Our Relationships

May 18th, 2012 | By | Category: Special Features (click on Article name)

Our Relationships

 
“I am the true vine … You are the branches” (John 15:1,5, NASB). 1

Relationships Between the True Vine and the Branches

John 15:1,2 — “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”

Jesus is the true vine. Some modern translations render the Greek “I am the real vine.” While other vines may compete for our attention, only Jesus can give us what we seek — life eternal. Careers, family, hobbies, honors of men or other earthly pursuits may seem to offer the sustenance of soul we hunger for. However, Jesus only is the true — the real — vine that gives us a more abundantly rich life now, and life eternal in the future. “Fade, fade each earthly joy, Jesus is mine — Jesus has satisfied, Jesus is mine.”

God, our Father, is the vinedresser. As branches of the vine, we may exult in joy as we recognize that God Himself is patiently watching over our spiritual fruit bearing. God has an investment in us. That investment cost Him His own beloved Son and He has a right to expect a return on His investment. This thought leads us to a beautiful and very encouraging truth. Every fruit bearing branch will be pruned to make it even more fruitful.

We will receive prunings, or disciplines, from the Father even though we are faithfully obedient to Him. Such prunings are not punishments, but blessings.

We may go through a very difficult experience that seems to keep repeating itself with ever increasing severity and examine ourselves. We see that we are following the will of God to our best understanding of His Word. Are the experiences being repeated because we are not faithful or not learning the lesson the Lord is teaching us? No, not necessarily.

Sometimes, the experiences are being repeated because we do comprehend. Because we understand the lesson and because we are abundantly bearing fruit in it, our Father in heaven allows these experiences to come upon us “full throttle.” We may thereby bear fruit in lavish abundance to His glory. Understanding our trials in life from this perspective is beautiful and encouraging.

John 15:3 — “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”

We are cleansed from the stains of earth “by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:26). The vine is a plant that, by nature, creeps along the ground. But if the vine is on the ground, its grapes will rot; it needs to grow above the ground. It needs to be trained and supported to grow heavenward. Even Jesus, though he was a son, learned the value of obedience to God’s will by the things which he suffered (Hebrews 5:8). He said, “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed [straitened] I am until it is accomplished (Luke 12:50). Jesus ruled over his flesh and continually trained himself heavenward. It is because of his victory that we may also be trained heavenward (see Ephesians 2:6). Let us always hold fast to him that in due time we may be fully exalted with him.

John 15:4-6 — “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”

Branches of the vine cannot live unless they are continually fed and supported by the main trunk of the vine. This is a crucial lesson for us.

We must abide in him. How? By continually looking to him for wisdom and encouragement, continually relying on the grace of justification that we have in him and continually relying on his strength. We may try to do things in our own strength, but without him we are nothing. Our life’s theme should be, “I know no life divided, O Lord of life from thee.”

Jesus reciprocates — rewards — our efforts to know him and abide in him by granting us more of his spirit, love and character likeness. By this we imbibe more deeply an awareness of his presence with us. He abides in us as our head, whose example during his earthly sojourn is a model for us in both behavior and service. He dwells in us also by drawing from us a spirit of thankful gratitude. That gratitude, springing from our appreciation of his loving sacrifice for us, should influence each thought and each motive in our daily lives.

Those who wander from their relationship with Christ may find themselves among those who are saved by fire (see 1 Corinthians 3:15). Those who ultimately forsake Christ fall into the hands of the Living God — a fearful thing! (see Hebrews 10:31). The “truth is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:21). He has the words of life. Where else would we go? (John 6:68). Let us cling to and abide in the Lord of Life. Let us grow in the love of serving him and bearing spiritual fruitage to the glory of the Father.

John 15:7,8 — “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”

The promise that we may ask whatever we wish and it will be done for us is enthralling! What should we ask for? Certainly not for the earthly baubles that might distract us from our heavenly hope. While bearing in mind our obligation to provide for ourselves and our dependents, we value the spiritual things much more. (See 1 Timothy 5:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:10.) Maintaining a proper balance between our heavenly goal and our earthly responsibilities requires much spiritual wisdom.

What could be better than to know God, the Father, more intimately? What could be better than to be filled with as much of His Holy spirit as we could contain? What could be better than to serve Him? What could be better than to ask God to help us bear much fruit of the spirit — to His eternal glory? By bearing much fruit, we prove to be Jesus’ disciples. Let others give proof by words and empty claims if they desire. Let us give proof of discipleship by living for Jesus every day. Let us abide in him and he abide in us.

John 15:9,10 — “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 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.”

We are humbled by Jesus’ words. We are so undeserving of his love! But we must grasp that love by faith. We must hold on to his love, believe that he does love us and dwell in his love.

John 15:11 — “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”

This verse shows us the importance of the preceding verses. We must thoroughly appropriate them. Nehemiah observed that “The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). We have a tremendous source of strength by Jesus’ joy dwelling in us. In daily communion with him, in daily walking with him and in daily dying with him, our joy is made full.

