leaves the lungs; while the sap vessels, filled with their nourishing fluid, correspond with the veins and their circulating blood. The functions, too, which all these parts and organs in the vine perform are precisely analogous to those which similar parts and organs perform in the economy of man.

III. CHRIST THE TRUE VINE.

1. St. John's Gospel has several peculiar terms — such as the Word, the Light, the Life, the Truth, the World, Glory, Grace — which, perhaps more than all others, bear upon them the clear stamp of the Divine signet. To these may be added the word "true," which occurs no less than twenty-two times in this Gospel, as against five times in all the rest of the New Testament. By us the word is commonly employed to represent, and so confound, two distinct ideas; viz., the true as opposed to the false, and as distinguished from the typical or subordinate realization. Our forefathers recognized this distinction, and expressed the former idea by "true," and the latter by "very." The man who fulfilled the promise of his lips was a true man; but the man who fulfilled the wider promise of his name was a very man, a man indeed. God is the true God, in the sense that He cannot lie; but He is the true God, inasmuch as He is all that the name of God implies, in contradistinction to false gods. The phrase is still retained in the Nicene creed, "very God of very God." In Greek the distinction is clearly indicated by the use of two words, alethes true, and alethinos very, which are never used indiscriminately. The word here is alethinos, and should be rendered "very," for it indicates the contrast, not between the true and the false, but between the imperfect and the perfect — between the shadowy and the substantial, the type and the archetype, the highest ideal and a subordinate realization or partial anticipation. And in this connection it is interesting to notice that the Saxon word "tree" is etymologically cognate with "true," signifying that which is firm, strong, or well-established.

5. Israel was a vine, but not the true vine of God. Though not altogether false and fraudulent, it was an inferior and subordinate realization, a partial and imperfect anticipation of the truth. It did not come up to God's ideal of a vine. But Christ was the True Vine of God; He fulfilled to the utmost the purposes of His existence. The vineyard of Israel was to be taken from the wicked husbandmen. But out of this Jewish vineyard was to grow one Vine, which should endure when all the peculiar institutions of Judaism had perished, and become the starting point of a new and higher religious growth. While the Law was given by Moses, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

3. Christ is also the "True Vine," as distinguished from the false or counterfeit vine. There are many species of vine, but there is only one grapevine; so error is multiform, but truth is one. And just as the wheat is imitated by the tares — the poisonous darnel — which closely resemble it in every respect; so the True Vine is imitated by the vine of Sodom, with its poisonous fruit.

4. But there is another aspect still in which the phrase may be viewed. It is as if Christ had said, "I am the unconcealed Vine."(1) Israel was a concealed vine. Its full significance was not known until Christ, the True Vine, revealed it. And —(2) The natural vine is a concealed vine. Men could not understand its symbolical meaning, they misinterpreted its lessons; they thought that it had no higher uses than the mere material, utilitarian ones. It was only when Christ appeared that the parable was explained, and the mystery, hid from ages and generations, revealed. Our Lord's first miracle at Cana was effected by the direct and immediate agency of the True Vine. It revealed the power which enables the natural vine in the vineyard to change the rains and dews of every summer into wine in its grapes. And what is thus asserted of the vine is equally applicable to bread, to light, to water — to every natural object. They all had a concealed meaning — a reference to Christ — from the beginning. Our Lord does not say, "I am like the vine." That would have been to use a mere metaphor, or figure of speech. But He says, "I am the True Vine;" and this declares that the vine is the actual shadow of His substance.

IV. THE QUALITIES IN CHRIST WHICH ARE ADUMBRATED BY THE VINE?

1. The vine is the most perfect of plants.(1) Some plants possess one part, or one quality, more highly developed; but for the harmonious development of every part and quality — for perfect balance of loveliness and usefulness, there are none to equal the vine. It belongs to the highest order of the vegetable kingdom. Painters tell us that to study the perfection of form, colour, light, and shade, united in one object, we must place before us a bunch of grapes. It is perfectly innocent, being one of the few climbing plants that do not injure the object of their support. It has no thorns — no noxious qualities; all its parts are useful. Its foliage affords a refreshing shade from the scorching sunshine. Its fruit was one of the first oblations to the Divinity, and, along with bread, is one of the primary and essential elements of human food. In common with other plants, it purifies the air — feeding upon what we reject as poison, and returning it to us as wine that maketh glad the heart, and in the process maintaining the atmosphere in a fit condition for our breathing.(2) In all these aspects the vine is the shadow of Him who is altogether lovely — who unites in Himself the extremes of perfection — who is continually doing good — who beautified our fallen world by His presence, changed its wilderness into an Eden, and made the polluted atmosphere of our life purer by breathing it, and is now transforming our evil into good, and our sorrow into a fruitful and strengthening joy.

