I Am the True Vine – Part 2

John 15:1-11 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.


Happy Palm Sunday. We read about that back in chapter 12 in John’s Gospel. It is the day in which Jesus rode into Jerusalem in a way that most clearly revealed that He is the Christ. He did so in a way that began as everyone was expecting—riding on a donkey in fulfillment of Zecheriah 9:9, to the praise of the crowds. And yet, while it began in the way everyone was expecting, it didn’t end that way. Instead of rallying a King David-like army to lead the people to a decisive, King David-like military victory, Jesus made it increasingly clear that He had come to die. Thus, the initial enthusiasm that swept through the Passover crowd, faded as quickly as it began. In fact, it completely dried up to the point that those same people will soon be yelling, “Crucify Him!”

Chapters 13-17 in John’s Gospel tell of Jesus final words of preparation for His disciples before His crucifixion. Again, our passage for this morning describes events that are mere moments before Jesus will be betrayed and mere hours before He will be beaten and crucified. I’m thankful for God’s providential timing in bringing us to this point in the Gospel at this point in the Church calendar—on Palm Sunday, a week before Easter.

With that, welcome back to John 15:1-11. This is part two (of what’s now at least a three-part sermon on this passage). If you weren’t here last week, don’t worry, I’ll bring you up to speed in just a bit after I pray.

The big idea of this passage is that the Christian life is about being united to Jesus in such a way that His mind, heart, and actions flow freely out of us, and all according to the superintending grace of God. That was the banner which needed to fly over all they did to carry on Jesus’ message in Jesus’ physical absence.

After a quick review, we’ll get right back to the nature and benefits of abiding in Jesus. And all of that to help us live as Christ intends. That is, the main takeaway is to read God’s Word in order to know what it means to be united to Jesus, and then to strive with the Spirit’s help to fully abide in Him, and all so that we might do good works for the glory of God. All of that was a big part of Jesus’ final message to His closest followers.

Let’s pray for God’s insight, conviction, and transformation.


Last week we looked at the setting, the Father as vinedresser, Jesus as the true vine, and the first two blessings that come from being branches connected to the vine. Basically, we looked at the first two verses.

Regarding the setting, in light of Jesus words at the end of chapter 14, we noted that while the physical location in which Jesus said the things He said in chapters 15-17 isn’t clear, the content, which is what matters most, is clear. Additionally, the setting of the illustration used by Jesus was a vineyard. Vineyards are cared for by vinedressers who train and prune vines, and harvest fruit for nourishment and enjoyment. Jesus makes use of each of those key elements in this passage.

Regarding the Father as vinedresser, the key idea is that God graciously superintends our spiritual lives from beginning to end in perfect wisdom, power, and goodness. He does so, ultimately, in order to be glorified by the uniting us with Jesus and causing us to bear good fruit. This is a great gift for all who will receive it.

Regarding Jesus as the true vine, the two keys are that (1) Israel was God’s vine, but failed to hold fast to God and bear the kind of fruit God planted them to bear (Psalm 80, Isaiah 5), and (2) Jesus replaced Israel as the true vine. It is from Him that the nations will be blessed. It is from Him that the fruit of God will be born. It is from Him that life and nourishment, justice and righteousness, will come.

Finally, regarding God’s people as branches, we saw the first two (of fourteen) benefits that come to those who are united to Jesus. First, Jesus promised that the Father will clear away all branches that are not attached to the vine so as to protect the true branches. And second, Jesus promised that the Father cuts back (prunes) all branches that are in Jesus so as to allow them to bear the most fruit.


With all of that, let’s turn our attention to v.3 and back to the nature and blessings of being in Jesus.

  1. Fruitless branches are cut off (2, 6).
  2. Fruitful branches are pruned for greater fruitfulness (2).
  3. All who are united to Jesus have received the Word of Jesus (3). In v.3, we read, “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. It is the second clause in v.3 that drives the first clause, so I want to help you see the blessing that is there first.

    I’ve asked you to do this before, but I want to ask you again. How excited would you be to have even a few minutes to talk with your favorite author, musician, pastor/theologian, artist, athlete, or, from a different angle, a family member or friend who has passed? People often deeply long for one more word with someone they’ve lost and are willing to pay significant amounts of money for chances to talk to the people they admire.

