John 15, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches’

The parable of the vinedresser, the vine, the branches and the fruit

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What did Jesus mean when he said to the apostles, “I am the true vine and my Father is the farmer”, John 15:1, and “I am the vine, you are the branches”, verse 5? This article takes a closer look at the symbolism and meaning of the parable of the vinedresser, the vine, the branches and the fruit.

John 15:1–8 records how Jesus, during the evening or night when he was betrayed and captured, said to the apostles that his Father was a “vinedresser” (vineyard keeper), and that he, Jesus, was “the true vine”, and that the apostles were “branches” who were attached to Jesus the vine, and that they were to bear fruit.

Here is the parable or analogy in question:

John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer. 2 Every branch in me that bears not fruit he takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches: He that stays in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done to you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples. (AKJV)

People who casually read that passage, might wonder, “Why did Jesus mean by saying that we are branches?” But, the word “you” in the phrase “you are the branches”, verse 5, does not refer to us who almost 2000 years later read about that event. Jesus was talking about the apostles.

What Jesus meant when he said to the apostles that they are ‘branches’.

In the analogy of John 15, God the Father was the vineyard keeper. His son Jesus was the vine. The apostles were branches who were attached to Jesus the vine. They were to bear much fruit, just as the branches of a vine produce grapes.

Again, in that analogy, the apostles were “branches” who were to produce fruit (John 15:2–8).

Later, they proclaimed (spread) the Good Tidings which Jesus had given to them, and indeed produced much fruit to God. Fruit: People turned to God and his son Jesus, for salvation.

A linguistic note: In John 15:2 and 3 where the earlier quoted AKJV has “purges” and “clean”, the Greek text has the verb kathairô, “to clean”, and the adjective katharos, “clean”. In this case, those words refer to cleansing (pruning) the branches of a vine, so that they will produce more fruit.

More, regarding the fruit the apostles produced.

On a literal vine, the branches carry grapes as their fruit. But, Jesus was talking about his apostles and the fruit which they were to bear. They produced spiritual fruit by proclaiming the Good Tidings which then turned people to God and to his son Jesus, for salvation.

The apostles could not do that by their own power. Jesus said to them, “without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, AKJV). – If a branch of a vine is to produce fruit, it has to remain attached to the vine. Similarly, in order to produce fruit, the apostles had to remain faithful to Jesus, doing things by his power and being led by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said to them, “he that stays in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit” (John 15:5, AKJV). And indeed, empowered by Jesus the apostles (later including Matthias, Paul and others) produced much fruit, turning thousands upon thousands of people to God and his son Jesus.

Those who understand that the first-fruits group of 144000 of Revelation 14 consists of people of biblical times (mostly of the first century CE, plus a few earlier than that), can see that the apostles indeed produced much fruit. (The article nta030.htm has some notes on the 144000.)

And, as Jesus noted, those who did not remain “attached to the vine” (those who were not faithful to Jesus), could not produce fruit. Judas Iscariot had already gone his way, to betray Jesus, for thirty pieces of silver. He did not produce any fruit.

Some have claimed that John 15:1–8 refers to churches and church members. How is it with that?

Many preachers have caused people to believe that if they want to be joined to Jesus, they must follow the preacher, and become members of his church and remain as such. Some might, in one way or another, connect those things to the analogy of John 15. What should one think of that?

Here, one must keep in mind that that parable or analogy had to do with the apostles and their proclaiming work, in the first century. John 15 has nothing to do with our day and age, or with churches or church membership or anything like that.

A note: Many people have been subjected to dogmas about churches and their hierarchies, including various modified copies of the Catholic “true church” dogma. The articles naa010.htm and nga060.htm take a closer look at the “true church” dogma respectively the origin and meaning of the word “church”.

Summary.

The parable or analogy which is recorded in John 15 is not about things or people of our day. It was about God and his son Jesus and the apostles. They were to produce a spiritual harvest for God – and they certainly did.

Those who in the first century were through the apostles’ work turned to God and then received the Holy Spirit, formed the “first-fruits” group of 144000 of Revelation 14, in God’s spiritual harvest work here on Earth. (That group included even a few people who had received the Holy Spirit before New Testament times.)

In addition to that “first-fruits”, there is a larger harvest to come, so numerous that those who will be joined to it, cannot even be counted. It appears that that innumerable multitude will be formed in the days when the two witnesses do their work. – And, there is even the matter of resurrection and the coming “judgment period”. (The articles nta030.htm, nba080.htm and nta060.htm have some notes on these things.)

See also the “recommended reading” section, below.

Please send or mention the address to this site to others. You can also link to these pages. The address to the table of contents page is biblepages.net/articles.htm

Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters

Who are the 144000 and the great multitude of Revelation 7? And, who are the first-fruits or virgins of Revelation 14:1–4? → nta030.htm

What does the word “saint” mean and refer to, in the Bible? → nga030.htm

Matthew 16:18, “I will build my assembly, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it”. What and where was the ekklêsia or assembly which Jesus said he would form? Was it an earthly religious organisation as some claim, or something else? → naa010.htm

The origin and meaning of the word “church”. → nga060.htm

Pride and humility in connection with religion. → nga100.htm

The two witnesses of the book of Revelation. Also: Similarities between their work and that of Moses, Elijah and John the Baptist. → nta010.htm

A study on the phrases “the snare of the Devil” and “the love of money is the root of all evil”. How those who were to proclaim the Good Tidings, could become spiritually unfruitful. → nma080.htm

What does the Bible say about the matter of resurrection? → nba080.htm

The “great white throne judgment” – when will it take place? → nta060.htm


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