Wednesday, August 26, 2015


The analogy of the vine and the branches in John 15 is all about fruit bearing. We bear fruit through our communion with Jesus just as the branches bear fruit through their connection to the vine. When we fail to remain in communion with Jesus, we become fruitless because apart from Jesus we can do nothing (John 15:5). Fruitless branches are cast away not because of a lack of life but because of a lack of fruit (John 15:6).

The analogy is an extended figure of speech and figurative language should not be taken literally. Jesus is not a literal vine and God, the Father, is not a literal gardener.  We are not literal branches. The throwing away is not a literal throwing away and the fire is not a literal fire.

The fruitless believer is thrown away "like a branch" (ως το κλημα) so what happens to fruitless branches is an illustration of what happens to fruitless Christians.  We are judged for our uselessness and set aside as worthless to the master gardener if we become fruitless Christians.  There are 5 verbs that illustrate God's progressive judgment of fruitless Christians.

1) Fruitless Christians are discarded or thrown aside (εβληθη εξω). God stops using us in His work. We become useless and hinder His purpose to bear fruit.  He sets us aside when we fail to stay in communion with Him. 2) Fruitless Christians are dried up (εξηρανθη). The word was used to describe the withering of trees and plants or the drying up of a river (BAGD, p. 548).  It is a passive verb. When we are set aside by the gardener (passive voice), the discarding causes us to begin to wither spiritually. We lose our vitality. We become brittle and bitter, and we break easy. Jesus said that if salt loses its potency it is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled (Mt. 5:13). Fruitless Christians may even be removed from life on earth (1 John 5:16).

The next 3 verbs all have plural subjects. "They gather them and they cast them into the fire and they are burned." The first 2 verbs are present active indicatives and the 3rd is a passive, yet all 3 can be translated as idiomatically passive. All the discussions explaining the identity of "they" in this verse are 'fruitless' discussions!  The construction is a Semitic idiom for an impersonal subject (Moulton, Grammar, 2:447-448). A third person plural subject was used with an active voice as a substitute for an impersonal passive in the Hebrew style of writing so the identity of the subject is simply impersonal.

I think these 3 verbs all refer to what God does with fruitless Christians at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  1) Fruitless Christians are gathered together at the judgment of Christians. 2) Fruitless Christians are tested by fire. The fire is a figure of speech for God's holy evaluation of our lives. The fire reveals the worthlessness of our fruitlessness (1 Cor. 3:13). 3) Fruitless Christians are left with nothing because they did not abide in Him and through that abiding produce fruit that possessed eternal value. The sum total of their lives is burned up (καιεται). This is precisely the imagery for the judgment of Christians that Paul uses (1 Cor. 3:13-15). The fruitless Christian suffers loss, but he is saved "as through fire" (1 Cor. 3:15).

O Lord, keep me walking and talking with you so that I do not become fruitless in my life!

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