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The Pruning of the Vine

Our God desires believers in Christ to walk with Him in holiness and to bear much fruit by participating with Christ in His mission to reach the nations. Jesus said:

1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. (John 15:1-3).

Charles Swindoll makes several observations about this passage, which I have found helpful. In his commentary, Insights into John, he states:

“Firstly, this passage has meaning for believers only. Any non-believer trying to apply these truths will become hopelessly confused. Jesus was not describing how one becomes a Christian but how one lives as a Christian after trusting Him. Second, Jesus draws heavily on the metaphor of a vineyard, a powerful symbol with roots running deep into the soil of Israel’s history. No illustration touched the Hebrew soul like the image of a vinedresser and his vineyard. Third, the primary subject of Christ's teaching is abiding (KJV) or Remaining in the NIV, not bearing fruit. At no point in the discourse is the believer commanded to produce fruit. Instead, the Lord promises that if we abide, the result will be fruit that will remain. Fourth, the illustration Jesus chose would have been familiar to every disciple and virtually all of John's readers, but it is unfamiliar to most of us today; therefore, we must be careful not to milk every detail for symbolic meaning. Illustrations allow us to see the bigger picture; that must be our focus here. Jesus is summarizing the care a vinedresser gives to a vine. The Lord reassures the disciples that they have already been pruned. The adjective translated "clean" is based on the same verb for "prune" in verse 2. He followed this assurance with a command to "abide." The verb means "to remain" or "stay in place," often referring to one's home. Upon meeting Jesus, Andrew and John asked Him, "Where are you staying [or abiding]?" "Abiding" in terms of this metaphor refers to the branch remaining connected to the vine. Branches that do not receive nourishing sap from the vine cannot produce fruit- or live, for that matter."[1]

What does the analogy of the pruning of the vine mean to us? What is the Father's motive in pruning us? How does He prune? This picture of the Father's pruning does not indicate God cutting unfruitful Christians off the Vine (Christ). When you gave your life to Christ, God rescued you from the dominion of darkness and brought you into the kingdom of the Son (Colossians 1:13). He won't throw you out because you are not fruitful enough! You are secure in God's love and faithfulness. The passage above is about how the Father brings more fruit from your life. He wants us to be fruitful and will exercise His right to remove the deadwood of wrong attitudes that need to be cut off, the kind of mentality of believers who have never become disciples, believers of the sort that only want ten cents worth of God:

I’ll have ten cents worth of God, please.

I want enough to get a taste, to actually have Him, but not so much that it costs me much.

I don’t want to get distracted from the things that I really want.

I don’t want to be consumed by a huge dose of God.

I want enough to feel pretty good about myself, enough to make my life respectable and manageable–enough to get me through the pearly gates.

I'll have ten cents worth of God, please…

I don’t know about you, but I want more of God than just enough to get me through the gates. True thankfulness for His substitutionary death on the cross for you and me must overflow in love for Him and His mission to save others. Keith Thomas

Taken from the series: The Gospel of John series. The study is 30. Jesus, the True Vine

[1] Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s New Testament Insights, Insights into John. Published by Zondervan, Page 260.


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