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Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries
The Tree of Life is a weekly teaching summary.
The Tree of Life from the week ending 07/03/05
What it means to be initiated into the secret of the mystery. Part 18.
The intimate relationship between the vine and the branches.

In John chapter 15, we end the Upper Room discourse and begin the Gethsemane discourse. We know this because of JOH 14:31, when our Lord says, "Arise, let us go from here." In John Chapter 15 verses 1 8, we have the production of living the spiritual life in time. In verses 9 17, we have a dissertation on true Biblical love. In verses 18 27, we have the hostility of the cosmos or the world system. We begin in JOH 15:1, where our Lord teaches us to perform divine good through the Vine and Branch metaphor.

JOH 15:1, "I [Jesus Christ] am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser." The vinedresser metaphor portrays God the Father as the author of the pre-designed plan of God (PPOG). The vine metaphor portrays the humanity of Jesus Christ during the dispensation of the Hypostatic Union. The vine is the basis for the production of divine good or fruit bearing. The vine metaphor emphasizes the fact that all precedence and production of divine good in the Church-age comes from the Vine, our Lord Jesus Christ.

JOH 15:2, "Every branch [believer] in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away [discipline]; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it [suffering for blessing], that it may bear more fruit." Fruit from the branch is a metaphor for the Church-age believer. However, no fruit (or production) can be any better than the vine that produces it. Because of positional sanctification (our union with Christ) and the grace provision of the filling of the Spirit, it is possible for the believer to produce divine good.
The phrase "in Me" is a reference to the believer in union with Christ. We are the branches in union with the Vine, Jesus Christ. There are two categories of branches found in this passage. Dead branches representing dead works, or production skills without spiritual skills, and live branches representing divine good, with spiritual skills as the basis for production skills. The branch in Christ that does not bear fruit represents the believer who does not produce divine good, which is punishable by divine discipline. God the Father removes all dead branches through punitive suffering in two categories, the law of volitional responsibility, which produces a tremendous amount of self-induced misery, and divine discipline.

Another relevant analogy is found in MAT 7:17-19, "Every healthy tree produces good fruit. And every diseased tree produces worthless [degenerate, or evil] fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" [this is a "true analogy," which uses accepted facts in the natural realm to reveal another truth].

Pruning is necessary for properly redistributing energy for production. The branch that bears fruit must be pruned occasionally so that the spiritual skills will increase and maximize. This is suffering for blessing. Just as God provides divine discipline and punitive action for the one who bears no fruit, He also provides suffering for blessing for the fruit bearer. In verses 3 and 4 we see the cleansing of the branches for production. Verse 3 makes reference to the cleansing of the branches in salvation. JOH 15:3, "You are already clean [saved] because of the doctrine [the gospel]which I have spoken to you." Notice that He said that you all are already clean. He is going to teach them that you can be clean, saved, and still not produce fruit. Nothing in your life before salvation is to be a hindrance to your production of divine good; you have been cleansed from your past; it has all  been wiped out completely, ISA 43:25,"I, even I, am the One who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins." The things you have done after salvation are dealt with in PHI 3:13, but one thing I concentrate upon: constantly forgetting the things that lie behind and pursuing vigorously to what lies ahead,

Verse 4 deals with the cleansing of the branches after salvation, this is through the rebound technique. JOH 15:4,"Abide in me [stay in fellowship], and I in you [a mandate for cognition of Bible doctrine]. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me." This is a command indicating that this is an experience after salvation (dependent on our volitional decisions) and not a reference to positional sanctification, which is a permanent result of regeneration. So, this is a command to remain in fellowship with God through the use of 1JO 1:9, in order that divine good may be produced in our lives. The believer can only produce divine good when filled with God the Holy Spirit. The phrase "I in you" is a mandate for the believer to learn and metabolize Bible doctrine. When we have doctrine, the mind of Christ, in our souls, Christ abides in us. Our Lord demands that His thinking be in us. The Vine has provided for us the precedent, the pattern, and the information necessary to produce divine good. As the Lord produced divine good, so can we produce divine good. However, we cannot produce fruit apart from the function of spiritual skills-the filling of the Spirit; the perception, metabolization, and application of doctrine; and the execution of the PPOG.

