The Pruning Knife
"Every branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it," or "purgeth it": by which we understand Him to mean that He is pruning, and there are one or two things which we must conclude from this procedure of the Lord. He does not say that if a branch bears no fruit, He prunes it to bear fruit - no, He cuts that off; but if it bears some fruit, He "cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit." The point here is that, for the Father's full satisfaction, it is not merely size that weighs with Him, it is not just bigness, it is not the expansiveness of the branches. The thing which counts with the Father ultimately is the quality and amount of fruit - in other words, the measure of Christ, the essential qualities of Christ. Other metaphors or figures the "Body of Christ" preeminently - will be used in the later New Testament to set forth this principle, but here it is the measure of Christ that the Father is seeking.
We can press that even more closely. Even in that which comes from the Lord - for the fruit comes from the Lord; it is the expression of His life - even in that very vine, the Lord takes measures of curtailment in order to get intrinsic values. Paul and the churches might well have thought that it would be of far more value to God if he had been kept at liberty, kept free to travel about over the world and meet the saints; but God's pruning knife decided that it would be of greater intrinsic value if the wisdom of God in that now. Thank God for what came out of that prison in those letters - intrinsic value indeed! Sometimes the wisdom and the love of God operate in what looks like limitation, in certain ways and certain directions, in order to get intrinsic value. A seed-plot is an intensive thing, not necessarily an expansive thing; but it may be that presently the whole world will be sown from that seed-plot: that plant or that crop will be reproduced everywhere. And the Lord is saying here, "I am not first of all interested in how big and expansive you are, in what you are doing, even though it may be for Me, and even though it may be, in measure, by the life which I have given you. What I am primarily concerned about is the richness of the fruit, the quality of the fruit and the real measure of intrinsic value." You can have grapes and grapes, and the Lord is after the first quality. It means that there is a good deal of saying "No" when that life is at work. Here are the branches spreading, and the knife says, "No, not that, not that, not that." The pruning knife is a great instrument for God's "No" - but it is governed by God's "Yes." The "Yes" lies hidden behind. The "Yes" relates to the quality and the intrinsic value of the fruit, the measure of Divine satisfaction, and it is that which governs the "No", which lops off.
(continued with # 62 - "The Object of the Pruning")