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 vinedresser”, 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 vine dresser. 2 Every barren branch in me, he lops off; every fruitful branch he cleans by pruning, to render it more fruitful. 3 As for you, you are already clean, through the instructions I have given you. 4 Abide in me, and I will abide in you; as the branch can not bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, no more can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in me, and in whom I abide, produces much fruit; for, severed from me, you can do nothing. 6 If any man abide not in me, he is cast forth like withered branches, which are gathered for fuel, and burnt. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you may ask what you will, and it shall be granted you. 8 In this is my Father glorified, that you produce much fruit; so shall you be my disciples. (LO)

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 that the apostles were ‘branches’.

In the analogy of John 15, God the Father was the vinedresser, 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 bear 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.

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 rta032.htm has some notes on the 144000.)

And again, those who did not remain attached to the vine (those who were not faithful to Jesus), could not produce fruit. An example: When Jesus spoke the words that are recorded in John 15, Judas Iscariot had left Jesus and gone his way in order to betray him, 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. Someone 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 article raa012.htm with its appendix, and the article rga062.htm, take a closer look at the “true church” dogma respectively the origin and meaning of the word “church”.


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. The apostles were to bear fruit and produce a spiritual harvest – and they certainly did.

Those who in the first century were through the apostles’ work turned to God and then received the Holy Spirit, are the “first-fruits” group of 144000 of Revelation 14, in God’s spiritual harvest work here on Earth. (That group includes 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 rta032.htm, rba082.htm and rta062.htm have some notes on those things.

See also the “recommended reading” section, below.

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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? Also, who are the first-fruits or virgins of Revelation 14:1–4? → rta032.htm

On the word “saint” and what it means and refers to, in the Bible. → rga032.htm

Matthew 16:18, “I will build my assembly, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it”. What and where is the ekklêsia or assembly which Jesus said he would form? Is it an earthly religious organisation as some claim, or something else? → raa012.htm

The origin and meaning of the word “church”. → rga062.htm

On pride and humility in connection with religion. → rga102.htm

The two witnesses of the book of Revelation. Also: Similarities between their work and that of Moses, Elijah and John the Baptist. → rta012.htm

A study on the phrases “the snare of the Devil” and “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”. How those who were to proclaim the Good Tidings, could become spiritually unfruitful. → rma082.htm

On what the Bible says about the matter of resurrection. → rba082.htm

The “great white throne judgment” – when will it take place? → rta062.htm

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