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The True Vine

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
June 1, 2023 12:01 am

The True Vine

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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June 1, 2023 12:01 am

There is no such thing as a Christian who fails to bear any spiritual fruit. Today, R.C. Sproul examines several statements from Jesus on the importance of a changed heart and good works in the Christian life.

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It is the Christian who stays close to Christ, receives the nurture from Him, the discipline that He brings to us that is productive and brings forth the fruit of the kingdom, because in the New Testament church God doesn't want wild grapes.

He wants fruit. We feel like we're not growing as Christians. We need to ensure that we're not neglecting the means that God has given us for Christian growth.

Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and thank you for joining us today for Renewing Your Mind. Jesus said that He is the true vine, and that apart from Him we can do nothing. We need to take heed of Jesus' words. It corrects our Western individualism, keeps us humble, and continually points us back to Christ. Well, today as Dr. Sproul continues his study of the I AM sayings of Jesus, he considers this very practical I AM saying.

Here's Dr. Sproul. We continue now with our study of the series of the I AMs pronounced by Jesus during His earthly ministry. And we remember that these I AMs are all prefaced by the unusual Greek construction, ego, emi, which is the same combination of words that was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament for God's sacred name, Yahweh, I AM who I AM. And so because of that, we're looking at the specific importance of these sayings as they occur in the Gospel of John. And today we come to the fifteenth chapter of John's Gospel where we have the seventh of this series, the I AM in which Jesus says, I AM the true vine.

So let us look for a moment at the text. Jesus says in verse 1, I AM the true vine and My Father is the vine dresser. And 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.

You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me and I in you. And as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, 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 bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing.

And then He goes on from there. But notice in verse 5 He says, I AM the vine, you are the branches. And this is slightly different from what He says in the first verse where there He calls Himself not merely the vine, but He said, I AM the true vine and My Father is the vine dresser. So we have two things going on here in this I AM statement that is very important. The second one has to do with our productivity as Christians of bearing the fruit that God calls us to bear by virtue of our remaining closely connected to Christ as branches are connected to the vine.

And that's a very important element of this text which we will look at in a moment. But the first part of the text which is often overlooked is the very first statement that Jesus makes when He says, I AM the true vine. Now usually when somebody makes a statement like that, He's making a statement that stands in stark contrast to something else, and in this case it would be the false vine or the corrupt vine. And obviously the hearers of Jesus would recognize the illusion that He was making on this occasion when He calls Himself the true vine, because the metaphor of the vine was not something new for His hearers, new to the ears of Jewish people, because it was an important metaphor that was used in the Old Testament to describe the relationship between God and Israel, between God and His people, where God was the vinedresser and Israel was the vine. But let's take a look if we might briefly at some of the Old Testament references to that relationship between God and Israel. In the 80th Psalm, let me give some of the background to the use of the image. First of all, Psalm 80 begins with these words, Give ear, O shepherd of Israel. Isn't it interesting that here the Psalmist is referring to God as the shepherd, just as Jesus had called Himself the Good Shepherd.

He said, You who lead Joseph like a flock, you who dwell between the cherubim, referring to the ark of the covenant, which is adorned with the figures of the cherubim on either side, shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your strength and come and save us. Restore us, O God, and cause your face to shine, and we will be saved. O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry against the prayer of your people? You have fed them with the bread of tears, given them tears to drink in great measure.

You have made us a strife to our neighbors and our enemies laugh among themselves. The Psalmist at this point is giving a lament. He's weeping before God because Israel is experiencing God's anger and God's judgment upon the nation, and he says, You've given us tears to drink. Our faces are flowing with tears because your hand has been heavy upon us. How long, O God, are you going to turn the lights out and turn your back to us?

Please let us see the brightness of your face again. Let the light of your countenance shine on us, and we'll be saved. Again, he gives the same refrain in verse 7, Restore us, O God, of hosts.

Cause your face to shine, and we will be saved. Now in verse 8 begins the image that we're interested in, where the Psalmist said, You have brought a vine out of Egypt and you have cast out the nations and you planted it. You prepared room for it, caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land.

You see the image referring back to the Exodus. You brought this people who now the Psalmist is referring to as a vine. God brought this vine out of Egypt, prepared a place, the promised land, with lots of room, enough room for the vine to be planted and to be planted deeply, and so there would be room for expansion that the vine could spread out through the Holy Land. You caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land, and the hills were covered with its shadow and mighty cedars with its boughs. She sent out boughs to the sea and her branches to the river. So why have you broken down her hedges?

