The Vine and the Branches
The New Testament uses various symbolic illustrations to describe the relationship between the universal Church and Jesus Christ. These symbolic illustrations can help us to get a better understanding of our relationship with Christ. We have looked at some of these symbolic illustrations already, and today we discuss Christ’s relationship with the universal Church as illustrated by the Vine and the branches.
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God the Father is the Vinedresser
In John 15:1-16, Christ’s relationship with his universal Church is depicted as a vine and its branches. God the Father is the vinedresser, Jesus is the true vine and each member of the universal Church is a branch (John 15:1, 5). Apart from Christ we can do nothing but believers in the Church-age who abide in Christ bear fruit (John 15:4). The Vinedresser prunes the branches and the true Vine provides both life and love so that the branches can bear fruit (John 15:2, 4, 9). Jesus says: “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8).
Three Degrees of Fruitfulness
Fruchtenbaum (2005:19) points out three degrees of fruitfulness. The first degree is basic fruit: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes” (John 15:2a). The second degree is the element of “more fruit”: “…He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2b). The third degree is “much fruit”: “Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit” (John 15:5). “The more believers grow in grace, the more they will learn how to live a Spirit-filled life, and the more fruitful they will become” (Fruchtenbaum 2005:20).
Continued sanctification of disciples therefore leads to “more fruit” and to “much fruit” (cf. John 15:2b, 5). “Believers are going to be cleansed and pruned, either by way of blessing or discipline, in order to produce more fruit” (Fruchtenbaum 2005:19). A strong, vibrant relationship with the True Vine results in the disciple praying effectually. Moreover, disciples will bear fruit with joy (John 15:11).
Union and Communion
There is both union and communion of Church age believers with Christ (Enns 2014:369). Just as the branch is united with the True Vine, so believers must remain one with Christ. The exhortation to “abide in Me” is especially a call to continue believing in Christ and to live an increasingly sanctified life (cf. Enns 2014:369). Jesus as the Vine gives us the life and the ability to serve. Moreover, disciples partake in Jesus’ glory, Jesus’ fruitfulness and Jesus’ spiritual strength, because Christ is his universal Church’s source of life (Fruchtenbaum 2005:20).
Honour and praise and glory to the True Vine, the Lord Jesus Christ: great things He has done, great things He is doing and great things He will yet do!
This article concludes our series about the symbolic illustrations of Christ and the universal Church.
If you would like to read more about the Universal Church, we suggest you read the original article and source of this short series, The Universal Church, written by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum and published in 2005 by Ariel Ministries in San Antonio.
We also made use of The Moody Handbook of Theology by P.P. Enns, which was published in 2014 by Moody Publishers in Chicago.
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