“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the Word that I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing… If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love… This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”John 15:1-5, 10, 12-13
Apart from Christ, we can do nothing. What does this mean? The Confessions are quite helpful here. “We cannot keep the Law without Christ’s aid. He Himself says, ‘Apart from Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). So, before we keep the Law, our hearts must be born again through faith” (Ap V, 194). To abide in Christ and His love, He says we must keep His commandments, which is summed up in His singular commandment: “that you love one another as I have loved you.” This means we sacrifice ourselves for others, for this is just how He has loved us. However, we cannot do any of this apart from Him. Keeping His commandments, therefore, means we rely on His aid rather than on our ability to produce good works.
For how do the branches of the vine grow and produce fruit? This ability comes not of the branches themselves but from their source, the vine. As you see in the image to the right, the vine is the main thing; the branches grow out from the vine. Without the vine, the branches cannot produce any fruit, let alone grow. It would wither and die and become useless. The vine is essential to their function. If the vine is not healthy, the branch cannot grow and produce the vine’s fruit. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that when we do good works by loving our neighbour as Christ has loved us, we do not confuse ourselves as the healthy vine, for we daily sin much and therefore neglect to water and enlighten ourselves with the Word of Christ. This is why it all depends on Christ the Vine. For He alone is perfect and good and causes the growth. All that we produce comes from Him and His aid, not of ourselves.
All this occurs by faith. “Without faith, human nature does not call upon God, nor expect anything from Him, nor bear the cross [Matthew 16:24]. Instead, human nature seeks and trusts in human help. So, when there is no faith and trust in God, all kinds of lusts and human intentions rule the heart [Genesis 6:5]” (AC XX, 37-38). If Christ is the Vine and we are the branches, then faith is the water with which God the Father, the Vinedresser, pours into us to grow from and through Christ the Vine. For without faith in the Vine, growth and production are impossible.