Jesus desires a deeply personal and intimate relationship with believers. This type of relationship is described in this passage as “abiding in Christ”. Jesus uses the familiar imagery of the vine to describe it to His disciples. They would have been familiar which this analogy as it applied to Israel (read Isaiah 5:1-7), but Jesus is now revealing to them that He is the true vine. In these verses He teaches us the purpose for abiding in Christ, the evidence we are abiding in Christ, how to abide in Christ, and the results of abiding in Christ. Lets begin by identifying the characters.
God the Father is the vinedresser (v1). He cultivates and prunes the vine, to ensure that it produces maximum growth. He is responsible for the vineyard, its care, and its condition. Jesus is the vine (v1 & 5a). He is the source through which the branches produce fruit. Himself nourished by the Vinedresser, He then becomes the means of nutrition and growth for the branches. We are the branches (v5a,3a). As branches, born again believers are to produce fruit. A branch has no root, and is dependent upon its connection to the vine in order to live and produce. The fruit (v2,4,8) is that which is produced. Fruitfulness is the reason for which the Vinedresser labors. It satisfies His desires for the vineyard. It evidences His handiwork, and the fruit belongs to Him alone.
I. THE PURPOSE OF ABIDING IN CHRIST
The role of the branch is to bear fruit, but it cannot apart from abiding in the vine (v4). The only way that the branch can produce fruit is by abiding in the vine. There is no other alternative. Sour or rotten fruit can be produced through human effort, self-righteous activity, and the like. It might appear to be good from the outside, but it is putrid and disgusting inside. If we desire to produce good fruit for our Vinedresser, we must abide in Christ.
Branches that do not bear any good fruit are thrown away and burned (v2a,6). The purpose of the branch is to bear fruit. When it fails to do so, it is not only worthless in and of itself but actually becomes an unnecessary hindrance upon the vine. As believers, we may choose to be fruitless by failing to abide in Christ. When this occurs, we are cut off and discarded. This is not referring to a loss of salvation, but rather a loss of usefulness. (1 Cor. 3:14-15)
The purpose for abiding in Christ is then twofold - first, so that we can produce good fruit and second, so that we remain useful.
II. THE EVIDENCE OF ABIDING IN CHRIST
Those who abide in Christ (and He in them) bear “much” fruit (v5b). This is a cause and effect relationship. Abiding in Christ will always lead to the production of fruit, which is the desire of the Vinedresser. Therefore, it is imperative that we learn to abide in Christ. Those abiding in Christ bear “much” fruit. This implies that in addition to the quality of fruit we produce (good or bad), the quantity or amount of fruit we produce also depends upon our abiding in Christ. Therefore, the measure of fruit produced is, to some degree, indicative of our abiding.
The production of much fruit is the external proof that we belong to God (v8b). I’ve heard it asked, ‘If it was a crime to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?' Think about that for a minute - does your life bear enough fruit to show that you are His? Jesus tells us that a tree is known by its fruit (Luke 6:44). Without any fruit, there is no proof that we are actually believers. The fruit is the proof.
The evidence of abiding in Christ is the fruit. Though different branches will always produce different amounts, a single branch will always produce more if it is closely abiding in Christ.
III. HOW TO ABIDE IN CHRIST
God’s word empowers the branch to bear fruit, or the lack of it prevents it from doing so (v3b,7a). Abiding in Christ involves abiding in His word and allowing His word to abide in you. The Greek word for abide in this passage means “to remain”. We are to constantly remain in God’s word. But more than that we are to constantly allow it to remain in us. This means we must not only take it in, but also live it out. As we do so, this abiding in Christ will transform our lives.
In order to abide in Christ’s love, we must keep his commandments (v10). Abiding in Christ involves abiding in His love. Have you ever allowed yourself to feel unloved, although you know that you are loved? Why? Remain in His love - don’t wander away from it. By keeping His commandments (to love God and to love others), we abide in His love. This is the same principle as the preceding one. We must not only take His love in, but also give it out.
Branches that do bear fruit are pruned so that they might produce even more (v2b). God is less concerned about the amount of fruit one has produced in the past and more concerned with one’s ability to continue to produce fruit it the future. We must understand that pruning is not punishment, but rather God’s loving care to insure that we continue to produce more fruit. In order to abide in Christ, we must submit to His pruning lest we become overgrown and fruitless.
To abide in Christ we must remain in His word and in His love, while simultaneously living them out. We must become completely dependent upon Him, as the branch is to the vine. To abide in Christ demands that we stay connected to the Vine. Figuratively speaking, we must continually use the nutrients we’ve received from the Vine to produce fruit for the Vinedresser.
IV. THE RESULTS OF ABIDING IN CHRIST
Abiding in Christ strengthens our prayer life (v7b). When a person abiding in Christ prays, they do not ask for things they want from God but instead ask for things that God wants for them. A person who abides in Christ has aligned their will with His. Therefore, they seek the things that God already delights to give them. As such, He gives them freely.
Abiding in Christ glorifies God (8a). The first and foremost reason we were created is to glorify God. There is no better way to do this than to abide in Christ. The amount of fruit on the branch is not a reflection on the branch, but rather on the vinedresser who has tended and provided for it. To glory in oneself is foolishness. The fruitful life glorifies the Vinedresser, not the branch.
Abiding in Christ helps us recognize the depth of God’s love (v9). Just as Jesus continually walked with a keen awareness of His Father’s love for Him, so also those who abide in Christ know His close, personal, unwavering love. When we walk in the knowledge of God’s love, we can fearlessly face the trials and tribulations of this world. As we abide in Christ, we come to know His love in greater measure.
Abiding in Christ allows our joy to be full (v11). In order for us to experience the fullness of joy in our lives which Christ desires, we must abide in Him. Apart from that, our joy will always remain incomplete. Do you lack joy? Are you satisfied with your life? If you are abiding in Christ, you will know the fullness of joy that Christ has for you.
The results of abiding in Christ include a more prolific prayer life, a life that brings increased glory to God, an understanding of God’s love in a deeper way, and a greater and fuller joy.
And so I close by asking... are you living in an intimate, personal relationship with God? Are you resting in Him? Is your life fully dependent upon Him - your vine? Are there areas of your life that need to be pruned? Do you abide in Christ and allow Him to abide in you? Pray about these questions and your answers. May we all learn to abide more closely to Christ every day...