Christ, The True Vine John 15:1-11 -- By: Robert P. Martin

Journal: Reformed Baptist Theological Review
Volume: RBTR 05:2 (Jul 2008)
Article: Christ, The True Vine John 15:1-11
Author: Robert P. Martin


Christ, The True Vine
John 15:1-11

Robert P. Martin*

* Dr. Robert P. Martin is Pastor of Emmanuel Reformed Baptist Church, Seattle, Washington, Professor of Biblical Theology in Reformed Baptist Seminary, Easley, SC, and Editor of Reformed Baptist Theological Review.

All that Jesus says in the final hours before his arrest (John 13-17) is designed to equip his disciples to fulfill their mission after his departure. Among the things that he addresses is the critical importance of on-going communion with himself. At the heart of his instruction is the remarkable declaration that they will be totally dependant on him for the doing of anything good. In order to convey this truth in a way that will be memorable, the Lord uses the image of a vine and its branches.

The Familiar Image: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. . . . I am the vine, you are the branches” (15:1, 5).

As on so many occasions, Jesus here uses an image drawn from daily life. The Bible uses the imagery of a vine and its branches to illustrate the relation between God and his people Israel. Here Jesus uses this imagery to illustrate his (and his Father’s) relation to his disciples, who are the true Israel, i.e., the Israel of the New Covenant. There are three parts to this image–the vine, the branches, and the vinedresser. Each has a vital role to play. Later we will consider the role of the Father as the vinedresser. Now we focus on the relation of the vine (Christ) and the branches (his disciples).

There are many things about vines that I do not know, complexities of biochemistry that perhaps even mystify the experts. But an expert’s knowledge of such things is not necessary to understanding our Lord’s use of this image. The analogy is simple, and the lessons are meant to be virtually self-evident.

The relation of branches to a vine is the closest that may be imagined. Even a casual observer recognizes that all the life that a branch has flows from the vine. The vine is the root that creates and sustains life in the branch. Separated from the vine, the branch cannot live, but withers and dies. I see this fact every year when I trim the blackberry

vines at my home. The severed branches progressively show fewer and fewer signs of the life that they once had in union with the vine, until finally they are patently dead. And, of course, separated from the vine, their fruitfulness is at an end. I keep a withered blackberry branch on a bookshelf in my office to remind me of the basic fact that a Christian cannot live or bear fruit independently of Christ the vine. Remaining i...

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