“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:4-5).
“Abide in Me, and I in you” is a statement of fact, not a statement of options. We, as true believers, are always abiding in Christ and He is always abiding in us. We cannot choose to disconnect from the vine. Only the farmer can remove a branch. A branch cannot remove itself. And God, the farmer, has promised to never cut us off from the vine. (“I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” [Jn 10:28].) When you embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ, you became a child of God, a branch permanently attached to the True Vine. A Vine who is living His life through the branch.
This hearkens to Galatians 2:20, “For I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” Christ, the true vine, by virtue of our unbreakable connection to Him, is living His life through us.
This is why our passage can end with, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” Jesus did not say we will do less or not accomplish as much … no, He said we can do NOTHING apart from Him. We will not bear little fruit apart from Him; we will bear NO fruit apart from Him. Why? Because Christ is our life. Our life is no longer our own, a branch trying to live on its own. We belong to Jesus, and praise be to God that Jesus is living His life through us.
So with Christ having secured our abiding, is there nothing for us to do? What is our role in our abiding? I think the best word to describe it is “cooperating”. We can hinder the abiding. We can hinder the fruit. By asking us to continue to abide in Christ, Jesus is asking us to cooperate with what He is already doing in our heart.
There is a difference between producing fruit and bearing fruit. God has already produced the fruit of the Spirit in us by giving us His Spirit. We are not required to produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. They are already ours by virtue of the Spirit within. But bearing fruit? That is another story.
We have the choice to bear or show or demonstrate the fruit inside or suppress it in sin. Paul makes the choice clear in Romans chapter 6. “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace” (Rom 6:12-14).
The choice is ours. Our abiding can never be taken away. You are forever secure in Christ. But your cooperation, your bearing the fruit of the Spirit, your loving one another, your serving one another, your walking in your righteous identity … is a choice that rests in your lap. But it is a choice for good that you have the power to make, “For sin shall not be master over you!” May you feel the literal life flow of being connected and cooperating with the True Vine.