Jesus Christ is the True Vine

by Mike Ratliff

1 Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἄμπελος ἡ ἀληθινὴ καὶ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ γεωργός ἐστιν. John 15:1 (NA28)

1 “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In John 15:1, we have our Lord’s last of His seven “I am” sayings signifying His claim of deity. The word “true” in v1 translates the adjective ἀληθινὴ, which is nominative, singular of ἀληθινός or alēthinos, “unfeigned, trustworthy, true.” The nominative case form, ἀληθινὴ of ἀληθινός means that the metaphor our Lord is making of Him being the “true vine” is subject to the main verb in the sentence with is εἰμι, which, of course, means, in this context, “am.” Therefore, our Lord is saying that the fact that He is, in fact, deity means that He is the “true vine.” What this means, of course, is that there are “other vines,” but He is the only one who is “true” and God the Father is the γεωργός or vinedresser.  The noun γεωργός or geōrgos, “can refer to the owner of a farm or to those who work the farm.” Here our Lord is using this term metamorphically to refer to God the Father as the owner of a vineyard, the “vinedresser.” 

1 Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἄμπελος ἡ ἀληθινὴ καὶ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ γεωργός ἐστιν. 2 πᾶν κλῆμα ἐν ἐμοὶ μὴ φέρον καρπὸν αἴρει αὐτό, καὶ πᾶν τὸ καρπὸν φέρον καθαίρει αὐτὸ ἵνα καρπὸν πλείονα φέρῃ. 3 ἤδη ὑμεῖς καθαροί ἐστε διὰ τὸν λόγον ὃν λελάληκα ὑμῖν· 4 μείνατε ἐν ἐμοί, κἀγὼ ἐν ὑμῖν. καθὼς τὸ κλῆμα οὐ δύναται καρπὸν φέρειν ἀφʼ ἑαυτοῦ ἐὰν μὴ μένῃ ἐν τῇ ἀμπέλῳ, οὕτως οὐδὲ ὑμεῖς ἐὰν μὴ ἐν ἐμοὶ μένητε. 5 ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἄμπελος, ὑμεῖς τὰ κλήματα. ὁ μένων ἐν ἐμοὶ κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ οὗτος φέρει καρπὸν πολύν, ὅτι χωρὶς ἐμοῦ οὐ δύνασθε ποιεῖν οὐδέν. 6 ἐὰν μή τις μένῃ ἐν ἐμοί, ἐβλήθη ἔξω ὡς τὸ κλῆμα καὶ ἐξηράνθη καὶ συνάγουσιν αὐτὰ καὶ εἰς τὸ πῦρ βάλλουσιν καὶ καίεται. 7 ἐὰν μείνητε ἐν ἐμοὶ καὶ τὰ ῥήματά μου ἐν ὑμῖν μείνῃ, ὃ ἐὰν θέλητε αἰτήσασθε, καὶ γενήσεται ὑμῖν. 8 ἐν τούτῳ ἐδοξάσθη ὁ πατήρ μου, ἵνα καρπὸν πολὺν φέρητε καὶ γένησθε ἐμοὶ μαθηταί.
9 Καθὼς ἠγάπησέν με ὁ πατήρ, κἀγὼ ὑμᾶς ἠγάπησα· μείνατε ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ τῇ ἐμῇ. 10 ἐὰν τὰς ἐντολάς μου τηρήσητε, μενεῖτε ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ μου, καθὼς ἐγὼ τὰς ἐντολὰς τοῦ πατρός μου τετήρηκα καὶ μένω αὐτοῦ ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ. 11 Ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ἡ ἐμὴ ἐν ὑμῖν ᾖ καὶ ἡ χαρὰ ὑμῶν πληρωθῇ. John 15:1-11 (NA28)

1 “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser.  2 Every branch in Me not bearing fruit He takes it, and every branch bearing fruit He prunes that it may bear much fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the Word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch is not able to bear fruit from itself unless it remain on the vine, so neither you unless you remain in Me. 5  I am the vine, you are the branches. The one abiding in Me and I in Him bears much fruit because apart from Me you are not able to do anything. 6 Unless one remains in Me he is cast out as a branch and dries up; and they gather them then throw them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me and my Word abide in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 By this is my Father glorified that you bear much fruit and prove to be my disciples.
9 As the Father loved Me so I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you and your joy may be made full.” John 15:1-11 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

