In our fast-paced society, who has the time to stay put or sit around? But that is exactly what Jesus commands his followers to do in order to be productive: “Abide in Me, and I in you” (John 15:4, NKJV). Christ alludes to this notion in the vine illustration in John 15: 1-8. Jesus tells believers “to stay put.” He tells them, “Don’t go anywhere.” The Greek word here is meno. It means “to abide,” “to remain” or “to stay.”
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also 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.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15: 1-8, ESV)
According to Jesus’ illustration, each branch – that is, each believer – has been positioned in the vine – which is Christ. Jesus orders each branch to “remain” in union with him, not to “attain” that union. This means that we can’t work for or prove our connection with Christ. We must rest and trust in God’s goodness, His mercy and grace. It means that we must know Christ and be known by Him through the establishment and development of a relationship. We create and strengthen this relationship with Christ through prayer, meditation and study of His word, praise, connecting with other Christians, etc.
Bearing New Fruit
In John 15:4, Jesus uses a word that implies that remaining in Him is a constant, yet single, act. Then, in the following verse (John 15:5), the Lord describes how each branch that remains in the vine will keep on bearing fruit (John 15:5). Perhaps this new fruit is the conversion of new believers, perhaps it’s the essence of the “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23). Either way, as a Christian, it’s an exciting and renewing experience to bear fruit. Something that can’t be done unless we abide in Jesus. This fruit is the practical expression of the indwelling Holy Spirit in our lives. This should attract others in Christ.
Cut off from the Branch
Each branch that does not continue to abide in the vine is cut off from the vine (John 15:6). What did Jesus mean by that statement? When Israel failed to be a profitable fruit-bearing vine, when it didn’t yield the good fruit of righteousness, God said He would destroy that vine (see Ps. 80:8-16, Isa. 5:5-7; Ezek. 15:2-7; 19:10-14). Yet such destruction did not mean eternal damnation for all Israelites; it meant a withdrawal of God’s blessing so that a remnant (or portion) of Israelites would seek the Lord again. On the positive side, Jesus assures His disciples of the fruitfulness of each branch that continues to abide in Him – the vine.
But since abiding in the vine can be personal or subjective, Jesus quickly defines what He means by abiding in the vine. Abiding in the vine means abiding in God’s Word and keeping Jesus’ commands (John 15:7, 10; see also 1 John 2:6). Every believer who remains in Jesus, who is careful to learn from God’s Word and to obey His commands, will be fruitful (John 15:7-10). It is God’s design that believers should live in union with His Son and become fruitful. It is God’s design that believers should express the effect of their relationship with Jesus in their daily lives. This is what glorifies the Father – a changed heart and a changed life.