Service and the Servant of the Lord

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 6 - The Servant and the Vine

As quite a few of you have not been with us in the earlier gatherings of this conference, and also because it is very necessary that we all keep the main and full setting of what is being said before us, I will just take a minute or two by way of review, or retrospect.

We have been led at this time to be occupied with the matter of the servant and service of the Lord. Our basic fragment is from Isaiah: "Behold My servant". That particular phrase is, of course, prophetic, and relates to the Lord Jesus, but what we have been seeing is that He is introduced in a very full way into the prophecies of Isaiah, for a reason. In other passages concerning the servant, Israel is the object in view; "Israel, Jacob, My servant". That nation was chosen, and constituted, and dealt with by God with the specific object of being His servant among the nations and to the nations; for servanthood - that is, that in Israel there should be recovered, and established, and fulfilled, the great law of service for which the universe was created: to minister to God. Adam forfeited that trust, violated that law and, like the one who tempted and led him so to do, appropriated everything to himself, to seek to make it minister to him. So that so far as God was concerned, this law of service was turned away and was lost in the world and in the race. God therefore intervened, to take out of the nations a people for His Name; for His Name to recover this lost vocation. And for that He chose Israel. Then Israel failed, and drew everything to itself, for its own ends and interests, and so the law of their life which was laid down in Egypt: "Let My people go that they may serve Me", was terribly violated and again the vocation was lost. When that was happening, the prophet Isaiah was raised up, and the very heart of his prophecies is centred upon this coming Servant, in Whom, without any fear of failure again, the Divine principle and law of service would be perfected, even in our Lord Jesus, who is introduced in a very full way in these prophecies, as the One to whom attention is drawn: "Behold My servant, in whom My soul delighteth". But that is not the end.

There is a third aspect, because this servanthood is not intended to be isolated to an individual, although that individual may be God's own Son. The eternal thought was a people, a race, to fulfil that vocation. When He has in preview, in forecast, accomplished all the meaning of this service in the Person of His Son, then He transfers that to a people. And we have the third aspect of the prophecies in the 'remnant' - "A remnant shall return" and in that 'remnant', the Lord takes up again the values of this servanthood and says something which is very much akin to what He says about The Servant: "My peculiar treasure".

Well, that is the Old Testament, but we know there is the prophetic aspect even in the case of The Serv­ant - it was future. The Lord Jesus, who took upon Him the form of a servant, came at the time when the nation of Israel was set aside in that capacity, and accomplished this service Himself, and brought in a nation to take the place of the nation that had failed - a nation who would bring forth the fruits thereof - the Church, the new "Holy Nation", as Peter calls it. But before we are through the New Testament we find that, in general, that people is in a state of departure. At the end, the last book, in the first chapters, we find a people of God, but only nominally so - not actually and positively doing the thing for which the Church was raised up. The Lord, as we know, came back on the old principle again of a remnant, and appealed to such as would have an ear to hear, and would make a response, and be for Him the embodiment of this great service and servanthood principle and law, to minister to Him and to His satisfaction. And the Bible closes with a view of such - "His servants shall serve Him, and they shall see His face".

That, briefly, then, is the review of what has been occupying us; we have been looking into that, or shall we say, at the Great Servant, with a view to understanding more perfectly what this service really means - the nature of it, the law of service as universal in the mind of God, the nature and method of service in Christ and in a people for His Name.

Now I think I will not go back over all the phases and aspects of that with which we have dealt; we will come this morning to one more of these, and I ask you just to look into the prophecies of Isaiah again, laying down our basic words in chapter 42: "Behold My servant whom I uphold; My chosen in whom My soul delights; I have put My spirit upon him" Then will you just look back to chapter 41 and verse 8: "But thou, Israel, My servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham, My friend...".

Now we see in those two passages the model Servant, and the people called to be the corporate expression of that servanthood. For our purpose this morning, the particular feature and aspect of this, I turn you back to chapter 5 of Isaiah.

"Let me sing for my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard in a very fruit­ful hill. And he made a trench about it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also hewed out a winepress therein. And he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, oh inhabitants of Jerusalem, men of Judah, judge, I pray you betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? Now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will take away the hedge thereof and it shall be eaten up; and I will break down the fence thereof, and it shall be trodden down. And I will lay it waste. It shall not be pruned nor hoed, there shall come up briars and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His pleasant plant; and He looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry."

