As the Branch Cannot Bear Fruit of Itself, Except It Abide In the Vine; No More
Can Ye, Except Ye Abide in Me–John 15:4
We know the meaning of the word except. It expresses some indispensable
condition, some inevitable law. “The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it
abide in the vine. No more can ye, except ye abide in me.” There is but one way
for the branch to bear fruit, there is no other possibility, it must abide in unbroken
communion with the vine. Not of itself, but only of the vine, does the fruit come.
Christ had already said: “Abide in me”; in nature the branch teaches us the
lesson so clearly; it is such a wonderful privilege to be called and allowed to
abide in the heavenly Vine; one might have thought it needless to add these
words of warning. But no–Christ knows so well what a renunciation of self is
implied in this: “Abide in me”; how strong and universal the tendency would be to
seek to bear fruit by our own efforts; how difficult it would be to get us to believe
that actual, continuous abiding in Him is an absolute necessity! He insists upon
the truth: Not of itself can the branch bear fruit; except it abide, it cannot bear
fruit. “No more can ye, except ye abide in me.”
But must this be taken literally? Must I, as exclusively, and manifestly, and
unceasingly, and absolutely, as the branch abides in the vine, be equally given
up to find my whole life in Christ alone? I must indeed. The except ye abide is as
universal as the except it abide. The no more can ye admits of no exception or
modification. If I am to be a true branch, if I am to bear fruit, if I am to be what
Christ as Vine wants me to be, my whole existence must be as exclusively
devoted to abiding in Him, as that of the natural branch is to abiding in its vine.
Let me learn the lesson. Abiding is to be an act of the will and the whole heart.
Just as there are degrees in seeking and serving God, “not with a perfect heart,”
or “with the whole heart,” so there may be degrees in abiding. In regeneration the
divine life enters us, but does not all at once master and fill our whole being. This
comes as matter of command and obedience. There is unspeakable danger of
our not giving ourselves with our whole heart to abide. There is unspeakable
danger of our giving ourselves to work for God, and to bear fruit, with but little of
the true abiding, the wholehearted losing of ourselves in Christ and His life.
There is unspeakable danger of much work with but little fruit, for lack of this one
thing needful. We must allow the words, “not of itself,” “except it abide,” to do
their work of searching and exposing, of pruning and cleansing, all that there is of
self-will and self-confidence in our life; this will deliver us from this great evil, and
so prepare us for His teaching, giving the full meaning of the word in us: “Abide in
me, and I in you.”
Our blessed Lord desires to call us away from ourselves and our own strength, to
Himself and His strength. Let us accept the warning, and turn with great fear and
self-distrust to Him to do His work. “Our life is hid with Christ in God!” That life is
a heavenly mystery, hid from the wise even among Christians, and revealed unto
babes. The childlike spirit learns that life is given from Heaven every day and
every moment to the soul that accepts the teaching: “not of itself,” “except it
abide,” and seeks its all in the Vine. Abiding in the Vine then comes to be nothing
more nor less than the restful surrender of the soul to let Christ have all and work
all, as completely as in nature the branch knows and seeks nothing but the vine.
Abide in Me. I have heard, my Lord, that with every command, Thou also givest
the power to obey. With Thy “rise and walk,” the lame man leaped, I accept Thy
word, “Abide in me,” as a word of power, that gives power, and even now I say,
Yea, Lord, I will, I do abide in Thee