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The Parable of the Vine




Provides insight on understanding how the Parable of the Vine (John 15:1-6) would have been understood by the disciples


Scripture Basis:


John 15:1-7


Reference Materials:


International Standard  Bible Encyclopedia, Electronic Edition




Observations from John 15:1-7

§         The author is John but Jesus appears to be speaking

§         The audience is his disciples less Judas

§         The place is at the" last supper" in the "upper room"

§         Repeated words/phrases include Bear fruit, Abide, Branches

§         The term "true vine" is a metaphor. V1-2 state the metaphor and V4 begins attaching it to the disciples.

§         Vs 5 explains the metaphor - Jesus is the vine, the disciples are the branches

§         What word was spoken that made them "clean" and what does "clean" mean

§         What does abide mean?

§         There seems to be an atmosphere of concern for the disciples well being by Jesus after he would leave. Key question:  What does stumble mean in 16:1?

§         15:10 looks like Mosaic law - conditional

§         Chapter 15 appears to be instructive both near future and far

§         Jesus is dealing with his disciples in the context of Judas's betrayal.

§         Jesus is preparing to leave

§         The holy spirit is being promised as a better replacement



Word Study of Key Terms :


Abide :  G3306 meno : verb


Summary .The Greek word meno is the word translated “abide” in the passage John 15:1-7. It’s is found in numerous other new testament passages and is quite common in those written by John. Its meanings include the following. 1) to stay in a given place, state, relation or expectancy, to continue, to dwell, to endure, to be present, to remain, to stand, to tarry for.   2) to be held or kept, continually, 3) in reference to time to continue to be, and not to perish, to last, endure , of persons, to survive  4)  in reference to state or condition to remain as one way and not to different 5) to wait for or await one.




 Looking at some of the other scriptures where  the word is used with find it denoting


1)      Permanent existence –  usually of something of God (his word, faith, hope, love 1 Peter 1:23 1 Cor 13:13 John 8:31 . Def 5

2)      to remain permanently with something – (ie. Holy Spirit with believers - John 14:16

3)      To live inside of – usually ‘living’ in God or something of God living in man 1 John 4:12, 1 John 3:6

4)      to stay with someone or live with them, during a visit ,    Matt 10:11

5)      an invitation to come live permanently .. 1 John 2:28,


It is interesting that when this term "abides" is used as descriptive of some element of our relationship to God it is associated with a permanence of a condition of that God has generated. (ie. "that which you received from him abides in you."). But when the term "abide" is used as a command, it appears either as an invitation for man to come "live in God"  or as a an encouragement to continue living with God rather than encouraging  a persevering attitude on the part of man.



takes away : G146 airo : verb


Summary : The word airo  is the Greek word that is translated “takes away”. It has three different primary  meanings each having  a few variants of usage . They include 1) to lift up and raise from the ground,  to elevate, 2) to take upon ones self to carry something away and 3) to remove something from its current place. Varients include to  1a) to raise from the ground,   1b) to raise upwards, elevate, lift up: the hand 1c) to draw up: a fish 2) to take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised up, to bear 3) to bear away what has been raised, carry off 3a) to move from its place 3b) to take off or away what is attached to anything, 3c) to remove 3d) to carry off, carry away with one 3e) to appropriate what is taken, 3f) to take away from another what is his or what is committed to him, to take by force , 3g) to take and apply to any use 3h) to take from among the living, either by a natural death, or by violence 3i) cause to cease . One dictionary strongly emphasized the aspects of "lifting" (1) to the exclusion of  "removal" (3)


 Looking at some of the other scriptures where  the word is used with find it denoting


1)      the forced removal of something :  John 1:29, John 10:18, John 15:2, John 16:22

2)      To physically pickup something to carry somewhere : Matt 9:6, Matt 16:24;  John 2:16

3)      The bearing or carrying something Matt 4:6, Matt 27:32, Mark 15:21, Luke 4:11