What does the owner of the vineyard do to those branches who are “on” the vine? This is, of course, metaphorical. The vine is Christ and the branches are professing Christians. The vinedresser is God the Father. He owns the vineyard. Some branches produce fruit and some do not. Those who do not are taken away. In v2, the words, “takes it” refers to branches the vinedresser removes that do not bear fruit and translates the verb αἴρει, which is the Present Tense, Indicative Mood, Active Voice form of αἴρω or airō, “to take up, lift, raise, bear, carry, take away, remove, destroy, kill.” The verb structure is talking about action that is taking place right now. On the other hand, there are genuine believers who are represented here as branches on the true vine and they not only bear fruit, but continue to abide in Christ and His Word. What does the vinedresser do to keep this process going? He prunes these branches. The words “He prunes” translates the verb καθαίρει the Present Tense, Indicative Mood, Active Voice form of καθαίρω or kathairō, “to cleanse from filth; to clear by pruning, prune, to cleanse from sin, make expiation.”

Genuine believers are those who abide in the true vine and are pruned by the vinedresser that they bear much fruit. Unfruitful branches, who are disingenuous professing believers who are removed so that there is room for fruitful branches to grow and be more fruitful. What happens to those who are removed from the true vine. They are cast away. They wither and are eventually gathered and burned, which refers to the final judgment. Of course, these false professors remain quite religious and some have very active ministries. Some are quite large. However, God gives His Word to those are His. They abide in it, know it and obey it. Thereby, they know those who are true and who are not. If we continually seek the wisdom of God and abide in His truth, He will give us Wisdom and we will know those to stay away from and those He has given to the Church to edify it. Is it possible for any believer to do good edifying works outside of abiding in Christ and obeying His commandments? No, Christ said it plainly here, “apart from Me you are not able to do anything…

12 Αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ ἐντολὴ ἡ ἐμή, ἵνα ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους καθὼς ἠγάπησα ὑμᾶς. 13 μείζονα ταύτης ἀγάπην οὐδεὶς ἔχει, ἵνα τις τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ θῇ ὑπὲρ τῶν φίλων αὐτοῦ. 14 ὑμεῖς φίλοι μού ἐστε ἐὰν ποιῆτε ἃ ἐγὼ ἐντέλλομαι ὑμῖν. 15 οὐκέτι λέγω ὑμᾶς δούλους, ὅτι ὁ δοῦλος οὐκ οἶδεν τί ποιεῖ αὐτοῦ ὁ κύριος· ὑμᾶς δὲ εἴρηκα φίλους, ὅτι πάντα ἃ ἤκουσα παρὰ τοῦ πατρός μου ἐγνώρισα ὑμῖν. 16 οὐχ ὑμεῖς με ἐξελέξασθε, ἀλλʼ ἐγὼ ἐξελεξάμην ὑμᾶς καὶ ἔθηκα ὑμᾶς ἵνα ὑμεῖς ὑπάγητε καὶ καρπὸν φέρητε καὶ ὁ καρπὸς ὑμῶν μένῃ, * ἵνα ὅ τι ἂν αἰτήσητε τὸν πατέρα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου δῷ ὑμῖν. 17 ταῦτα ἐντέλλομαι ὑμῖν, ἵνα ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους. John 15:12-17 (NA28)

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I love you. 13 There is no greater love than this that one would lay down His life for His friends. 14 You are my friends if you do the things I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves because the slave does not know what his Lord does, but you I have called friends because all things that I heard from my Father, I made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide so that whatever you ask the Father in my name He may give to you. 17 These things I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:12-17 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Our salvation is just the beginning. We are chosen in Christ by God to be fruitful and productive in fulfilling God’s purposes. Who chose whom? We did not chose Christ, He chose us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1). The purpose is to bring glory to God and that means that after our Lord saves us, we are to abide in Him and be fruitful in our obedience. We cannot do either if we do not also obey Him in loving the brethren. We must love the Church. Yes, there is a lot of stuff going on in the church visible right now that is not good, but that is nothing new. The genuine Church in every age has always had to deal with apostasy, why should we be any different in our age? Let’s not give in to the despair and hopelessness that our enemy is trying to inflict upon us now. We serve a Risen Saviour who defeated our enemy at the Cross. Our eternal destiny is to be with Him forever. Why are we so wrapped up in the “stuff” of now?

