Jesus said that He is the true vine, and His Father is the vinedresser. There are many branches attached to the vine but every branch that does not yield fruits will be cut off. Only the branches which remain in the vine yield fruits and they prove to be the true believers. According to this text in John 15:1-8, there are two types of branches, but they both are attached to the same vine. Only one type of branches yield fruit and not the other type. Now, the question is, if both types of branches are attached to the true vine, why only one type of branches produce fruit?
❝ I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples. ❞ – John 15:1-8
There is a popular misconception around this passage where some people like to argue that you can lose your salvation. Bible does not teach such thing, and a Christian cannot lose his salvation. This is not talking about a fruit baring believer who all of a sudden removed from Christ and thrown in to hell. It is talking about cutting off lifeless people who are seemingly attached to the vine. The words of Jesus is clear: “My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish -ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).
The Fruitless Vine and The True Vine
Old Testament talks about a corrupted, fruitless, degenerated vine. That is Israel. In Isaiah 5, Israel is defined as vine which produced worthless grapes. God planted Israel and then turned on Israel in judgment (v1 -7). Israel was meant to be the stock of blessings to the world. They were the covenant people of God. God has done everything to them in order to bring forth good grapes. Nevertheless, it produced “beushim” (Strong’s Hebrew 891) -stinking, worthless, wild grapes. Psalm 80 described the tragedy of Israel’s defection as a vine. Hosea 10 identifies Israel as “an empty vine” (v1). They were unfaithful, idolatrous, immoral, and God brought judgment upon them.
On the contrary, Christ referred to Himself as “The True Vine” who bears good fruit and gives life. Christ is the ‘the true light’ (John 1:9), ‘the true bread’ (John 6:32), ‘true tabernacle’ (Hebrews 8:2). The Jews were very proud of their pedigree and consider themselves as ‘seed of Abraham’ and thus connected to God. Christ came along and said, “I am the true vine, not the Israel. If you want to bare fruit, you need to connect to me. Apart from me you can do nothing”. He says in Matthew 7, “Can a corrupt tree produce good fruit? it only produces bad fruit. Only a good tree produces good fruit, and it cannot yield bad fruit” (V17–18). Christ is the true and living vine, and all other vines are false, degenerated, dead vines. God the Father is the vinedresser. He is the one who planted the true vine. He is the one who judges the false believers and cut them off from the vine.
Two Types of Branches
There are two types of people who visibly attached to Christ: those who bear fruit and those who don’t. They both are branches in the vine: Notice, “Every branch in me.” They both equally esteemed to be Christians. The people who don’t bear fruit, for all intent and purposes they look like everyone else. But, they are not connected to the fruit-creating sap. They do the same thing, they say the same prayer, and they profess the same thing. They are in the same church membership registry. They attend the same bible study group, and are part of the same Men’s and Women’s ministries. They probably have the same doctrinal views. They were baptized in the same water tank, same hour, by the same pastor, yet at the end only to be cut off, gathered, and thrown in to the fire.
People can live a counterfeit life, not only deceiving others but also deceiving themselves. These people have an outward appearance of attachment, but no fruit. We have no right to judge a man’s interior motives, but the exterior we may judge: “You’ll recognize them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:16). The people who bear fruit are the true disciples; the people who bear no fruit, cut off and burned, are the false disciples. It is not the profession of faith that makes a person a living branch in the true vine, but the possession of faith. That is why it is hard to get in to the kingdom. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). There are always people who make false profession of faith and do not show any fruits of evidence. The fruit is not only a necessary consequence of true faith but also an inevitable consequence. Every true believer connected to the true vine bear fruit (Ephesians 2:10). Now, it is better for us to search ourselves to see if we are in the Faith; it is better for us to test ourselves to see if we have any fruit (2 Corinthians 13:5). Paul gives a list of fruits in his letter to the Galatians in Ch.5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. True disciple should have these fruits in some measure, and growing.
The bad fruit and the Pruning
The fruit-bearing branches are not perfect, if they were perfect they do not need pruning. Because of the sin nature within us there is tendency to produce bitter fruits. The sap is so strong, instead of grapes, the branches can produce too much of wood and leaves. But what the gardener wants is the fruit, and not the wood or leaves. Instead of growing in humility, a Christian can be puffed up with knowledge. Instead of being confidence in the Lord, they can grow in self-confidence. Instead of loving and compassionate towards the lost, instead of telling others the treasure they’ve found, they can isolate themselves in to a ‘holy huddle’. The joy of the Lord and the peace with God, can turn on to a pride. When the richness of the sap produces the zeal for God, instead of being gentle and self-control, they can grow in critical-spirit, be rash, impatient, unkind and judgmental towards others.
Now, God the Father does a very interesting thing to the fruit bearing branches. He comes and prune the true believers so that they bear much fruit. Why? It is for His own glory (v8). The word “prune” comes from the Greek word ‘kathairó’ (καθαίρω – Strong’s 2508, verb) means to clean, to purify, to purge (removing undesirable elements). God the Father comes into the believers’ life with a pruning knife to cut away sin, cut away wasteful, useless behavior, and to make them more productive. This pruning comes in the form of trials in life: Failures, afflictions, sickness, persecution, lose, grief, disappointment. James 1 says, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” The writer of Hebrews says, “My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or faint when you are reproved by Him” (Ch.12:5). God Disciplines every legitimate child (Hebrews 12:6).
The ‘Removing’ vs ‘Pruning’
The fruitless branches will not be pruned, but removed. The text does not say, “Every tree that bears bitter fruit, or sour grapes”, but “Every tree that produce no fruit” that will be removed. The Greek word used here is airó (αἴρω – Strong’s 142) is to take away, removed. There are many ways God removes the fruitless branches. Mainly, the ‘fire’ tests the genuineness of the faith. Many who made a profession of faith in Christ walked away from gospel, walked away from the church, walked away from the interest of God’s word for money, for relationships, for comfort, or in fear of persecution. These are the defectors. “They went out from us, because they did not really belong to us” (1 John 2:19). And, there are people who lived in the church, died in the church, who thought they were good Christians. But God will remove them on the last day with a harsh judgment, “I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!” (Matthew 7:23).
What is this pruning Knife?
The word ‘prune’ in this text is used in agricultural terms. The vinedresser comes with a knife to do the cleansing job. What precisely is this knife? The answer is given in the v3: “You are already pruned (‘katharos’ καθαρός – Strong’s 2513, adjective) because of the word I have spoken to you.” The pruning knife is the Word of God (Scripture). You are saved by the Word; you are spiritually sanctified by the Word; you are pruned by the Word. Scripture is a double-edge knife that cuts every direction. “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
So, in the final analysis, it is not the afflictions themselves that are the pruning knife, it is the Word of God that is the pruning knife. Affliction is the handle of the knife. Father disciplines His children through trials. When the trial comes to the believers’ life the Word comes to the rescue. When you react wrongly to situations, it will convicts you, rebuke you, redirect you, and guide you. Trials are the handle of the knife. The blade is the Word of God. The more you know the Scripture, the better you handle the trials. The more the knife does it work, the more you bear fruit.
It is the Word that prunes the Christian. It is the truth that purges him. The Scripture made living and powerful by the Holy Spirit eventually and effectively cleanses the Christian. Affliction is the handle of the knife. Affliction is the grindstone that sharpens the knife. But the knife is the Word. Affliction is the dresser. Affliction is the dresser that removes our soft garments and lays bare the diseased flesh, so that the knife may get at it. Affliction makes us ready for the knife, to feel the Word of God. – C.H. Spurgeon
C.H Spurgeon, John MacArthur