“I am the vine, you are the branches.
He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Each spring many of our congregations enjoy the special blessing of observing a new class of confirmands witness to the truth of Christ which abides within their hearts. They join in renewing the baptismal covenant which they entered (most often in infancy). The Confirmation rite is a blessing for the entire congregation because it leads us all to consider anew the blessed covenant of our salvation leading to eternal life.
However, it is also an excellent opportunity to recall that this is a covenant of grace. We hear the young confirmands state their agreement with the Holy Scriptures, confessing that all the Word is the truth of God. We hear them promise to abide in that truth and not depart from it. We hear them pledge their faithfulness to their Lord and His Word even unto death. One might think, “What marvelous, heartfelt dedication!”
And indeed we thank and praise God that He has worked such faith in the hearts of these young people, and in our own hearts as well. It is all to the praise and glory of the Savior. We are reminded repeatedly that none of this could happen in our hearts and lives without the Holy Spirit, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
In our Scripture text Jesus teaches the true basics of our relationship with God. Christ Himself is the Vine. We are the branches. Our spiritual life flows from the Vine. Apart from the Vine the branch can only dry up and die! God the Holy Spirit has called us to faith through the gospel. Most of us can look back to the “washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5) in baptism as the opening of that covenant of grace through which God has drawn us to Him. By the power of His grace we live as members of the household of God and serve Him in our lives. This connection to the Vine—with the life-power of His gospel—makes us productive to “bear much fruit.”
This is what the rite of Confirmation should be about in our congregations, for it reinforces the message that we need to be connected to Christ throughout our lives in God’s Word and the sacraments. From beginning to end the Lord has presented salvation to us as a gift of His grace.
As long as we, the branches, continue to have the “life juices” of the gospel flowing into our souls, we shall be kept in true faith unto our end. Our lives will be blessed by the power and presence of Jesus Christ and the spiritual productivity which He alone can bring into our lives.
So then, the church rite of Confirmation is not primarily what we are promising to do for our God and Savior (as some might assume), but rather a public acknowledging of everything that our Savior God has done and continues to do for and in His believing children—and then also through them.
How blessed each Christian believer is to be connected to the Vine by faith. Through His precious means of grace may He be the source of our life now and forevermore!