Among the various similes of 'the Servant of the Lord' in these prophecies, is this one of:

The Vine.

Israel as the Lord's servant, is here con­ceived as a vine. And this is not an isolated passage in that connection, it would lake too long to read, or even turn you to all of them. The national symbol of Israel was the vine; it was inscribed or wrought upon the very gates of Jerusalem and of the Temple. The psalmist, in Psalm 80, said: "Thou broughtest up a vine out of Egypt"; the prophet Ezekiel, in chapter 15, speaks about Israel as a vine. We know that the Lord Jesus Himself, on more than one occasion, and in more than one way, spoke of Israel as the vine, and in His own matchless discourse, as probably He led His disciples by way of the Temple and they saw the Gate with the great vine upon it, He said: "I am the true vine" - a contrasting statement. We will come back to that again. But this, and more, shows us that Israel stood to the Lord in that capacity - the capacity of a Vine. The Lord Jesus took that up, and related it to Himself - to be to God, the Father, the Husbandman, all that the Vine was intended to mean. And then it is passed on to the Church. It is passed on to the Church: "I am the Vine; ye are the branches". I think our subtle mentality, very often, thinks of that as two things. But what would a bare, mere stem be? You wouldn't call that a vine! The Vine is every­thing - stem, branches, leaves, fruit, and everything else - it's one whole. So that the very idea, conception, of the vine, is transferred, or carried into, the Church. "Ye ... ye ..."

Well, that is, as I have said, a conception of the servant of the Lord. The servant of the Lord as a vine, whether it be Christ, whether it be Israel, or whether it be the Church. And that is what we are going to look at more closely this morning,

First of all we note:

The Place that it Holds with God.

There is no mistaking the fact that the Lord laid great store by this 'vine' people. I think that what He said about His Son, His Beloved, 'in whom His soul delighted', the committing of Himself to Him is only what He... the attitude that He wanted to take, the position that He wanted to hold in relation to His people. He really wanted to be able to say of Israel, and at one time He did: "My beloved, in whom My soul delights". There was a time when Israel was a delight to the Lord. At any rate, the Lord had a lot of things like that to say about Israel. His heart, in a word, His heart was bound up with that people: "I will sing to my well beloved a song of his vineyard..." It is the song, or the language of endearment - something very precious to the Lord. This 'vine' servant was, as the Word says - 'brought up out of Egypt', or raised up from 'the seed of Abraham, My friend'; was so chosen and constituted to be for God's pleasure, for God's pleasure, in which He should find His delight, in which He could take pleasure. And for God's satisfaction that He should find in it the answer to something that He longed for and desired. And still more, that He should find by it His glory - it should be to His glory. Just as any exemplary vine would be the real satisfaction, and pleasure, and glory of the vine-dresser, or of the owner of the vine. That is the position that the vine holds with God - some­thing very precious to Him, and very important to Him; related to nothing less than His own glory that in it, and by it, His glory should be displayed - He should find His glory.

Well, that, of course, embraces a great deal of Scripture - God's thoughts about His people. This is the very first meaning of servanthood, of ministering to the Lord - it is to minister to His pleasure, to His satisfaction, and to His glory. To exist for that and for no other purpose - what God has in it - that is ministry; what God is to get through it - that is service. And this all means that it has no other purpose in its existence. And it leads us to that, as the second thing. Firstly, what it is to God - the place that it holds to Him, but then:

The Place that it Holds as to Itself.

This, this is no casual illustration or symbol­ism. God is never casual in the choice of His objects of teaching. He knows what He's doing and when He made the vine the symbol of ministry to Himself, and of real service to Him, He knew exactly why He did so. Because, you see, the vine is exclusively, exclusively for fruitfulness. That is the thing that the prophet Ezekiel points out to the men around him - you look at his prophecies in chapter 15; the thing that he is saying to them is this: there is no other use that you can make of a vine, but its fruit. He even said this: "Can you even take of the stem of a vine, and make a peg to hang anything on? You don't even do that". Someone has said: "You don't even make a washing peg or hook out of a vine!" You can't make anything of it. It is useless for all other, or any other purpose, than fruit.

I say again, God knew what He meant when He took the vine as the symbol of the servant-people. And if that needs any kind of emphasis and underlining, you have only got to look at the Servant, the Servant who said: "I am the vine". Did He have any alternatives, any diversions, any secondary interests or uses? No! He hadn't so many things to which He could turn if one failed. He hadn't diversions in His life. He had nothing, nothing but this fruit-bearing for the pleasure and satisfaction and glory of His Father! Exclusively bound to that one thing! That is the vine. That is the vine: all its energies, and all its interests are concentrated upon one thing - that is: the Lord having what He wants, that upon which His heart is set; the Lord having His inheri­tance; the Lord having His rights; His rights. And all service that is really service to God, is concentrated in that one thing - the Lord having His rights.

Before we just say a word about those rights of God, have you quite grasped this exclusiveness of purpose in existence? Have you got any alternatives? Have you got a second line of life? Have you got diversions? Is your life, though it has to be spread over many things - you have your home to look after, you have your business to go to and attend to; there are obligations in this world, nevertheless, have you got one motive in living, in doing all, whether it is home, or business, or anything else? One governing motive that gathers up everything and concentrates everything: the Lord having His rights, the Lord finding His pleasure, satisfaction, and glory. That is consecration. That is minister­ing to the Lord. That is the service of the Lord.

The service of the Lord has come to mean such a lot that very often is not the true principle of service. We talk about "the servants of the Lord", or "going into the Lord's work or service" - we have got specific ideas, particular ideas about that. Well, it may express itself in various and in many ways, but mark you, dear friends, the servant of the Lord is not some peculiar person wearing a certain kind of garb and going by a certain kind of title. The servant of the Lord is any man, any woman, put in any place, who is there seeing to it that God gets what He can have there, and they are concentrated upon that. And you can be as much a servant of the Lord in your business, in your hospital, in your school, in your home, as any man who ever stands behind this desk and preaches the Word - just as truly. It is the principle, and motive, and law of service that makes the servant, not the profession or anything outward. And the Lord's service is: God has got to have everything wherever I am.

So, let this thought and truth transfigure everything for you. You have got some difficult places to be in - places that you would not choose if you had your way, places to which you have got to go. But take this with you: I am going to be there, I am going to be here, as the servant of the Lord. Men may think that I am, or call me, their servant, but I am here as the servant of the Lord, whatever it is.

And I have said that it is gathered up into this one idea, that God has His rights. The rights of God are found in the fruit.

What Are the Rights of God?

What is the fruit that is to come to Him? Well, first of all, of course, it has to do, and must have to do, with God's nature finding its satisfaction.

God has a peculiar constitutional liking for grapes! It's only a way of saying some­thing: that His nature just delights in that fruit! Do you know what I mean? We all have particular fancies, haven't we? Our natures go out for certain things - that's the thing that we like; something in our constitution that just responds to that and we find that our very being gets a certain satisfaction, pleasure, gratification, in certain things. Well, that's how it is with God in this matter. His nature is to be satisfied with this fruit. But what is God's nature?

What is God's nature? Well, Paul gives us the answer in his Galatian letter: "Now the fruit of the Spirit is love..." God is love. And do you want to know what that is? Because the grammatical form demands that we put it like this. It does not say: "Now the fruits of the Spirit are..." and then a whole range of things. It says just one: "the fruit of the Spirit is love" - what is that? Joy, longsuffering, meekness, goodness... self control. That's love, along its various lines. But all those are aspects of the one thing: the nature of God. The love of God shed abroad in our hearts is the secret of joy; it's the secret of joy. And it is the secret of longsuffering - that is patent. It's the secret of everything else. But all these things are expressive of the nature of God.

Paul says: "The fruit of the Spirit is found in these things, as manifestations of the one nature of God - LOVE", He does look for that fruit. That fruit is God's right. His nature demands that His whole, may I say, constitution must have that for His satisfaction. It begins there in character, in nature, in the work of the Spirit in us, in the work of grace in us. That is firstly the fruit to which God has a right. It's inward, it's like that. The servant is essentially such a servant, whether it be the individual, or whether it be the Church, or whether it be that which represents the Church in the inner company. The very service is, in the first place, the service of satisfying God as to His own nature.

It is tragically and grievously true that so many find it possible to be in Christian work who are themselves a contradiction to the nature of God, persistently, persistently, habitually. And if there is one thing that the Bible thunders against, it is that. That is one of the great consummate factors of the end of the Bible. Those messages to the churches, thunder out on this, this thing: that there is that which is a contradiction to the nature of God. And how strong, how almost fierce is the voice of the Spirit where that is true. "I have this against thee ... Thou hast there that woman Jezebel; them that teach the doctrine of Balaam, which thing I hate"! Well, so contrary to the nature of God and if we were to sum up the challenge to those churches, and to the Church and to ourselves in a word we would say: when it's like that God is not getting His rights; He is not being ministered to in His very nature, the demands of His nature. The beginning then, of servanthood or ministry to the Lord, is here, in our character, in our character, in our answering to the nature of God. The Lord help us.

