googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: The Vine and the Branches

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Vine and the Branches

ἐγώ εἰμι ἄμπελος ἀληθινή καὶ πατήρ μου γεωργός ἐστιν. πᾶν κλῆμα ἐν ἐμοὶ μὴ φέρον καρπόν αἴρει αὐτό, καὶ πᾶν τὸ καρπὸν φέρον καθαίρει αὐτὸ ἵνα καρπὸν πλείονα φέρῃ.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman; every branch in me not bearing fruit, He doth take it away, and every one bearing fruit, He doth cleanse by pruning it, that it may bear more fruit;” (John 15:1-2, Young’s Literal)

For those people who believe in the doctrine of eternal security (like myself), this passage from John is one we need to carefully consider. Many people cite this verse as evidence that it is possible to fall away from the faith. Indeed, at first glance, this passage seems to indicate just that. However, in the broader context of the chapter, I don’t believe v. 2 is talking about being removed from the vine.

Let’s look at this more closely.

The key word in v. 2 is αἴρει (Strong's Number 142 (αἴρω)). Most translations have rendered this, “take away” or some similar term to that effect. The impression is that we are removed from the vine. The word is used in this sense in Mark 4:15:

εὐθὺς ἔρχεται Σατανᾶς καὶ αἴρει τὸν λόγον τὸν ἐσπαρμένον εἰς αὐτούς.

Immediately Satan comes and takes the word which has been sown in them.

But the primary root of the word means to “lift up.” Again from Strong’s:
A primary root; to lift up; by implication, to take up or away; figuratively, to raise (the voice), keep in suspense (the mind), specially, to sail away (i.e. Weigh anchor); by Hebraism (compare nasa') to expiate sin -- away with, bear (up), carry, lift up, loose, make to doubt, put away, remove, take (away, up).
Besides being taken away, the word can also describe being lifted up, raised, or carried. In a vineyard, it could be that branch which lies in the dirt, fruitless, being lifted up from the dirt by the husbandman so that it might again become fruitful.

Another consideration is that v. 2 deals with branches abiding in Christ (πᾶν κλῆμα ἐν ἐμοὶ - every branch in me). Verses 1-5 contrast the difference between abiding in Christ (able to produce fruit) and not abiding in Christ (not able to produce fruit). Verse 5 is interesting:

ἐγώ εἰμι ἄμπελος, ὑμεῖς τὰ κλήματα. μένων ἐν ἐμοὶ κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ οὗτος φέρει καρπὸν πολύν, ὅτι χωρὶς ἐμοῦ οὐ δύνασθε ποιεῖν οὐδέν.

I AM the vine, you are the branches. The one abiding in me and I in him, this same bears much fruit, because without me you are not able to do anything.

We see then that every branch abiding in Him produces fruit. Does that contradict v. 2, which says that branches not producing fruit are taken out? Not at all! The branches not producing fruit are lifted up by the husbandman so they can bear fruit.

But verse 6 warns:

ἐὰν μή τις μένῃ ἐν ἐμοί ἐβλήθη ἔξω ὡς τὸ κλῆμα καὶ ἐξηράνθη καὶ συνάγουσιν αὐτὰ καὶ εἰς τὸ πῦρ βάλλουσιν καὶ καίεται.

Unless someone should abide in me, he is cast out as the branch and is withered and they gather them and they throw [them] into the fire and they burn.

So we see that it’s those branches that do not abide in Christ that are removed and cast into the fire.

We need not worry about bearing fruit because it is not us that bears fruit but Christ in us. If we are in Christ, we bear fruit. It’s that simple. If we are down trodden and unable to bear fruit, we are lifted up so that we again can bear fruit. It is only those unfortunate branches not abiding in Christ that await the fiery judgment.

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