The Good News - Home
The Vine, the Branches, and Faith
By David A. DePra
I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:7)
You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. (John 15:16)
If you are saved, you are IN CHRIST, and Christ is IN YOU. This is not a maybe. The definition of Christianity is CHRIST IN US – or, if you will, US being IN CHRIST.
What we see in this is that Christianity is not a religion. It is not a commitment to follow a list of teachings or doctrines. Rather, it is a ONENESS with Jesus Christ: Again – Christ in us. If we see this Truth, everything else falls into place.
For example, take the matter of eternal life. Eternal life is NOT a THING that God gives us. No. Rather, God plants us into Jesus Christ, and because He is life, we are alive. Indeed, everything having to do with Christianity – fruits of the Spirit, the gifts, righteousness, character – all of it, are not a matter of US becoming better people. It is all a matter of Christ, who is IN US, coming to be seen THROUGH us.
You will notice that last statement. Christ must come to be seen through us. So really, we cannot try to live LIKE Christ. We cannot come to BE LIKE Jesus. No. Only Jesus can live like Jesus. Thus, the work of the Holy Spirit is to make us living evidence of the risen Christ – not by making us a Xerox copy of Jesus – but by doing a work that will make it possible for Jesus Christ to actually live THROUGH us.
This is so important to see. A branch does not try to BE LIKE the Vine. Even saying it sounds silly. No. The branch bears the fruit OF the Vine. But this is only possible if the branch is ONE with the Vine, that is, abides in the Vine. If it is, the fruit will come. Every time.
Christ Lives Through Us
But don’t misunderstand. When I say that we cannot try to live LIKE Jesus, but Jesus wants to live through us, I am not saying that Jesus can live THROUGH us independent of us. No. He doesn’t take us over. Christ doesn’t, "by-pass," us to live through us. No. Our will, our body, our soul – Christ lives through these. This requires faith, obedience, and the knowledge of God. The Vine doesn’t by-pass the branch to bear fruit, or take over the branch. But the branch cannot bear it’s own fruit. It is the life of the Vine that makes it possible.
The fact that Christ must come to live through us tells us something quite important: There must come a change IN US! Can we see that? How can Christ live through us unless we are brought to the place where we willingly live FOR Him, instead of for ourselves? He cannot.
But all of this takes us back to the words of Jesus from John 15. If we are saved, we are a branch who is engrafted into Christ, the True Vine. And from that point, everything HE IS begins to flow into us and through us. Over the course of time, the goal is that we – as a branch -- might bear the fruit of the Vine. In short, because of our oneness with Christ, we are to grow to reflect Him, manifest Him, and glorify Him. We do that by bearing FRUIT. But this will, as we go along, require that we become those who have been brought to the place where we live for Christ, and not ourselves.
Fruit and Growth
What is FRUIT? Fruit is always the end-product of a growth process. And as it pertains to the relationship between the Vine and the branches, the fruit belongs to the Vine. The branch is merely an extension – through which the Vine is able to show it’s true nature via the fruit. What better picture could we want of our relationship with Jesus Christ?
Romans 6 tells us, for example, "if we are planted together with Him in the likeness of His death, we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection." (Rom. 6:5) The phrase, "planted together," speaks of an engrafted which causes us to grow together with Christ. What better compliment to John 15 could we have than this great picture from Romans 6? We are engrafted into Christ. We are intended to partake of all that He is. The work of the Holy Spirit is to make this possible in and through us.
Now, all of this is background. We must see that everything having to do with Christianity – from eternal life itself to bearing fruit – is the result of being ONE with Jesus Christ. It is NOT us being better people. It is Christ in us coming to be seen through us. He is the Vine and we are the branches.
The Fruit of Faith
Jesus said we are to bear fruit. Certainly, He is talking about the fruits of the Spirit. But have you ever noticed that one of the fruits of the Spirit is FAITH?
