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John 15:1-6 by Robert Dean
Series:Hebrews (2005)
Duration:55 mins 37 secs

Hebrews Lesson 66    September 7, 2006

 

NKJ Psalm 119:11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!

 

We have been studying in Hebrews 6:7-8 a particular illustration. To understand this illustration I am going to some other passages in Scripture that relate to this whole agricultural imagery that is being used here to teach about the Christian life. So let's just orient ourselves a little bit by going back to this context. Then we will go to our passage for this evening which is in John 15.

 

NKJ Hebrews 6:7 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God;

 

NKJ Hebrews 6:8 but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.

 

This is an illustration of judgment that the writer of Hebrews goes to at the end of the warning section there in Hebrews 6:4-6 talking about the seriousness that faces the believer who goes into spiritual regression. They can deteriorate spiritually to the point that, unless God permits, it is impossible for them to recover. Therein lays the road not to a loss of salvation, but to a loss of privilege, position, loss of reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ, loss of blessing both in time and in eternity. It is important to understand this. All of this imagery is here because you find similar types of illustrations in the Scriptures that deal with the fact that believers are designed to grow, mature and produce fruit in terms of service to God. 

 

So we looked at those symbols. We said that the earth represents the believer. It is out of the believer that you either produce that which is profitable for people (the herbs of the field) or that which is unprofitable (briars or thorns). The rain comes and is provided. That is the provision that God gives every believer. We all have equal opportunity in terms of having the Word of God and the Spirit of God who dwells within us.

 

Then we have the production of divine good represented by the herbs and good human, evil, and sin represented by thorns and thistles.

 

The one who does the cultivating, the one who cares and is concerned about the production of fruit is in this sense ultimately God the Father who is comparable to the vinedresser – the one who is the vineyard keeper in John 15 which is where we are going. The other thing that we looked at last time as we are doing this is we began to look at some other passages in order to understand this. The judgment that is being talked about in Hebrews 6 is not the judgment at the Great White Throne. It is not the judgment at the end of the tribulation. It is the Judgment Seat of Christ for believers. There is an evaluation based on the word dokimazo that is found in the text.

 

When we look at Hebrews 6:8, it uses this word rejected. If it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected. The English word rejected is a word that is loaded with a lot of baggage that came from the translator. He makes it sound like this person ultimately isn't saved whether it is the position of the Arminians that they lose salvation or the position of the Lordship salvation crowd that they weren't saved to begin with. It is the idea that they are not saved. That word dokimos really should be translated disqualified as it is in other passages. It is adokimos and it means unapproved, unqualified, unworthy, spurious and worthless. So when we recognize that the focus here is on disqualification or that which is discredited it gives us a different sense of the meaning of the passage. Then we are going to these other passages according to a principle of interpretation. 

 

The fancy word for interpretation is hermeneutics. According to a basic principle of hermeneutics, you have what is called the principle of analogy. Do y'all know what that is? I just ran across this. I was reading a book on hermeneutics about 4 years ago. This is a time-honored principle. I had never heard it called that before. It is comparing scripture with scripture. You just have to go look at other Scripture. It is called the analogy of scripture. You look at other Scripture and compare. Apparently that is a very time honored theological phrase that is used there. 

 

So we looked at I Corinthians 9:27 where this same word is also used - adokimos - with regard to the Apostle Paul. 

 

Paul says….

 

NKJ 1 Corinthians 9:27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

 

He is using in this whole illustration as we have seen the last two weeks - the imagery of a race running in the Olympic event that would take place in the Greek games. So he is saying after everything you could do, something that would disqualify yourself from running in the race or gaining the victory, it doesn't mean a loss of salvation. Paul would not lose his salvation, but he could disqualify himself in terms of rewards. 

He says he has to daily discipline himself which I think is a rather pusillanimous translation for the Greek word hupopiazo which is used in a boxing context of beating someone bloody. It is the idea of a strong, dominating activity. 

 

He is saying, "I beat my body."

 

Some translations translate it that way – I beat my body into submission. It is a very strong term. Every time I look at that I am always reminded of the illegitimate use of the principle of analogy - the illegitimate use of comparing scripture with scripture. You always have to be careful. 

You can come to this passage where it says, "I beat my body into submission". Then you go over to Ephesians 5 and Paul tells husbands that they are to love their wives like their own body! So you have to be careful how you compare Scripture with Scripture. Here it is simply that he is emphasizing how rigorous his self-discipline must be to make sure that he does not disqualify himself in the process of spiritual growth.

