“IN” THE VINE
By: Frank Tunstall, D. Min.
Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure as His crucifixion was only hours away. In that atmosphere, the Lord began to unfold what was then a whole new concept of worship built around the abiding presence of God. The disciples already knew what it meant to have the Holy Spirit with them. They had seen the results in peoples’ lives time-and-time-again during Jesus’ ministry. Now the Lord adds, the Holy Spirit “shall be in you” (John 14:17).
The little preposition “in” helps to communicate this worship paradigm.
Three passages from the Gospel of John will make the point. The preposition “in” is italicized for emphasis as this study goes forward.
- John 14:10-12 – “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? …it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”
Many might think it silly to talk about an “in me” or “in Christ” worship model. But not so. The first century Jewish religious system that was being replaced was built around sacrificing animals to atone for sin. Theirs was an 1800-year-old paradigm, going all the way back to Abraham. The Jewish people had no concept of Jehovah as being one God in a Trinity, with God having a Son who would be the redeemer for all mankind. Nor had the culture absorbed the Holy Spirit who would come to live in people as the Spirit of truth. In addition, the Jewish people believed God dwelt in the Most Holy Place of the temple, but not in themselves. There had been a few exceptions like Jesus’ mother Mary, and Zachariah, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist, who were filled with the Holy Spirit, and perhaps Simeon and Anna. Even the disciples struggled with the new order; it was a huge change.
- John 14:15-16 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
To love Jesus is to obey Jesus, with the result the Holy Spirit will live with you and be in you forever as your Counselor. Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you; He has no orphan children (Hebrews 13:5; John 14:18). All His followers are adopted into God’s family as sons and daughters, heirs and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). The Apostle Paul took this understanding to the point of saying our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).
- John 14:19 – “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.
This use of “In” begs for an illustration
“I am the true vine,” is the seventh of the seven “I AM” statements made by Jesus Christ and recorded by John the apostle.
The word picture, “I am the true vine” is so very powerful as an illustration because it describes with excellence what Jesus is to His Father and to the Holy Spirit in the Godhead, and to His followers in the church. Many illustrations make a good point, some make an excellent point, and a few make an almost perfect point. No illustration perfectly describes the Trinity, but “I am the true vine” is as faultless as can be found. With this declaration, Jesus announced He is the spiritual lifeblood of every believer in the church He leads. In making this statement, Jesus recognized there are many other vines, or man-made, self-righteous systems of thought. But only Jesus is “the true vine.”
Our generation in the 21st century abounds with self-righteous religion that denies Jesus is the true vine. The Bible, however, solemnly maintains one path alone places us in the vine: the way of the cross leads home.
The illustration of the vine and the branches, therefore, opens up the lesson of “in” from Jesus’ teaching. This lesson is highly important for understanding the interrelationships of the Trinity, and how believers are brought into relationship with God as the Holy Spirit’s dwelling place.
Israel was a land of grape vines; anyone could easily get the picture. Jesus is the vine, His Father is the husbandman, and believers who are in Jesus are the branches that bear the fruit of this vine.
Jesus is in the Father and Jesus is in the Holy Spirit.
The Father is in Jesus, and the Father is in the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is in the Father and the Holy Spirit is in Jesus.
When this understanding of the vine and the branches is applied to believers, the worship paradigm of the New Covenant comes into focus. Jesus is in every born-again child of God, and every born-again child of God is in Jesus. This affirmation is truthful because Jesus is the Vine, and the branches (believers) are in the Vine and the Vine is in the branches.
Fruit bearing is the direct result of abiding in Jesus, who is the Vine. Many people think they are saved by grace through faith but kept in relationship with Jesus by their diligence and good works. Not so at all. We are saved by grace through faith because the righteousness of Jesus is credited to our accounts (Galatians 3:6,11, 26-29). And we are kept by grace through faith as we walk in the Spirit, full of gratitude for this kind of grace. Oh! What grace!
The key to producing grapes is for the branch to stay in the vine. If a believer is in the vine, in a relationship of mutual abiding where the life of Jesus is flowing into him, fruit bearing will come naturally (see Matthew 25:24-28; 41-46).
No amount of a husbandman’s efforts can make a branch produce grapes if the branch is not in the vine. In fact, a branch cannot “bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine” to produce even one grape.
It is a masterful word picture. This explains Jesus as being in the Father and the Father in Jesus, and Jesus in us and us in Jesus.
A splintered branch might produce a few grapes, but it will be largely unproductive. In due time the husbandman will prune it from the vine. Doublemindedness never produces much kingdom fruit either, if indeed it yields any at all. The gospel calls for believers to 100% in the Vine.
This understanding of the vine and the branches leads directly to our grasping the meaning of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, with our bodies as the temples of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells in us and we dwell in the Holy Spirit.
This is what walking in the Spirit is all about.
The worship model of the Vine and the branches has lasted for two thousand years and remains to this day as the foundation of our adoration of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Oh! to be totally, and not partially in the Vine.