4)      The lifting of voice, hand or eye: Luke 17:13, John 11:41, Acts 4:24, Rev 10:5


b. Figures of speech

§         I am the vine, you are the branches 

§         I am the vine, the father is the vinedresser - metaphor 

§         thrown away as a branch  - simile

§         every branch in me  - metaphor 

§         Bearing fruit - metaphor for making more disciples



Immediate Context


a.     Jesus denotes himself as the vine. The branches are the disciples The "you" in vs 3 also refers to the disciples. Verse 6 has two  "they's" in it. The 2nd refers to the branches that are "dried up and  get burned".  These are most likely people who are not connected to Jesus. The first "they" are those who do the gathering and  is indeterminate. The KJV renders this gathering "they"  as "men" indicating it is most likely just those who gather the branches in the vine metaphor.  


b.    Chapter 13: Jesus knowing that it was time to return to the father and knowing Satan had motivated Judas, began washing feet to symbolically "cleanse them", but not all of them. He comments you are clean similarly to 15:4 but adds 'but not all of you'. the rest of the chapter unfolds to describe the identification of Judas as betrayer and not one of them.

       Chapter 14 :In chapter 14 Jesus explains that he is leaving the disciples and that they need to understand that he is one with the Father (God). He continues with a discussion on the upcoming role of the spirit. All in all, the chapter seeks to calm the disciples and show them how God will still be with them after Jesus bodily leaves them.

        Chapter 15: In this chapter Jesus explains the relationships between the disciples and him, the father, each other and the world. The purpose of these relationships seems to be wound around bearing. Here the disciples are being practically prepared for the mission field. Reasons for the words of this chapter include that Jesus joy and disciples may be full and that they be kept from stumbling.

        Chapter 16  foretells the future. It foretells in more detail the coming role of the holy spirit. It tells of Jesus coming death and resurrection and then foretells the day when he will once again be with them. All of the dialogue around these topics finally cements the idea that Jesus is God solidly in their minds   They finally admit that they believe.

         Chapter 17: In this chapter Jesus prays for his believing disciples. He culminates his ministry to them with an interceding prayer that not only commissions them to the Father, but foresees their future glory.


c.     John 15:1-7 fits into the structure of the Upper Room Discourse in that follows the identification of Judas as not being “clean” and the prediction of his coming betrayal. In this the disciples were not only having getting an explanation of what had happened  but also were being prepared not to repeat it. The rest of chapter 15 describes the relationships of the disciples to Jesus, the Father, to each other and to the world while engaged in their mission of bearing fruit. Jesus specifically points out that this training is important so the other disciples will not stumble.


d.      The purpose of the Gospel of John is given in John 20:31. It says that  the book was written that people might believe Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God and in believing would gain life in Jesus name. The Upper Room Discourse fits because it prescribes the basic relational principles necessary to achieve the purpose. In order to spread the gospel and  help others believe in Jesus, the disciples would have to have the power of Jesus Christ, love for each other and be prepared with an understanding of the environment of opposition in which they would work for/with Christ.





Theological Context


a.     John 15 occurs at the end of the dispensation of Mosaic law however some hold that Mosiac law ended in John 14 leaving John 15 in a transitional category. Certainly it is not in the dispensation of grace as Christ had not yet died and the Holy Spirit had not yet come as he is only being promised in John 14.

b  John 15:10 reads a little like law (ie. If you keep His commandments, you abide in his love) . The Mosaic dispensation was governed by the Mosaic covenant, which is highly conditional, like this statement reads. In it Gods protection and blessing in the land was conditional on faithfulness to God. To be unfaithful to God would cause removal from God's blessing and the land.

c.      The next dispensation, Grace is thought to have started in Acts with the coming of the Holy Spirit.  John 15 relates to the dispensation of Grace as it is looking forward to it. It predicts the aspects of life within it,  teaches the disciples the principles of how to live in it, and seeks to help the disciples survive until it comes.

d.      This time frame is one in which the Holy Spirit is not yet available to help the disciples remember Jesus words or guide them in truth. When Jesus leaves it will be a very dangerous time for them because persecution will be prevalent and the disciples will be a risk to stumble. A word study of "stumble" G4624 , shows it to mean "to trip up someone that they might fall into ruin or cause a person to distrust and desert another that he should obey, to desert a teaching for postasy. In this context, and considering the dispensation, I think Jesus was genuinely concerned about them in the face of a ruthless and cunning opposition.