This is an important thing to see. What it tells us is that FAITH is the result of growth. It is the result of abiding in Christ – just as Jesus describes in John 15.
We must see this. Fruit is what grows as the result of the relationship between the branch and the Vine. Fruit is not what MAKES that relationship. So what does this tell us about the FRUIT of faith? It means that faith is the PRODUCT of the Vine having it’s way through the branch. In short, faith – the fruit of faith – is what the Vine produces on the branch.
We must get this. Fruit is what the Vine produces on the branch. The branch can produce NO fruit except it be in the Vine. Nope. The fruit, while ON the branch, belongs to the VINE – the branch is merely the vessel or extension of the life of the Vine.
As it pertains to faith, this means that the fruit of faith is not something we produce. Rather, it is something that is produced IN US.
But we get this backwards. Most of us think that we must produce faith – believe – in order to abide in the Vine and produce fruit. No. Faith IS a fruit. It is the result – not the means of – abiding in the Vine.
Would you try to say that the branch must produce fruit SO THAT it can it can abide in the Vine? No. It is the opposite. The branch must abide in the Vine before it can bear fruit. And then it bears fruit because it abides in the Vine.
The Gift and the Fruit
Be careful not to get John 15 mixed up with getting saved. Jesus isn’t talking in John 15 about how to get saved. He is talking about what happens once you are saved. You are not – as Calvinism teaches – first saved by being engrafted into Christ, and then later you believe. No. You are saved by first believing and then by being engrafted into Christ. But THEN you are a branch. And only then can you bear fruit – and you can only bear fruit by abiding in Christ.
The question, of course, is where we get the faith through which we are saved? Well, God doesn’t, "wire us with faith." No. And certainly we cannot bear the fruit of faith unto salvation, because we have to first be saved to bear fruit. So what is the answer?
The Bible says that, "to each person is given the measure of faith." Here we see, not the fruit of faith, but a gift of faith. There is in each person enough faith to turn to God for salvation, once they hear the gospel. In short, once God brings light, a person is able to see. They are not yet saved, but they are able to see enough to choose. (see Jn. 3:19)
It is also true that we do abide in Christ by faith. But there is obviously something much more to this matter of faith – faith as a fruit. For you cannot have the fruit FIRST – you cannot require the fruit TO abide. No. The fruit is the result of abiding. See what I mean? You cannot escape the conclusion that if faith is a fruit, then faith is something that emerges in us because we have been abiding in Christ.
The answer to this is the we are all in a process. If I bear the fruit of faith it isn’t simply there to hang as an ornament. No. The faith I bear as fruit through one phase of growth is there in me to abide in Christ for the next phase. And so on. Again – this is all progressive.
Trying to Have Faith?
Once we see that faith is a fruit, it sets us free from the terrible bondage of, "trying to have faith." Jesus never tells us, "to try to have faith," any more than He ever tells us that a branch can, "try to have fruit." No. Rather, He says, "Abide in Me." If we do that, Jesus teaches that FAITH will emerge in us as a fruit.
To put it another way, if Christ is in us, then the faith of Christ is in us – potentially. The faith of Jesus Christ is not a faith WE, "try to have." It is HIS faith – the faith of the Vine. As long as we abide in Him, we are on the way to bearing that fruit of faith – the faith of Jesus Christ.
Once we understand this Truth, it explains much. For example, instead of trying to have faith we don’t have, and condemning ourselves for it, or blaming God for expecting too much from us, we need to see that God has us in a process that is building in us the faith of Jesus. If you don’t think you have the faith you need, surrender yourself to God and ask Him, "God, bring me to the place where the faith of Jesus is able to operate in and through me."
Not Faith in Our Faith
Some of us, "check inside of ourselves," to see if we, "are believing." And if we are, then we feel confident that we are OK. We think we have FAITH. And we expect that because we are believing, God must answer. But this is all wrong. The moment I, "check inside of myself," to, "see if I am believing," I am really putting my faith in my ability to believe. I am trying to determine whether I am faithful to God. Somehow, I have forgotten that faith is based on the fact that God is faithful to me.
