Believe and Obey

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Be the Vine

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Were You Expecting an Industrial Analogy?

The text this week is John 15:1-12.  This is a vintner’s dream text.  It is full of allusions to vines and growing and pruning and the like.  This is not surprising, as Jesus communicated in a way that His listeners would understand.  Any good preacher would do the same.  It poses a challenge for us today to understand it the way those who first heard it did.  Fortunately this is not an insurmountable challenge.

Jesus speaks of the Father as the vine grower and a remover of every branch that bears no fruit.  Those who abide and believe will bear much fruit, those who do not will be pruned.  This can seem a harsh passage but not for those who love and follow God.  We need not be concerned with us being the branches that go into the fire, only to proclaim the Good News so that other branches may bear fruit.  That is the whole point of evangelism.  We, instead, may be confident in our salvation because of our faith.

The Theology Behind All This

Alright I used the word theology.  Don’t let your eyes glaze over and walk away.  There is a theological point to what Jesus is saying in this passage.  It is not complicated, but it is powerful, and it is indeed Good News!

Jesus makes it clear in Verse 3 “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you”.  That is we have heard God’s good and gracious word and we believe.  This is all we can do as Jesus points out in Verse 5 “apart from me you can do nothing”.  Our works matter not at all, God has done all the heavy lifting through His Son.  All we need is to trust God’s word.

In this trusting of God’s good and gracious word Jesus will now abide in us and we in Him.  Abide means in a biblical context to “remain or stay”.  The theology in this is that our trust in God’s word as true, that the Resurrection is real, and that Jesus Christ is Lord, means that Jesus abides in us and we in Him.  That is, Christ dwells within us, and Christ is the very righteousness of God.  This is what removes any separation between us and God.  It is simply our faith in Christ as Lord that accomplishes this.  I go over this line of thought, and its opposite (and erroneous) counterpart in Chapter 10 of my book Understanding God: The Joy of Finally Hearing God’s Good and Gracious Word.

Jesus explains why He lays all this out for us “ I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete”. (Verse 11).  This is the word that we are to trust as true.  If we believe then Jesus dwells within us, and we are then a good and healthy vine which will bear good fruit.  This is the true order of things; first comes our faith then our good works.  What do these good works look like?  Jesus explains that in general in Verse 12, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you”.  That is love one another with an unbridled, endless, unconditional love.  This is the essence of believing and obeying.

Praise Be to God

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