Cultural Context


            The feast of the Passover occurred yearly from the 14th to the 21st day of Nisan. The purpose of the feast was a time of remembrance of the exodus from Egypt and how God had saved the nation of Israal from slavery and bondage . It is also called the feast of Unleavened Bread to commemorate the haste at which the Passover meal was eaten and was also a time of havest festival when the firstfruits were offered to God. The festival was accompanied by a great many people coming into the citys to celebrate and sacrifice at the temple.


             The major elements of the Passover included 1) cleansing of the city and the homes and the implements of cooking, 2) preparations for guests, 3) the removal of any leavened bread from the home, 4) the purchase and sacrifice of a lamb at the temple in ratio of 1 to 10 people, 4) the Passover meal held at home on the evening of the 14th during which the exodus from Egypt was remembered, they would recline at this meal as the rest God gave them was being remembers and unleavened bread, bitter herbs and chutney were eaten as well 5) the eating of unleavened bread for the following week along with additional public offering and sacrifices.


Relative to the order Passover meal itself the process involved the following;


-         Cleaning of utensils

-         Removal of any leavened bread

-         Roasting of the sacrificed lamb

-         A meal eaten while reclining at the table

-         Remembrance of the departure from Egypt prompted by questions from the youngest

-         Eating of bitter herds, unleavened bread and chutney

-         Giving thanksgiving to God with cups of red wine



Elements of similarity to Passover from John 13-17


                 Jesus had the disciples make the needful preparations for the observance of the Passover. This included the sacrificing of the lamb at the temple, and the securing of a guest-chamber. He also was found at the supper washing the feet (14:5) , an element of cleansing, reclining  at the meal (14:12,28 ) and eating bread that was dipped. Perhaps with a bit more of stretch we find the removal of Judas from their midst, a  message of bitterness given in 16:20, that  Jesus will be leaving. These is also a discussion of bearing fruit which has some similarity the offering of first fruits and the giving of thanksgiving to God in the prayer of chapter 17.


Farming Methods Relative to Metaphors in John 15


              In Israel, vineyards were quite common. They where usually planted on a hillside having good drainage and sun exposure. Terracing was used to consume stone and conserve soil on the hillside. Fences containing thorns were added to protect the vineyard from animals. The vines themselves grew on forked trellises but some varieties were left to grow on the ground. Pruning was done with a small pruning hook during the winter months to get rid of weak, broken or diseased branches so that the remaining braches would grow the best grapes. The process was called “cleaning the vine”. Also should branches be found to not be doing well on the ground, they were  lifted up and placed into a position better suited for them to do well on a forked support.

             At a personal level Jews wanted there own vineyards. It was a statement of being attached to the land. It stood in opposition the nomadic way of life of other Palestinian peoples. Religiously the vine stood as the symbol of Jewish religious life. Carvings of grapes stood at the entrance to the synagogue and wine was a symbol of Gods blessing and prosperity. In making this metaphor, Jesus identified himself as central to the religion of the Jews and made clear that making more disciples was the prosperous activity he intended the disciples to be about. He also used the metaphor to drive home the risk of removal of those who did not stay attached to Him and his words. This also emphasized the purpose and method of ministry.


