Today’s read of John 15-17 is profound. There’s so much treasure in these chapters, treasures of encouragement, theology, conviction, commands, and promises. Jesus pours out amazing truths about what it means to be one of His true disciples, and how we can experience the abundant life He came to give us.
Jesus makes a troubling statement in the parable of the vine and branches. Speaking about His Father, the vinedresser, He says, “He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit,” and later, “If you do not remain [abide] in Me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” Is Jesus saying that we can lose our salvation? That we can be connected to the True Vine at one point, and then fall away and be cut off, to be destroyed? In the context of other scriptures, including Jesus’ own words, this cannot be His point.
I believe Jesus is warning us that there will be people who will appear to be connected to the Vine, but are not, and only the Vinedresser knows for sure. In the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30), Jesus teaches that it is not our responsibility to “tear up” the tares from the wheat, but to wait until harvest when all will be revealed. The revelation comes when the “fruit” is revealed. A tare will not bear wheat. And a person who is not truly in Christ will not bear fruit that lasts, fruit that passes the judgment in the end (1 Corinthians 3:11-13). God is the one who will judge the fruit of our lives.
Only a true disciple abides in Christ, and fruit is the result of abiding. We don’t bear fruit to “gain” our connection to the Vine; fruit is simply the evidence that we are abiding. The definition of the Greek word “meno” translated as “remain” or “abide” has good insights.
In reference to place, to abide is to sojourn, tarry, not to depart, to continue to be present, to be held, kept, continually. Do you love to be with Jesus, to be in His presence? Do you make time for prayer, for His word, to hear Him speak to you, and to share with Him the secrets of your heart?
In reference to time, to abide is to continue to be, not to perish, to last, endure. Do you hold fast to Jesus even in the face of persecution? Are you still walking with Jesus years after you first met Him?
In reference to state or condition, to abide is to remain as one, not to become another or different. Is your faith evident no matter who you’re with, or do you “adjust” to the crowd? Are you the same person on Friday night as you are on Sunday morning?
Finally, to “abide” is to wait for, await one. Are you watching the skies? Are you listening for the trumpet? Is there a longing in your heart to see Him face to face?
Why did Jesus tell us these things? Three times He says, “I have told you this so that…” So that we have complete joy (15:11), so that we will not stumble (16:1), and so that we will have peace (16:33). We live in a crazy, troubling world. Abiding in Him is the only way to a fruitful, faithful life.