ABIDE IN CHRIST by Andrew Murray
As the Branch in the Vine
I am the Vine, you are the branches.—John 15:5
It was in the Parable of the Vine in John 15 that our Lord first used the expression, "Abide in Me." That parable, so simple, and yet so rich in its teaching, gives us the best and most complete illustration of the meaning of our Lord's command, and the union to which He invites us.
The parable teaches us the nature of that union. The connection between the vine and the branch is a living one. No external, temporary union will do. No work of man can accomplish it. The branch, whether an original or an engrafted one, exists only as the Creator's own work. It exists by virtue of the fact that the life, the sap, the fatness, and the fruitfulness of the vine communicate themselves to the branch. And it is just so with the believer too. His union with his Lord is no work of human wisdom or human will, but an act of God, by which the closest and most complete life-union is accomplished between the Son of God and the sinner. "God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts.'' (Gal. 4:6) The same Spirit which dwelt and still dwells in the Son, becomes the life of the believer. In the unity of that one Spirit, and the fellowship of the same life which is in Christ, he is one with Him. As between the vine and the branch, it is a life-union which makes them one.
The parable teaches us the completeness of this union. So close is the union between the vine and the branch, that each is nothing without the other. Each is WHOLLY for the other, and each is ONLY for the other.
Without the vine the branch can do nothing. The branch owes to the vine its place in the vineyard, its life and its fruitfulness. And so the Lord says, '' Without me you can do nothing.'' The believer can each day be pleasing to God only in that which he does through the power of Christ dwelling in him. The daily inflowing of the life-sap of the Holy Spirit is his only power to bring forth fruit. He lives alone IN HIM and is dependent ON HIM ALONE for each moment.
Without the branch, the vine can also do nothing. A vine without branches can bear no fruit. The vine is as indispensable to the branch as the branch is to the vine. Such is the wonderful condescension of the grace of Jesus. Just as His people are dependent on Him, He has also made Himself dependent on them. Without His disciples He cannot dispense His blessing to the world. He cannot offer sinners the grapes of the heavenly Canaan. Do not marvel! It is His own design! This is the high honor to which He has called His redeemed ones. As indispensable as He is to them in heaven, that from Him THEIR FRUIT may be found, so indispensable are they to Him on earth, that through them HIS FRUIT may be found. Believers, meditate on this, until your souls bow to worship in the presence of the mystery of the perfect union between Christ and the believer.
There is more...as neither the vine nor the branch is anything without the other, so is neither anything EXCEPT FOR the other.
All the vine possesses belongs to the branches. The vine does not gather from the soil its fatness and its sweetness for itself—all it has is at the disposal of the branches. As it is in the parent, so it is in the servant to the branches. And Jesus, to whom we owe our lives, completely gives Himself FOR US and TO US. "The glory You gave me, I have given them " (John 17:22). "He who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do..." (John 4:12). All His fullness and all His riches are for you, O believer; for the vine does not live for itself, keeps nothing for itself, but exists only for the branches. All that Jesus is in heaven, He is for us. He has no interest there separate from ours; as our representative He stands before the Father.
And all the branch possesses belongs to the vine. The branch does not exist for itself. It exists only to bear fruit that can proclaim the excellence of the vine. It has no reason of existence except to be of service to the vine. Glorious image of the calling of the believer, and the his entire consecration to the service of his Lord. As Jesus gives Himself so wholly over to him, the believer feels himself urged to be wholly his Lord's. Every power of his being, every moment of his life, every thought and feeling, belong to Jesus, that FROM HIM and FOR HIM he may bring forth fruit . As he realizes what the vine is to the branch, and what the branch is meant to be to the vine, he feels that he has but one thing to think of, and to live for, and that is, the will, the glory, the work, the kingdom of his blessed Lord,—the bringing forth of fruit to the glory of His name.
The parable teaches us the reason for the believer’s union with Christ. The branches are for fruit and fruit alone. "Every branch that bears not fruit He takes away." (John 15:2) The branch needs leaves for the maintenance of its own life, and the perfection of its fruit. The fruit itself it bears to give away to those around. As the believer enters into his calling as a branch, he sees that he has to forget himself, and to live entirely for his fellow men. Jesus came to love them, to seek them, and to save them. For this every branch on the Vine has to live as much as the Vine itself. It is for fruit...MUCH FRUIT...that the Father has made us one with Jesus.
What a wonder this Parable of the Vine is! It unveils the mysteries of the Divine love, of the heavenly life, of the world of Spirit. How little have I understood these things! Jesus is the living Vine in heaven, and I am the living branch on earth! How little have I understood how great my need, but also how perfect my claim to all His fullness! How little understood is the greatness of His need, but also how perfect His claim is to my emptiness! Let me, in its beautiful light, study the wonderful union between Jesus and His people, until it becomes to me the guide into full communion with my beloved Lord. Let me listen and believe, until my whole being cries out, "Jesus is indeed to me the True Vine, bearing me, nourishing me, supplying me, using me, and filling me up fully to make me bring forth fruit abundantly." Then shall I not fear to say, '' I am indeed a branch to Jesus, the True Vine, abiding in Him, resting on Him, waiting for Him, serving Him, and living only so that through me, He may show forth the riches of His grace, and give His fruit to a perishing world.
It is when we try in this way to understand the meaning of the parable, that the blessed command spoken in connection with it will come home to us in its true power. The thought of what the Vine is to the branch, and Jesus is to the believer, will give new force to the words, "Abide in me!" It will be as if He says, "Think, soul, how completely I belong to you. I have joined myself inseparably to you; all the fulness and fatness of the Vine are yours in very deed. Now once you are in me, be assured that all I have is wholly yours. It is my interest and my honor to have you be a fruitful branch. Only Abide in Me. You are weak, but I am strong. You are poor, but I am rich. Only abide in Me. Yield yourself wholly to my teaching and rule. Simply trust My love, My grace and My promises. Only believe. I am wholly yours; I am the Vine, you are the branch. Abide in me."
What do you say, believer? Will you no longer hesitate, or withhold yourself? Or will you not, instead of only thinking how hard and how difficult it is to live like a branch of the True Vine, because you thought of it as something you had to accomplish--shall you not now begin to look upon it as the most blessed and joyful thing under heaven? Will you not believe that, now you once are in Him, He Himself will keep you and enable you to abide? On your part, abiding is nothing but the acceptance of your position in Him and your consent to be kept there. It is the surrender of faith to the strong Vine still to hold the feeble branch. Will you not say, “Yes, I will, I do abide in you, blessed Lord Jesus.
O Saviour, how unspeakable is you love! "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it." (Psalm 139:6) I can only yield myself to Your love with the prayer that, day by day, You will reveal to me some of its precious mysteries, and so encourage and strengthen Your loving disciple to do what his heart really desires to do—ever, only wholly to abide in You.