If you stand aloof from yourself and try to see if, "faith is working in you," this is really faith in your ability to believe. In fact, it is really faith in your emotions – although you don’t realize it. What you are examining is really how you feel. You think that if you, "feel as if you are believing," that you must BE believing. This is a trap and can be used of the enemy to keep me defeated – because in the end, I’m going to have many days where I feel poorly.
Real faith is not a matter of me seeing if I am faithful. It is a matter of believing God is faithful. Rather than check inside of myself to see if I believe, I ought to be affirming that God is faithful in spite of me. In short, faith is not in my ability to believe. Faith is in God – it is in the fact that He is faithful. And this is exactly the faith of Jesus Christ.
Some of us, due to bad teaching, and due to our own flesh, think that our faith determines God’s attitude towards us. We think that He will be faithful to us only if we believe. No. God is always faithful – He is faithful to us if we believe, and He is faithful if we don’t. In fact, the reason that it is impossible to please God without faith is precisely because He is faithful when we don’t believe – He is trying to draw us to Himself FROM our unbelief. God doesn’t fluctuate towards us based on our faith. We fluctuate. Therefore, the trial of faith – and the goal of God with regards to faith – is to build a stable faith in us. He wants our faith to be as stable as is His faithfulness.
So what is going on in a trial of faith? God is not sitting up in heaven waiting for us to muster the faith necessary. He is not reluctant to bless or help – until we finally believe. No. God is busy trying to build in us the faith of Jesus Christ. It’s just that this often means that our faith in ourselves must be completely dismantled. And that is not going to be fun – for we have more faith in our ability to believe, faith in our own merits, and faith in our faith, than we can possibility imagine.
God is not trying to see if we have faith. Rather, He is trying to get us to see that He is faithful. But once we do see He is faithful, what will happen? We will believe!
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Faith is the end product of the Truth God plants in us coming to fruition. We finally see that God is faithful and we believe. It is no more complicated than that.
In other words, Christ is the Living Word of God, and Christ is in us. Therefore, as I’ve mentioned, if Christ is in us, then all of the potential for the faith of Christ is in ALREADY in us. The battle is therefore not to GET more faith. The battle is for the seed of faith to make it’s way outward through our flesh and unbelief. If it does, then the FRUIT of faith will grow.
If you get what I’m saying, you will see that this is in complete agreement with the fact that in Christ all victory is already won. It is already ours in Him, because He is in us. The battle is not to WIN the victory – the battle is against the unbelief that would deny the victory. And if we win that battle, God doesn’t start being faithful to us. No. If we win that battle, we finally see that He has always been faithful. We just didn’t see it or believe it. We needed to be set free. Now that we do, faith is the victory – and opens us up to possibilities in Christ.
Whether you think so or not, the reason we have trouble believing is NOT because of deficiencies in ourselves – even though we have plenty of those. We have trouble believing because we don’t believe God is faithful. We look to everything about ourselves, or about circumstances, and interpret those things in a way that drives a wedge between ourselves and God. This is unbelief. Much of what God is doing is geared to setting us free from putting faith in our understanding, and in our ability to believe. He will bring us to where we see that HE is faithful.
The most humbling thing in the world is the realization that God has always been faithful to me, exactly as He has promised – but that much of my suffering and difficulty was the result of simple unbelief. It isn’t that many of us absolutely and knowingly refuse to believe God. No. But unbelief is built right into the sin nature. It is what flesh is all about – even religious flesh. God has to deal with it in each one of us.
So what ends up happening is that we spend a long time griping against God, and blaming Him for much. And then we find out that we had created God in our image, and had blamed Him for being that way. All of the negative things we believed about God – all of the fears, doubts, and unbelief – were things that were IN US. We simply viewed God through them and thought that HE was that way. But no. The real God was standing over to the side doing a work in us geared to exposing us for who we are. The end result, if we continue with Him, will be that we will see that it is US who have been unfaithful to God – it is WE who have not believed. God was faithful the whole time. When we begin to see Him, we begin to believe.
