Here are my notes and reflection from The Village Church sermon given on April 11, 2010 by Josh Patterson. Listen at www.thevillagechurch.net
Primary Text: John 15:1-9
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 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. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 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. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
For the most part this was a good and challenging sermon about remaining in Jesus through repentance, prayer and obedience to his word. The message revolved around measuring success according to our Western view of it and how this should be contrasted if we are doing anything that might be considered culturally successful but doing it apart from remaining in Jesus and for God’s glory. What really hit a nerve with me though was a subtle, though probably not intended view and example of Replacement Theology or SuperSessionism (This is a misguided doctrine that has prevailed in the mainstream church for centuries and basically say’s that the New has replaced the Old and it usually pertains to The Church/Israel, New Covenant/Old Covenant, Grace/Law, ect).
In commenting on Jesus being the true vine, Pastor Josh said “What Israel was meant to be in its fullness, completeness and genuine trueness is what Jesus is (on this I say Amen! see below)”. Then Josh goes on to say that “Jesus has come to replace what was (Israel as the vine) and no longer is Israel God’s planting, but Jesus is God’s planting”. I talked these comments over with my home group and asked them how they took it? Out of 8 of us, 5 didn’t really remember it being said, 1 did but didn’t think much of it and the other took it to mean that (I paraphrase) “Since the majority of the passages in Scripture that speak of Israel being the vine and God’s planting have to deal with judgment, Jesus has replaced or supplanted Israel in the sense of taking on God’s judgment that should have been assigned to her and in fact all of us”. I thought this was an interesting and biblically sound interpretation of the comments made above that I had not considered. I was encouraged to go back to review the comments again online from this new perspective and see if maybe I heard it wrong the first time. After reviewing the context and comments again I still feel like my original interpretation of how it was presented fit best. I have since reached out to Pastor Josh to get clarity on what he meant since I or anyone else can only speculate based on our personal views. I will update this post when I receive that communication back. [See below, I have posted Josh’s reply at the bottom of my original post. ]
I believe the latter part of this statement could and should have been better thought through, clarified, and relayed to the congregation (approx. 4,000-5,000 every weekend and many more through the web). I am self admitidly sensitive to this short of thing (Church/Israel or Jewish relations) especially when you look at the historical facts of church history where you have anti-semitic church canon law that has been passed and accepted over the last two thousand years that has led to some rather horrific outcomes and relations.
Rather than replacing Israel as the vine, Jesus is the most accurate expression as an individual for what God has called Israel to be corporately, as a nation. Israel will realize its fullest potential through the example and identification with her Messiah. How could Jesus replace something he is apart of? For He is the Messiah of Israel, the King of Israel, the Mighty One of Israel, the Holy One of Israel and the God of Israel. Israel is still God’s planting (this point is made clear in Romans 9-11) and the Messiah of Israel identifies with her and she will eventually in fullness through him. Some of the verses below highlight some of the similar language used in the text from John, including the vine, planting and glory. These texts will have their ultimate fulfillment in the age to come when God’s Kingdom is consummated here on earth.
Psalm 80:14-15 Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock that your right hand planted, and for the son whom you made strong for yourself.
Isaiah 60:21 Your people (Israel) shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I might be glorified.
Isaiah 61:3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
Jeremiah 31:35-37 Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord of hosts is his name: “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the Lord, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” Thus says the Lord: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the Lord.”
Thank you for the email and patience in my reply. I have read your post several times and sought the counsel of a trusted friend regarding my comments about Jesus replacing Israel as God’s planting. I have also sent a copy of my response to the elders for further accountability. I always want to be true to the text and faithful to preach the Word. If I err in any way in that, then I desire to be shown this. So, was I promulgating a view of replacement theology (or supersessionism)? The teaching of replacement theology is better understood on a continuum rather than one extreme or the other. Yes, there is an aspect of Jesus coming to replace (I would also use the word “fulfill” here) what was. We would be hard-pressed to be faithful to the text and think otherwise. The gospels perpetuate a self-conscious change from the old covenant to the new. The image of the vine in John 15 demonstrates that Israel gives way to Jesus; He is the True Vine. In the OT the imagery of the vine is a common symbol for Israel, the covenant people of God (Psalm 80, Isaiah 5, Jeremiah 2, Ezekiel 15, Hosea 10). When ethnic Israel is referred to as the “vine” it is used to show their failure to produce good fruit and subsequent judgment. In contrast to this, Jesus proclaims that He is the “True Vine”. Israel is pointing to Jesus, the One who will be a fruitful Vine. Jesus also does this with the temple, the Jewish feasts, Moses and holy sites. In John 15 he is saying that the locus of God’s people is no longer ethnic/historic Israel; rather the locus of God’s people is now in Jesus Christ. I agree with your statement that “Jesus is the most accurate expression as an individual for what God has called Israel to be corporately, as a nation. Israel will realize its fullest potential through the example and identification with her Messiah.”
In an effort to further clarify, I do not think that God is done with ethnic/historic Israel. I do not believe she is an abandoned nation. In no way was my statement in the sermon (or in this email ) meant to be anti-Semitic or perpetuate an anti-Semitic stand of teaching.
I mentioned above that the idea of replacement theology is better understood on a continuum. There is an aspect of continuity and discontinuity in God’s redemptive history. At one extreme of this teaching Jesus has completely replaced Israel and God is done with her (all discontinuity, no continuity). At the other extreme Jesus is simply showing how Israel should live out the law (all continuity and no discontinuity). Both extremes are dangerous. If you personally understand the scriptures to teach that it is all continuity and no discontinuity, then I believe you are off in your understanding of scripture. I don’t want to presume this on you, but I am curious where you would land on this. Again, there is real danger on either extreme and the pull can be subtle.
At the end of the day, my sermon was not about replacement theology. It was about abiding in the Vine. It was about a life of desperate dependence on the Savior. Any other life is vain, empty and fruitless. I hope we would both remain in the Vine.