Rev. Anthony Martlew, L.Th.
"YE ARE THE BRANCHES"
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." - (John 15:1-2)
THIS text and the following verses are one of the greatest challenges to Christian believers in these last days.
It is not only a challenge to us, but also to those who believe that Christianity is no more than another world religion. How many times have people said to you, "It
doesn't matter what you believe as long as you believe in something"?
This attitude is not surprising in view of what passes for religious instruction in schools and in many churches. Most schools now teach an amalgam of many religions, leaving the children to make up their own minds about what to believe. What Jesus so clearly taught in the text is that there is no other way, no other truth that we must embrace other than belief in Him. Notice how it began, "I AM". This is one of the names of God, and what follows is of the greatest importance. (See also: Deuteronomy 32:39, Isaiah 41:4, John 8:58, Revelation 1:17-18)
The consequences of not bearing fruit in our Christian lives is simply stated in verse 6:
"If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned"
Our Lord's teaching is in perfect accord with what Moses said to the nation when he gathered the people together and said:
" I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:" - (Deuteronomy 32: 19)
Sadly, the people chose death, and, as a consequence they were eventually taken into captivity.
Whilst Moses' declaration was to the nation, what Jesus said was to individuals of all nations who consider themselves to be Christians. They are referred to as
branches. Some bear fruit and others do not. For those who do not bear fruit, notice what Jesus said, "...he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit". - (John 15:2)
"To purge" is from the Greek KATHAIRO to prune, clean, clear, or to be made pure. This purification or purging is seen by some as a punishment. They will say about someone they know who is an active Christian, "I don't understand it, but since he became a Christian everything seems to be going wrong with his life. If that is what happens to Christians, I'm not impressed".
How little they understand! The purpose of pruning a branch is understood by most people, but when it applies to Christians it is looked upon as a punishment. If Christians do not have times of adversity, set-backs, disappointments and all manner of problems, it could be a sign of stagnation and lack of spiritual growth. Ifthe Lord has a special ministry for us, He will purge and prune, and, at times, it can be exceedingly irksome.
" Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." - (John 15:4-5)
Outside of Christ we cannot bear fruit. His words are so clear, "... without me ye can do nothing".
Those of other faiths would no doubt inform you that they can trace their religion back thousands of years, even before the time of Christ. However, that does not imply that they are bearing fruit.
It may well be asked, what fruit was Jesus referring to?
" But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." - (Galatians 5:22-23)
Some will no doubt say that the fruit is common to all religions, even pagan ones. However, we cannot divorce the fruit of the Spirit from the giftsof the Spirit. These are also nine fold:
" For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:" - (I Corinthians 12:8-10)
These gifts only apply to those who are Christian, and therefore they preclude all faiths outside of Christ. Verse 27 makes it quite clear:
"Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular."
Christians are the branches of Christ, and in order to bear fruit and grow to full spiritual maturity, we must be prepared to endure purging and pruning.
Unpleasant things also happen to unbelievers in Christ, of course. In many cases, adversity has turned people very bitter. Many blame God for punishing them for no good reason. ''After,all, I've never done anyone any harm".
It is not until we know Christ as our Saviour that we begin to understand that we are not intrinsically good:
" For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God," - (Romans 3:23)
The above text surely puts us all in our place. Our period of purging will finally bear much fruit on that wonderful day to come soon, when
''And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." - (Revelation 22: 12-14)
Back To Archive Contents