Christians spend much time trying to save what God tells us we must lose. We spend much time trying to grow fruit FOR Christ when God already says that fruit is the result of abiding in Christ. Faith is a fruit. It is the end-product of abiding in Jesus Christ. It is what God is building IN US.
So do you lack faith? Well, you have some faith. But if you feel that you lack what you need, turn to Jesus Christ with the faith you have, and ask Him to build in you the faith you need. Or, to put it another way, instead of asking Jesus for the faith you need, ask Him to open your eyes so you can see HIM. Then you will believe.
Don’t think of faith as a THING you have, or don’t have. No. Faith is not a force you generate, or a position you decide to take, or a line of reasoning. Faith is the result of the Holy Spirit bringing you to bear the fruit of Christ.
Abiding in Christ
What does it mean, "to abide in Christ?" It means the same thing that it means for a branch to abide in a vine. It means to LIVE IN – to depend upon, to be ONE with, and to move in that oneness.
Jesus gave a condition for answering our prayers. He said, "If My words abide in you" – NOT -- if you merely SAY My words. Now, certainly, if the words of Christ abide in us, we are going to confess them. We ought to. There is nothing wrong with thinking, speaking, and declaring the Truth. Sure. But the fact is, it is quite possible to confess words with our mouth, but to be empty of them in our hearts.
What we see here is the reason why, "positive confession," and, "word of faith," are false teachings. These teachings state that, "we can have what we say." They nicely add, "if you believe." And if you read John 15, this might seem to be what Jesus is telling us. But wait. Note that condition: IF YOU BELIEVE, then you can have what you say. Well, is it possible to truly believe what you say unless you are saying the words of Jesus? The answer is NO.
The point is this: The faith of Jesus Christ is only present for the will of God – for the words of Jesus Christ. This includes in prayer. Thus, if Jesus’ words abide in us – live in us – then we are going to SAY HIS WORDS. Not our own words, but HIS words. And because they are HIS words, we will be saying God’s will, and speaking the Truth. There can be NO faith otherwise that is real. But the faith of Jesus Christ will be there in the words of Jesus Christ.
The picture of the Vine and the branches is again applicable. If I am a branch, then I am an extension of the Vine – a vessel for the life of the Vine unto the end of bearing the fruit of the Vine. The moment I would speak my own words, or seek my own will, I am NOT abiding in the Vine. But if I do abide in the Vine, then the words of the Vine will abide in me. And I will confess and say and pray those words. The faith of Jesus Christ will be there in me every time.
If, "to abide," means TO LIVE IN, then can we see what it means for the words of Jesus to abide in us? They LIVE IN US. They have freedom to move around, to work, to adjust us, and to change us. In other words, we have surrendered to Christ. How could there be any other result from that than people who bear the fruit of the Spirit, and live by the faith of the Son of God?
Soul and Spirit
Ask yourself: Is there anything in me – except the Holy Spirit – from which there can come Truth? No. Is there anything in me from which there can come LIFE? No. Ok. But is there anything in me from which there can come FAITH? No. Why? Because every one of these things are found only in Jesus Christ, who is in us.
However, there is plenty in us that can generate spiritual junk. We can generate fear, anger, and unbelief. Plus, left to ourselves we are blind. We cannot know God. Furthermore, we can generate self-righteousness and pride. We can put SELF in the center of our universe. We can give ourselves over to emotions, or we can rely upon our ability to understand. All of these possibilities exist in our natural man. But from NONE of them can come anything that is of life, Truth, or faith.
What we see here is that, on the one hand, we are a new creation in Christ, at one with Christ. But on the other hand, we still have all of the possibilities of Adam in us. The trouble is, until we become enlightened, we don’t know the difference.