Historical Political Context


Political Government


       The Roman empire was the major world power a the time the Upper room discourse is occurring. Despite its democratic beginnings, the Roman empire at the time of Christ had degenerated into a one man government. It was the political counterpart of a universal religion with one God and Savior. At the time of the Last supper Pilate and Herod Antipas formed the local Roman government. After the death of Herod the Great (4 bc), the kingdom was to be divided among his three sons. Archelaus received Judea; Antipas, Galilee and Peraea; Philip, the border lands in the north.  Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great.   He ruled as “tetrarch” of Galilee and Peraea (Lk 3:1) from 4 bc till 39 ad. The gospel picture we have of him is far from prepossessing. He was superstitious (Mt 14:1), foxlike and cunning (Lk 13:31 f) as well as immoral. John the Baptist was brought into his life through an open rebuke of his gross immorality and defiance of the laws of Moses. Archelaus was soon deposed by the Romans (6 ad), and Judea was made a part of the province of Syria, which then placed under a special Roman procurator, who resided in Caesarea. Pontius Pilate was the procurator  from 26-36 ad. Procurators typically had no other goal than to plunder the land and the people. .As procurator, Pilate possessed civil, military, and criminal jurisdiction. The procurator of Judea was in some way subordinate to the legate of Syria, but the exact character of the subordination is not known.  Under his rule, the Jews were allowed some self-government. Thus the Jews were allowed to exercise judicial functions, but if they desired to inflict the penalty of death, the sentence had to be confirmed by the procurator.


Religious Government

           The religious leaders in Israel at the time of Christ were ruled by a body of chief priests called Sadducess and other scribes . They formed the court of justice in every town as well as the high court of justice, which was called the Sanhedrin.  In the time of Christ, these courts were the recognized authorities in all matters of religion. It was the Sanhedrin led by Caiaphas, the high priest who took a leading part in the trial and condemnation of Jesus. However it was Annas who was the principal power behind the persecution of Jesus far more than Caiaphas or Pilate.  Caiaphas was the nominal head of the Sanhedrin which condemned Jesus, but the aged Annas was the ruling spirit. According to Jn 18:12, 13, it was to him that the officers who arrested Jesus led. Annas was also a high priest of the Jews, but was also the virtual head of the priestly party in Jerusalem at the time of Christ,   He  was elevated to the high-priesthood by Quirinius, governor of Syria, 7 ad. But later deposed by a previous Roman procurator, Valerius Gratus, 15 ad. Although deprived of official status, he continued to wield great power behind the scenes as the dominant member of the ruling class, using members of his family as instruments. He did this through his five sons and son in law  Caiaphas (Jn 18:13) 




        In vs. 1,2 Jesus is explaining that the disciples were being sent on a mission to make other disciples (bear fruit) .  In this mission only those who are "connected to and alive in Christ" would be fruitful. To help this mission succeed, the disciples would be corrected, changed and even moved around physically or geographically so they would help as many people as possible come to belief in Jesus Christ. Here it is compelling to interpret “takes away” as meaning forcible removal of a disciple (a branch) from  Christ, the vine by God the Father. This interpretation would come from attaching the “gathering and burning of branches” in vs. 6 as examples  of what happens to “disciples” who do not remain a follower of Christ.  However The metaphors of vs. 1,2 and v6 are probably not directly related and more likely discuss two different things.  They are separate yet similar metaphors.  The grammatical structure vs.  6 appears to contain the “burning of the branches” to the vs. 6 metaphor itself. This describes what normally would happen to any “unattached” branches, those not connected to the vine. The “they” who gathers them here is indeterminate and therefore is simply part of the example of what happens to such branches. The KJV renders it “and men gather them and they are burned” . It is not necessary to associate this result with branches “taken away” in vs. 2 as though it is a restatement. The metaphor in vs. 1,2 describe the relationships between Jesus, God and the disciples relative to being fruitful. The metaphor in vs. 6 describes what happens to branches that do not “abide” or “who are not living in” Christ. These are wholly two different things. This is supported by cultural context, as the vine farmer would recognize the term “airo” (takes away) when used of the vine as describing the “lifting” or “moving” of a branch that was fruitless into a different place that it might do better. Therefore the lack of fruit in the life of a disciple was not a condition of risk for damnation. V3 explains that these disciples are already purified as vessels to carry out the Lords work. This is related to the Passover for to be clean was to be free from un-atoned sin and therefore ready for service to God. It is clear from vs. 15:16 that Jesus knew their hearts as well just as he known that Judas's was not clean. He mentions here that  his spoken words are the reason they were clean. This indicates they had believed his words and Jesus  knew it. To believe what God said was true even in Mosaic times was to be credited with righteousness (right standing)  but it is not a statement of there permanent justification.  V4  Carrying both "you in me" and "I in you" aspects of a relationship of union, explains that a permanent state of union (dwelling together) is necessary to produce fruit. Here I think the term "meno" (abide) appears as an invitation to live or dwell permanently in union with Christ. V5 reiterates the principle attaching the metaphor  directly to the disciples and emphasize that they can do nothing if they are not attached to Christ. V6 is then understood as descriptive of what happens (eternal state) to "anyone" who does not enter into this permanent relationship (union) with Christ or to anyone who, in this dispensation, might choose to abandon it. For me this interpretation of v6  hinges on whether Jesus was truly concerned that the disciples would fall away from his teachings after he was gone and before the Holy Sprit would come to help them and guide them. Vs. 16:1 states that  the teaching just spoken was given "that they might not stumble" . A word study of "stumble" G4624 , shows it to mean "to trip up someone that they might fall into ruin or cause a person to distrust and desert another that he should obey, to desert a teaching for apostasy. In this context, and considering the dispensation, I think Jesus was genuinely concerned about them in the face of a ruthless and cunning opposition despite the fact that he had chosen them (15:16).  V7 adds an additional element that those who are  living in union with Christ and holding to his teaching will receive what they ask for.



