On a recent trip through Romania with some Global Workers, I learned something interesting. In the Romanian language, there is only one word for vine or vines: vită de vie.
Only one vine. The vine that is the source of life (vie).
As we drove throughout Transylvania on our way to the Black Sea, miles of vineyards flashed past my window. I pondered anew the word picture given to us in numerous scripture verses about the vine.
Who Is The Vine? Who Are the Branches?
In the Old Testament, the vine referred to God’s chosen race, the children of Abraham, the nation of Israel. He built His legacy on earth through this human lineage. Psalm 80:8 (NIV) says: You transplanted a vine from Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.
Once in the Promised Land, Israel was to produce faithful lives and show forth God’s glory to the world. Hosea 10:1 (NIV) describes the mission of the Israelites this way: Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself.
God’s people did not respond to their Vinedresser as directed. Jeremiah 2:21 (NIV) delivers this message: I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine?
Many of the vine verses detail pruning, how the ineffective, dead branches are cut off and even burned up. The branches are individuals, created by God with a choice to remain connected to the vine through obedience or to willfully disconnect and lose life.
The True Vine
When Jesus came to earth, he made many references to vineyards in his teaching. In the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus explained the Kingdom of God and the disappointing behavior of the Jewish leaders through vineyard stories. His audiences were familiar with the imagery and deeper meaning of vine from their study of scriptures. Many were offended by Jesus’ parables.
In the book of John chapter 15, Jesus introduced himself as the vine. Now the religious leaders were severely insulted and other listeners were confused. How did the shift happen from the Israelite nation being the vine to this one man?
Christ clarified in John 15:1 that God was still the Father as He always has been. He appointed Jesus to bring life to the world. The pruning action talked about by prophets of old was still in place. Bear fruit, branches, or be eliminated from the vine.
Further, Jesus explained his role in helping the branches. He has the life essence each branch needs, saving power and much love. He is the one true vine.
Branches must stay attached. Or die.
Abiding in The Vine
Recently my senior pastor illustrated what abiding looks like. He shined a large flashlight over his head as he stood on the sanctuary platform. Holding the light in place, he stepped outside the circular beam. The light did not move with him.
“I must intentionally choose to be in the provided place of light. I must stay put, connected and abiding to Christ as the vine. He does not withdraw life and light from me as a branch. I am the one who loses if I leave his presence.”
How do branches abide?
- Branches must believe Jesus is the one true vine, that there is no other source that saves, justifies, sanctifies, and offers eternal life. That confession of faith joins branches to the vine.
- Growing branches accept that Christ’s undeserved grace flows into them, transforming them, making them like the vine. The works, the resulting fruit identifies the branches with the vine but does not save them.
- Abiding branches read and study the vine’s Word, the Bible, to know him and grow like him.
- Fruitful branches surrender to the love of the vine and desire to obey his commands.
- Vibrant branches partake of the Lord’s Supper, demonstrating unity with the vine.
- Productive branches pray regularly to engage in the work of the vine and the Father in the world.
- Successful branches recognize their connection with other branches as the Church of the vine and worship and serve together, more accurately reflecting the whole nature of the vine to the world.
Beware of Deadly Vines
There are many false vines, religions and cultural belief systems offering tempting substitutions. Abiding in Jesus offers discernment to the branches through the Holy Spirit and truth of scripture, giving the ability to recognize a counterfeit vine.
Take note of what Rev 14:18-19 predicts happens to the false vine of the world and its fruit (NIV): Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath.
Stay close, branches, abide in the true vine, the only vine. Be fruitful. Enjoy abundant life. Live forever.
Gail Goolsby, MA, MEd is a lifelong educator, including past leadership at an international school in Afghanistan. Gail and her pastor husband of 39 years live where the wind blows over the prairie in south Kansas. She counsels and coaches using God’s Word to help others learn to live well.