The Vine of God's Full Satisfaction
Reading: John 15; Psalm 80:8,14; Isaiah 5:1,2; Jeremiah
2:21, 6:9; Ezekiel 15:1-6
fifteenth step in the transition from the old Israel to
the new is here in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel by
John: "I am the true vine, and my Father
is the husbandman."
the Old Testament background to that in the passages we
have read: What Israel was intended to be, failed to be,
and their destiny - "Cast into the fire".
It is clear from these Scriptures that Israel was
God's vine, but it became a false vine and God had to
cast it into the fire, where it has been for nearly
God cast that vine into the fire, He brought forth
another. We have said that this Gospel by John sets forth
the putting away of the old and the bringing in of the
new. We have seen that various names of the old Israel
have been taken over into the new Israel, and here in
this chapter the vine is taken over. When Jesus said
"I am the true vine", He emphasized that word
'TRUE'. If you could hear Him saying that phrase,
it would be like this: "I am the TRUE vine".
The implication is perfectly clear. 'I take the place of
the false vine. That has been cast away and I am the true
vine which takes its place.'
to spend a little while seeing how Israel was false to
its very nature and purpose.
the nature of a vine? For one thing, it spreads out far
and wide, on the right and on the left, always reaching
out to cover more space. It is not the nature of the vine
just to go straight up. It reaches out, expands itself.
was raised up for this very purpose - to stretch out
their arms and embrace the nations: "I...
will give thee... for a light to the
Gentiles" (Isaiah 42:6) is the word: "Nations
shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of
thy rising" (Isaiah 62:3). God raised up Israel
to be a testimony in the nations, to bring the knowledge
of God to the whole world. It was Israel's calling to
fulfil a world purpose and a world vision. They were
intended to be His missionary nation to the whole world,
but instead of embracing the nations, they excluded them.
They drew a wall round themselves and said 'We are THE
people and all others are dogs.' They called the
Gentiles 'dogs'. They shut themselves in to themselves
and became an exclusive people, thus contradicting their
own nature and mission. Exclusiveness was a contradiction
to the very nature of Israel - and it is ALWAYS a
contradiction to divine nature. It is not written in,
Scripture: 'God so loved the Jewish nation that He gave
His only begotten Son.' It says: "God so loved the
WORLD". The very love of God was contradicted
by their exclusiveness. His very nature amongst them was
violated in that way: and to turn in upon ourselves is
always a violation of divine calling. It is a sin for any
people to make themselves an end in themselves. That is
why in the order of nature - when nature is normal - a
family expands. The Lord laid down this law right at the
beginning of human history, when He said to Noah and his
sons after the flood: "Be fruitful and multiply,
and replenish the earth" (Genesis 19:1). It was
in the very nature of things by the appointment of God.
As I say, when things are normal, no lives are an end in
themselves. Of course, I know of those exceptions when it
is not possible to expand, but I am speaking of the
NORMAL course. In the very nature of things God
intends life to be an expanding life. Anyone who violates
that law deliberately will be an end in himself or
herself and will sin against God's law.
was called to expand and fill the earth with the
knowledge of the Lord, but they withheld that knowledge
from the nations and turned in on themselves, made
themselves an end in themselves. So God came down upon
that and said: 'All right! You shall be an end in
yourselves.' God's judgments are usually the confirmation
of our own choices!
Israel's violation of their nature as a vine. Instead of
expanding to the world, it contracted into itself and
anything like that is always fatal.
about the purpose? Quite obviously the purpose of a vine
is to bear fruit. It bears grapes, and from grapes there
is to come the wine. In the Old Testament wine is always
a symbol of life. That is why we have it at the Lord's
Table. It represents His blood, and in that there is
life. He Himself called it the fruit of the vine. He did
not say: 'I will no more drink of My blood until that day
when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.' What He did
say was: "I will no more drink of THE FRUIT OF THE
VINE, until that day when I drink it new in the
kingdom of God" (Mark 14: 25). The grapes and the
wine are symbols of life.
of old was called to minister the life of God to all the
nations. When you read these Gospels and look to see what
kind of fruit it is that Israel is bearing, you find that
it is anything but life. It is really death. The fruit
was sour. All those who were tasting the fruit of that
Israel were turning away and saying: 'We do not want any
more.' It was not life: it was death. The Gospels are
just full of that truth.
said: "I am the true vine" ...