 

That brings us over to John 15 because we are looking not at the negative (what you do to get disqualified), but at the positive - how does the believer grow? How does the believer become qualified?  How does a believer produce fruit? What are the mechanics of the earth producing the herbs? The rain comes on all of us but how does this take place?  God provides the Spirit. God provides the Word of God.  How does the growth take place?

 

So let's review the first 6 verses.

 

NKJ John 15:1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 "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. 6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

 

As I pointed out last time what we see here is another agricultural illustration or analogy. These agricultural illustrations or analogies tend to be tough for modern 21st century industrialized urban dwellers to relate to. Perhaps if you have a little tomato plant growing somewhere you can understand some of this. These are very important. From the study that I have done on this it is probably true that many of the theologians who have worked with this and come to certain conclusions were not very educated in the entire area of viticulture. I appreciate a work that was done a number of years ago by Gary Derickson who is now up in Oregon. In fact he works with Wayne House up there. Gary got his masters in some kind of agriculture and viticulture which is the science and study of raising grapes. Then he went to Dallas Seminary. So he was able to combine his previous training in viticulture with the study of the Word and did some tremendous work on the background for John 15. Many of us are reliant upon his work because it was so beneficial. It really helped to understand this particular process.

 

In the first verse we realize that there are three types of branches that are in the passage. There is the non-fruit bearing branch. There is the fruit-bearing branch in the second part of verse 2. Then down in verse 6 there is a non-abiding branch. Now there are those who come along and they think that the non-fruit bearing branch, as well as the non-abiding branch, are both unbelievers. They would take the word that I translated lifted up (many versions KJ, NKJ, and NIV translate this as takes away or cuts off) and take that to indicate that there is either a loss of salvation or that they never were truly saved. That is the basic problem that we have in terms of understanding and interpreting the imagery in John 15:1-6. 

 

Last time I pointed out several things that you should be aware of to understand the imagery. I have revamped it and added a few things. If you have got those notes I am going to go through those again. I have 8 observations here.

 

  1. The vinedresser is the Father. The Father has been mentioned some 23 times in the context already. Remember the context. It starts on the night before Jesus goes to the cross. He is with the 12 disciples in the Upper Room and He is washing their feet. In that process He talks to Peter about the fact that he needed to have his feet washed.

 

Peter says, "No Lord, You are not going to wash my feet." 

 

The Lord said, "Yes, if you don't let me wash your feet then you don't have any inheritance, any role or any portion with Me."

 

The technical word there is meros indicating an inheritance portion.   

 

Peter said, "Well Lord, wash all of me." 

 

The Lord said, "No, you are already clean." 

 

The key word there – it is the same word we are going to see in verse 3 - already cleaned indicating everybody there was already saved. 

 

He says, "All of you are clean except one." 

 

Of course that is Judas. Then there is the episode where He hands the sop to Judas and Judas leaves. Eleven remain. Those 11 are all believers. From that point on (the middle of chapter 13) Jesus is addressing 11 believers. I think that is very important to the understanding of this passage. Jesus isn't talking to a mixed group of unbelievers and believers. He is not talking to a group of unbelievers. The focus is not helping them understand how to be saved, how to be justified. They are already saved and justified. He is talking to them about how to maintain a relationship with Him once He leaves. That is the whole focus of the middle of John 13 through the high priestly prayer in John 17. He is giving them Church Age truth. He is going to be going to the cross the next day. He talks about His relationship with the Father. He talks about the Father sending another Comforter. He talks about the Holy Spirit coming. The Holy Spirit will lead them into all truth and guide them and direct them. Here He talks about their future relationship with Him. So the Father has already been mentioned 23 times. In this context the Father is presented in terms of one who is particularly, intimately involved with them and has a personal caring relationship for them. It is not some sort of abstract deity out there in the outer reaches of the universe somewhere.

  1. The vine is a grape vine. The hills along the Kidron Valley outside of Jerusalem would be lined with grape vines at this time. What time of the year is it? It is the night before Passover. It is the spring. It is very important to understand that in terms of the analogy that the Lord is going to use here.
  2. God supernaturally designed the vine to teach things just as He did with sheep. There are a lot of these creation analogies that you find that are used in the Scripture because God knew what He was going to do ahead of time. 

 

He said, "Okay, I have got to illustrate certain principles so I am going to create an animal or a plant that is going to have certain characteristics so that I can use that to illustrate doctrinal principles." 

 

So the vine is useless for anything other than what it produces. You can't use it for firewood. You can't use it in building furniture. You can't go out and build a home out of it. It is pretty much useless except for what it produces for the benefit of the vinedresser.