2. The words distinguish between nature and that which is above it. To Pantheism nature is God. The pronoun "I" in it leads us up to the Personal Origin of all creation, shows to us that creation is not eternal, but springs from a Person. How, then, can anyone expect to be able to interpret the meaning of the vine, without the personal knowledge of the Living Being who is working and speaking to us through its instrumentality? Without the knowledge of His person we cannot have the knowledge of His work in its fulness. But once united to Him by a living and loving faith, we have the proper view point of the universe.

(H. Macmillan, D. D.)

Christ selected this metaphor because of —

I. THE ABUNDANCE OF ITS FRUIT; for which reason it is used by David to express great fertility (Psalm 128:3). Hence this tree is especially appropriate as a type of Christ, through whose life and passion the abundant fruits of holiness are brought forth by believers.

II. THE PLEASANTNESS AND THE GRATEFUL CHARACTER OF ITS FRUIT, as the fruits produced by the indwelling of Christ are those which are accordant with and pleasing to man's highest nature.

III. THE STRENGTH AND JOY WHICH WINE PRODUCES within the heart of man (Judges 9:13; Psalm 104:15; Proverbs 31:6, 7).

IV. THE WIDE EXTENT OF THE BRANCHES stretching on all sides, and furnishing a striking figure of the growth and expansion of the Church, which is the body of Christ (Psalm 80:11).

V. ITS TYPICAL CHARACTER, wine symbolizing the blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

(W. Denton, M. A.)

I. THE VINE IN THE VITAL UNITY OF ALL ITS PARTS. We shall best understand this thought if we recur to some of those great vines in royal conservatories, where, for hundreds of yards, the pliant branches stretch along the espaliers, and yet one life pervades the whole, from the root, through the crooked stem, right away to the last leaf at the top of the furthest branch, and reddens and mellows every cluster. This great thought of the unity of life between Jesus Christ and all that believe upon Him is the familiar teaching of Scripture, and is set forth also by the metaphor of the body and its members. Personality remains, but across the awful gulf of the individual consciousness, which parts us from one another, Jesus Christ assumes the Divine prerogative of passing and joining Himself to each of us. A oneness of life, which is the sole cause of fruitfulness and growth, is taught us here. This is a oneness which results —

1. In a oneness of relation to God. In this relation He is the Son, and we in Him receive the standing of sons. He has access ever into the Father's presence, and we through Him and in Him have access with confidence and are accepted in the Beloved.

2. In relation to men, if He be Light, we. touched with His light, are also, in our measure and degree, the lights of the world; and in the proportion in which we receive the power of His Spirit, we, too, become God's anointed — "As the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you."

3. In regard of character, this union results in a similarity of character, and with His righteousness we are clothed.

4. In regard to the future, we can look forward and be sure that we are so closely joined with Him, that it is impossible but that where He is, there shall also His servants be. And as He sits on the Father's throne, His children must needs sit with Him on His throne.

5. Therefore the name of the collective whole is Christ. And, as in the great Old Testament prophecy of the servant of the Lord, the figure fluctuates between that which is the collective Israel and the personal Messiah; so the "Christ" is not only the individual Redeemer, but the whole of that redeemed Church, of which it is said, "it is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all."

II. THE HUSBANDMAN AND THE DRESSING OF THE VINE. The one tool that a vinedresser needs is a knife, and the one kind of husbandry spoken of here is pruning — not manuring, not digging, but simply the hacking away of all that is rank and dead.

1. Fruitless branches mean all those who have a mere superficial adherence to the true vine. If there be any real union, there will be some life, and therefore some fruit. And so the application is to those nominal adherents to Christianity, who, if you ask them to put down in the census paper what they are, will say that they are Christians, Churchmen, or Dissenters, as the case may be, but who have no real hold upon Jesus Christ, and no real reception of anything from Him; and the "taking away" is simply that God makes visible, what is a fact, that they do not belong to Him with whom they have this nominal connection. The longer Christianity continues in any country, the more does the Church get weighted and lowered in its temperature by the aggregation round about it of people of that sort. And one sometimes longs and prays for a storm to come, of some sort or other, to blow the dead wood out of the tree, and to get rid of all this oppressive and stifling weight of sham Christians that has come round every one of our churches.

2. The pruning of the fruitful branches. We all, in our Christian life, carry with us the two sources — our own poor, miserable self, and the better life of Jesus Christ within us. The one flourishes at the expense of the other; and it is the Husbandman's merciful, though painful work, to cut back unsparingly the rank shoots that come from self, in order that all the force of our lives may be flung into the growing of the cluster which is acceptable to Him.

III. THE BRANCHES ABIDING IN THE VINE AND THEREFORE FRUITFUL.

1. Union with Christ is the condition of all fruitfulness. There may be plenty of activity and yet barrenness. Works are not fruit. We can bring forth a great deal "of ourselves," and because it is of ourselves it is naught.