But then, when that is recognised, and we have adjusted to that, these rights of God, and this fruit for God is the satisfaction of God's position in this universe, in this world, in the nations - God's position. You see, that was the whole charge laid against Israel - but we are not going to take that up now, because it comes later - but God had been deposed from His right position. The Lord, the Lord was the only true and rightful Lord of this whole creation, and of this people, and of the nations. "Hear, oh Israel, the Lord thy God is one God" - is one God. He has lost that place, not only in the nations, but in His people. They were raised up particularly to bring God into His place in the nations as the Only God, the True God. His rights in creation, His rights in Himself as the Lord were that He, and He only, should be served. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; and Him only shalt thou serve". The rights of God to exclusive and utter dominion, lordship, government, centre - His rights! And that is the nature of servanthood.

Is it not clear in the case of the Great Servant, the Lord Jesus? What was He here for? Well, you may say He was here for this and for that. And there are many things which define His mission, but you put them all together, you put them all together, and they all meant one thing: God has got to have His rights - rights in creation, rights in redemption, rights in dominion, rights in worship and in service. And the Great Servant was committed and abandoned to that, to that. That is service, dear friends, that after having faced this question of satisfying God's nature, we are here, the Church is here, or any company of the Church is here on this earth for this purpose: to see to it that God has His place which is utter - God is supreme, and there is no dividing of allegiance with God.

God must have the fruit out of the nations and in the nations. And that's what the Church is here for. We are here to be in the nations; the Church is here to be in the nations, that God should have His place in the nations. Whatever challenge there may come to the presence of any people of God in any place, it is not how far they are successful in their service, it is a matter of their standing with both feet there, and saying: "Here I am; I am here for God, and my being here is a testimony to the fact that God has supreme rights in this place".

I believe that that is exactly what the Lord Jesus meant when He said: "This gospel of the Kingdom - the rule of God - must be preached as a witness in every nation, and then the end shall come". He did not say: "This gospel of the Kingdom must be preached and all the nations must be saved, and everybody in the nations, before the coming could take place". He said "for a witness". A witness - there must be that in the nations which, by its very presence witnesses to the very fact that there is a break in the dominion of satan. It's not universal. We are here for that, dear friends. Where we are, there should be a witness that satan is not absolute lord; the kingdom of satan is not absolutely universal; here is a break in it - and I am the break, by testimony! That's why you're there - anywhere. I say again, it may not be that you'll have a lot of souls saved, or see a great deal of result of your being there, but you're there - that's the fact! God very often puts people just there, and doesn't explain along the lines of any proofs, and evidences, and pleasure, and satisfaction, why they're there, but they are there! And that's all He wants, very often, to have us there as a witness. That's ministry - a very difficult ministry sometimes. As we pointed out yesterday, Isaiah was there, but the reactions to his presence were very painful for him. There were no signs of any success of his ministry while he was giving it. Jeremiah was there - but he was there. The Lord had His men, and that's what mattered - not the success of their ministry, but the fact that they represented God's rights in the earth.

And then, of course, God's rights are ultimately His fulness, His fulness - that He should be filled with all things. And this is no contradiction of what I have just said, nor taking from it. It may just be that, but nevertheless, nevertheless this ministry, this service, is related to things coming back to the Lord - what we have before called, a "return movement to God". For that is everything taking place. For you see, in the beginning, everything was in God, and then things were taken out of God, taken away from God, diverted from God, and sent out in other directions for other ends; taken away from God. And this mighty movement of God through history has been to turn things back to Himself; a great return movement into God. So that, at last, at last, as it is foreshown, He shall fill all things, and all things shall fill Him; all things shall be summed up in Him; He will be the sum of all things, when this great return movement has fulfilled itself. Now, that is just the meaning of worship, as so many of you know. And we are here for that purpose - to bring everything back to God; to counter that reverse; to break that course of things away from God. Oh, see how it has all been taken away from God! That is the very principle of this world - to take everything for itself; take everything for itself. The Church is here to bring everything back to Him. When we speak about Christ filling all things, all the fulness of Christ, that is what we mean. It is His inheritance in the saints, that He shall be the fulness of all things. Turning things back to God!