JOH 15:5, "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me [fellowship with God], and I in him [through residual doctrine], he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing." Our Lord is the Vine; we are the branches; abiding in Christ is the filling of the Spirit. Christ in us is a result of cognition of Bible doctrine. These spiritual skills are required for us to produce what this verse calls "much fruit." The phrase, "for apart from Me you can do nothing," speaks of dead works (the function of production skills without spiritual skills). The production of divine good is a grace provision from God, which meets God's perfect standards. God provides the means for bearing fruit through the filling of the Holy Spirit, cognition of Bible doctrine, and the attainment of spiritual adulthood.

JOH 15:6, "If anyone does not abide in Me [the believer out of fellowship], he is thrown away like a branch [the judgment of the dead works of a believer], and dries up; and they [angels] gather them, and cast them [dead works]into the fire, and they are burned." The believer who does not abide in Christ is out of fellowship and therefore lacks the first spiritual skill, the filling of the Spirit. This is a descriptive analogy, as opposed to a true analogy. Remember that all dead works are judged and burned immediately after the Rapture of the Church (2CO 5:10). Many things in life that are considered commendable by other believers are absolutely worthless because they do not measure up to divine standards. The drying up of the branch in JOH 15:6 refers to the believer without spiritual skills drying up through the production of dead works.

The power and the production of divine good is taught in JOH 15:7, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you."
Three concepts are revealed in this verse: 1) The believer in fellowship. 2) The believer in doctrine. 3) The believer in prayer. Abiding (or remaining) in Christ is a reference to the Church-age believer in fellowship with God. The word abide is used because the filling of the Holy Spirit only occurs when the believer resides in the PPOG. Being filled with the Spirit is synonymous to living in the PPOG. The believer has fellowship with God on the basis of the fact that the Holy Spirit controls his soul, and now can perform good deeds and Christian service. The phrase, My words abide in you, is a reference to consistent perception, metabolization, and application of Bible doctrine, which is the second spiritual skill. The third spiritual skill is the execution of the PPOG by advancing through the three stages of spiritual adulthood (spiritual self-esteem, spiritual autonomy, and spiritual maturity).
Spiritual maturity results in maximum fruit bearing in three categories: 1) Visible production of divine good, which can be seen by others who observe your Christian service. 2) Invisible production of divine good, which has maximum impact in life. 3) Prayer.

Invisible impact can not be seen by others, and it is the basic function of the pivot of mature believers (those who preserve their nation through their faithfulness to God's Word). This production is best because it always makes a role model out of Jesus Christ, thereby manifesting an invisible impact in the historic phase of the angelic conflict. The phrase "Ask whatever you wish" does not apply to believers out of fellowship, new believers, or even adolescent believers. This is only for believers who have the three categories of fruit bearing, as well as visible and invisible impact. The phrase "And it shall be done for you" does not imply that all your dreams will be fulfilled. It does mean that God will do exceeding abundantly above all you could ever ask or think. God only gives this promise to a few believers who are fruit bearers in spiritual maturity. By the time you reach maturity you will be asking for the right things. Prayer is used here as a function of the spiritual skills and a means of producing divine good. Therefore, the function of prayer is production of divine good. Divine good in prayer can only occur where spiritual skills precede production skills.

JOH 15:8, "By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples [indoctrinated ones or students]." Maximum production of divine good occurs in the three stages of spiritual adulthood. Each stage produces more and more good until the believer has maximum production of divine good in his life. Only the spiritual skills can glorify God. Glorification of God through the spiritual skills goes far beyond good deeds or Christian service. Fruit bearing, or works by themselves, do not glorify God. It is the source of Christian service, the three spiritual skills mentioned in John 15, that truly glorify God. Production, or fruit bearing, is a result of spiritual momentum; it is never the means. The production of a believer is not a sign of his spiritual life; only God knows if the production is divine good or dead works. Therefore, it is wrong to conclude that a person is spiritual because they are working hard. It is equally wrong to conclude that a person is not a fruit bearer or even a believer, simply because you do not see any evidence of it. Most believers today are not fruit bearers because they have no spiritual skills. Where spiritual skills are bypassed by negative volition toward doctrine or silliness in the application of doctrine (religious misconceptions), production skills take over completely. Spiritual skills are often abandoned to carnality, and good deeds become the production of dead works because arrogance has become the believer's motivation.