"In him was life: and the
life was the light of men" (John 1:4). Men's
faces grew light when they tasted HIM.
notice one thing about the vine that we read in the Old
Testament? We read, in Ezekiel 15, that the vine has no
other purpose in its existence than to bear fruit. Have
you ever seen anything made of vine? You have never seen
a table, or a vessel or even a walking-stick made of
vine! Ezekiel says that you can do nothing with the wood
of the vine - you cannot even make from it a peg on which
to hang things. The vine is absolutely useless apart from
the fruit. The grapes are the only purpose of its
existence, and if it does not bear them, then, says
Ezekiel, you just cast it into the fire. There are no
by-products of the vine, no secondary use. It exists for
one thing, and one thing only, and that is fruit.
raised up the old Israel to bear His divine fruit of life
and light for the nations, but they failed to do that.
God had no other use for an Israel like that, so He said
'Cast it into the fire.' He did that nearly twenty
centuries ago and that is where Israel is now.
see from that what the Lord Jesus means when He says that
He is the true vine and we are the branches. The TRUE vine
is that which fulfils the one and only purpose of its
brings this illustration over to Himself and His Church,
and it is perfectly clear what is the nature of the Lord
Jesus. He is reaching out to all men, embracing the whole
world. He asks ALL the nations into His heart. ALL
men are His concern and not any one nation. He said to
His disciples: "Go ye therefore, and make disciples
of ALL THE NATIONS" (Matthew 28:19). It is the very
nature of Jesus to do that. It is quite foreign to Him to
be exclusive, small and narrow and self-occupied.
salvation is to have our hearts enlarged so that they are
bigger than ourselves. Anyone who turns in on himself or
herself, and those who are always occupied with
themselves, are dying while they live. It cannot be
avoided. Let a little company of the Lord's people live
just to itself, become wholly occupied with itself, and
its days are numbered. They are living a living death.
Their destiny is to fade out. That is true of any one
Christian or of any company of the Lord's people, because
Christ is in the believer and His very nature is to reach
out like the vine. He would draw all men unto Himself,
and for His people to be otherwise is a contradiction to
His very nature, which is the nature of the true vine.
says: "I am the vine, ye are the
branches". The branches of the vine make one
vine - they partake of the same nature. Do you notice
that it is the very branches themselves that do the
expanding work of Jesus? Yes, this expanding work is
manifested by the branches.
course, is what happened in Jerusalem right at the
beginning, when some troubles sprang up in the Christian
church there. It was the first bit of trouble that the
Christian church had! Some of the first Apostles wanted
to stay in Jerusalem and build up the church there.
Forgetting the commandment of the Lord, they were just
settling down to make Jerusalem the center of everything
and the church an exclusive body. Then there rose up in
their midst a young man "full of faith
and of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5), and his
name was Stephen. If you listen to what Stephen said you
will recognize that what he is saying has this meaning:
'This will not do. We have been called for the
nations. We are not to be an exclusive people. We are
called to a world mission and must not settle down in the
old Judaism.' Some of the first Christians and Christian
leaders did not agree with him. Of course, the old Israel
did not agree with that! And so they stoned Stephen on
this very issue of the world mission of the Church. I
cannot help asking the question: Where were James and
Peter when Stephen was being stoned? They were in
Jerusalem, but were not present. Why was it that Stephen
was stoned and not Peter or James? Because at that time
they were not taking the line that Stephen was taking.
They were making Jerusalem everything, and, of course,
the old Israel would not stone them for doing
that, so they were quite safe somewhere in Jerusalem. But
Stephen was stoned.
understand that there is something here of which to take
note: that this new Israel is given a mission to all the
nations, and there is a great price to pay for that. The
whole kingdom of Satan is against it. If you will just
become a little, quiet, compromising local sect you will
be all right. The devil won't worry you if you are just
living within your own walls and closed doors, and the
world will not trouble about you. It will leave you
alone... but if you go out on this heavenly level of
things and embrace all men in Christ, you will find that
the world is against you and the devil is against you.
You and I ought to see this in our day as no one has ever
seen it before. Do you not see what is happening in the
nations? There is not a missionary left in China! It is
no longer possible for one to go into that country; and
that same thing is happening in other parts of the world.
They have tried to drive them out of Africa. Why is this?
Oh, the kingdom of Satan does not want Jesus to get into
his world. There have been literally many thousands of
martyrs for Jesus Christ in China, and many others in
Africa, and in other parts. It has never been quite like
this before. It is a new phase of things. Satan knows
that his time is short and that he must do all he can to
close the nations to Jesus Christ. So there is a great
price bound up with this world mission. Stephen is the
great example of that.
purpose, then, of Christ and His Church, of the vine and
the branches, is to bring life to men all over this
if that is altogether true of the church today! Do you
not think that even the Christian Church is failing in
this matter? It is not really bringing life to the
nations. Many a place called a 'church' is not bringing
life even to its own little locality. This is a
contradiction of Christ!