Theological Principles


1. The teaching of John 15:1-7 on the vine is timeless in that we as Christians need to realize that we cannot do anything without Christ's power and strength given us through our union with him in the Holy Spirit. The bearing of fruit is our mission today as well as it was the disciples and we cannot do it if we do stay living in Him and with his words.


2. The teaching on the vine cannot be used to justify the case that one can lose his salvation today. Jesus' concern was due to the special conditions that existed at the time. Nor can this passage be used to say a fruitless believer today will be sent to hell.


3.  Pruning of people in ministry will occur if they are  bearing fruit and moving of others who are not doing well or can do better will occur today. This is done that our joy may be full as we participate in the building of the great kingdom of God. We should not be afraid of this as it is for our benefit.


Personal Applications


1. I need to live immersed in Gods word so that I can be fruitful and be found in Gods will where my prayers are more effective. I will need to more deeply embrace my bible study using the tools I have leaned in this class. They help me delve into the word more deeply. I will be using the hermeneutic approach when build Sunday school lessons that I will be teaching and in a lighter way help me strengthen my devotions.


2. When I find in my studies in seminary that I am wrong about some aspect of Gods Word or ministry I can not become angry, disappointed in myself or frustrated. I can look on these as pruning, that will enhance my ability to be used to bear fruit.


3. As one united with Christ and dwelling on his word I can know that I am in Gods will. This means I can  approach God with confidence, in the name of Jesus,  and be sure that what I ask for will be granted. This confidence In prayer is something I often lack. I will now be praying with more confidence about my children and financial concerns as well as for others.





            Other new testament passages that teach on abiding include the following. Significant among them is John 8:31 and 1 John chapters 2-4 . The Theological purpose of abiding is to enable us to become  Christ-like and in doing so bring glory to God. Through abiding we bear fruit we bring glory to God, through abiding we obey his word and avoid sin and in this bring glory to God and by abiding we are able to love and in doing so bring glory to God. It will affect my life by bringing me a great deal of joy!


abide, abides, abiding 


John 8:31, 3:36, John 14:16, John 15:4 (3), John 15:6-7 (3), John 15:10, 1 Cor 13:13, 1 Peter 1:25, 1 John 3:17, 1 John 4:12, 1 John 2:6, 1 John 2:10, 1 John 2:24, 1 John 2:27-28, , 1 John 2:14, 1 John 2:17, 1 John 3:6, 1 John 3:14, 1 John 3:24, 2 John 1:9, 1 Pet 1:23,




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