More on branches of the Vine – John 15:1-6

We must recall that Chapter 15 is a continuation of chapter 14, where He told the disciples He was going away but would return. In Jn 14:19b, “you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” it is evident the believers did not know what to believe at that time. Jesus told them to believe Him or at least the miracles.

I wrote a post concerning branches: https://wbmoore.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/what-is-a-branch-of-the-vine.

Given what was written in John 14:15-31, this parable is probably written to teach the disciples what they would need to know in the future, and possibly to encourage those who love him to continue to obey him until the Holy Spirit came to seal them.

Jesus was speaking ABOUT believers (fruitful branches) and nonbelievers (unfruitful branches). But He was most likely speaking TO those who WOULD be fruitful. Remember that Judas had already been entered by Satan and had left (Jn 13:26-30), so it is doubtful he was speaking of all his disciples, as Judas betrayed him (although this is not absolutely necessarily the case). Peter did not have sufficient belief to not deny him in the very near future (when Jesus was arrested) and the rest did not have sufficient belief to not abandon him at the same time as Peter denied Him. It is unclear from the text whether this meant they had no conviction at that time or not. I think they did not understand sufficiently to believe sufficiently to have conviction. I believe that at THAT point in time it was merely an idea to them.

Let’s walk through the text. Jesus is the source of all life. God will prune us.

1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.

Referring back to John 14:24, those who do not love Jesus will not obey him and will be unfruitful vine branches and will be removed in the vine. Where Jesus speaks of pruning, He is most likely warning of the difficulty the disciples would face (as part of life or as they spread the Gospel).

2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

When a branch is cut off, one of three things occur: it gets planted, or it gets grafted, or it dies. No mention was made of planting or grafting, so the cut branches are dead whether they know it yet or not.

Additionally, some would claim that Jesus is speaking not of loss of salvation, but loss of fellowship. However, Jesus made it clear that one must continue to believe to be a true disciple.

John 8:30-32

30Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.  31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Referring back to John 14:23, those who love Jesus will obey him and will be fruitful vine branches and will remain in the vine. He was speaking directly to people who did not include Judas here.

Back to the verses at hand, in verse 3, we see that Jesus is speaking of a current condition based upon a past event, what He has already spoken. But something that is easy to miss is that He is also speaking of a future event. In John 14:29, Jesus said, “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.” It is evident in chapter 14 that the disciples do not know what to believe concerning Jesus. Jesus says they are clean, referring to what WILL happen (they will believe) because of what HAS happened (He has told them what will happen). So they ARE clean because of what they WILL believe – that Jesus is sent from God to suffer and die to pay for our sins, and that He is God (evidenced by His resurrection). Additionally, this is the plural ‘you’ and it may be that He was referring to some of them or to all of them as being clean. Ie. stating a school won a game when in fact, only certain individuals within that group actually played and won the game.

3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.

We know that it was not until later, in Jn 16:30-31 that we see the disciples truly believed.

30 “Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.” 31 “You believe at last!” Jesus answered.

But, regardless of whether Jesus meant all of them or not, at this point, the Holy Spirit had not yet come to dwell in and seal the believer. Therfeore, they could lose any righteousness they might have. So he is again reiterating in story form what He had already said in chapter 14. If they love Him, they will obey Him and if they do not obey Him then they do not love Him. If they believe (have conviction), they will remain in Him and will be fruitful.

Since the Holy Spirit had not come, Jesus is exhorting them to obedience that comes from conviction so they will continue to part of the vine of life (or the river of life, if you will).

4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

He is merely repeating in verse 5 what He has already stated.

5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

In verse 6, Jesus is telling what will happen to those who do not obey Him (because they do not love Him). When a branch is cut off, it is dead. When it is burned, it is destroyed. This is more likely to be the second death, rather than merely judgement.

6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

Some might complain that I am equating belief with love for God. The two are not necessarily the same, but I think that it is easy to show that if you believe Christ was sent by God to suffer and die for your sins, you will love Him. So, I think when one says one believes (with conviction) in Christ, one must love Him.

John 16:27

No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.

The parable of the vine and branches was given to people who followed Christ.  At the time it was given, it may be some of them fully believed, and some not (I do not think it is clear from the text). But the parable was recorded so we could realize the need to remain in Christ. Ultimately, what matters is our condition with God through faith in Christ when we die. If we die trusting God sent Christ to suffer and die for our sins and resurrected Him on the third day after his death, then we have eternal life.

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One Response

  1. This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

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