Some Biblical Metaphors for Vital Union with Christ

The wisdom of God’s Word tells us that from God are all things (Rom 11:36). God is the architect and builder of all things (Heb 3:4). Because He is all-knowing, He is intimately connected to His creation (Gen 1–2; Col 1:16), for which He is glorified.

Yahweh is the Maker of Israel (Ps 149:2; Is 17:7; 45:11), and Israel is the tribe of His inheritance (Jer 10:16). In the will of God, He has made us co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17). Heirs do not work for their benefits (Rom 4:5); rather, they receive them according to the Word of the testament. With great wisdom, God the Father bestows His blessings by His grace.

Grace is the work of God for the benefit of His chosen people (Eph 2:8–9; 1 Pet 2:9). In the same way Jesus chose His disciples (Jn 15:16), God, by His gracious choice, has chosen a remnant people (Rom 11:5). He has given these people the name “Israel.” In referring to the church, the Apostle Paul calls the corporate body of Christ, “the Israel of God (Gal 6:16).”

Now, if there is a body, there must be a head (Col 1:18). The head has the same name as the body; thus, Jesus Christ is the “Israel of God.” The prophet Isaiah saw this Israel (head) gathering Israel (body) to reconcile them to Yahweh (Is 49:3, 5).

The union of the head and body is essential. The body needs its directives from the head. Vitality is dependent on this relationship, for apart from Christ, the church can do nothing (Jn 15:5). This is Christ’s teaching to His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.

That garden was filled with olive trees, which served as an illustration. In the same way that members are connected to their head in a body, so the branches are connected to the true Vine, who is Christ (Jn 15:1).

It is the Vinedresser who determines what will make the Vine fruitful. God the Father is the Vinedresser (Jn 15:1). It is His sovereign will and free choice to graft in, prune, or cut off the branches/members (Jn 15:2). The severing of branches that are unproductive is man’s objection to God (Rom 9:20, 22).

God severed ethnic Israel after centuries of disobedience. With the Hebrew people, God was slow to anger (Ex 34:6; Num 14:18; etc.), and by design, He had mercy on a remnant of the Jews. In Romans 9:6 the Apostle Paul assured the members at the church in Rome, “Not all (ethnic) Israel is Israel (elect from every nation).” The remnant was chosen by God’s gracious choice (Rom 11:5), both Jew and Gentile (Gal 3:28).

Disobedience is equivalent to fruitlessness in a tree. Jesus cursed the fig tree for having showy leaves but no fruit (Mk 11:21). Disobedient people have no love in their hearts (Jn 5:42). This is true of one’s relationship with God and with others, especially those in authority.

The Vinedresser prunes for the purpose of productivity. God sends His Spirit to the living branches on the true Vine, and the Spirit employs the Word to shape God’s people into conformity with Christ (Rom 8:29). This spiritual life process is called, “sanctification (Rom 15:16; 1 Cor 6:11; 1 Thess 4:3; 5:27; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2).”

Sanctification begins by one being permanently affixed to the life-giving Vine (1 Cor 15:45). From the time the Father grafts one of the elect into the Son, the life of the Spirit flows into the new creature in Christ (Rom 6:4; 2 Cor 5:17). This new life is also abundant (Jn 10:10) because it is the life of God in the soul of man. It comes with the promise, hence, the hope of eternal life (1 Jn 5:11–13). This life is in God’s Son, who promises to never leave nor forsake us (Heb 13:5); and He is immutable (Heb 13:8).

From the permanent place of being in Christ (1 Cor 1:30), the Spirit-filled believer is pruned at the will of the Father. Pruning comes with the appearance of violence. For sure, the child of God is disciplined (Heb 12:4–11). He is cut down to size but never cut off. It is humbling for the productive Christian to be brought low by the Father. In this, Jesus is our example (Phil 2:5–11), as the promised suffering Servant (Is 53). We follow in His steps (1 Pet 2:21).

It is critical to see two types of branches on the true Vine. There are those who remain (abide) in Christ. There are also branches who have been exposed to the Word (Vine) and Spirit (life-giving sap), but these fall away from Christ (Heb 6:4–6). They go out from us because they are not of us (1 Jn 2:19).

The Vinedresser cuts off the unproductive branches because they suck life out of the Vine and from other branches but produce no fruit (Jn 15:6). Non-fruit bearing people (without the fruit producing Holy Spirit) are cut off, gathered up and thrown into the fiery hell of God’s judgment in the eternal lake of fire (Mt 25:41, 46; Jn 15:6; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15).

In contrast, those with the indwelling Spirit of Christ (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11) have the Word abiding in them (Jn 15:7). This is the Word of life (Jn 6:63), that is, the Word of truth that sanctifies (Jn 17:17). As the Apostle Paul wrote of the washing of the water by the Word (Eph 5:26), so we are clean (pruned like a branch) by the Word of Christ spoken to us.

The blessed benefit to the born again disciple of Christ is the produce…much fruit (Gal 5:22–23; Col 1:10). This is the manifested product of the abiding Spirit of Christ, who is working all things together for good for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose in Christ (Rom 8:28; Eph 3:11).

My dear reader, examine yourself (2 Cor 13:5), make sure of His calling and election of you (2 Pet 1:10). A tree branch reveals what it is by the fruit produced from it. The Christian, filled with the Spirit, is a chosen vessel for God to reveal Himself. In this, the clay pot displays the glory of God and his worth by the simple fact he is re-made by the hand of the Potter.

The clay pot in the hand of the Potter; the branch connected to the Vine; the heir of the family inheritance; the corporate body with its head; and the creature of the Creator are all metaphors in the Bible that emphasize the believer’s intimate union with our Triune God. This union, as we have seen, is made manifest by God willing and doing His good pleasure in and through His vessels of mercy being prepared for glory (Rom 9:23; Phil 2:13). If that is you, then, rejoice and again I say, “rejoice!” It’s what we do.

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

May 6, 2021

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher