By applying this title to Himself Jesus is "claiming to be the divine source of
an abundant spiritual harvest." (2) Hudson Taylor wrote these words as he meditated
on the truths of the analogy of the vine and branches,
"As I thought of the Vine and the Branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured
direct into my soul…I saw not only that Jesus would never leave me, but that I was a member of His body,
of His flesh, and of His bones. The Vine, now I see, is not the root merely, but all-root, stem, branches,
twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit; and Jesus is not only that: He is soil and sunshine, air and showers, and
ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wished for or needed." (3)
When the whole analogy is examined, the focus is not on the nation of Israel and what
it should have been; compared to the analogy in Isaiah, John 15
is a contrast. Jesus does not focus on Israel / Judah, but on the disciples. He does not
focus on the nation's sins and responsibility, but on the disciples bearing fruit. In
that same light, the analogy is not focusing on the issue of what is true or false. Jesus
is not contrasting true and false believers. Rather He is focusing on the relationship
believers have with the Father and the resulting fruitfulness that brings. Thus, the focus of the analogy
is on the nature of a vine. It is from this truth that Jesus builds His words of encouragement and cleanses
and lifts the disciples unto greater fruitfulness.
Having noted the analogy, we need not to attempt to draw too many parallels or contrasts
between Israel and Jesus. Rather, we need only recognize that Jesus, as Messiah, does indeed embody everything
Israel should be. But, that having been said, the point of the analogy has to do with the nature of the
vine, not with the past or present life of the nation. And so, as we listen to the words of Jesus we need
to look to the first century viticulture in Israel in order to understand His message through this parable.
We need to see what the disciples were seeing.
Dr. Earl Radmacher was born almost
seventy years ago in Portland, Oregon just a couple of miles from Western Seminary where, in the providence
of God, he would later serve on the theological faculty for thirty-three years (1962-1995) and in
administrative positions as Dean of the Faculty (1964-1965), President (1965-1990), and Chancellor (1990-1995).
In 1995 he was designated President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology Emeritus.
His parents, who were immigrants from Romania and Austria, settled in Portland in 1913 where they brought
eight children into this world, Earl being the last. The whole family was very active in local churches so
every Sunday found Earl spending all day in church-Sunday school, morning worship, potluck lunch at the
church, recreation break, youth service, evening service, and after service. Even though he heard the gospel
preached Sunday after Sunday, he did not personally receive Christ as his Savior until he was fourteen years
of age. He has often stated that sitting in church Sunday after Sunday doesn't make one a Christian any more
than sitting in a garage makes a car…
At that juncture in his life, Earl came in contact with another Earl-Earl Gile-a faithful Sunday school
teacher who lived right across the street from the grade school he had attended, and he opened up his home
as an outreach to boys from the school. Mr. Gile's church rented the school gymnasium on Thursday nights
and made it available for boys to play basketball if they came to Sunday school on Sundays. That sounded
like a good deal, so he went. Shortly after that, the teacher announced a forthcoming boys camps at Twin
Rocks Beach, Oregon. He decided to go; and there, at fourteen years of age, he accepted Christ as his Savior.
Although the church preached the gospel faithfully, they didn't go beyond the gospel to build up believers
in the faith. He has often said, "As a believer, I didn't need a birth message, but I did need a growth
message. That being absent, I tended to flounder, and my growth in Christ was stunted. Thus, the high school
years were a disaster as far as the things of Christ and spiritual growth were concerned."
As graduation time neared, he took the normal batch of tests to determine which line of work he should
pursue. The tests indicated mathematics or mechanics, so he decided to go the route of mathematics and
join it with money by starting a career in a savings and loan institution. He started as a file clerk
and worked up to an investment statistician that year.
His plans in the investment business were dramatically interrupted, however, by a visit to Portland
of a new evangelist on the scene, Billy Graham, in August of 1950. A friend invited him to go to the
meeting and, although he had little spiritual appetite at that time, God seemed to press him toward the
affirmative. As the poet Francis Thompson has written: "He tracked me down the corridors of time."
As it turned out, Earl not only went that night but every night thereafter for six weeks. The only meeting
he missed was the women's meeting (they wouldn't let him in!).
After listening to the powerful preaching of Billy Graham for six weeks, at the conclusion of the
last service, he found himself standing on his feet, going forward, grabbing Cliff Barrow's hand, and
telling him that God called him to preach. His next question was, "What do I do now?" Cliff
said, "You go to college to prepare" and he recommended his alma mater in South Carolina.
Once again, god had a man prepared to help him take the next step. As the tabernacle cleared out, he
saw a man he hadn't seen since grade school. In the beautiful providence of God, this man, Jerry Burleson,
was going to the same college in South Carolina that Cliff Barrows had recommended, and he was looking for
one more rider. Although it was just two weeks before Fall semester, Jerry assured him that they would
accept him on probation through his recommendation. He worked nights for two weeks training another person
for his job so that he could leave with the good graces of his employer.
Twelve years and four degrees later (together with broad opportunities of experience in preaching
and teaching, overseas missions and military chaplainry, local church pastor and parachurch ministries,
rural and urban outreaches), he ended up not in the pastorate, but in the training of evangelists, pastors,
and teachers at Western Seminary. His years there involved traveling over ten million miles and preaching
and teaching over twenty thousand hours in over a thousand Bible conferences and thousands of churches.
Among the numerous books and articles that Dr. Radmacher has authored or edited are the following books:
You and your thoughts (1977), The Nature of the Church (1978, 1995), Can We Trust the
Bible (1979), What to Expect from the Holy Spirit (1983), Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the
Bible (1984), The NIV Reconsidered (1990), The Nelson Study Bible (1997), Nelson's
New Illustrated Bible Commentary (1999), and Salvation (2000).
Dr. Radmacher has often stated, "In my wildest dreams fifty years ago, I could never have imagined
the exciting plans that God, in His sovereign grace, had for me." His life mission is found in 2
Timothy 2:15, "Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who has no need to be ashamed,
rightly dividing the word of truth." His personal life verse is 2 Corinthians 3:18, "But we all,
with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same
image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."