2. There is the great glory and distinctive blessedness of the gospel. Other teachers come to us and tell us how we ought to live, and give us laws, examples, reasons, motives. The gospel comes and gives us life, and unfolds itself in us into all the virtues that we have to possess. What is the use of giving a man a copy if he cannot copy it? Morality comes and stands over the cripple, and says to him, "Look here! This is how you ought to walk." But Christianity comes and bends over Him, and lays hold of his hand, and says, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."

3. Our reception of that power depends upon our own efforts. "Abide in Me and I in you." Suppress yourselves, and empty your lives of self, that the life of Christ may come in. A lock upon a canal, if it is empty, will have its gates pressed open by the water in the canal and will be filled.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

There are "strange vines" which bring forth wild grapes in perilous abundance, planted in the soil of our human nature by "an enemy." Their nature is deadly, their grapes, however luscious and inviting, are noxious; their very shadow and foliage, like the fabled Upas tree, are redolent of destruction and death. There are grapes of gold, for which the grower sells his soul, and Mammon is the spirit that drives the ruinous bargain. There are the grapes which being pressed into the goblet do sparkle and coruscate, and Pleasure's fascinating beauties are reflected in the flowing cup; but a serpent lies coiled below the ruby draught and stingeth like an adder the victim she allures. There are grapes of which the smooth-tongued vine dresser says that "they are much to be desired to make one wise." "Eat," quoth he, "and ye shall be as gods. Yes. There are vines, vineyards, vine dressers, and wine vats in this deluded and deluding world. Pleasant is their shadow, graceful and winsome their festoonings, attractive are their supplies either from the cluster or the flagon, and, alas! those who are deluded by them "know not that the dead are there," and that the shaded and enticing paths that lead men thither are "steps that take hold on hell." "Their vine is of the vine of Sodom and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, etc. It was a "wild vine" which produced the fruit gathered in mistake by the servant of Elisha, so that there came to be "death in the pot" into which the deceptive grapes were shed; and so with all the false trusts and hopes of humanity.

(J. Jackson Wray.)

It is in His manhood that Christ is the true Vine. It was of the essence of His Mediatorial work, of the Daysman, who should lay His hands upon both, that as on the one side He could say, "I and My Father are one," so upon the other, "I and My brethren are one;" but while the vine and the vine branches must thus both be partakers of the same nature (Hebrews 2:11), He will presently challenge for Himself a share in the work of the husbandman. He, too, has power to "purge" or cleanse through His word (ver. 3). His humanity was a Divine humanity, for so only could it have become a life-giving humanity to the world.

(Archbishop Trench.)

I. ITS NATURE.

1. An actual joining of each branch to the vine. When Madame Guyon was ten years old, she learned that Madame de Chantal had written the characters of the holy name of Jesus upon her bosom with a red-hot iron. She sought to imitate, so she sewed on her breast a piece of stiff paper containing the name of Christ. Never has there been good in such folly. Union to the Saviour does not consist in tacking on a badge of mere profession of love for Him. You might as well nail a branch to a trellis, and call that grafting.

2. A living joining of each branch to this Vine. We have often seen flowers bound to sticks with a bit of wire, so that they seemed growing on long stems; but there was no life in the merely mechanical contact.

3. The reciprocal joining of every branch to the vine, and of the vine to every branch.

II. ITS PURPOSES. That it may produce after its kind for the enrichment of the husbandman the fruits he loves. These fruits are —

1. Good views. It never profits anyone to sneer at creeds, and cry out for deeds instead; for no good deed was ever done unless there was a good thought behind it. The shallowness of much of our modern piety is owing to want of real conviction. Our religion has always been "a faith," and so has had an intellectual basis.

2. Good deeds. For all genuine ideas force themselves out into conduct. Mere admiration for the character, or mystic affection for the person, of a Saviour like ours would not be enough. A pretty little honeysuckle in the garden might as well twine itself up around a trellis, and try for a whole season to look like a vine; grape time would show the sham.

3. Good feelings. Some people doubt the power of a religious duty to start the enthusiasm of a large soul. And yet many of the finest minds and purest hearts have drawn their inspirations from the spiritual intercourse they kept with the life and the words of Jesus. While Claudius Buchanan was missionary in India, he translated and issued the Syriac Testament. Macaulay says that once in his presence he stopped and suddenly burst into tears. When he recovered himself the great man said, "Do not be alarmed, I am not ill; but I was completely overcome with the recollections of the delight I have enjoyed in this exercise." It is thus that good Christians have often gone to the stake for the love they bore for this Redeemer of men.

4. Good graces. Vines feel no shame for being beautiful. Excellencies of character are what the Lord loves (Galatians 5:22, 23).

