15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He 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. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.
In 2009 I attended a Methodist/Presbyterian church in Ireland. There, in the heart of Catholic Ireland, this church was struggling. As I left the service I asked the pastor if he had ever heard of what Americans are doing with Church Growth. He answered me rather sharply, “Any fool can fill a church but are they making disciples?”
This is what our text is about. Over and over again we stress that a person is saved by faith and not by works. We sing, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” We are indeed saved by faith alone. But the same verse from St Paul which so clearly and completely affirms this is followed by this verse: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. This is how Jesus put it: “This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.”
Let’s say that you go to the grocery store- which maybe you will do tomorrow or sometime soon. Anyway, you see that beef roasts are on sale so you buy one and take it home. Then what? Leave it in the car? Bring it in and leave it on the counter? Place it in the Fridge and leave it there until it spoils? No! You buy it because you want to cook it and eat it. So that is what you do.
Maybe you are not hungry but you are in need of a new car. So you shop around and find one that meets your needs and you buy it. Now, do you leave it there at the dealer? Do you bring it home and lock it up in the garage and never drive it? Or do you use it because after all, it is a car which you need?
We are saved by faith alone- but simply put, saving faith is never alone. Saving faith motivates us to be about the Lord’s work out of genuine gratitude.
Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit…” He does not cut people off because they have not been bearing fruit, but because they didn’t have saving faith which would have motivated them to bear good fruit.
“…every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” The vine which has been pruned will produce more fruit than if left alone. As we pass by vineyards in the Fall we see mthe trunks staked to their supports with just a small amount of branches. Then in the summer, we see that these branches have grown out and have produced even more branches and it is these that produce the grapes.
Have you ever noticed how some new members are more excited about their church than some of the older members? Have you ever noticed how some recent converts are more into our doctrines that some of the lifelong members? Have you ever noticed how some people, after a tragedy or a severe problem become active? A death in the family, a divorce, loss of a job, or some other thing which makes then stop and start out on a new life? “…. every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” You didn’t get clean- that has your sins forgiven- because you bear fruit. Rather it was the Word, namely the Gospel that set you free from your sins. Again, “We hold that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the Law.”
Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. In another place Jesus said, “ My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” Here we have a promise, as long as we desire to be Christians, as long as we never deny Jesus, He will be with us and will keep us. Notice the order of what Jesus said. “You remain in Me and I will remain in you.” Not the other way around. Unfortunately, we have all known of those who have withdrawn from the Christian faith.
And sadly this has become a doctrine which gives false hope to those who believe in “Eternal Security.” They trust in what they did at some point in their life, like at an altar call, and believe they are eternally secure because of what they did. They think they no longer need to be involved in any form of living a Christian life, including public worship. While no external force can remove us from our relationship with Jesus, we can choose to cut those ties ourselves! “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you.”
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” As a born again Christian we want to live a life that will please God. We want to walk on that straight and narrow road which leads to eternal life. We want to hear the voice of our Good Shepherd say to us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” We don’t have to earn God’s favor. We already have that. We do these good things because we want to, because we love Him.
He is the vine and we have been engrafted to Him by His precious Blood. We have been given the Holy Spirit and He leads us and guides us and directs us. And with His direction, we say along with St Paul, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” And upon hearing Him, we say along with Isaiah, “Here am I, send me!” Amen.
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