The production of divine good does not create cliques or manipulate the recipients. Instead, the recipients give praise to God for what has been accomplished. When fruit bearing is the result of spiritual skills, God is glorified. Fruit bearing glorifies God because the spiritual skills have been inculcated by His messenger, the pastor-teacher, through the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit. The believer performs his good deeds as unto the Lord, and never for the praise of men. Fruit bearing glorifies God, because, in His matchless grace, God has provided, through spiritual skills, the means of compliance with His perfect Divine standards. Also, the greater part of fruit bearing is hidden from the view of other Christians, but is seen by God, who is glorified by these invisible works. The production of the invisible hero is neither seen nor lauded by the Christian community, but is seen and rewarded by God himself. In the Christian life, when production skills replace spiritual skills, there are disastrous results, such as the formation of cliques, the development of legalism, and the problems caused by arrogant counselors who interfere in and manipulate the lives of others. Production without spirituality produces arrogant crusaders who become legalistic tyrants, telling others how to run their lives, and judging those who do not comply with their false standards. From self-righteous arrogance and crusader arrogance come fanaticism and activism.

The Lord uses a very popular analogy of the vine and the branches, a discourse delivered right after the Lord's Supper was instituted. Perhaps as the disciples had learned of the wine's significance, TLJC took the occasion to say that He was the true vine, and to associate that His blood (His spiritual death) was the real wine that was to give strength to the soul. The word true in verse 1 is used in the sense of real and genuine. He genuinely gives what is represented by a vine. The point of the comparison is that a vine yields proper juice and nourishment to all the branches, whether they are large or small. As members of the Royal Family of God (RFOG), we are all given equal privilege and equal opportunity. All the nourishment of each branch passes through the main vine that springs from the earth. Therefore, TLJC is the source of all real strength and grace to His disciples. He is their leader and teacher, and imparts to them the grace and strength to bear the fruit that glorifies the Father who is the vinedresser.

The question we must each answer is: What is your vine? It's amazing how many Christians have other vines in their lives from which they seek their resources. Some people think their vine is their bank account, education, sexual relationships, popularity, skills, connections, possessions, or social relationships. Some people even think the Church is their vine. They attach themselves to a system of religion, but their vine should be TLJC, not the Church. Merely attending a Church is not necessarily evidence of a vine-branch relationship. The branch must grow with Christ its vine. Israel was the vine of the Old Testament, but Christ is the vine in the New Testament. Israel, however, was usually referred to as a degenerate vine; by a marvelous contrast, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (HEB 13:8). He is a vine that will never wither.

We will begin to look at each verse in JOH 15:1-8 in more detail. Our Lord said in JOH 15:1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser." The vinedresser was the one who cared for the vines in a vineyard. As a farmer, he was responsible to cut off the branches that bore no fruit because they tended to sap the energy from the fruit-bearing branches. That increased the productivity of the other branches, which is a good analogy to the doctrine of separation. The vinedresser also constantly pruned the branches that could bear fruit to enable the vine to concentrate its energy on maturing to bear more fruit. The phrase "I am" is the Greek word eimi, meaning I keep on being, or absolute status quo.  I am and always will be, there never will be a time when I am not. The phrase "he true,"is the Greek adjective alethine meaning true, trustworthy, and revealed by truth. The word for vine is the Greek word ampelos, and it refers to a grapevine, not a clinging vine.