Now as it pertains to faith, often this means that we will try to believe with our emotions, and when we fail, we will lament that we have no faith. Or we try to look for Truth in our own understanding, and either we find darkness, or we make our own Truth, and give the credit to God. The Holy Spirit, however, is going to be at work trying to separate in us our soul from the presence of the Spirit.
If we submit ourselves to God, there will come a time when despite all of the, "noise," that our flesh continues to make, we will be able to realize that there can be NO TRUTH coming from that aspect of our being. Despite temptations to fear, anger, and unbelief, we will slowly be able to recognize that these are NOT of God. They are lies. Thus, whatever is denying the faithfulness of God for any reason is simply NOT of God. It is not the Truth. We must not believe it.
It is a fact that there are times when our doubts seem valid. Not only may circumstances seem to back them up, but everything inside of us affirms those doubts. We, "feel," as if all is lost. We cannot find any answers. But you see, it does not matter how certain you FEEL about anything, if what you FEEL is contrary to the Word of God, what you FEEL is a lie. At some point you are going to have to decide which to believe – your feelings or God. You are going to have to decide whether Jesus Christ is the Truth, or YOU are the truth.
That might seem like a dramatic statement. But if I establish how I feel, and how I think, and how I am – as indicators of the Truth – then I am saying that I am the truth. No. The Truth was around a long time before me. And where I do not line up with the Truth – whether it be consciously or unconsciously – I am in error. We must come to terms with this possibility.
Much of what the Holy Spirit wants to do is simply set us free from ourselves – from SELF. And if this happens, what we are going to discover is that God always was faithful. He always was there for us, just as we thought He ought to be. The change will come in us. WE will begin to see God is faithful.
God has never been reluctant to bless people, or to help them. But He cannot always do it because we would end up using Him for our own ends – perhaps not deliberately, but simply because that is what natural thinking DOES. So God spends time getting us to the point, not where we can merit His help, but to the point where we can see we have no merits, and see that He is faithful anyways. Faith is never a merit. It is the result of seeing we have no merits, but nevertheless a rest in the faithfulness of God.
Again – faith is not in my ability to believe. I ought to have no confidence before the Lord because I am taking pride in my faith. No. Faith is the result of seeing God is faithful to me, despite me, and because of His own character and glory.
All the promises of God find their YES and AMEN in – me? Is God looking for an affirmation IN ME that will justify Him being faithful? No. The affirmation is already in Him. The work of the Holy Spirit is geared to making us see this Truth. And when we do, we will believe.
The new man in Christ Jesus is like a child. Much of what God does with us is set us free from the complications we bring to ourselves and our relationship to Him. In the end, it is all about childlike trust.
Every branch that bears fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. (John 15:2-3)
People who know how to keep trees healthy will tell you that they must be pruned. This lets the sun in, and results in more, and better, fruit. This is what Jesus is telling us. He is saying that even if we are a branch that bears fruit, we will need to be purged of all that keeps out LIGHT. He tells them that this is what He has been doing with them – and now they are clean through the Word He has spoken.
So much about spiritual growth has to do, not with anything God must add to us, but with what must be taken away. We are already COMPLETE IN CHRIST. There is no more of Christ to add to us. But there is much that is hindering us – fear, unbelief, and disobedience. Those things must be pruned.
Of course, language fails us here, because they aren’t THINGS. They are US – characteristics of the old nature. We must be pruned and deal with so that the Christ who is in us might be seen. This is just another way of saying that we must be pruned so that we bear fruit.
The pruning sheer is really the work of the Cross. And when the Cross works and deals with that which must GO in us, the resurrection life of Jesus Christ emerges. And when He emerges, much faith emerges.
Faith is a gift. But more than this, it is a FRUIT. And if we continue to abide in Christ by the faith we have, we will end up bearing even more fruit, and having more faith. As was stated, our job is clear: Stop trying to have faith, and start trusting the faithful One.
The Good News - Home