Relationships Between Disciples

John 15:12 — “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”

The force of Jesus’ words is evident. He commands us to love one another. The fact that this is a command, not an option, helps us to understand the vital, absolute and essential need to love our brethren. John echoed and amplified Jesus’ words, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).

We are commanded to love the brethren fervently. If we are cold toward those with whom we have disagreements, let us take caution from John’s admonition. Perfect love for all of the brethren is an advanced lesson of the Christian life for “we know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14).

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). How will all know that we are Jesus’ disciples by our love for one another? The answer is implied in the term “disciples.” It takes discipline to be a disciple. It takes discipline to love one another. Only those under the discipline of Christ will love all of the brethren — both those who are easy to love as well as those who may be difficult to love.

Love for all of the brethren does not come to us naturally. We must exert our new will to gain a masterly love for all our brethren. “One of the final and most searching tests and the one under which probably most of those once awakened and armed will fall, will be love for the brethren” (Reprints, page 2453:4).

John 15:13-15 — “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

Poignant indeed is the Master’s teaching. We treasure his tender words, calling us his “friends.” By implication he is telling us that we should also manifest the kind of great love that would die for our friends. Not an impulsive “throwing ourselves in the line of fire” type of sacrifice, but a steady day-by-day dying to self to serve the interests of our friends — the brethren. Paul’s example is notable, “We who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:11, 12). In other words, as Paul or other of Jesus’ disciples lay down their lives, the brethren are spiritually strengthened.

John 15:16,17 — “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another.”

We did not choose Jesus. He chose us and our brethren as well. The members of the body of Christ have been placed according to the Father’s will. (See 1 Corinthians 12:18.)

Jesus chose us to bear fruit and we must fulfill that responsibility. It is comforting to know that our fruitage will remain. The fruit of the spirit that we bear in this life will be available to mankind in God’s kingdom to sustain and refresh them.

We, therefore, ask the Father for more of the holy Spirit that we may bear much fruit — all to His glory. As we obey Jesus’ command to love one another, God has provided for us the experiences which will foster spiritual fruitage. This is implied in the command given in verse 17, “Love one another.”

Relationships Between Disciples and the World

John 15:18-20 — “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”

We will be hated of the world. The original Greek text shows that the world (Greek, kosmos) or “social order” will hate (Greek, miseo) or “detest” us.

Jesus’ use of the word “if ” hints at a possibility that we may not be hated. The contingency is not whether the world will hate us or not, but whether we will or will not be faithful to the Lord in our daily Christian walk! “Indeed, all who desire (or determine) to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

The Rotherham translation of John 15:18 helps to reveal the practical effect of the world’s hatred toward us. “If the world is hating, you, ye are getting to know that me, before you, it hath hated.”

In times of persecution we are actively getting to know what it meant to Jesus to suffer the world’s scorn. We actively get to share in the sufferings of The Christ. This is a blessed, intimate form of fellowship with our Savior (see Philippians 3:10).

Some Christians strive to make these words a self-fulfilling prophecy by deliberately bringing the world’s animosity on themselves. We must not be purposefully antagonistic. Our message itself will have the intended effect.

It is for us to live godly lives, full of active love for friend and foe alike. Jesus said, “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). We preach the Gospel out of love, not out of contention. “Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life” (Philippians 2:15, 16).

Lastly, the words of Apostle John are appropriate here. “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

John 15:21 — “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.”

Paul declared that “none of the rulers of this age has understood (the Gospel in Christ); for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). The world is blind regarding God’s plan and purpose in Christ. Why should we expect the “blind” to see that we, as God’s children, are something special or sacred? “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. … If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known” (Matthew 10:24- 26).

Someday, the spiritually blind will see and our true identities will be known. Someday, the world will give glory to God for His work done in the earth by Christ Jesus and his Church. This assurance of the future is for our present encouragement.

John 15:22-27 — “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’ When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”

These are bold words. Jesus says that not only does the world hate him and us but that they hate God also! What marvelous company for us to be associated with.

Paul says that the world is without excuse for its ignorance of God, because God is evident in the creation of the natural world (see Romans 1:20). They are even further without excuse because of the light shed abroad in the earth by our Lord Jesus and by virtue of the Gospel message spread through the earth by the holy spirit in Christ’s disciples.

The holy Spirit, Jesus said, “will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:8-11). The spirit is manifest in the world by the lives and through the message of God’s people. The world hated, or detested, Jesus withoutjust cause. In like manner we must not give them just cause to hate us.

Conclusion

Jesus’ lesson in John 15 brings three profound and helpful lessons to our minds.

First, that without him we are and can do nothing. We must always remember that fact. Second, that we must love our brethren. It is imperative that we do love them, because he does. Third, to the degree that we love the present order of things, we are distanced from the Lord. Let us then, with every atom of our being, abide in Jesus and allow him to abide in us — to love and serve our Father in heaven.

O. B. Elbert

 

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(1) New American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

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