    Even with that simple recognition, the blessing it is to have the words of Jesus is nearly impossible to comprehend. God revealed Himself to us through fire and smoke, through angles and prophets, through His Son and then through His apostles. Jesus spoke the words of our passage to the eleven men He’d chosen and then inspired them to record His words to guide all who would come after them. All of that (and more) is recorded for us in the Bible. God Himself has spoken in the person of Jesus. And to have His Words is a gift beyond measure.

    How easy it is to take our Bible’s for granted (not to mention having it in our own language, with countless resources and godly people to aid us in understanding it). There are times in which I don’t feel like reading my Bible for devotion or study. More often than not, however, it only takes a moment of reflection to come back to my senses. This is the very Word of God. It is wisdom. It is life. It is salvation. It is power. It is treasure. And all who are united to Jesus have it. We cannot be united to Jesus if we don’t (for reasons the next blessing makes clear).

    Practically, read your Bible’s Grace. As a help, I printed a pile of Bible reading plans that our family has used for decades now. It’s simple. It has four columns. Each column is from one of the four main sections of scripture (OT law, OT wisdom, NT Gospels, NT epistles). If you read from one column each day for a year, you’ll read the entire Bible in four years. If you read from all four columns each day, you’ll read the entire Bible in a year. You can start at any time of year. A good reading plan (like this one) will help you in a number of important ways. It will help you to…

    Read your Bible consistently. Like almost everything else in life, it’s almost always best to read for five-ten minutes every day than it is to read for thirty-sixty minutes once a week.

    Read your Bible comprehensively. Make it your aim to read the whole Bible (over and over). There are parts we are all naturally drawn to and that’s great. But it is the Scriptures in their entirety that are able to equip the person of God for every good work. The more you read it, the more you’ll be able to understand each part of it, as well as the one awesome story it tells.

    Read your Bible thoughtfully. Reading it without understanding it is not helpful. It’s not the idea of reading the Bible that strengthens and sustains us, it is the truths revealed in it. That almost always requires help in the form of a godly friend and/or a good study Bible. Most importantly, though, it always requires the help of the Spirit. The help you need leads to the next two points.

    Read your Bible corporately. We need help and we have help to give. Make it a habit to ask questions about your Bible reading and share ways you are strengthened in the Lord from your Bible reading. Grace Church, by God’s grace, is filled with people who love the word of Jesus and are eager to share that with you.

    Read your Bible prayerfully. The ability to read God’s Word as God intends is a gift from God. When you read your Bible, therefore, pray and ask God for that gift—every time. Years ago, I came across a simple but helpful way to prayerfully begin your Bible reading. Remember IOUS. “I, Incline my heart to your testimonies (Psalm 119:36). O, Open my eyes to see wonderful things (Psalm 119:18). U, Unite my heart to fear your name (Psalm 86:11). S, Satisfy me in the morning with your steadfast love (Psalm 90:14).” With those simple prayers, we’re asking God to help us see what’s in the text, help us to feel it as we ought about it, and to help us respond as He would have us.

    What’s more, the Bible is no mere book. It is the living and active word of God (Hebrews 4:12). When we read it in prayer, we are truly talking to and hearing from God. Prayerfully reading the Bible is in many ways the essence of fellowship/communion with God, which again is a good lead in to the next point.

    Read your Bible worshipfully. Our primary aim in our Bible reading is not to fill our heads with facts about God, to make our parents happy, to check a box, to have all the answers, or to merely do what’s right. Our primary aim is to commune with the living God. Our primary aim is to see and savor God. Our primary aim is to delight ourselves in the triune God. Our primary aim is to worship the LORD with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and God’s Word to us is a critical part of and means to that end.

    Read your Bible practically. Always, always read the Bible with the aim of putting it into practice. Filled with worship of God, we read God’s Word in order that our minds might be renewed from the damage caused by believing the lies of the evil one. But our aim in having our minds renewed is having our entire lives transformed (Romans 12:1-2). Always close your Bible reading by determining to do something specific in light of it, in the Spirit’s power, and for the Father’s glory.

    Finally, read your Bible generationally. Parents, help your kids be disciplined in reading their Bibles. But be careful that your discipline is the means to an end, not the end in itself. What I mean is that your goal is not simply that your kids would dutifully take in God’s Word, but that they would find new spiritual life through it and that they would come to trust in Jesus and love God with all they have according to it (next blessing).

