Tom: We are continuing with the gospel. We’re in the Gospel of John:15:1.
Dave: Tom, I’m amazed that we have gotten this far…
Tom: It’s only been a couple of years, Dave. (laughing)
Dave: Praise God—I mean, and we have not even scratched the surface of what the Bible has to say.
Tom: Dave, I look upon reading the Scriptures—it’s a meal. Each day you come to the Scriptures, you’re going to get…you know, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” And, if you are not partaking of the Scriptures, then spiritually you are going to be undernourished.
Dave: That’s right.
Tom: So it’s our encouragement. So yeah, we’ve been having this meal for a long time, but I think it’s been wonderful. And this particular section of the Gospel of John is the best.
Dave: This chapter—13,14,15,16—Christ is speaking to His own disciples; Judas has left. He is still in the upper room, so this is a very intimate discourse, and you do not find it in any of the other gospels.
Tom: Beginning with John:15:1: “I am the true vine; my father is the husbandman.” Now there’s a term that maybe some of our listeners have never heard—unless they’re familiar with the Scripture—but this is just someone who takes care of the garden.
Dave: Husbandman. Yeah, Tom, I don’t want to belabor it, but we could briefly consider the Catholic interpretation of John 6, where Jesus said, “I am the bread of God that came down from heaven. If you eat of this bread, you will never die; and the bread that I will give as my flesh…you will drink my blood. Except you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.” And that is the one place where the Roman Catholic Church takes what Jesus is saying in a parable, really, literally. Now, you couldn’t take that literally here. “I am the true vine.” Is Jesus a grapevine? Is His father really a farmer who’s out there hoeing the weeds, and so forth?
Or when Jesus says, “I am the light of the world…I am the door.” Is He a door, swinging on its hinges? “I am the Good Shepherd; you are my sheep.” Are we sheep, literally? So, I just wanted to remind our listeners of that—that Jesus, when He said to the woman at the well, “You drink of this water, you’ll thirst again, but you drink of the water that I give you, you’ll never thirst.” He is not talking about physical water, H20. Here He is not saying that He is literally a grapevine, obviously. And in John 6, He’s not saying literally, “I want you to eat my literal, physical body, and drink my literal, physical blood,” which was forbidden, by the way, to a Jew. But that is the way that it has been interpreted, sadly.
Tom: Dave, this is an important point. The name of the program is Search the Scriptures Daily. We try to encourage reading God’s Word, and in reading God’s Word, there are certain things that you have to do. You have to be able to discern, when you are looking at a verse, whether it’s to be taken literally or to be taken figuratively. You make those mistakes, just as you said, Dave, and you have a doctrine or teaching that is completely erroneous.
Dave: I think it’s pretty clear. It certainly is clear here.
Dave:“I am the true vine…” Well, what does He mean? Well, the grapes cannot exist without the vine. They don’t have their own life. The life that is in the grapes, that is in the fruit, comes from the vine. It doesn’t even come from the branches, and He’s going to go on and talk about…well, next verse: “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away. Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit.”
In other words, you used to live in Southern California—so did I—I can remember where the Ontario airport is now, well, Tom, that was before your time in California—but that was the largest vineyard in the world, believe it or not. And that became an airport. And they still have grapevines all around that airport. And one thing that you notice, in the Fall, they pruned—pruned? Wow! Back to the nub, you could say. There was nothing there but the vine. No branches. And yet, out of that…looked like a stump, you know, of a vine, sprang these branches every spring, and that was where the grapes hung.
So Jesus is saying, “The life you have comes from Me. If you’re going to bear fruit…” that fruit would mean, well, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness, gentleness, patience, and meekness, and so forth, temperance…if you are going to bear fruit, and that would also include winning others to Christ, which we want to do, “then it must be my life lived through you.”
As we’ve probably said several times, and others have said it as well, the Christian life isn’t difficult—it’s impossible. No one but Jesus ever lived it or ever could live it, and if I’m to live the Christian life, I must allow Christ to live it through me.
And we just passed the last chapter, where He says, “Because I live, you will live also.” And Paul writes, “When Christ, who is your life, shall appear, so shall you also appear with him in glory.”
So this is what He is saying: “I am the true vine. My father is the husbandman. He’s watching over this sort of thing, and every branch in me that bears not fruit, he takes it away.” In other words, I don’t think that means that you were once a branch—you were once a Christian—and then you are lost. But I think it means that if you’re not bearing fruit, he’s…well, Paul tells us, “Those who sin, he takes away—in death.” So I think the picture is pretty clear of the grapevine and the branches and the fruit.
And amazingly, you have to cut that branch back to make—to get more fruit.
Tom: So, in our own lives, this is the purging that is being referred to—there are things in our lives that the Lord is going to take away. But at the same time, He has to encourage us for a disciplined life, a life that…a labor of love—not for salvation, we’ve said many times. The Scripture does not teach that. He did it all. We put our trust in Him. But then after that, we have a life that is to be fruitful and productive.
Dave: Verse 3 says, “Now you are clean [that is ‘purged’—you’ve been cleansed] through the word which I have spoken unto you.” And He said that also to His disciples in John 13, two chapters ago, when He took out the water and the towel and began to wash their feet, and so forth. It’s the Word that cleanses.
Tom: And, Dave, the way that works is that I’m reading the Word, I recognize His teachings—what He says to do: “If you love me, keep my commandments…” that is, the things He would have me do to be fruitful and productive. I respond to that, and areas of my life come under conviction—those things are purged. I turn from…I repent of those things, confess them before the Lord, and go on. So, this is how the Word cleanses. I read it, I understand it, and I do it. I’m not just a hearer of the Word, but a doer as well.
Dave: So, I’m not supposed to tell the Bible or tell God what He should think. But the Bible tells me what I should think and what I should do. One of the tragedies, Tom, you know, we just had a new Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire voted in, V. Gene Robinson, and I was shocked—in our little town, the Bend Bulletin, right on the front page, they gave a quote from him when he was installed as bishop. He’s the first openly gay, homosexual, bishop in the Anglican community worldwide. A lot of people didn’t like it.
Tom: Left his wife and children…
Dave: Yes, for a man—lover, a male lover. And the fact that, “Oh, well, but they’ve been faithfully together…” in this ungodly, unnatural relationship…”Oh, but that qualified him to be a bishop, you see.” But that’s not the qualification for a bishop that you get in the Bible. But anyway, we have the quote from this man, and here’s the new bishop of New Hampshire, having been installed, and in spite, you know, in denial of what the Scripture teaches, and he said, “Well, just because the Bible condemns something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s wrong.”
So God can’t set the standards? He doesn’t make the rules? We can just shuffle this around and make it turn out to say what we want it to say by some sleight of hand interpretation? Well, Jesus said, “You are clean through the word which I have spoken,” and if you’re going to be clean, you’re going to have to pay attention to the Word and let the Word cleanse you. You don’t change the Word to make it mean what you want it to mean.