A change of perspective
The first part of today’s reading is about the vine and branches, and remaining in Christ. There’s a change of salvation-history perspective from the old covenant to the new. Old Israel gives way to Jesus and under this fresh new covenant revelation, ‘servants’ gives way to ‘friends’ – v15.
The imagery of the vine is connected to Israel in the Synoptic Gospels in several places. In each the vines or vineyards are less fruitful than they should be. In all the Old Testament allusions to Israel being the vine, the failure to bear fruit is emphasised (see Carson p.513 for a long list of references!). So John’s account replaces the Old Testament picture of Israel as the vine, with Jesus telling His followers “I am the true vine”. He is the One Israel pointed to, but never attained to.
The followers of Jesus are the branches – we get pruned to be more fruitful and that is always painful! No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but will bear fruit.
What then of v.2, where God takes away those that bear no fruit? That’s a text that arguably doesn’t enhance the concept of eternal security of the believer, elsewhere in the Gospel and the New Testament. The fact is that true Christians’ bear fruit. Those who claim to be Christians but don’t produce any fruit at all are not truly Christian. Those that look to be Christians on the outside, but are not, will be cut off on the day of judgement.
So how do we bear fruit? Verse 4 tells us “by abiding in Him”. Jesus’ command to abide in Him is able to be done because He abides in us. He gives us the power to remain in Him, He preserves us, He will carry onto completion what He began. Our part is to rest on Him. Abide in Him.
Jumping to v.16, which rounds off the section, we see that we bear fruit because God has chosen us and appointed us to bear fruit that abides. Thereby bringing us back to eternal security, because it is all on God not us! We are justified by grace and we are sanctified by grace. The Spirit empowers us to abide and obey all that God wants.
These verses are a typical pattern where there is a strong warning against falling away. They are followed by a stronger assurance that it won’t happen. Hebrews 6:4-8, the strongest warning in the New Testament is followed by Hebrews 6:9-7:25 the strongest assurance passage!
Jesus then warns his followers of persecution to come, because the world hates them and again assures them that the presence of the Spirit in them will help them. Jesus wants us to be sure of eternal life and secure when trials, temptations and persecution come.
Today ask for the Helper’s help to abide in Him!