Jesus gives us a tremendous teaching in this section of scripture where He speaks about the need to abide in Him. He tells us that we need to abide in Him if we are to grow and mature, using the analogy of a vine and its branches.
There are both blessings and warnings contained in this section. The blessings lead to life eternal in Jesus Christ and the warnings lead to death and eternal separation from God.
And there is more too than these things for we see also that abiding in Jesus Christ is our source of power to be able to grow. So let us look at these teachings and learn.
Abide in Me
In the early part of this scripture Jesus says,
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
Jesus is calling us to “abide in me” but what does this mean? The word “abide” has several meanings. It means to “live” or “dwell” and it also means “accept” or “act in accordance with.” The Greek word from which it is translated is “meno” and it is generally used to mean “to stay.”
Taking all of these we get the meaning of what Jesus is teaching us, which is to stay connected to Jesus, grafted into Him as the branches of a vine are connected to the root or trunk of the plant. And we abide in Him when we listen to what He says and we accept His teachings, following what He commanded and live in accordance with all that He has taught us to do.
When we live our lives in this way then we truly follow His words to “Abide in me.” And those around will know that we are followers of Jesus through the bearing of fruit. We cannot bear the fruit of the Lord if we are separate from Him, just as the branch of a grape or other vine cannot bear fruit when it is separated from the vine. We must remain and dwell with Him to bear fruit.
Blessings and Power
One of the other things we see in the verse quoted above is that when we abide in Him, Jesus too abides in us. As we grow closer to Jesus, He becomes closer to us and is more and more a greater part of our lives. It says back in John 14:23,
“If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
Also we see in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that we are being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ slowly and progressively as we continue to abide in Him.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Now as we continue looking through the section in John 15 we can see that their are many other blessings. In verse 5 we are shown,
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
If we wish to come into perfection in Jesus Christ, and if we hope to stand before God on the Day of Judgement and hear Him say to us, “Well done good and faithful servant,” and if we have any desire to spread the word of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the glory of God, then we must abide in Him.
“Apart from me you can do nothing” is what he says here. Jesus is the source of our power and the source of our salvation. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of all things and without Him there is nothing.
Also if we hope to bear fruit, we must abide in Him just as the branch of the vine must remain connected to the tree to bear fruit. And the fruit we bear by being connected and abiding in Jesus Christ is the fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:22-23 we see that
“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.”
The fruit of the Spirit is the changing of our character and nature to mirror the nature and the love of God. It is the ability to stand in the face of all evil in this world as a beacon of righteousness and an example to the world of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ.
But the other side of the coin is that if we do not abide in Jesus, we will be cut off and separated from Him. Verse 6 of this section says,
If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.
Separation from God is not a decision made by Him but by us. As it shows us in this verse, the key is if WE do not abide in Him. He does not choose to cast us away, it is we who choose to leave him.
And there are many ways this can happen. A person may backslide and fall back into sin. They may be deceived by the gloss, glamour and riches of this world. Just as an aside, I believe this happens to some Christian musicians and artists who gain a level of fame and cross over into the mainstream of music or art. They are sucked into the dream of fame not realising that it is temporary and may cost them their eternal life. Compromise is the killer in this situation.
But there are also those who think they are doing a work or service for the Lord and charge off at a breakneck pace and instead of walking with Christ and following Him, they try to lead Him and end up running away from Him. Look at the words of Isaiah 30:15-17.
15 For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” And you would not,
16 but you said, “No! We will speed upon horses,” therefore you shall speed away; and, “We will ride upon swift steeds,” therefore your pursuers shall be swift.
17 A thousand shall flee at the threat of one, at the threat of five you shall flee, till you are left like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain, like a signal on a hill.
As we see here, when we return and rest in the Lord Jesus Christ, that is where we find the source of our strength. That is where the blessings and the growth into Him occur and that is where we bear the fruit of the Spirit, by remaining quiet and trusting in Him.
But if we rush off without regard for the work He is doing in us, then we rush away from Him. Many have desired to do great things for the Lord, to preach the gospel or to build cathedrals or go on missions or whatever. But if they are not ready for it or if the Lord has other plans for them, then the work may well fail…and they are left alone “…like a flagstaff on top of a mountain, like a signal on a hill.”
Those are tremendous visual images of loneliness and separation. They also are images of vulnerability for when we are not abiding in the Lord, we stand out and can be attacked and overcome.
Glory to the Father
Instead of separation, let us choose to abide in the words of Jesus Christ and have Him abide in us. Then we shall receive His blessing, bear the fruit of the Spirit and grow and mature into vessels useful for His work. Also by doing this we give great glory to the Father as it shows us in the final two verses of this section, verses 7-8.
7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.
8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.
When we abide in Jesus Christ we glorify the Father and the promise is that whatever we ask of Him will be done for us. Greatest of all, it is through abiding in Jesus Christ that we prove we are His disciples and this too is a great glory to the Father as well as a blessing to us.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by John Byer)