The Relationship of Believers to Christ


by Mike Ratliff

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27 ESV)

There are really only two groups of people in the world. There are those who are branches bearing fruit in the True Vine who is Christ and then there are those who either are totally separate from the vine in their rejection of Gospel or they are branches in in the True Vine who bear no fruit. Those branches which bear fruit have been cleansed by the washing of water with the word by Christ. Their sins are forgiven. The other group has not been cleansed so are in their sins whether they are in the True Vine or not. 

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” (John 15:1-3 ESV)

Who is the True Vine? This is Christ speaking of Himself. In John 15:1-17 Christ uses an extended metaphor of the vine and branches. He uses this teaching device as the basis for Christian living. As we have seen, the True Vine is Christ. Who is the vinedresser? This is the God the Father. Who is controlling the “sanctification” of the branches? It is the vinedresser. He closely examines and tests each branch through pruning. Why? This is done so that the branches will bear fruit. He prunes only the fruit bearing branches. This hurts. This is the removing of things that would hinder fruit-bearing. This is chastising. This is suffering. This is being in the valley. This hurts. This cutting away is His work of removing the branch from sin. That means that the branches dependence upon the things of the flesh for attempted fulfillment comes under attack. Why? The works of the flesh drain spiritual life from the branches. 

What about the branches which bear no fruit? The vinedresser cuts them away. These branches are the dead wood. These represent apostate Christians. These became part of the visible Church, but never really believed. What cleanses those who do believe? In v3 we see that it is the Word of God spoken to them by Christ. 

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:4-7 ESV)

The Greek word translated as ‘Abide’ means ‘to stay in a given place, state, relation or expectancy. It is translated as abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, or stand. Why do believers, the branches, need to remain in the True Vine?  I hope you noticed that when believers remain or abide in Christ, He abides in them. This is very important. Believers are not on their own. They are being held and sustained by the True Vine. Just as a grapevine sends nourishment to the branches in order to keep them alive and fruitful, Christ gives the branches in Him the spiritual food that will not only keep them alive in Him, but also the necessary requirements to be fruitful for the glory of God. 

Our Lord then repeats the statement that He is vine and believers are the branches. If you listen to enough bad preaching and encounter enough bad theology it appears that many today have this reversed. It is as if our Saviour is at our beck and call. He is our buddy, our pal, our bro, etc. No, He is our Saviour who went to the cross to purchase us by the shedding of His blood. We must never forget who is Lord and who is His servants, who is King and who are subjects of His Kingdom. 

This last Fall I cut a branch from a Maple tree in our back yard. It was too low on the trunk and as the tree grew the branch made it difficult to mow around the tree. The branch was no longer attached to the tree. As the weather turned colder the wound on the trunk where the branch used to be leaked sap for several weeks. The tree was trying to feed the branch I had cut away. The branch died, but the tree recovered and is now growing branches higher up on the trunk. Jesus uses the analogy of a branch trying to bear fruit by itself. It cannot do it. Only those branches in the Vine who are not dead wood bear fruit. Those disingenuous branches  that are cut away from the tree may try to be fruitful on their own, but their best is as filthy rags. When are the dead wood branches cut away? We find that answer in a parable spoken by our Lord dealing with Wheat and  Weeds (Tares).

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'” (Matthew 13:24-30 ESV)

These dead wood branches will be cut away from the True Vine at the harvest at the Final Judgment. 

Christ clearly tells us that believers can do no good at all without Him. What happens to those branches who are cut away, the dead wood, the apostate Christians? They are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. This will happen at the Final Judgment. Christ then tells us that those who truly abide in Him can ask whatever they wish and it will be done for them. Is this a blank check? 

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:8-11 ESV)

The asking of whatever believers wish and it will be done for them is in light of these believers bearing godly fruit proving that they are Christ’s disciples. They are well loved by the Lord and they abide in that love. They show it by keeping the Father’s commandments. In this obedience they also abide in His love. These believers do have their prayers answered like this because they ask both believing and according the will of God. Their desires are lined up with His. They ask for wisdom and discernment so they can obey Him. They ask for joy and peace so they can stand and not fall and they can be content even when the enemy is attacking from every side. Their joy is full and that joy comes from the Lord. 

This abiding in the True Vine by believers reflects their dependence on Him, communion with Him, and obedience to Him. If they remain in these things it will result in their life becoming fruitful for Christ. For the believer, Christ alone can provide the grace and provision of all of his or needs in life. Therefore, believers must remain faithful in their service for the Lord and to the study of the Scriptures in order to bear fruit. 





17 thoughts on “The Relationship of Believers to Christ

  1. Great thoughts. I’ve also heard some people mention that there is the possibility of christians who are not bearing fruit… which would create, according to your breakdown, 3 types of people.



  2. I’m confused. For what I was taught about “Once Saved/Always Saved” was that all who called upon the name of the Lord would be raised-up on the last day regardless of how good of a “Christian” they were; but you seem to be contradicting this with what you said.

    “There are really only two groups of people in the world. There are those who are branches bearing fruit in the True Vine who is Christ and then there are those who either are totally separate from the vine in their rejection of Gospel or they are branches in in the True Vine who bear no fruit. Those branches which bear fruit have been cleansed by the washing of water with the word by Christ. Their sins are forgiven. The other group has not been cleansed so are in their sins whether they are in the True Vine or not.”


