Portraits of Christ | The Vine
I am the true vine. (John 15:1)
In this parable of the Vine, there is a two-fold concept: Christ is the Vine, and we are the branches. This concept indicates the most intimate and vital union. The branches draw their life from the Vine. While the Vine can exist without the branches, the branches cannot exist if severed from the Vine.
The parable of the Vine and the branches is a picture of spiritual union with Christ. Jesus prayed concerning His disciples that, "All of them may be one, just as You are in Me and I am in You." (John 17:21). The apostle Paul some 150-plus times used the phrase, or its equivalent, throughout his epistles, "In Christ."
In the Vine and the branches, there is a union of wills and of purpose, a fusion of our will with God's will. The branches are no longer independent, but receive the nature and attributes of the Vine.
This union is conditional. "If you abide in Me," Jesus said (John 15:7). There are many things than can spring up and choke the branch of the life-giving power from the Vine, or can sever the union entirely. The cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches and the lusts of other things can choke the word, Jesus warned, and cause one to become unfruitful. The writer of Song of Solomon warned that it is the "little foxes that spoil the vines." (Song of Solomon 2:15). Very often you will find that it's not a major event that threatens to sever your relationship with Christ, but little things that slowly rob you of life over the course of time.
When a branch becomes unfruitful, this union of the branch with Christ the Vine requires a purging, and a pruning away of all that is causing life to be slowly stolen away. The Greek word kathairo translated as trimmed or pruned donotes the idea of purity. To abide in Christ involved a purifying of heart and life. We must be weaned of all lesser loves, cleansed from selfishness, and sanctified by His Spirit. The vine is more extensively pruned than any other tree or bush, often cut to the very stump. But the greater the pruning or purging, the more vigorous and fruitful the new growth. A mature tree is a fruit-bearing tree. There is the fruit of the Spirit that produces Christ-like character (Galatians 5:22-23).
L.B. Cowman in her book, Streams in the Desert, writes:
Doctor Vincent tells of being in a great hothouse where luscious clusters of grapes were hanging on every side. The owner said, "When my new gardener came, he said he would have nothing to do with these vines unless he could cut them clean down to the stalk; and he did, and we had no grapes for two years, but this is the result."
There is rich suggestiveness in this interpretation of the pruning process, as we apply it to the Christian life. Pruning seems to be destroying the vine, the gardener appears to be cutting it all away; but he looks on into the future and knows that the final outcome will be the enrichment of its life and greater abundance of fruit.
There are blessings we can never have unless we are ready to pay the price of pain. There is no way to reach them save through suffering.