III. CHRIST'S CARE FOR IT. The Husbandman is God the Father. He cleanses the vines. In the East dressers wash the leaves and shoots and tendrils and clusters, each by itself in turn, so as to clear off the dust and mould. They cut away, also, the dead branches, and keep the whole vine under discipline.

1. The branch may be too feeble in its growth. Then, of course, it must be made to draw more strength from the vine which supports it. In the union of Christ to each soul these quickenings are efficaciously wrought by the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. The believer seeks them by prayer, and openly welcomes them with thanksgiving and trust. A female teacher in Persia was seated on a mat in the middle of the earthen floor of the church greatly fatigued, and as she was endeavouring to catch a moment's rest, one of the native women seated herself directly behind on the same mat. In a quiet whisper she begged her to lean back. The missionary just suffered her weight to fall against her knee; but the generous Christian drew her nearer and then whispered again, "If you love me, lean hard." Never was a truer imitation of Christ. Those who are weal: show more love by leaning harder.

2. The branch may be too perverse in its growth. Sometimes it appears as if it had become wilful. It thrusts its rings and tendrils off as if a petulant rebelliousness against the trellis had awakened its spite, and it had determined to grow out of order. It will lay hold of twigs below it in the grass, and trees above it in the orchard, always endeavouring to defeat the husbandman's purpose. For this there is no remedy but one: the knife comes suddenly, and now remains only the fire.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Christian Age.
I. THIS UNION.

1. It is compared —(1) By Peter (1 Peter 2:5, 6) to the connection between the foundation stone and the building, and the relation thus suggested is one of dependence.(2) By the Lord Himself to the union between the branches and the vine, the connection is seen to be one of life.(3) By Paul (Ephesians 4:15, 16) to the union between the head and the members, where the connection is one of subjection.(4) By the same Apostle (Ephesians 5:22, 23) to the union between husband and wife; and there the idea of affection is the predominating one. Now, putting all these together, we get this result, that believers are one with Christ, as represented by Him, dependent upon Him, living in Him, subject to Him, and loving Him with tenderest affection. But in the figure of our text there is further suggested the idea that believers are supported by Christ. The branches are sustained by the sap, which the vine supplies; and so His people are animated by the Spirit which Christ bestows.

2. How this union is entered into. The analogy of the vine does not help us here. The branches are in the vine, whether they will or no. But men have wills; and so this union is, on their part, a voluntary thing.

3. Then, when we are thus united to Him, His strength and grace flow into us. When the car is coupled to the engine, the motion of the engine is communicated to, and shared with, the car; and when we are one with Christ in love and trust, His Spirit comes into our hearts and makes us more responsive to Himself.

II. THE END FOR WHICH THE UNION EXISTS (vers. 2, 8). Fruit, the character of which may be gathered from Ephesians 5:9; Galatians 5:22, 23; 2 Peter 1:6-8. Then this fruit is —

1. A personal thing. It is not the effect on others of some effort which we put forth, but the appearance in ourselves of the graces of holiness.

2. Not a single grace, but a whole circle. The spiritual vine, like the natural, brings forth its fruit in a cluster, and only when each of the members of that cluster is fairly and symmetrically developed is there true fruitfulness.

(Christian Age.)

The fruitful source of all the Christian's blessings. Constantly felt and remembered tends to dignify and fructify his life. Leads to —

(1)Purity.

(2)Safety. In Christ.

(3)Glory.

I. UNION IN ITS NATURE.

1. Mysterious.

2. Mutually agreed.

3. Spiritual.

4. Living.

II. PERMANENCE OF THE UNION.

III. FRUITFULNESS OF THE UNION. "Bear much fruit."

1. Expected. It is a vine — a vineyard under care. "Father is the husbandman."

2. Only possible in union. Human nature. "No fruit of itself," "for without Me ye can do nothing." Linked to Christ by faith. "Much fruit."

3. To the highest end. Heavenward. "Glory to God" (ver. 8). Earthward. "So shall ye be My disciples" (ver. 8). The great want of earth — true disciples. God claims the glory.

4. Sign of life. "Bringeth forth" — out of — grow — result of the Divine life within.

(E. Wickliffe Davies.)

is —

I. DERIVED FROM CHRIST. Religion is not a mere creed or form; it is a life, and the life is a "branch" of Christ's life. It grows out of Him. There is no true spiritual life where Christ's spirit is not the inspiration.

II. DEVELOPED IN FRUITFULNESS. The production of fruit is what is required; it is not to pass off in foliage and blossom. Unless we yield fruit we are worthless and doomed to destruction. What is the fruit? "Love, joy peace," etc.

III. THE JOINT AGENCY OF GOD AND MAN.

1. Man must seek an abiding connection with Christ. Cut the branch from the tree, it will wither and rot.

2. God must act the part of the Great Husbandman. The mere abiding in Christ will not do of itself.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

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