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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Title:Grapes only come from branches that are joined to the vine
Text:John 15:5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Bible Translation: ESV

Book of Praise: 2014

Psalm 1:1

Psalm 130:4

Psalm 80:3,4,6,7

Psalm 92:6,7

Psalm 1:2,3

Read:  Psalm 80

            John 15:1-17

Text:  John 15:5


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The theme for this morning's sermon is a statement of the obvious:  grapes only come from branches that are joined to the vine.  You don’t need to have grown up in a vineyard and you don’t need a degree in viticulture to know this to be true.  Cut a branch off from the vine and leave it lying on the ground and you can be sure that you’ll get no grapes from it.  Rather, that branch will die, it will dry out, it will be gathered up and it will be burned.  And so our theme is a statement of the obvious.  But there are two reasons why the obvious needs to be stated.  In the first place, we need to remember that the branch could never produce grapes if it was not joined to the vine, since gets its sustenance, its life from the vine.  And second, any branch that is in the vine can be expected to produce grapes, can be expected to bear much fruit.

And what is true for grapes is true for us.  Jesus said,

“I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”  (John 15:5)

And so I preach to you God’s word under the following theme:

Grapes only come from branches that are joined to the vine.

  1.  Life in the vine.
  2. Fruit through the vine.


  1.  Life in the vine.

As you read through the gospel according to John, you will come across a number of I AM statements that the Lord Jesus made about himself.  Jesus said, “I am the bread of life”, “I am the light of the world”, “I am the door”, “I am the good shepherd”, “I am the resurrection and the life”, and “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  And as you meditate on these I Am statements of the Lord Jesus, you will also learned that the significance of these statements was not just in Jesus calling Himself bread or light or a door, but that there was also great significance in the words I AM.  Those words I AM, as found in the Greek New Testament in the somewhat unusual phrase Ego Eimi, have great significance in the context of the rest of the Bible.  In the Old Testament, the personal, covenantal name for God was Yahweh (simply translated as LORD in capital letters in our Bibles), and that comes from the Hebrew word I AM.  We can see this when Moses was at the Burning Bush in Exodus 3 and asked God, “What is Your name?”, at which time the LORD said to Him

“I AM WHO I AM”.  And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”  (Exodus 3:14)

And so when Jesus referred to Himself as I AM by using the words Ego Eimi, He was implying that He Himself is God!  We might not have picked that up immediately, but the Jewish people in His day understood it, and it made them so angry that in John 8 they took up stones to kill Him.

  And so as we go through these I AM statements of our Lord Jesus Christ, we learn the significance of the fact that He is God, and we also learned what Christ, the Son of God, had to say about Himself.  But that’s not all we did.  Because when Jesus spoke of Himself saying “I am the bread of Life” or “I am the light of the world”, He also called us to believe Him and to follow Him as the bread or as the light or as the way, the truth and the life.  In other words, when we are confronted with the question of “Who is Jesus?” we are also confronted with the question of “What will you do with Jesus?”  You need to understand that Jesus did not simply tell us who He is so that we could say “That’s interesting!” and go on as before.  Nor did He simply describe Himself as a good man with good morals for us to follow so that we might live a better life.  Rather, Jesus’ claims as to who he is need to be believed so that we might come to Him, so that we might believe in Him, and so that we might follow him.  And when you do that, there is a change that the Holy Spirit works in your heart and in your life.  When you do that you are no longer living outside of Christ, but you now live in Christ.  You are joined to Him, or as John 15 has it in the NKJV, you abide in Him.  And that’s what is emphasised in the last of the I AM statements of the Lord Jesus in the gospel according to John. John 15:5,

“I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

When the Lord referred to Himself as the vine, He was using a metaphor, an illustration, that everyone understood.  Grape vines were, and are, a common sight in and around Israel, and so the picture was clear.  Jesus is the vine, the trunk, that provides life to the branches.  The branches that are joined to the vine receive their sustenance from the vine and so in time they put forth leaves and fruit.  But a grape vine needs a lot of attention, and so the vinedresser tended to the vine, pruning and cleaning away anything that might cause disease in the vine, and doing all he could to ensure that the branches of the vine would produce large clusters of delicious grapes.  But not all branches would be kept: some branches, those that do not produce fruit, would be cut off from the vine.  These branches were then bundled together, thrown onto a pile and, once they were dry, burned.

That’s the picture that Christ gave His disciples when He said “I am the vine and you are the branches.”  However the disciples would not only have known the imagery of a vine from what they saw in Israel, but they also knew it from the Old Testament.  On a number of times in the Old Testament, in the Psalms, in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and in Hosea, the imagery of a vine is used to describe the people of Israel.  But what’s striking about when the Old Testament describes the people of Israel as a vine is that it consistently describes them as a vine that does not bear good fruit, as a vine the produced wild grapes, as a vine that needed to be ripped out and thrown away.  To see an example of this, turn with me to Isaiah 5:1-7.

Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard:

My Well-beloved has a vineyard

On a very fruitful hill.

2     He dug it up and cleared out its stones,

And planted it with the choicest vine.

He built a tower in its midst,

And also made a winepress in it;

So He expected it to bring forth good grapes,

But it brought forth wild grapes.

3     “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,

Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard.

4     What more could have been done to My vineyard

That I have not done in it?

Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes,

Did it bring forth wild grapes?

5     And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard:

I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned;

And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.

6     I will lay it waste;

It shall not be pruned or dug,

But there shall come up briers and thorns.

I will also command the clouds

That they rain no rain on it.”

7     For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,

And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant.

He looked for justice, but behold, oppression;

For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.

Here in Isaiah 5, God’s people Israel was the vine from which the LORD expected good grapes.  But when God went to look for these good grapes, He only found wild ones.  And so the vine would be laid waste.

We find something similar to this in Psalm 80, which we read together.   Psalm 80 describes Israel as a vine that God had brought out of Egypt.  Psalm 80:8-11 says,

 “You have brought a vine out of Egypt; You have cast out the nations, and planted it.  You prepared room for it, and caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land.  The hills were covered with its shadow, and the mighty cedars with its boughs.  She sent out her boughs to the Sea, and her branches to the River.”

So God had set His people Israel like a vine in the land.  But here too, the vine was not good and the grapes that could be expected from it did not eventuate.  And so the psalm goes on to say that God had turned away from the vineyard, had broken down her hedges, that the nations plucked her fruit and the wild beasts devoured it.  Since the vine that is Israel turned their back on God and did not bear the fruit that He expected of them, they were punished.

But the psalm does not end there, for Psalm 80 is a plea for deliverance.  Psalm 80:14,15 –

“Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts; Look down from heaven and see, and visit this vine and the vineyard which Your right hand has planted, and the branch that You made strong for Yourself.”

And then see what it is written in verse 17 – 19.

“Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, upon the son of man whom You made strong for yourself.  Then we will not turn back from You; Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.  Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!”

Psalm 80 pleads for a deliverer, a saviour to come, the “man of God’s right hand”, that is, “the son of man.”  Perhaps those who first sang this psalm were thinking of their king or of another temporary “Saviour” whom they were pleading for God to send to restore them, but ultimately this plea for a Saviour would be answered in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It would be through Jesus that God’s people would be saved, it would be through Jesus that the vine would be restored.  And that’s why it is so instructive to read Psalm 80 next to John chapter 15.

  But then when we turn to John 15:1, there is one thing that strikes us.  Because now, in John 15, the vine is not the nation of Israel, but the vine is Jesus Himself.  And even more, He calls Himself the true Vine.  John 15:1,

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.”

Do you see what’s happening here?  Do you see what the Lord Jesus is doing by calling Himself the vine?  What the Lord Jesus is saying is that there is no Israel, there is no covenant people of God outside of Him.  If you are to belong to God the Father, you can only do so by belonging to and being joined to God the Son.  Life is to be found in the vine, and that vine is Christ.  A branch that is in Christ will have life and will bear fruit, but a branch that is not in Him cannot bear fruit; it will be thrown on the fire and be burned.  And therefore, when the Lord Jesus calls Himself “the vine” and even “the true vine”, this is not simply an interesting description of who He is.  Rather, you are called to be joined to this vine, to find your life in Him, to remain in Him, to abide in Him.  And that’s why Christ emphasises again and again that we need to abide in Him.  John 15:4,

“Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

John 15:5,

“He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing.

And the same can be seen in verse 6 and 7.  In fact, Christ repeats the words in me six times in John 15:2-7.  The point is that you cannot simply hear about the Lord Jesus Christ, ignore Him, and go on your way as before.  You cannot take on board some of the nice things that Jesus said, even call yourself a Christian, but not be effectively changed.  Rather, when Jesus says that he is the vine, He calls you to believe in Him, He calls you to be joined to Him, He calls you to abide in Him.  For He, and He alone is the true vine.  And is in that way, when you abide in Him, that you will bear fruit.  That brings us to our second point,

  1. Fruit through the vine.

In the Old Testament, the covenant people of Israel were described as a vine that God had planted in the Promised Land.  God had planted this Vine and He had tended it, and so He, as the vinedresser, expected to see fruit on the vine.  He expected His people to love Him, to serve Him and to be faithful to Him.  Instead, however, the grapes that the vine produced were wild grapes and the vine was useless.  And so God the vinedresser rejected His vine, He broke down her hedges and her walls and allowed the wild beasts to uproot and devour it.  But that would not be the end of the vine, that would not be the end of God’s covenant people.  Rather, the prayer of Psalm 80 would be answered, the Son of Man would come.  The vine would be restored, and God’s people would be saved.  And all this would happen through the coming of the true vine, Jesus Christ.  And all those who believed in Him and were joined to Him, would have life in Him.  And they would bear fruit.