    Again, then, the third benefit of being united to Jesus, is having His Words. And like many of God’s blessings, they are ours to be received, but they are also ours to strive for. Know, therefore, the treasure that is the word of Jesus and press into it by reading it consistently, comprehensively, thoughtfully, corporately, prayerfully, worshipfully, practically, and generationally. And all of that because, as we’ll consider now, is also the means by which we come to be united to Jesus in the first place.
  4. The fourth blessing of being united to Jesus is that all who are in Jesus have been made clean by the Word of Jesus (3). This is a bit of a break from the vine/branches metaphor, but it is a critical component of being united to Jesus nevertheless.

    Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.”

    Grace Church and guest, before we can receive the promise of cleansing as a blessing, we need to truly believe that we are unclean. The word that Jesus has spoken to us lets us know that we are all born spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins. We have all sinned against God and the penalty for that sin is death. What’s worse, we are unable to save ourselves from this death. Our only hope is that we might be rescued by another. Jesus came to earth to do just that—which is what makes Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter so special. Jesus died the death we deserve and rose from the dead that we might live. And the means by which we are united with Him in His death and resurrection, the means by which we are cleansed of our sins and united to Him, isn’t by doing enough good things. It is by trusting in Him, and the good things He did (and still does) on our behalf. That is the heart of the good news of the Christian faith. We are not made right with God on our own merit, but by trusting in Jesus’ merit.

    There’s one more aspect of this—the other side of this coin—that we need to grasp. As we saw before, the kind of trust/belief/faith that unites us to Jesus and makes us clean, is always tied to reality. We must trust in Jesus as He really is, and in the things He really did and said. For people like us who were not able to walk with Jesus while He was on earth, we can only know who Jesus is and what He did and said through those who did hear Jesus speak and see Him work. Again, that’s what we have in the Bible, in this passage.

    Jesus spoke His cleansing words to His first followers in person (“because of the word I have spoken to you“). Because they believed Him, they were cleansed (“already you are clean“). And because God inspired them to write these things down, we too have the Words of Jesus. Therefore, if we will believe as the disciples did, we too will be cleansed of all our sin. John would later write exactly this (1 John 1:9), “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

    Whether for the first time ever, or for the tenth time today, confess your sins to Jesus. Believe the word He has spoken to you, be cleansed, and be united to Jesus. Become connected to the vine that you might live and bear awesome fruit.

    It is a blessing to receive Jesus’ word. It is another blessing to believe it. It is another blessing still to be cleansed by it. And all three (along with all the rest we have considered and will consider) lead to and flow out of being united to Jesus. What a blessing!
  5. Finally (for today anyway), the fifth blessing of being united to Jesus, the true vine, is that true followers of Jesus abide in Jesus, and Jesus abides in us (4). At the beginning of v.4 we read Jesus’ words, “Abide in me, and I in you.”

    As branches, we must be connected to the vine if we are to have life and bear fruit. Being united to Jesus through faith is the broader principle. Actively abiding in Him is a blessing that comes from that union. That Jesus spoke of it ten times in these eleven verses helps us to see that it is the most important blessing. But what does it mean to abide in Jesus?

    In vs.1-11 Jesus speaks of us abiding in Him, Him abiding in us, us abiding in His words, and us abiding in His love (all of which we’ll consider more carefully as we make our way through the various blessings). In addition, John used the term (abide) three other times previously in this Gospel as well. In chapter 5 Jesus spoke of abiding in the Father’s word. In chapter 6, Jesus said it is only those who eat His flesh and drink His blood who abide in Him. And in chapter 8 Jesus taught that His true disciples abide in His word.

    But again, what does that mean? Consider three different summary statements.

    Sinclair Furguson – “In a nutshell, abiding in Christ means allowing His Word to fill our minds, direct our wills, and transform our affections.”

    John Piper – “I think the essential meaning of our active abiding is the act of receiving and trusting all that God is for us in Christ. “

    John MacArthur – The word “abide” basically means “to remain.” Every Christian remains inseparably linked to Christ in all areas of life. We depend on Him for grace and power to obey. We look obediently to His Word for instruction on how to live. We offer Him our deepest adoration and praise and we submit ourselves to His authority over our lives. In short, Christians gratefully know Jesus Christ is the source and sustainer of their lives.

    In my own words, the heart of what it means to abide in Jesus is to gladly acknowledge in every aspect of our lives—every thought, feeling, action, interaction, inclination, observation, and evaluation—that we are entirely dependent on Jesus. Abiding in Jesus begins with knowing and feeling deep in our bones that Jesus is King, Jesus is the life, Jesus is the way, Jesus is the truth, Jesus is supreme. To abide in Him means understanding, believing, loving, and whole-heartedly orienting ourselves around the simple and glorious fact that it is in Jesus that we live and move and have our being.

