What the Bible says about
Branch and Vine Analogy
(From Forerunner Commentary)
God's people will be a branch that He plants; they will be the work of His own hands. He will ensure their righteousness and their eternal inheritance of the Promised Land, all to His glory.
The phrase “the branch of My planting” deserves a closer look. The Hebrew word translated “planting” is mattā' (Strong's Concordance #4302), meaning “an act of planting something.” The underlying root word is nāta' (Strong's #5193), which adds clarity. It means “to establish, to found,” but more fundamentally, “to strike in, fix, and be fastened.”
These definitions probably lead us to think of planting seeds, but Isaiah 60:21 states that God is planting a branch. The word's root helps clarify that the “planting” of a branch is what we would call grafting.
The Branch of God's Planting
This prophecy refers to the Millennium and beyond, when Satan will be bound and thus rendered ineffective in spreading his evil attitudes. At that time, God will repair the damage—first done in the Garden of Eden and in every human heart since—by replacing man's human nature with His Spirit. He will work to change man's heart from a hard, unyielding one to a soft, humble one that will be eager to hear and obey God.
Notice that Ezekiel prophesies that God's Spirit will cause people to walk in His statutes and to keep His judgments. God's Spirit provides both motivation and strength to do what is good and right. We do God's work—believing, obeying, overcoming, growing, producing fruit—not by our power and abilities but by His Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). It is readily, freely, abundantly available to those who have believed, been baptized, and received the earnest of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands.
But that is not the end of the matter. We must continue to request God's presence in us, our daily Bread of Life, by His Spirit. We must ask, seek, and knock, constantly pursuing God, His Kingdom, and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). If we do this, He promises to add "all these things," our daily needs.
Jesus tells His disciples just before His arrest, "I am the vine, you are the branches: He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). If we request His presence in us each day and obey Him in faith, we will, by His power, produce astonishing spiritual growth.
Ask and It Will Be Given
Within the inspired structure of the parables, the Parable of the Dragnet pairs with the Parable of the Wheat and Tares (Matthew 13:24-30). The wheat and tares represent peoples of opposing spiritual origins: The wheat plants are the “sons of the kingdom,” while the tares are the “sons of the wicked one” (Matthew 13:38). At the time Jesus spoke the parable, the Pharisees were the clearest examples of tares.
The Parable of the Dragnet reiterates this distinction between two classifications of people, but with a significant added detail. Both parables in this pairing describe a gathering that occurs at the end of the age, as well as the future separation of the wicked from the righteous. Both speak of the wicked being burned, and both involve “wailing and gnashing of teeth.” However, the parables differ in Jesus' deliberate description of the dragnet collecting “some of every kind.”
In the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, He distinguishes two different types of plants that appear nearly identical for most of their growing cycles. In the Parable of the Dragnet, though, the dragnet—representing the preaching of the gospel—brings in “some of every kind,” after which a sorting process occurs. The latter parable teaches that God does not base His judgment on race or ethnicity. A person does not have to be of the physical Israelite “kind” to obtain favor in God's eyes, just as fishermen will accept multiple kinds of fish to sell.
The analogy Jesus uses here sounds a warning that is not apparent in the Wheat and Tares, where the focus is simply on whether God or Satan has “planted” an individual. When the fishermen searched through the dragnet on shore, their sorting would have included multiple criteria for determining which were good and which were bad. They would have discarded any unclean fish, a type of those who may have an enthusiastic interest in the gospel of the Kingdom yet have not been cleansed by Christ's sacrifice. (We can also see this spiritual condition in the improperly clothed wedding guest in Matthew 22:11-14.) However, even among the clean fish, the fishermen would not have kept every specimen. If a fish had not grown enough or were obviously diseased, it would also have been burned—it held no value to the fishermen.
In the judgment at the end of the age, God requires more than just coming under the blood of Christ. To reiterate this sobering principle, Jesus uses a different analogy in John 15:2-6:
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, 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, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
Even those who have been cleansed can still be thrown into the fire if they do not bear sufficient fruit. The branches do not—indeed, cannot—bear the fruit independently; it requires remaining attached to the Vine, Jesus Christ. Christians are merely conduits for the fruit, but they must remain faithfully and loyally committed to the relationship to ensure the fruit's production.
If a believer's spiritual growth is insufficient or he or she becomes spiritually diseased (without seeking God's healing), he or she will be cast into the fire at the end of the age. The “wailing and gnashing of teeth” will come not only from those who have maintained an anti-God stance. It will also be the response of those who were cleansed by Christ's sacrifice but who “neglect so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3) and fail to abide in Him (see also Hebrews 6:4-8; John 3:15-18; I Corinthians 9:27).
David C. Grabbe
God's Kingdom in the Parables (Part Four)
Christ came to this earth as THE BRANCH and fulfilled all righteousness, qualifying to replace Satan and rule as King over all the earth. He proved His worthiness by remaining in full accord with His heavenly Father, and bearing the spiritual fruit that makes redemption and salvation possible.
Likewise, we - whether natural or grafted in (Romans 11:17-24) - are also branches attached to the solid trunk of the tree, Christ. It is only by our abiding in Him - our attachment to Him - our close relationship with Him - that we produce any growth or godly works. As Paul writes in Romans 11:16, "If the root is holy, so are the branches." Our righteousness, works, and holiness come to us only because of our connection to Him.
Jesus says that God, in love, prunes us, chastens us, tries us, so that we become more profitable (see also Hebrews 12:3-11). He will do what He must to make us yield. But if we resist and eventually sever our connection with Him, we are fit only to be burned. God has no use for dead wood.
God wants us to use this connection to His Son to "bear much fruit," just as Jesus Christ did. Doing so proves to Him, to ourselves, and to everyone else that we are true Christians, disciples of His Son, the Branch. By this, we will glorify God and secure our place in His Kingdom.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The subject of this paragraph begins with the Father and shifts to the Son. At the end, however, the church—its relationship to Christ and among the members—becomes the focus. The major theme of the book of Ephesians is unity. It tells us why we are able to have it and what we must do to maintain it.
Paul describes the church as "a body." This is essential to unity and to preaching the gospel, keeping us from not losing our focus. We have to have God's perspective of what we are. We are a body, meaning a living organism, or by analogy, the human body.
Any organism, like the human body, is unified. Each part cooperating for the good of the whole. Notice that Paul does not use a word like "team." The word "team" has some of the same associations as "body," but it is not as accurate. With "body," Paul not only gets across the concept of association within an organism to accomplish a common work, but it also the sense of a far closer relationship and more critical responsibility, in which each part responds to the will of the head.
We are so close to Jesus Christ that Paul describes us as "His fullness," that is, we fill Him out. We complete Him. Paul does this to relate both the closeness of our association with Christ and our responsibility to Him to do everything in our power to build the strength of both.
The church—we—are Jesus Christ's complement. This is the highest honor a human being can be given! There is nothing greater than to say that we are a part—we fill out, we complete—the body of Jesus Christ! It is as though Jesus Christ our Creator considers Himself incomplete until we become part of Him. He is a Bridegroom, incomplete without His Bride. As a vine, He is incomplete without the branches. As a Shepherd, He is incomplete without His sheep. And so also is He incomplete as a Head without a body, without members, through whom He works and is glorified as they cooperate and yield to Him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 5)
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