So that all who pass by pluck her fruit. The boar out of the woods uproots it, and the wild beast of the field devours it. Now the Psalmist is saying, God, you are the one who planted this vine. You are the vine dresser, but now you've turned away from that vine. You are not caring for the vine.

You're not protecting the vine. All the nations now are attacking it, and the wild beast, the wild boar comes and eats the fruit. That is, these wild people are coming and plundering Israel. Return, we beseech you, O God of hosts. Look down from heaven and see and visit the vine and the vineyard which your right hand has planted and the branch that you made strong for yourself. It's burned with fire.

It is cut down, and they perish at the rebuke of your countenance. And let your hand be upon the man of your right hand. Let your hand be upon the Son of Man whom you have made strong for yourself, and then we will not turn back from you. Revive us, and we will call upon your name. Restore us, O Lord God of hosts, and cause your face to shine, and we will be safe. The phrase, let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, upon the Son of Man whom you made strong for yourself, could refer in the first instance simply to the nation Israel, or to David, or ultimately to the Messiah who appears later in history under the title of the Son of Man. And so the plea in this prayer is for God to return to the vineyard, to save the vineyard that He had planted.

We see a similar lament in the fifth chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah, and let's look at that for a moment. Isaiah chapter 5, verse 1 says, 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.

He dug it up, cleared out its stones, planted it with the choicest vine, built a tower in its midst, and made a winepress in it. And so he expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done to my vineyard that I have not done in it?

Why then did I expect it to bring forth good grapes that it bring forth wild grapes? And now let me tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will take away its hedge, and the hedge protects the vineyard. It shall be burned. I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.

I will lay it waste. It shall not be pruned or dug, and there shall come up briars and thorns, and I will command the clouds that they rain, no more rain upon it. 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." So we see both in the Psalm and in this passage in the prophet Isaiah that God is expressing His wrath against the nation that He bore, that He brought out of bondage, that He planted, and that He nurtured, that He watered, that He grew, and now He expected fruit, and instead He gets wild grapes. And so Israel becomes the corrupt vine. And so Jesus now comes, and He says to His contemporaries, I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser. Now what is radical about this is that Jesus is saying that He is the embodiment of Israel. You see this frequently hinted at in the New Testament in the allusions to Old Testament events that are then applied to Jesus. We remember that when Jesus was born and Herod sought to take His life, that Joseph was warned in a dream, and so He took Mary and the baby, and they fled to Egypt. And then after Herod died and it was safe, He was told to bring back the child from Egypt into the Promised Land. It says to fulfill the Scripture, out of Egypt have I called my son. There's a very cryptic reference there that here the Christ child becomes the embodiment and the incarnation of all that takes place in the Old Testament with respect to the nation of Israel. He is so representative of His people as the Messiah that He in a real sense is Israel, just as when John introduces His gospel with respect to the Logos, the Word that becomes incarnate and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, or He pitched His tent, He pitched His tabernacle so that the whole tabernacle experience of the Old Testament points away from itself towards the One who would come and embody everything that was symbolized in that tent of meeting that would be God with us, Immanuel.

And so Jesus begins this discourse by saying to His ears, I am Israel. I am the true son of the Father, but I am the one that brings forth the fruit, not the wild grapes. I am the true vine.

My Father is the vine dresser. 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. Now, if you allow a grapevine to just grow and if it's lush and grows and grows and grows and you get unbelievable growth on it in terms of branches, you will minimize your harvest. To have the optimum production of fruit in a vineyard, it's very important that the vines be pruned on a regular basis. Even the branches that are fruit bearing, especially the branches that are fruit bearing, need to be pruned back to increase the flow of the sap and so on to increase their productivity. But every vine will have branches that die, and the vine dresser comes and cuts off those dead branches.

And what are they used for? You take these dead pieces of wood. You don't take them down to the carpenter's shed and give them to a cabinet maker and say, why don't you make me a beautiful piece of furniture or something out of this wood. It's worthless. It's no good.

The only thing it's worth using for is building a fire. And so the dead branches were removed from the vine, and what we're seeing here is that Jesus is now making an illustration of the church. Remember He says that the church is made up of the sheep and the goats.