    It’s hard to overstate the significance of the blessing of abiding in Jesus or its implications. What an unimaginable gift it is to come to see that in Jesus is life and meaning and joy and fulfillment and pleasure forevermore—to abide in Him. What an unimaginable gift it is to know the forgiveness of sins and freedom for obedience—to abide in Him. What an unimaginable gift it is to experience true purpose and right ordering—to abide in Him. What an unimaginable gift it is to be delivered from fear and pride—to abide in Him.

    Likewise, again, the implications of this blessing are staggering as well. If we truly abide in Jesus, there is no aspect of our lives left untouched by it. Practically, there are a few keys to keep in mind.

    First, abiding in Jesus is a reality, a condition, a state of being; it is not merely a concept. It’s not a spiritual lesson, a metaphor, or an analogy. In these ways, abiding in Jesus like breathing air; it’s an invisible reality with unceasing life and death implications.

    Second, we know what it means to abide in Jesus through the Word of Jesus. It is Jesus who invites, commands, and enables us to abide in Him. And it is Jesus who tells us what that means.

    Third, abiding in Jesus is always an indicative before it’s an imperative. It is who we are before it is what we do. It is a declaration of our nature before it is a command. Jesus gives us life in Him so that we might live the life He commands. Jesus abides in us so that we can abide in Him and live as He intends. Abiding in Jesus is something we rest in, before it is something we strive for.

    Fourth, abiding in Jesus is and is filled with imperatives (aorist, active, imperative). Jesus commands us to abide in Him and He gives commands because we are abiding in Him.

    Abiding in Jesus is something we must strive for in the sense that we have to choose to live in light of what is true. Through faith in the cleansing work of Jesus, we are united to Jesus, but we often act as if we aren’t, so we strive to abide in Him. For instance, we have been forgiven, but we often feel guilty, so we must strive to abide in Jesus’ forgiveness. Likewise, we are ambassadors of the greatest King, but we often feal afraid and ashamed, so we need to strive to abide in Jesus’ power and glory.

    Finally, fifth, abiding in Jesus is exclusive. You cannot be abiding in Jesus and anything other than Jesus at the same time. Grace, stop abiding in sports, politics, work, vacation, money, looks, marriage, parenting, hobbies, entertainment, church, video games, etc. Stop finding your identity and ordering your life and resting your hope in those things—stop abiding in them and abide in Jesus. It is only then, that sports, politics, work, vacation, money, looks, marriage, parenting, hobbies, entertainment, church, video games, etc. can find their proper place in your life.

    I met with a young man a number of years ago. He was dealing with some serious discouragement; to the point that his doctor prescribed an antidepressant. He was reluctant to go on it, however, because in his discouragement he sought the Lord with an earnestness that he didn’t have when feeling well. He didn’t want to lose his discouragement because he didn’t want to lose his earnestness in seeking the Lord. That is abiding in Jesus.

    I’ve met with many individuals who are married to someone who constantly act in ungodly ways, but who remain faithful because the Lord remains faithful to them. That is abiding in Jesus.

    I’ve met with lots of people over the years who battle some kind of long-term health struggle. In my attempt to encourage them, I often leave more encouraged by them, than they are by me. This is because while I bring them the truth of Jesus’ promises, they show me truthfulness of Jesus’ promises. I talk with them about doctrine, their lives speak of its power. I speak to them of the sufficient power of faith in God’s promises, they have faith that brings hope in the midst of pain and death. That’s abiding in Jesus.

    When we are united to Jesus, He abides in us. That is a blessing. And because He abides in us, we can and must abide in Him, which is yet another blessing—one of the sweetest kind.


The main thing I hope to have helped you see from these next couple of verses is that to be a Christian is to be united to Jesus. He is the vine and we are the branches. Because we are in Jesus, we have life in Him and that has implications for everything, EVERYTHING! It is who we are and it is the basis of all that we do. We know all of this because He has told it to us. And all of it is true of us when we receive His words in faith. To know and believe in and love and live in light of these things is to abide in Jesus, which is a blessing from God. And from these things flow endless blessings.

Fruitless branches are cut off (2, 6), fruitful branches are pruned for greater fruitfulness (2), all who are in Jesus have received the Word of Jesus (3), all who are in Jesus have been made clean by the Word of Jesus (3), and true followers of Jesus abide in Jesus, and Jesus abides in us (4).

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.