Page 19 - September 2023 - Truth & Tidings
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yard work that often involved trimming   The Abiding that Advances
        the bushes and hedges. By the time Uncle   As with every other analogy of the
        Bill was done skillfully cutting away the   Christian life in the Bible, there is always
        dead wood and overgrowth with his
        trusty shears, the branches were a sorry   a corresponding response expected from
        sight. However, amazingly, they would   us to effectively live out the blessing God
        grow back, looking better and healthier   has brought us into. Grape growing is not
        than before. Thankfully, with us the Lord   automatic! In the Lord’s teaching here, we
        Himself is the expert vinedresser who, as   see the repetition of the key word “abide”
        needed, wields the shears of His Word   to emphasize our responsibility. It simply
        to wisely and lovingly prune our hearts   means “continue in” or “stay where you
        and minds and lives of wrong thinking,   are.” This doesn’t mean that a branch/
        habits and influences that are impeding   believer is uninvolved or inactive, but it
        our production of spiritual grapes.   describes the daily, consistent practice and
          On this point, it should be noted that   nurture of the spiritual life and fellowship
        among Bible expositors there are at   we have been brought into through our
        least two different interpretations of the   connection to Christ. Following the basics
        condition of branches and the cutting of
        the vinedresser. Among other things, the   of prayer, Scripture reading, fellowship
        difference turns mainly on two possible   with God’s people (other branches) and
        English translations of the Greek word   practical holiness is what it means to
        airo in verse 2. It is translated here and   “abide in Christ,” with the happy result
        other places as “takes away” (Joh 1:29),   of advancing our spiritual growth and
        but in other Scriptures as “lifted up”   increasing our grape production.
        (11:41). If translated as “lifted up,” some   The Grapes that Grow
        take a comparative view, seeing three types
        of similar branches being described and   It’s inevitable. Being a branch connected
        understanding all the branches to be sym-  to the vine and abiding in Him means
        bolizing true believers at various levels of   that His life will flow through me and
        fruit bearing, with the Lord using three   that His grapes will grow on me, however
        different methods of dealing with them.   minimally. The Lord Jesus, with great ex-
        Others, accepting the translation as “takes   pectation, spoke of His disciples “bearing
        away,” see the Lord presenting a contrast-  fruit,” “bearing much fruit,” and “that
        ing view of only two types of branches as   your fruit will abide.” Note the increase in
        being more in line with the immediate   the amount and quality that is anticipated.
        context and explaining Judas’ sudden   What are some of those actual grapes? In
        departure and imminent, shocking (to   John 15, the Lord Jesus speaks of obedi-
        the disciples) betrayal. The branch that   ence (v10), joy (v11), love (v13), faith (v16)
        is pruned symbolizes a true believer and
        the branch taken away a false professing   and witness (v27). By God’s grace alone,
        non-believer. Whichever interpretation is   it is true of every Christian that, along
        preferred, both views, along with the rest   with all my fellow believers, a branch in
        of Scripture, do not depict a true believer   the Vine is who I am and growing grapes
        ever being “taken away” from Christ and   is what I do for the glory of God and the
        losing his/her salvation.             blessing of others.

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