Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).
1. How does Jesus describe Himself in John 15:1 (printed below?) What does He mean? Note Isaiah 5:7 (printed below)
I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. (John 15:1)
…the vineyard of Jehovah of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his delightful plant. (Isaiah 5:7)
In verse one our Lord Jesus Christ compares Himself to the grapevines that flourished in Israel, declaring, “I AM the True Vine.” In the Old Testament the vine is a symbol of Israel: the people whom the Lord “planted” in the Promised Land of Canaan (Psalm 80:8), the people whom the Lord expected would “bear fruit” (Isaiah 5:7a). But to the Lord’s disappointment and disgust, that “vine” that He had planted in the land of Canaan did not bear “good fruit;” on the contrary, it produced “bitter fruit and wild grapes” (Isaiah 5:2b, 7). Now, with this Old Testament background in mind, the Lord Jesus declares, “I AM the True Vine.” Jesus is the only one who is faithful to God, the only one who bears good and pure fruit for God.
2. Having identified Himself as “the true vine,” what does Jesus say about those who bear His name? See John 15:5 (printed below)
I am the vine, you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him, he is the one who bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
Having identified Himself as “the True Vine,” Jesus now identifies all those who bear His name and have a connection with Him as being “the branches” (verse 5). He emphasizes that the branches attached to the vine are expected to bear fruit (the production of fruit is mentioned six times in these eight verses, being summed up in verse 8).
3. What is the “fruit” of which Jesus speaks? Note Philippians 1:11 and Galatians 5:22-23 (printed below)
…being filled with the fruit of righteousness which is through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a)
What is the “fruit” of which Jesus speaks, the “fruit” that God, the divine Vinedresser, demands? Philippians 1:11 defines this spiritual fruit as “the fruit of righteousness”—that is to say, the living of a truly Christ-like life, the life of righteousness. Galatians 5:22-23 defines this spiritual fruit as “the fruit of the Holy Spirit”—that is to say, the righteous and loving character of God in it multi-faceted dimensions that is being reproduced in the Christian’s life by the Holy Spirit.
4. What does Jesus tell us His Father does with fruit-bearing branches? Why does He do this? See John 15:2b (printed below)
…my Father…prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:2b)
Jesus declares that “every branch that bears fruit” is pruned by the Father “so that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). God the Father, as the divine Vinedresser, carries out this work of pruning by means of a variety of measures involving various forms of affliction (note Psalm 119:67,71,75). It is important to understand that this “pruning” (which is another way of speaking about discipling; or, training by means of discipline) is something the heavenly Father administers to those who are fruit-bearing “branches” attached to Christ, the True Vine, in a living relationship. This pruning is for the purpose of causing such “branches” to bear more fruit—that is to say, causing His children to become more like His own Son, Jesus Christ our Savior, which is one of the ultimate goals of salvation.
5. What does Jesus instruct us as Christians to do? Why? See John 15:4-5 (printed below)
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. The branch cannot bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine; so neither can you bear fruit, unless you remain in me. (5) I am the vine, you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him, he is the one who bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)
In verse 4 our Lord Jesus Christ instructs us as Christians to continue in a living relationship with Him: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” We maintain and cultivate our relationship with Christ through the study and practice of His Word (compare John 15:4 with John 15:7). Our Lord informs us that our continuing relationship with Him is the true and only source of fruitfulness. Jesus emphatically reminds us that He is the Vine and we are the branches—He is the Source of our spiritual life and nourishment and fruitfulness.