“‘I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.’” (John 15:5)
In the hours before His arrest, Jesus spent the time teaching His disciples about what it really meant to follow and obey Him. He started by emphasizing the point that He is the only way to salvation; apart from Him, no one can be saved. He also promised to send them a Helper in the form of the Holy Spirit, One Who would minister to them and protect them from falling away. But one thing He spent a great deal of time on was abiding in Him. To help explain this, He used the metaphor of a vine and its branches. He Himself is the vine, the strength of the plant and its source. We His followers are branches from Him, drawing our very life from Him and producing fruit.
This is an extremely interesting analogy, highlighting that there is no possibility of our doing anything apart from God. If a branch is separated from its vine, it no longer has any source of life, nothing that can enable it to bear fruit. Cut off from its strength, it can do nothing but die. In the same way, we are entirely dependent on Jesus. As Christians, we want to obey Him and do great things for Him, but if we try to do them without Him, we will never succeed. Like a branch trying to bear fruit on its own, we have no root. Everything we attempt will quickly wither away.
If, however, a branch is strongly attached to its vine, rooted irrevocably in it, it will produce much fruit. It is so closely interwoven with its vine that nothing can snatch it away. It has ease of access to the nourishment the vine provides, and as a result, its fruit is beautiful. It’s the same way for us. When we are close to God, constantly drawing strength from Him and clinging to Him no matter what, we are able to produce fruit. When we spend time with God, learning from Him and obeying Him, His strength pours into us, giving us everything we need to accomplish the work He has given us. This is what it means for a Christian to bear fruit: to obey God and do His work. The fruit is the result of our obedience.
It’s always amazing to me how simple God makes things. If we want to grow in Him, we must abide in Him. We must spend time with Him, get to know Him, and act on what He teaches us. He must be the one person we yearn after, the one thing we desire above all else. And here’s the key to that: abiding isn’t a one-time act. It’s not like we abide once when we accept Jesus as our Savior and then never have to do it again. Rather, the word carries the sense of continuing to abide. Having begun to dwell in Jesus, we must continue to do so. At the end of the day, it really is that simple. If we want to bear fruit for Jesus, if we want to be a thriving branch, all we must do is go on abiding in Him.