In John 15:1-2, Jesus compares himself to a vine.
“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,
In saying that he is the true vine, he’s pointing to himself as the one who sustains his people. Jesus is the vine. God the Father is the vinedresser or gardener.
Christians are attached to the vine and bear fruit, which refers to good works and to Spiritual growth which is the result of one’s relationship to the vine, to Christ. A vine branch cannot blossom and produce fruit apart from the vine. A vine branch cannot survive off of the vine. Neither can a Christian exist apart from Christ.
Jesus talks of two different types of branches in these verses. There are the branches which do not bear fruit and the branches which do bear fruit.
This is a reference to two different types of people within the church. People who believe in the gospel and those who do not. The fruitless branch is someone who goes to church, they know how to speak the churchy lingo. They might say they’re a Christian. They know a little bit about the Bible. But they don’t really believe in Jesus. They don’t truly believe that he’s their Lord and savior.
And because they don’t really believe in Jesus, there’s no fruit. They never had fruit. It’s not that their production slowed down or that they had a bad week. It’s that they never believed in the first place.
In the Gospel of John, the most obvious example of someone to whom Jesus is referring here is Judas who had been one of the disciples and who had departed from Jesus at the end of chapter 13.
It’s not that Judas was a believer in Jesus who walked away from him. Judas never believed in Jesus in the first place.
every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
God is the vinedresser who prunes the grapevine.
Properly pruning grapevines is essential to maximizing the harvest. Without pruning vines, they can quickly become overgrown and entangled.
Pruning requires cutting off small branches and old branches so that you can make room to support the new year’s grapevines. You wanted the vine to be cut to a certain length. Too long and it’s more susceptible to breaking. Pruning was primarily done twice a year. It would be done in the spring when they planted and again in the fall at harvest to ensure healthy vines.
And that is all important to the metaphor and what the passage is teaching.
Because for the branch the bears good fruit on the vine, God as the master vinedresser, God prunes in order to maximize the harvest.
That’s what a vinedresser does. They have to cut away at the vine for the good of the vine. Imagine that you’re a branch on the vine. You might have all of these other branches and shoots that look good and are about to blossom. And then the vinedresser starts cutting.
It’d seem cruel!
But a good vinedresser knows it’s necessary to get the most fruit out of the vine.
God brings about things in our lives sometimes for our growth that can seem painful, that can seem harsh, that can seem unfair. Yet all of it is meant for ultimate good. And God has to prune us.
God prunes us
It can be different ways in different seasons of life, but God must use the knife to cut into us. This calls to mind a passage like Hebrews 12, where God is a loving father who instills discipline in his children.
Hebrews 12:6: the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
Sometimes that’s how God prunes us. By discipline. Sometimes it’s through the challenges we face.
James 1:2-4: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James says that we are to count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds because God uses those trials to work greater results in us.
There’s pruning. Sometimes it can be through illnesses or life circumstances. Sometimes God takes things away from us, but for greater purposes. Sometimes it can be through setbacks. But God works through those challenges and situations.
In the process, he produces different results. No two branches are pruned exactly the same. But to be a Christian is to be part of the vine, and to be part of the vine is to produce fruit. And to be part of the vine is definitely to be pruned. God is a perfecting God.
God is faithful to work in us.
God can prune us through relationships. People in our family, people in the church, people from work. He can use people to be transformational in our lives. Kari is getting me a pruning knife in October, Lord willing. He can prune through his word.
2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
God can use his word in mighty ways in our lives. And let us remember that when we read our Bibles. That the Word should challenge us. We are sinful and imperfect. God’s Word is true and points us to holiness. It can be challenging to be confronted with the Bible.
You can have weeks or months of reading the Bible and nothing really stands out to you and then you come across a passage that feels like it was written with you in mind. Because God uses his word to cut us. He uses it to prune us.
Hebrews 4:12 says:
the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
How is God pruning you?
Is there an area of your life where you’re not living up? Where you know you’re not honoring God? Is there an area of sin that you’re struggling with? Is there an idol that you’re holding onto? Is there a person you’re withholding forgiveness from?
The answer for that question will vary from person to person. But what does not change is that God is working in his people. You’re not a finished product.