is all very well to think of this objectively. It has to
come down to every one of us. What is the proof that
Christ is in you and in me? How can it be known that
Christ is in us? Only in one way - that others are
receiving life through us, that we minister the life of
Christ to others, that when hungry and needy people come
into touch with us they feel the touch of life. They may
express it in different ways, but it amounts to this:
'That man, that woman, has something that I have not got
and it is something that I need. There is something about
them that I feel, and it is what I really need.' That
should be true of every Christian because Christ is in
us, expanding Himself through us and ministering His life
pray, dear friends, every day as you get up: 'Lord, make
me a channel of life to someone today. Lord, minister
Your own life through me to someone today. May I
bring life wherever I am.' The Lord has no other purpose
for you and for me. We may try to do a lot of things, but
if we belong to the Vine we are no good for anything but
to bear fruit; and that is to bring life to others. We
are not even to be a peg upon which to hang something, or
a walking-stick to help someone to stand up straight. No,
God has no use for us other than to bear fruit, to bring
said here in this chapter: "Every branch that
beareth fruit, he cleanseth it, that it may bear more
fruit". Of course, we understand that in nature
and agree with it. Perhaps if you have had anything to do
with grape vines, you have done it yourself. It is
strange that we believe in it as a law of nature
and say: 'It is the right and the best thing to do to cut
this piece off so that it will do better', but we do not
agree with the Lord doing it to us. When He begins to do
it we are full of grumbles and complaints! When for a
little while He calls us to do less in order that He
might fit us to do more, we do not agree. When it seems
that the Lord is taking away some of our fruit, some of
our work, we are full of problems. We do not understand
the Lord and begin to ask questions about His love.
has laid this down as a positive truth. Here is some
branch that is bearing fruit (not one that is bearing no
fruit: that, He says, will be cast into the fire) and it
is THAT one that He prunes. Here is a branch that
is fulfilling its vocation and the Lord looks at it. He
says: 'That is very good! I am very pleased with it, but
I can do better, and there is better that that branch can
do.' So He takes the knife, and He disciplines us, He
reduces us in order to increase us. He cuts some away in
order that there might be more.
lot of history there is in that statement! The writer of
the Letter to the Hebrews said: "All chastening
seemeth for the present to be not joyous, but grievous:
yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that
have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of
righteousness" (Hebrews 12:11). That is only
saying in another way that the Husbandman does sometimes
take the knife and He cuts deeply into our souls, but
afterward there is more and better fruit than there was
come to this last word. The wine comes from the grape
through the winepress, which is the symbol of pressure.
What pressure is brought to bear upon that fruit in order
to get the wine! The winepress is the symbol of breaking,
and that fruit is broken to pieces. The wine is wrung out
of its agony.
Jesus said "I am the true Vine", and it was
prophesied of Him that He would tread the winepress
alone. The Cross was His winepress. How He was pressed in
the Cross! He was crushed and broken, but out of that
breaking has come the life which you and I have, and
which so many in all the nations have received. That is
true, in a measure, of His Church. It was out of the
breaking and crushing of the Church that the life came to
the world. And that is true of every member, every branch
of the vine. If we are to fulfil this true, living
ministry, it will only be through suffering, through the
winepress, through pressure and through breaking. Paul
said: "We were pressed out of measure,
above strength" (II Corinthians 1:8 - A.V.) -
but what life has come out of that man's pressure! It is
like that. We are not talking about preaching and Bible
teaching, but about this great ministry of Christ giving
His life through us. It may be passed on to others
through preaching, or through teaching, or through
living, but if it is His life it will come out of
experiences of suffering. A preacher or a teacher who has
never suffered will never minister life.
this may not seem a very pleasant outlook, but it is
true. The best doctors and nurses are those who know
something about suffering themselves. Some are just
professional, treating you as a case - you are just case
No. -. But, ah! there are others who treat you as a
person, a human being, who care for you. If you ask why,
you may find that they have a background of suffering
themselves. They know just a little of what you are going
through. We have read in the Letter to the Hebrews:
"We have not a high priest that cannot be touched
with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath
been in all points tempted like as we are... he is able
to succour them that are tempted" (Hebrews 4:15,
2:18). He has been the way of the winepress and we
have received the benefit.
why Paul said: "That I may know him...
and the fellowship of his sufferings" (Philippians
3:10)? He knew quite well that the sufferings of
Christ meant life, and if there was one thing which Paul
wanted for others, it was that they should have this
life, and have it through him. So he said: "That
I may know... the fellowship of his sufferings".
not be our ambition, and we may not like the idea very
much, but may the Lord help us to look at things in this
way: 'The Lord is putting me in the winepress. He is
putting me through a time of great pressure. I am being
broken and crushed. Therefore the Lord intends to have
more fruit, more life, and more people to have the life.'
It is the very nature of this thing to reach out to
others. That is the TRUE vine. Anything that is
not like that is the false vine.
am the vine, ye are the branches."