  3. human3rror,

    No, there are just two groups, the authentic Christians who bear fruit and everyone else. Some professing Christians are not genuine and bear no fruit.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  4. fh,

    OSAS (once saved/always saved) is not biblical, at least in the way you were taught. While it is true that all who truly call upon the name of the Lord are saved, these will also bear fruit. There are many who claim to have called upon the name of the Lord to be saved, but never received Him as LORD as well as Saviour. They prove this by their rebellion and self-centeredness. They do not abide in Him and are dead wood which will be cut away and burned.

    The simplistic version of OSAS you quoted does not take into account the full counsel of God’s Word for there are many passages in the N.T. that teach the difference between genuine believers and false professors.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  5. That is what we have to come to the realization of.The christian life can not be lived out on our own.We try and we fail.We have to abide in Christ and in turn we depend upon Him for everything and the Holy Spirit gives us strength to do His will.I mean we are dealing with God who dwells in eternity and who inhabits infinity.I have never,even though I have tried too,begin to comprehend what eternity will be like.Yet,God has always dwelt there.

    Amen and Amen!!!!


  6. Justification (monergistic) and sanctification (synergistic) are the work of salvation. Justification is nothing that we can do because we don’t have that authority. We don’t have that capability, nor are we worthy.

    True vines bear fruit because they are dead to the world through Christ. Glorification is not something that we can ever take credit for, nor can we boast as if it is something that we have done. Apart from Christ we can do NOTHING. Remembert that it is man who depends on God and not God on man. The glorification part (according to the apostate church) seems to be distorted nowadays. It is practiced as something that man will take credit for instead of a work that God completes. God certainly does not put his trust in us, but his trust in Himself because He knows what He will do.


  7. fishhawk,

    Their is a misconception that once we have Christ is our hearts, that there will be no adversity. The delusion is that Christ promises you paradise right here and now. This delusion divides the body of Christ.

    The perserverance (I am terrible at spelling) of the saints is not being preached because much of the delusion caters to men’s flesh. Of course, our flesh wants the comfort of a wide road which is easy, is popular, and never faces rejection. We all want to pray an easy prayer, put our ticket of salvation in our back pocket, sit on our spiritual sofa, and watch TV. Oh, and by the way, Jesus, can you pass me that plate full of blessings while you are at it?

    This kind of Christianity is not Christianity, It is idolatry. It does not crucify men daily, nor does it reward humility or meekness. It exalts men to “little gods” while reducing Jesus to an idol who promises to give us every desire that our flesh lusts after. No flesh can glory in his presence. If we perservere, then we abide in Him. If not, then we do not.


  8. Mike,

    This is way off subject, but I was wondering if you may know more about the term, “Abraham’s bosum.” I know that it was a term used for Paradise part of Sheol. But also that the term came from a custom which was used at the dinner table. It was how the Jews would eat with family and friends by reclining back on someone else’s chest while eating. Any thoughts? Is this explanation true? Did the Romans or Greeks practice this during that time either?


  9. I don’t know a lot about this Josh, but here is what I have read. During the Last Supper John was reclining on Jesus’ bosom. This was a sign that he was close to Jesus and was enjoying intimate fellowship with Him. For Lazarus to be in Abraham’s bosom meant that he was with Abraham as his descendant in FAITH. Lazarus was there because He believed God as Abraham had. Sorry, I have not studied much about this.

    The disciples reclined on low couches at the Last Supper Roman style around a central low table. Their heads would be on the end of the couch closest to the table with their feet away from it. That doesn’t sound very comfortable to me and I wonder if they had support for their backs. Maybe this why they leaned on one another.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  10. They probably reclined that way to keep their feet further away from the table. ……… Just a guess……….They didn’t use forks or spoons either, did they??


  11. I doubt it Josh. They used their hands and a knife. There were forks and spoons back then as well as plates, but I don’t know if the utensils were used for eating or just for preparation.


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  13. Brother Mike You know when we get away from OUR (me to) puffed up minds and let the SPIRIT led us to the living water JESUS CHRIST it brings the TRUE LIGHT to this world which is only IN JESUS CHRIST. In denying ourselfs IS being made in HIS IMAGE just as HE did OUR FATHERS will. It makes the suffering of this present time not worthy of the GLORY to be revealed to us which is JESUS CHRIST and HIM ONLY!!! It also takes this fallen world and makes it a field ready for harvest for GOD, for GOD so loved the world HE gave HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON and so now HE gives us HIS adopted sons to this world so they might come to know the TRUE LIGHT of this world JESUS CHRIST!!! not to have knowledge of HIM but that they may see HE is the PILLAR and SUPPORTER of the TRUTH A LIVING GOD not a church but the household of GOD which is the CHURCH 1 Timothy 3:15 not a building to hope in or a time of the week or a certain doctrine above the WHOLE WORD of GOD but putting on JESUS CHRIST DAILY and picking up our cross DAILY so we might bear fruit to the GLORY of OUR FATHER!!! Apart from JESUS CHRIST we CANNOT bear any fruit! If you look at the parable of the mustard seed in Matt. 13:31-32 it shows that the false church rests (nest) on JESUS CHRIST and in Mark 4:32 it is shaded (nest) it has all the appearence of JESUS CHRIST and seems to speak from JESUS CHRIST put it is not part of JESUS CHRIST!!! Only those who ABIDE IN JESUS CHRIST will bear fruit. HE is the VINE we are the branches. I am sorry,it is a REALLY good message that you wrote! Now let the LORD JESUS CHRIST take our words and let them come from HIM written by HIM on our hearts and mind so that HE IS ALL in what we do to GLORIFY OUR FATHER BECAUSE OF JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT TO OUR GOD FOREVER TO BE PRAISED!!! Your Brother because of JESUS CHRIST Jerry


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