But to bear fruit, you need to belong to Christ, you need to believe in Him, and you need to be abide in Him.  And if you don’t belong to Christ, if you do not believe in Him, then you cannot abide in Him either.  And that is a fearful thing to contemplate.  Jesus said in John 15:6,

“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and it withered; and they gather them and thrown them into the fire, and they are burned.”

That’s the serious consequence of those who do not believe in the Lord Jesus, who are not in Him, who do not receive Him as their Lord and Saviour.  God’s punishment is real and hell is real.  And when the Lord Jesus said these things to His disciples in John 15, this was not a hypothetical situation for them.  Just a short time, less than a few hours before, one of the twelve, Judas Iscariot had left them.  Judas Iscariot was a branch that was cast out, that would soon be thrown onto a pile and be burned.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

But those who do believe in Him, those who do abide in Jesus Christ, will receive in Him all that is necessary to live a godly life.  Every branch that is joined to the vine receives what is in the vine.  And because Christ is the true vine, every branch that abides in that vine will bear much fruit.  Outside of the vine you can do nothing: you are like a piece of dead wood, a stick to be gathered up and thrown in the fire.  But in the vine, in Christ, you are a new person, a new creation, and you will be fruitful.

And so my question for you is this:  are you bearing fruit for Christ?  If you believe in Him, if you abide in Him, how is this evident in the way you are living for Him?

It is true that good works never saved anybody.  It is true that you cannot save yourself, that salvation comes through the Lord Jesus Christ, through His suffering and through His death on the cross.  It is true that you can add nothing to your salvation, nor can you do anything in and of yourself to earn God’s favour so that He might look at you.  It is true, as Jesus said in John 15:5 that

“apart from Me you can do nothing.”

But it is equally true that we are saved to do good works.  And it is equally true that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 

And so I ask you:  are you bearing fruit for Christ?  Is it your heart’s desire to want to live for Him, to serve Him, to follow Him, to glorify and to praise Him?  Or have you become lazy, even lethargic in your walk with God? 

If you are truly in the vine, if you really are in Christ, then you will be changed and then you will want to change.  You cannot be joined to the vine and then carry on as though nothing has happened.  Rather, to be a Christian, to grafted into Christ by a true faith, to be joined to the vine and to live from the vine is a most radical thing!  And if the fact that you are a Christian has not changed you and is not changing you, then you need to examine yourself as to whether or not you truly believe what it means to be a part of the vine.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says,

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

And that must be true for every person who is joined to the true vine that is Jesus Christ.  So how is it with you?  How are you growing in the vine that is Christ, and where are the grapes?

Are you perhaps being in danger of being a couch potato Christian?  Are you in danger of being lazy in your desire to bear fruit?  Have you crowded out your service to the Lord with a life that is busy with yourself?  With work and family, with diet and exercise?  Are you satisfied to set the bar low and to keep it low, taking your ease in Zion, going with the flow, but not giving much thought to the idea of bearing fruit?

You cannot be a couch potato Christian.  You cannot be a Christian but live as though you were not one.  John 15:1,2 says,

“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, that it may bear more fruit.”

He prunes us.  He moulds us and He shapes us.  He chastens us and He disciplines us. He does this because the vinedresser is determined that the branches of his vine produce more fruit.  And so how is it with you?  Are you bearing fruit?  And are you eager to bear more fruit as you live for Christ? 

“By this My father is glorified,”

Christ said in John 15:8,

“that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”

Are you doing that? Are you bearing much fruit?  What is it that is keeping you from bearing much fruit?  Is it busy-ness, being consumed with the wrong things?  Have you crowded out your times to study God’s Word and have your prayers become shallow?  Is it that you are consumed with yourself, your wants, your own desires and your own feelings, rather than a desire for Christ?  Are you trapped in your sin?  Are you consumed by lust, in the snare of pornography or trapped in another addictive behaviour?  Or has your love for one another grown cold, and do you harbour envy and resentment in your heart?

“Dear God, forgive me!  Dear God forgive me for not bearing the fruit You require of me.  Forgive me for my sin, for my slackness, for my double-mindedness, and for failing to live as I ought!  Come, O Vinedresser, strip away that which is harmful to me and prune me even to my hurt that I might be cleansed, that I might be chastened and that I might live for You!”

It is a battle to bear the fruit God requires of us.  It is hard to discipline ourselves that we might grow in Christ and in good works.  In Christ there is a love and delight to do good works, but the desires of the flesh still battle within us.

And so what are we to do?  How then can we bear the fruit that God requires of us? 

“Abide in Me” Jesus said, “and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”  (John 15:4)

That’s the answer.  Abide in Him.  Go to Him.  Worship Him and follow Him.  Come to Church; Pray earnestly; Study His Word, Keep His commandments and remove every last thing that keeps you away from Him.  Grapes only come from branches that are joined to the vine.  So be joined to the vine, abide in Him and He will abide in you.  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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