Well, are you in that ministry? Are we in that servanthood? Are we here, in this life, and on this earth, for this one thing - God's going to have everything; it's going to be pulled back to Him; we are going to stand, right like a rock, in this drift and this current that rushes away from God, and turn it round, and swing it back to Him. Challenge this thing! That's what the prophets did; that's what the Lord Jesus did, the Great Servant. That is what the Church is for, but isn't it sad... isn't it sad that the very Church itself has become, to some degree, not a small degree, that which has appropriated to itself for its own ends and pleasure, much that belongs to God. Yes, how many there are in the Church, and in what is called "Christian work", who are in it for their own satisfaction, for their own reputation; to make a name... and if you interfere with them and their bit of work, you get into trouble - it's themselves after all, in the work. Oh, no, we are here, not for ourselves, we are here for God.

Now I must hurry to the conclusion for this morning, and the third thing as to the vine - we are keeping that, of course, well in the background of our mental conception and picture. The third thing is:

The Discipline Essential to this Purpose.

So much is said about this in relation to the vine, isn't it? The Lord Himself spoke about it: "Every branch in Me that beareth fruit, He purgeth it that it may bear more fruit". We read from Isaiah: "What more could be done to my vine than I have done?" There's a lot of history gathered into that where Israel was concerned you know - a tremendous amount of history, the history of discipline in that nation.

What care God had taken! What application! What devotion! What labour! What pains over that vine! And the history of that people was not always a comfortable history under the hand of God. The Lord didn't protect, safeguard, and so prevent difficul­ties arising, and adversities. No, there's a lot crowded into the word "discipline" or "purging"; "pruning", if you like. Watch Him, watch Him, watch the Husbandman - what is He doing? Well, He is cutting away a lot, that is, He is reducing things - quite a bit. He is limiting certain liberties, limiting certain liberties. He is taking away some liberties. There are liberties, you know, which are inimical to value. We rejoice in our liberty in Christ, but I am afraid a lot of people misunder­stood that: liberty in Christ.

Years ago I used to have a good deal of associ­ation with what is called "modernists", the Liberal School of Theology. I knew them personally, many of them. And I found amongst them a real gloating over their position, "Oh, what a great thing it is to be emancipated from that conservative, narrow school of Biblical interpretation. We no longer are bound by those old-fashioned ideas of the inspiration of the Scripture, and the Deity of Christ, and these things. We have escaped from those limitations, and we rejoice in our liberty". My question is the ultimate one: How much fruit for God has come along that line? How much satisfaction to God has that produced? It's a liberty of its kind which is not fruitful in this way in which we are speaking: God having His rights - nay, to the contrary! It's a kind of liberty, but oh, it is not the liberty of Christ.

I remember, not so long ago, going to Denmark, finding that they were in the vortex of a great difficulty. A whole group of their once most promising young men, had misinterpreted, or mis­apprehended the teaching of Galatians about liberty in Christ and thrown off all restraint. "We, we in Christ, are free from all law; we are free from the law. Therefore, there's no law against our smoking; we can smoke. There's no law against our going to the theatre, we can go; we are free in Christ" - thrown off all those restraints, on this misinterpretation of "liberty". It was disastrous to the spiritual life. I am very glad to say that that battle was fought through and cleared up, and that is all right now, and they are all in the right kind of liberty, which, which of course, means the restriction of certain things. There's a difference, as we so often say, between liberty and licence.

There's another form of liberty, which equally is not a fruitful liberty. You know the Roman church has a liberty. Oh it's this liberty of taking away your own conscience, and making the church and the priest your conscience - "I need not have any conscience about things at all; my priest will look after that for me, my church will look after that for me". And so, very often, you find a terrible contradiction in that system - terrible contradiction.

Well, certainly things are not to the satisfaction of God. But, how they glory in that kind of liberty, don't they? "Oh, how good it is to be free from…" and what they mean is, conscience: they call it "law", they call it "narrowness", but what they mean is conscience about this and that - "you're free". That's taken over by a system. It doesn't always work out very fruitfully. You get that sort of thing in the army; when a man goes into the army, the government, the army, take over all responsibility for him. He has no longer any personal responsibility, except to do, from day to day, what he is told. Everything else is taken over for him, and he needn't worry a bit; needn't worry whether his family is looked after, or anything like that - it's all taken off of  him. Beautiful liberty, but what about character? What about character? What about the building up of personal responsibility? That doesn't come into it. It is a liberty that is inimical to real value. And when those men come out of the army, if they have been in long enough, they don't know what to do. Now they have got to take the whole thing on their own shoulders, and they're not fit for it. They have become unqualified to face life for themselves, and many of them want to get back into the army again, simply because of this matter of responsibility. Do you see what I mean?

