CULTIVATING by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: As some of you know, we moved to the church parsonage about 22+ years ago; then, 10 years ago, we bought our new home. We instantly fell in love with it, especially the beautiful garden around the front of the house. My favorite were the beautiful rose bushes because they reminded me of my dad’s garden. One thing I remember him doing was walking around with a pair of shears and trimming away dead branches, damaged stems, and any places that had disease spots. He would cut them diagonally for the water intake. I thought to myself that I needed to do the same. So, I found a pair of garden shears and trimmed the rose bushes. It was about springtime before the bloom began. It was beautiful! We had the flowers until fall. As winter was coming, I thought to myself, “Why not cut them early? This way, they will really bloom in the spring. No need to wait.” Guess what? Spring came and all my rose bushes were dead. I had killed them. Thank God he doesn’t do that with us! Main point: God the Father prunes and cultivates us in order that we may bear more fruit. He also removes the dead branches that appear to be connected to the vine but are not. To reject Christ is to be severed from him forever. On the contrary, to receive Christ is to be sealed unto him forever with abundant fruits.
John 15 1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”
Context: The passage we just read has been a topic of argument for quite some time. What does it mean in verse 2 when Jesus said, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away…” Does that mean that if a believer is fruitless over time that God will remove him from Christ? Does that mean that a fruitless Christian can lose his/her salvation? What does this do to the doctrine of eternal security? Typically, these questions are answered by either saying “Yes, a person can lose his/her salvation for being fruitless” or “No, that is not the point of the parable.” To answer these very important questions, we need to keep in mind both the immediate context of John 15 and the overall context of the Farewell Discourse of Jesus from John 13-17. First, the immediate context is the Old Testament imagery of Israel being the vine of God. Remember, the passages we studied in the last message from Jeremiah 5, Ezekiel 18, Psalm 80, Hosea 10, and Jeremiah 2. Based on the vine imagery, the more fruit were souls. Israel was given the task of being a fruitful vine by bearing righteous branches and even graft branches of other peoples who would also become righteous and fruitful before God. Unfortunately, Israel failed, and Jesus came to be the “true vine.” I gave you some verses last time from Jesus’ own words that this was the intended purpose. Here’s one more. As Jesus stood before Pilate, and he asked in John 18:37 “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Through Jesus, we can win more souls into the kingdom of God. There are no limits between Jewish people and Gentiles.
But, don’t forget the overall context. This parable was given in Jesus’ Farewell Discourse from John 13-17. Remember, the south view of Jerusalem with Mount Zion on the west and Mount of Olives on the east. In the middle was the Kidron Valley. Jesus celebrated the Last Supper on Mount Zion and then made his way through the streets of Jerusalem, maybe past the Temple, and down the Kidron Valley. Somewhere here, he gave the Parable of the Vine and the Branches. But, let’s back up to that upper room. There are somethings Jesus said that helps us understand the vine and branches imagery. Let’s pick up when he began washing their feet and came to Peter. John 13 6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” 8 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”
Let’s pause here. What did Jesus mean by that? The Greek word for clean is “katharos.” Keep that in mind. When did Jesus clean them? This was obviously not at the foot washing or even their baptism. We have to go back to the synagogue in Capernaum inJohn 6 53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. 60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” 61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” 68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” 71 He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve. The disciples were cleansed by receiving Jesus’ words except Judas.
In other words, Judas did not believe, but he hung around. Just like people do today. Maybe to see what comes next. Maybe to steal from their money box. In the New Testament church, there was Simon Magus, who was baptized, and Demas, who served with Paul.
Application: How about you? Are you a disciple or are you just hanging around? Have you truly believed, or are you just waiting to see how things turn out? Are you cleansed?
Back to John 13 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.” 12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 “I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ Judas was really on Jesus’ heart because he keeps talking about Judas! 19 Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. 20 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” 21 When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” 22 Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke. 23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke. 25 Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. Matthew’s gospel adds another detail – Matthew 26 23 He (Jesus) answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. 24 The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?” He said to him, “You have said it.” How many opportunities he was given to return to Christ! If there had been a whimper of a cry from Judas – “Lord, save me” – like Peter, God would’ve found another way. The information we have is through foreknowledge not some foreordination. 27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. 29 For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.31 So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.”
Now, let’s return to John 15:2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” The English doesn’t tell us, but there is a play on words in Greek here. The word for take away is “airei” and the word for prunes is “kathairei.” The words can be used in agriculture world, but not necessarily, especially the first one. The point is this: the words are connected. The passage is not about eternal security. It is about true connection to Jesus. Judas was never truly connected to Jesus, unlike the other disciples. His fate is found in 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” Judas went out and hung himself. How about the other disciples? John 15:3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” Guess what the Greek word is for “clean”? “katharoi.” Peter also stumbled that night, followed when he was not supposed to and denied Christ three times. But he was close enough to catch Jesus’ eye, and he went out and wept bitterly. About 50 days later, on the day of Pentecost, he won 3000 souls on his first message!
So many layers of meaning. Their acceptance of Jesus had made them clean. Their decision to follow was the evidence they were clean. The Father keeps cleansing those who accept Jesus and follow him by grounding them even more in the truth about Jesus. As a result, they keep shining his light and bear more and more fruit, which are souls.
Invitation: How about you? Are you clean? What decision do you make? Are you like Judas, just hanging around? You will be taken away. If you know Jesus as Savior and King, you will become more and more connected to him, bearing abundant fruits. The Are you bearing fruits/souls?
Someone said, “The same sun that melts wax also hardens clay.”