From Discipleship to Discipleship

John 15:1-2 I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman.
2 Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

The vine and the branches are symbolic of the Lord Jesus Christ and His many-membered Body. In the same way that life flows through a vine to the branches, divine life flows through the Lord to the members of His Body. Those who do not bear fruit are taken away, which means it is quite possible for one who is in the Body of Christ and has life flowing to him to be fruitless. The one who does bear fruit is purged so that he may bear more fruit; that is, the Lord begins cutting away his flesh nature so he may have a greater capacity for receiving the divine nature.

John 15:3 Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you.

The words of the Lord Jesus are spirit and life. It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. John 6:63. The Word of the Lord is a living Word, and it has two primary functions: it transfers His life to us, and it prunes us, cutting away the flesh-life that we may become more fruitful. For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12.

John 15:4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me.

If you think only as an individual in your relationship with the Lord, you will miss what Jesus is really talking about here. The revelation of His teaching comes when we learn to relate to Him as a member of the Body of Christ. Jesus, at the time of His teaching, is with His disciples. They have walked with Him and witnessed His works. But He is speaking of a time when as the resurrected Lord He is the Head of the many-membered Body, when He is no longer with them and they with Him. He is speaking of a time when He as Spirit is dwelling in them and they with their spirit are dwelling in Him. So when the Lord says, Abide in Me, and I in you, He is not speaking merely of a relationship of Himself and an individual. He is speaking of the oneness of Him and His many-membered Body. This is a higher level relationship; it is a relationship above what any Christian can experience as an individual only.

Jesus said, The branch cannot bear fruit of itself. A branch separated from the vine cannot bear fruit. He is talking about a fruitfulness that can only come from the Body of Christ. It is a result of the oneness of its members.

Each of the 120 in the upper room (Acts 1:13-14), for example, had an individual relationship with Jesus. However, when they became one, the Spirit of the Lord filled them and they became a many-membered Body (Acts 2:1-2). And as a member of His Body they each had a relationship with the Lord they could never have had before. Now they, as a unit, were living in Him and He was living in them. So we see that the fruitfulness the Lord is speaking about is the fruitfulness of a many-membered Body not the fruitfulness of individuals.

John 15:5 I am the Vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.

Abiding in the Lord means much more than “I’ve got Jesus in my heart by faith.” It means that your life is lived in Him, and it is lived in Him as a member of the Body of Christ. When Jesus says, He that abideth in Me and I in him, the “he” and “him” is referring to the many-membered Body in the same way that “perfect man” in Ephesians 4:13 refers to the Body of Christ. The ministries in verse eleven of that chapter (apostles, prophets, etc.) are given to edify the Body of Christ till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a PERFECT MAN, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). Thus, the fruitfulness that glorifies the Lord is the fruitfulness of the Body.

John 15:8 Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples.

Jesus was talking to His disciples. Why then does He say that if they bear much fruit then they shall become His disciples? There are two different realms of discipleship. They were disciples as they walked with Jesus during the days of His ministry as seen in the Gospels. But there was a limitation on their discipleship. As members of the Body of Christ they would not just watch what Jesus would do, but they would experience the Lord doing it through them. That is an altogether different realm of discipleship; that is Kingdom discipleship. Thus, the disciples would move from one level of discipleship to a higher realm of discipleship.

Are you a disciple of the Lord? That is not a foolish question; many Christians aren’t. Only a few enter the first level of discipleship; fewer still enter the higher realm of Kingdom discipleship. Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Matthew 7:13-14. The life, which the strait gate and narrow way leads to, is the life-realm of fruitfulness of abiding in Him and Him abiding in us. It’s a shame that so many people are satisfied in just being a Christian and are not interested in becoming a disciple. But even among those who do become disciples few of them are able to enter the higher realm of Kingdom discipleship. Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say, unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. Luke 13:24. That is disturbing, that many would seek to enter and not be able. The higher realm of Kingdom discipleship is not easily entered, because it is required for one to forsake the individualism of the first level and to become one with the Body of Christ. Do you want to find that life-realm of fruitfulness that comes as a result of being immersed into the Body that abides in Him and He in it? Jesus said, Whosoever shall lose his life for My sake shall find it (Matthew 16:25). That is the key to moving from discipleship to discipleship.

Copyright © 1998 by Henry DuBose