The Lord has just taken the boiled juice of the grape to institute the Lord's Supper, the Eucharist, from which they had just drunk. The content of the cup represents the work of Christ on the Cross, His spiritual death, being judged for our sins. When Christ says, I am the vine, He emphasizes entrance into the plan of God at the Cross. Just a short time ago the disciples have drunk of the fruit of the vine in memory of Him. Now they hear a dissertation on the fruit of the vine in anticipation of their responsibility in the Church age. Production depends on a relationship with Christ, the vine. So, when our Lord says in verse 1, " am the true vine,"He is taking them right back to the Lord's table which anticipated the Cross, and the true vine which anticipates the Church age.

In Verse 2, a vine has branches, JOH 15:2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every {branch} that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit." There are two kinds of branches here, one is the carnal branch, and the other, the spiritual branch or the productive branch. One branch bears fruit and one branch does not. The phrase "every branch in Me" means that the branch is a believer that is "in Christ." All branches, whether carnal or spiritual, are in union with Christ (1CO 1:2, 1CO 1:30). The Greek word for bear is phero and it means to produce. The concept here, with the negative me' is habitual non production. Some think this to be harsh; however, the branch is either going to produce, flourish and thereby continue, or it's not going to produce and will be broken off; there's really nothing in between.

All production depends on doctrine in the soul converted by grace. If you have doctrine in the soul, you're going to be a producer, even if it's only a bona fide capacity to love. When you love Him you will keep His commands. When you love Him, His joy is fulfilled in you. Bearing fruit is a normal exhale of doctrine and grace orientation out of the heart of the soul. Anything that comes out of the heart, whether it's love in all three categories, mastering the details of life, inner happiness, witnessing, or prayer, all exhales out of that right lobe as production. The word to take away in verse 2, is the pres-act-ind of airo meaning to remove it. This is the ultimate in discipline, the sin unto death.

Pruning is the removal or reduction of certain plant parts that are not required, that are no longer effective, or that are of no use to the plant. This falls under the doctrine of separation. There comes a time that you have to get up and get out (2CO 6:14-7:1). Deu 22:9 says, You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, lest all the produce of the seed which you have sown, and the increase of the vineyard become defiled.
You have to learn that there is a time to separate. The last thing that some of you need with the struggles you're having living the spiritual life is to be around the wrong kind of people. There comes a time when God's people need to learn the importance of separation. Separation is the application of metabolized doctrine to relationships in life by which you switch from personal love to impersonal love when dealing with friends and loved ones in the cosmic system who would distract you from God's calling. Separation is based upon the perception of Bible doctrine by which one establishes his priorities in life, and is further based on the application of that doctrine in your soul.

Separation has two connotations. "Separation unto" is the principle of perpetuation momentum in the PPOG. You separate unto God's plan and you don't let anyone or anything take you away from that plan. "Separation from" should be applied to both believers and unbelievers in the cosmic system, especially those who seek to influence the believer to leave God's system. Separation can be mental or physical. Mental separation emphasizes the integrity, honor, and doctrinal application of the believer in the PPOG who mentally separates from those who would distract him. His integrity means there is a lack of mental attitude sins, such as judging, gossiping, maligning, or seeking revenge. Impersonal love sets aside personal love for antagonistic believers and places personal love for God above them.  There are some cases where switching from personal love to impersonal love will not work. This is where physical separation applies, as well as the principle of impersonal love. However, the most basic reason is to avoid the compromise of doctrine resident in the soul, and to maintain one's priorities. Physical separation means to avoid any personal contact with a person under any circumstances. If you fail in the matter of separation, you will think about self in terms of arrogance. By switching from personal love to impersonal love you get away from your illusions about people you have loved. Separation from unbelievers inside the cosmic system is taught in 2CO 6:14 17. Every time you hook up with something or someone in the cosmic system, you are in partnership with the cosmic system. Separation in social life is taught in Jer 15:16 17 and 1PE 4:3 4. The believer is to separate from a superficial social life. The party crowd always has a false scale of values. There comes a time when the believer who grows spiritually is to separate from the crowd that used to lead him in the wrong direction. So, pruning is done to supply additional energy for the development of the fruit that remains on the branch. The analogy is that there are things in your life that are drawing energy from your production as a branch.

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