[this post is contributed by Alex Rover]

A consideration of John 15:1-17 will do much to encourage us to greater love for one another, for it demonstrates Christ’s great love for us and builds appreciation for the great privilege of being brothers and sisters in Christ.

“I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit in me.” – John 15:1-2a NET

The passage starts with a strong warning. We understand that we are branches of Christ (John 15:3, 2 Corinthians 5:20). If we bear no fruit in Christ, then the Father will remove us from Christ.

The Great Gardener doesn’t just remove some branches that don’t bear fruit in Christ, he skillfully removes every branch that doesn’t bear fruit. That means that each and every one of us needs to examine ourselves, because we are guaranteed to be cut if we fail to meet his standard.

Let’s try to understand the illustration from the perspective of the Great Gardener. One web article [1] states about the main point behind pruning trees:

Most fruit trees grown in home gardens are spurring trees. A spur is a short branch where the tree flowers and sets fruit. Pruning encourages the trees to grow more of these fruiting spurs by removing competing suckers and unproductive wood.

We can thus understand that removing unproductive wood is required for Jesus Christ to grow more branches that will bear fruit instead. Verse 2b continued:

He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit. – John 15:2b NET

This passage is heart-warming, since it reminds us that our loving Father shows compassion to us. None of us are perfect fruit-bearers, and he lovingly prunes every one of us so we can bear more fruit. Unlike those who bear no fruit at all, we are lovingly adjusted. Marvel at the harmony of God’s inspired word:

My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline or give up when he corrects you.
For the Lord disciples the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.
– Hebrews 12:5-6 NET

If you feel chastised, or disciplined, do not give up, but rejoice knowing that he accepts you as a branch of the true vine, Jesus Christ. He accepts you as a son or daughter. And keep in mind that all accepted children of the Father go through a similar pruning process.

Even if you are a brand new child of God bearing but little fruit, you are considered clean and acceptable [2]:

You are clean already because of the word that I have spoken to you – John 15:3 NET

As a branch of Christ, you are one in him. Life sustaining sap flows through our branches and you are part of him, so serenely illustrated by partaking of the Lord’s Supper:

Then he took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And in the same way he took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” – Luke 22:19-20 NET

When we become in union with Christ, we are reminded that only by remaining in union with him we can continue bearing fruit. If a religious organization claims that leaving it behind is the same as leaving Christ, then all who left such an organization would logically stop bearing Christian fruit. If we can find even a single individual who did not stop bearing fruit, then we know that religious organization’s claim is a lie, for God cannot lie.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. – John 15:4 NET

Apostasy means a falling away from Christ, a voluntary removing of oneself from Christ after having been joined to him in union. An apostate would be easily recognized by observing the lack of fruits of the spirit expressed in his actions and words.

You will recognize them by their fruit.” – Matthew 7:16 NET

Their fruits dry up and what’s left is a worthless branch in the eyes of the Great Gardener, which awaits permanent destruction by fire.

If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown out like a branch, and dries up; and such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and are burned up. – John 15:6 NET

 Remain in Christ’s Love

What follows next is a declaration of Christ’s love for you. Our Lord gives us an astonishing reassurance that he is always here for you:

If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want, and it will be done for you. – John 15:7 NET

Not just the Father, or an angel he commissioned for your sake, but Christ himself will personally care for you. Earlier he said to his disciples:

And I will do whatever you ask [the Father] in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it. – John 15:13-14 NET

Jesus is someone who personally comes to your aid and who is always there for you. Our heavenly Father is glorified by this arrangement, for he is the Great Gardener and takes great joy seeing a struggling branch receive help from the vine in his care, for it results in the vine producing more fruit!

My Father is honored by this, that you bear much fruit and show that you are my disciples. – John 15:8 NET

Next we are assured of our Father’s love and urged to remain in Christ’s love. The Father loves us on behalf of his love for his Son.

Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; remain in my love. – John 15:9 NET

If we would write a book about remaining in Jehovah’s love, that book should thus urge us to seek union with Christ as a child of the Father, and remain in Christ’s love. Allow the vine to nurture you, and the Father to prune you.

Obey Christ’s commandments, as he has set a faithful example for us, so that our joy in Christ may be complete.

If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed the Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete. – John 15:10-11 NET

This expression of completeness and joy in relation to endurance and testing of our faith through trial was put to words so beautifully by Jesus’ own half-brother James:

My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. – James 1:2-4 NET

And what does Christ expect from us, but to love one another? (John 15:12-17 NET)

This I command you – to love one another.John 15:17 NET

This command requires selfless love, the forsaking of oneself in favor of another. We can walk in his footsteps and imitate his love – the greatest love of all:

No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends – John 15:13 NET

When we imitate his love, we are Jesus’ friend because such selfless love is the greatest fruit of all!

You are my friends if you do what I command you. […] But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father. – John 15:14-15 NET

 Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another. – John 13:35 NET

How have you experienced Christ’s love in your life?

 


 

[1] http://gardening.about.com/od/treefruits/ig/How-to-Prune-an-Apple-Tree/Fruiting-Spurs.htm

[2] This is in compassionate contrast with these stringent requirements for holiness set forth in the Law:

When you enter the land and plant any fruit tree, you must consider its fruit to be forbidden. Three years it will be forbidden to you; it must not be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, praise offerings to the Lord. – Leviticus 19:23,24 NET