We come this month to our fourth and final consideration of Isaiah 5:1-7. In the Upper Room Discourse, the evening before the crucifixion, Jesus against the background of Isaiah’s Parable of the Vineyard made this statement: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1).
Jesus here contrasted himself with Israel, who had so dismally failed. While Israel turned out to be a false vine, Jesus came to be the true one. Jesus alone can say, “I am the true vine.” Adam failed. Israel failed. You have failed. I have failed. Christ alone bore the fruits of infinite justice and righteousness. But he also bore the fruit of an infinite love. As the true vine he would do the incomprehensible: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:3). He would bear the unrestrained fury of the owner of the vineyard in our place, as our substitute.
Christ—the true vine—is freely offered to you in the gospel. How do you respond to this present from God? Have you become a Christian? Why would you delay? Hear the words of Martin Luther: “When you lay hold of Christ as a gift which is given for your very own . . . you are a Christian” (What to Look for and Expect in the Gospel).
In the embrace of Christ we are freely given what we so desperately need—righteousness—in order to find acceptance with a holy God. When we put our faith in Jesus, we “become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
Redemption not only gives us a right legal standing in justification, but it also changes how we live. There is real change within us in terms of sanctification. Thus Jesus, having announced that he is the true vine, urges us to remain in him, assuring us that he will remain in us (John 15:4). Such a mutual indwelling will bring moral transformation into our fruitless lives: “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” (John 15:5). Such a moral renewal will result in a life that is pleasing to God: “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8).
Our fruitless lives may be changed by grace alone, but this does not nullify our human responsibility. This is the point of Jesus’ admonition. The obligation imposed by Christ comes to you and me, “Abide in me” (John 15:4). His message is simple and direct: Continue in your attachment to me in the bond of faith.
As to the question of ever leaving Christ for something or someone else, we must respond as Peter did, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).