It's made up of the tares and the wheat. They're always in every church, just as there was in Israel. People who make an outward profession of faith, they join the body of Christ outwardly, but their profession is not true. They really are like animals that don't belong with the sheep. They're intruders. They're invaders into the body of Christ, and there are tares that grow along with the wheat, and it is up to the Lord who takes care of His field to come and root out the tares. And the warning is there too that there will be people growing side by side in the church with true Christians, but they're dead wood. They're fruitless.

They make a profession of faith, but they're like clouds that are empty of water. They have the outer appearance of fruit, but they don't bear any fruit. So we're not describing Christians here who don't bear fruit because there's no such thing as a Christian who doesn't bear any fruit in the first instance at least. Now in the first instance, if you don't bear any fruit, that's a clear indication that you're not a believer, that you're dead wood trying to attach yourself to the true vine.

That's not going to work. God's going to cut you off. And that's the warning just like He did in Israel.

He took the dead wood of Israel, took it off, threw it into the fire. But there's a play on words here in the Greek that you just can't translate into English where He says that He takes away the fruit, He prunes the fruit that it may bear more fruit. You're already clean because of the word which I've spoken to you. There's a word of taking away, and then there's the word that adds to it the idea of cleansing and pruning.

It's katharai. We get the word catharsis. And Jesus is saying to His disciples, I've already made you clean. So He's not talking about the true disciples.

They've already been pruned because of the word that He had spoken to them. And He says then, abide in Me and I in you because as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine. If you don't have any branches, you're not getting any fruit from the vine.

But if you cut the branch off, stick it in a pot, water it every day, you're not going to get any grapes because the branch has to be connected to the vine for the fruit to grow and to be useful. And so Jesus is saying, look, I'm the vine. You have to abide in Me. I have to abide in you.

You have to stay close to Me. If you want to be productive as a Christian, you've already cleansed them. You're already in Me, and I am in you. But the degree of your fruitfulness as a Christian will be directly proportionate to how close you stay to Christ, how much you feed on His Word, how intimate your relationship is to Him. Because if you're barely attached, your fruit will be barely productive. The branch can't bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine. Neither can you unless you abide in Me.

I'm the vine. You're the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for without Me, you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered, and they gather them and throw them in the fire, and they are burned.

But if you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this is My Father glorified that you bear much fruit so that you will be My disciples. I often hear among Protestant Christians a disparaging of good works. Since we have fought the battle of Reformation that our salvation is not based upon our works, it's based on the works of Christ and we're saved by faith alone, some take that to mean, so therefore once I'm in Christ it doesn't matter whether I'm productive or not productive. If we study the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament, He is constantly calling His people to bear fruit, to make manifest the faith that they have through their works. And it is the Christian who stays close to Christ, receives the nurture from Him, the discipline that He brings to us that is productive and brings forth the fruit of the kingdom. Because in the New Testament church, God doesn't want wild grapes. He wants fruit. Well by God's grace, may each of us be producing much fruit for the glory of God. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind, that was R.C.

Sproul. One of the ways we grow as Christians is by consistently being in the Word of God. And if you'd like to continue studying the I Am Sayings of Jesus as they're found in John's Gospel, then I encourage you to give a gift of any amount at When you do, we'll send you the complete eight part series, Knowing Christ, the I Am Sayings of Jesus.

And R.C. Sproul will help you understand both the theological and the practical applications of what it means that Jesus is the light of the world, the bread of life, the sheep gate, and even His bold declaration that before Abraham was, I am. So give your gift today at We'll send you the physical copy for your library, as well as giving you digital access to all of the messages and the study guide. So give your gift at or by calling us at 800-435-4343. If you would like additional aids to help you be in God's Word every day, then perhaps consider Table Talk magazine. The daily Bible studies and devotionals are helping individuals and families around the world. And you can request a free trial at With that free trial, you receive three free issues, as well as complete access at to go back and read through the archives.

So request your trial today at You heard me mention earlier that Jesus made a bold declaration that before Abraham was, I am. Well, here's a preview of tomorrow's episode. This is one of the purest, unvarnished declarations of deity that Jesus ever makes during His ministry. And it was not missed by His audience, because they took up stones to throw at Him.

But Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through their very midst, and so passed by. That's tomorrow, here on Renewing Your Mind. God bless you. God bless you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-01 03:49:15 / 2023-06-01 03:57:39 / 8

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