18 Εἰ ὁ κόσμος ὑμᾶς μισεῖ, γινώσκετε ὅτι ἐμὲ πρῶτον ὑμῶν μεμίσηκεν. 19 εἰ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου ἦτε, ὁ κόσμος ἂν τὸ ἴδιον ἐφίλει· ὅτι δὲ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου οὐκ ἐστέ, ἀλλʼ ἐγὼ ἐξελεξάμην ὑμᾶς ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου, διὰ τοῦτο μισεῖ ὑμᾶς ὁ κόσμος. 20 μνημονεύετε τοῦ λόγου οὗ ἐγὼ εἶπον ὑμῖν· οὐκ ἔστιν δοῦλος μείζων τοῦ κυρίου αὐτοῦ. * εἰ ἐμὲ ἐδίωξαν, καὶ ὑμᾶς διώξουσιν· εἰ τὸν λόγον μου ἐτήρησαν, καὶ τὸν ὑμέτερον τηρήσουσιν. 21 ἀλλὰ ταῦτα πάντα ποιήσουσιν εἰς ὑμᾶς διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου, * ὅτι οὐκ οἴδασιν τὸν πέμψαντά με. 22 εἰ μὴ ἦλθον καὶ ἐλάλησα αὐτοῖς, ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ εἴχοσαν· νῦν δὲ πρόφασιν οὐκ ἔχουσιν περὶ τῆς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν. 23 ὁ ἐμὲ μισῶν καὶ τὸν πατέρα μου μισεῖ. 24 εἰ τὰ ἔργα μὴ ἐποίησα ἐν αὐτοῖς ἃ οὐδεὶς ἄλλος ἐποίησεν, ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ εἴχοσαν· νῦν δὲ καὶ ἑωράκασιν καὶ μεμισήκασιν καὶ ἐμὲ καὶ τὸν πατέρα μου. 25 ἀλλʼ ἵνα πληρωθῇ ὁ λόγος ὁ ἐν τῷ νόμῳ αὐτῶν γεγραμμένος ὅτι ἐμίσησάν με δωρεάν.
26 Ὅταν ἔλθῃ ὁ παράκλητος ὃν ἐγὼ πέμψω ὑμῖν παρὰ τοῦ πατρός, τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας ὃ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται, ἐκεῖνος μαρτυρήσει περὶ ἐμοῦ· 27 καὶ ὑμεῖς δὲ μαρτυρεῖτε, ὅτι ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς μετʼ ἐμοῦ ἐστε. John 15:18-27 (NA28)

18 “If the world hates you, know that before you, it has hated Me. 19 If you were of the world, the world would have loved its own, but because you are not from the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore, the world hates you. 20 Remember the saying that I told you, ‘A slave is not greater than his Lord.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they kept my Word, they will keep yours also, 21 but all these things they will do to you because of my name because they do not know the one who sent Me. 22 If I did not come and speak to them, they would not have sin, but now they do not have a cloak around their sin. 23 The one hating Me also hates the Father. 24 If I had not done the works among them which no other man did they would not have sin, but now they have both seen and have hated both Me and My Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled, ‘They hated Me without cause.’
26 When the Encourager comes whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth, which proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me. 27 And you also will testify, because you have with me from the beginning.” John 15:18-27 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

We must never forget that once we bear fruit within the Kingdom of God, the world will no longer be our friend. The mistake so many believers make is attempting to remain in both worlds. Yes, as believers we still have jobs and families and have relationships with people who are not believers. However, our “world view” cannot be shaped by the values of this lost and dying world. This “world system” is the antithesis of the Kingdom of God. We who are in Christ were once in that kingdom of darkness, but now we have eyes to see and God uses the struggles with our flesh and this world to prune us, to cleanse us, and to make us more fruitful. Even the hatred of the world and those who claim to be Christian, but who are not and prove it by their apostasy and resultant hatred and attacks and unchristian behavior toward us, is used by God as fires of sanctification to burn away the dross of the love we have for the things of this world and its ways.

How can be bear up? We have the Holy Spirit, the Encourager, the Spirit of Truth. He is continually with all who are truly in Christ. He leads us into our abiding in Christ. He helps us stand firm as the vinedresser prunes us. He helps us get our eyes off of this lost and dying world and onto Christ, our redeemer.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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