Well, there's a discipline about fruitfulness that is absolutely essential. And that discipline is sometimes the removal of certain liberties, a cutting down. If you like, a certain kind of narrowing. God forbid that we should be narrow, though I do not see how anybody can be narrow and have a right con­ception of the eternal, universal, vast realities of Christ and His Church. You can't be narrow when you have got a real apprehension of these vast things into which we are called: the greatness of Christ, the greatness of the Church - that's not narrow! But there is in this the necessity for shutting us up to the things which matter most, and they are: fruit, fruit, fruit for God.

And so we find in this process of discipline, there is with the Lord an intensification - that's it! That's it: "He purgeth it" - not that which is bearing no fruit, but branches that bear fruit. Yes there's fruit, it isn't that there is no fruit at all, but that there is fruit is not always what He is most set upon. It is not bulk; it is not measure; it is quality, it is weight, that matters with God; it is what is intrinsic value. And so, when there is fruit, He purgeth, that it may bear more fruit. That is, less for better, very often; less for better. Not spread over too wide an area, in order to get something more concentric, or more intensive, more rich, more full, more intrinsic. That is a principle with God in His dealings with the Vine.

Then, there is no figure, I think, that sets forth the principle of the corporate better, and more than the Vine. Here indeed (and the suggestion is ludicrous) here indeed one grape cannot exist by itself. Well, go into a vinery, and what would you say if you saw up there one grape, and over there another grape, and over there one more grape. You would say: "Well, there's something gone wrong here; this is either subnormal or abnormal. This is not the normal life." What is the normal life? A bunch of grapes! A bunch of grapes closely in touch, and in contact, related to each other. It is a corporate life, isn't it? And I say again, I think there is no figure that better and more fully sets forth this corporate principle of service. For really, really, God gets most to His satisfaction through the relatedness of His Church in service.

You try to be an individual grape - well, you may be, you may be a grape, and you might even be a very large one - but there is something abnormal about that; it's not natural, it's not right. The Lord gets far more by fellowship, by relatedness, by oneness, by being together - far more. He has laid down that principle. He has laid down that principle: "Two or three..." You see the corporate principle - that's His line and He's always worked on that. Get scattered, get divided, and there's something lost, something lost. This very service, dear friends, to God, requires that we are closely together; we are really bound together, that we are, in a sense, one fruit, one bunch. I just say that because it's a very important thing to notice.

And finally, the intrinsic element of this symbol, the vine, surely is Life. It is Life, isn't it? We know how, in the Word, the fruit of the vine, the fruit of the vine is the symbol of the blood of Christ - the very blood of Christ. As He takes the cup and the wine, He says: "This is My blood - My Blood shed for you". The two things go together - the fruit of the vine, and the Blood, in symbolism. And what is the Blood, but the Life - the very Life. So that the intrinsic element and factor in the fruit is that it ministers Life - Life is being ministered. Life is being ministered, there is a virtue, there is an energy - it is that of Life.

I think everything has got to be tested by that, don't you? Because that's the ultimate thing. You say: "What is ministry? What is fruitfulness? What is service and servanthood?" Well, it resolves itself into this in the end - how much Life you're ministering; how much Life others are coming into and deriving by your being there where you are. Not "how much truth"; not even "how much light", but how much Life? That when they come, one thing that they do sense, whether they understand everything or not, is Life, Life - there's Life. That's the fruit, that's the real meaning of the Vine. But mark you, mark you, the fruit of the vine - the wine comes out of the wine-press. The wine-press - perhaps you know what that means. Yes, the derived values of this service come out of suffering, out of pressure, out of grinding and crushing, and breaking, and squeezing - we know what that means to some extent, in spiritual terms. It's like that. But remember that that is the way of being able to give, to give. This is fruit for giving - not for keeping, for holding - it's for giving. To be able to give - that's service. To have something to give, for the life of others - that is servanthood.

Well, so much then that the Lord write it deep in our hearts, "He brought a vine out of Egypt..." - "I am the vine; ye are the branches".

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