Isaiah used the vine as a type of Israel, planted and tended by the Almighty as the husbandman (Isa. 5:1). Israel was not the true vine. Christ is the true vine (John 15:1). In John 14 the Lord had just said to the disciples, “Arise, let us go hence.” He had just eaten the last supper with the apostles. He said that he would not drink of the fruit of the vine again on this earth. Likely on the table from which they had just risen was the fruit of the vine. And now he says, “I am the true vine.”
In the first eight verses of John 15 we find the following outstanding lessons about the vine and the branches.
- That morality alone cannot save.
- That there is but one true church.
- That we should get in Christ, stay in Christ, and stay out of everything else or be lost.
Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Morality alone cannot save. Men can be morally good apart from Christ. Yet apart from Christ they can do nothing. There is no spiritual life apart from Christ. Cornelius was a moral man apart from Christ but he was unsaved (Acts 11:14). If morality alone can save then Jesus died in vain. There were just as good men morally to be found in the Mosaic age as there are now. If a man can be saved by his own goodness then Jesus died for no purpose at all. Why did he die if they could be saved by their own goodness? Let the moral man remember these words, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” There is no spiritual life apart from Jesus Christ, the true vine.
Thus we see that one must get into Christ to be saved. Paul says that we are baptized into Christ. That makes baptism necessary to salvation in Christ Jesus. You cannot do anything apart from Christ but you can’t get into Christ unless you are baptized (Gal. 3:27).
This “true vine” is the true church. The vine is the spiritual body of Christ. The church is His body (Col. 1:18). There is one body (Eph. 4:4). There is but one body (1 Cor. 12:20). Paul does not say “churches” but “the church.” If one desires to be united with Christ let him obey the gospel and thus be added to the “one body,” the church, the “true vine.”
The objector says that Christ is the true vine and all the denominations are branches. Christ said, “I” am the vine and “ye” are the branches. “He” that abideth in me. Note the use of the personal pronoun. Do men refer to churches as “he” and “ye”? Is that the way they talk where you live? Is that the way your preacher talks? Would you say about the Baptist Church—he is a large church? The use of the personal pronoun shows that Christ was talking to his disciples and not to “churches.” Individuals are the branches and not organizations. But just suppose for a minute that the branches are churches. In what branch are you? You say that I am in the Baptist branch. Yes, but wait, Christ said abide in “me.” You should not abide in a branch but in the vine. If you are in a branch you ought to get out of it and get in the vine. Get out of the branch and get in the vine. “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” Abide in the vine or be burned. Do not abide in a branch. You cannot abide in a branch. A branch is a disciple or a Christian. Individuals are the branches and not denominations.
Did God set denominations in the vine? If so, which ones did He put in? If God set denominations in the vine it is strange that He never said anything about it. If He did mention them will someone please tell where?
For one to claim that denominations are the branches is an apology for something they know that is not mentioned in the Bible and a rank perversion of the 15th chapter of John. Denominations came into existence hundreds of years after Christ. They are of human origin and no one has a Bible right to belong to any of them.
The “true vine,” the church, was established by Christ and all Christians are members of it (John 3:5). The church is God’s house. God’s house is His family (1 Tim. 3:15). God has no children outside of His family.
From this chapter we learn that we must bear fruit to please God. “Herein is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit; and so shall ye be my disciples.” You cannot bear fruit apart from the vine. To bear fruit you must be in the vine. How does one get in the vine? He must believe (Mark 16:15-16). He must repent (Acts 2:38). He must be baptized (Gal. 3:27). These steps put one into Christ. Yet it is not enough to get into Christ. In Christ the branch must bear good fruit. The fruitless branch (disciple) will be lost. He will be cast forth and be burned (John 15:6). Our duty in regard to this is clear. We must get in Christ, stay in Christ, and stay out of everything else.
Someone may ask, “Can a man be saved and go to heaven and stay out of the vine?” No, for Christ says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” It is Christ or nothing. It is the true vine or no vine. It is the true church or no church. Christ here teaches that you cannot be saved out of the church and you cannot be saved unless you stay in the church.