  1. Another thing about the grape vine is that the plants will last the vinedresser for years, for decades. Those same plants, if they are not destroyed by a disease or something else, he goes back to and he gets to know them. According to what Gary Erickson writes each plant - some plants may seem hardier than other plants. If you care about gardens at all whether it is flowers or whether you are growing a vegetable garden, you know that some plants just seem to survive everything and others seem very frail or weak just like people. Every plant is different. The grape vines are very different. The vinedresser learns their characteristics and deals with each one on an individual basis.
  2. The purpose for planting the vine, which is where life begins (important analogy there), is equivalent to salvation. If planting is equivalent to salvation, the purpose for planting the vine is to produce fruit. Ephesians 2:10 is a verse that many of us don't pay particular attention to. We know that two previous verses.

 

NKJ Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

 

NKJ Ephesians 2:9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

 

Close the Bible. But the next verse starts off with the explanatory word in the Greek gar meaning to explain why this has happened, why we have this salvation by grace through faith. 

 

NKJ Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

 

There is the same idea where we see this picture of God as a worker, a vinedresser. We are His workmanship. 

 

To sit in Bible class and take notes for the rest of our lives? No. 

 

NKJ 1 John 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

 

Now I know this may be asking too much for everybody tonight to hold on to one phrase there but we will get back to it next week. That is the concept of walking in them. We are immediately talking about the Christian life. The word walk in the Scripture, the Greek word peripateo is used as a metaphor for living - that step-by-step, day-to-day course of life that we have. So we are created for a purpose. We are regenerated for a purpose and that is that God has prepared good works, service that we should walk in them.

  1. Only mature plants produce fruit. 

 

You get into these discussions sometimes with people who say, "I don't know. So-and-so wasn't saved. I didn't see any fruit in his life." 

 

Wait a minute. What do you mean by fruit? Only a mature plant produces fruit. Only a mature Christian produces fruit. We just mess up our terminology. Immature plants are supposed to grow first. You go through a lengthy stage of growth. It produces the basic stem growth. Leaves come out and the branches. It takes time before there is any fruit production. If something along the way stifles the growth, then you never get to fruit production. 

 

So many people think, "Well, I didn't see any fruit." 

 

They don't know what fruit is either. There is a lot of confusion on just exactly what fruit is. We will get to that when we get to Galatians 5.  It has to do with character. It takes time for there to be a transformation of character. That is the fruit of the Spirit – Galatians 5:21-22.

  1. Fruit must be distinguished from the growth of the plant. A lot of times growth can be imperceptible – you don't see things going on. Sometimes it can be quite perceptible. 
  2. The quality of the fruit is dependent upon the nourishment of the plant - just what goes into it. How many of you enjoy getting those pink colored hard tomatoes down at the grocery store? You can't wait until your neighbor who has a couple of tomato plants has some extras and brings them over because their flavor is so much better. They have been putting a lot of Miracle Grow on them and watering them and nurturing them. They produce great fruit. You know the difference. It is so hard today to find a decent tasting peach. Have you noticed that? You get really good peaches somewhere you realize that you never see anything that is softer than a hard ball at the grocery store. It has to do with the time you pick it and also nourishment and water and all of these other factors that go into the plant. The same is true for the believer. There are a lot of believers who don't get the right nourishment in terms of the teaching of the Word of God. Of course we all have the same potential but what is supplied is different in terms of our experience.

 

That is some introductory material that we went over last time.

 

Now we get into verse one and we read…

 

NKJ John 15:1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

 

Jesus tells us what the symbols represent. Now that is important in Scripture because when it comes to interpretation God doesn't expect us to go into our closet and contemplate our naval to figure out what the symbols mean. The Scriptures always interpret themselves. 

 

Jesus is the vine.  The Father is the vinedresser.

 

NKJ John 15:2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

 

This is where we get into the discussion I pointed out last time over interpretation. I will briefly run through the options. 

 

Option #1

 

Some people will say that unfruitful means that this is not a true believer because they weren't genuinely saved. I pointed out last time that category of a professing believer is non-existent in the Scripture. You have professing Christians, but that is different. I really want to emphasize this and make sure that you understand the difference. I can say that I am a Christian because I go to the Metho-Baptist-Presbyterian Church, but that doesn't mean I am really saved. That is making a profession of being a Christian. That is different from saying that I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have just professed faith in Christ. When you read the literature on this it is easy (or if you get into discussions with somebody) if you don't define these terms to slip and slide. It gets messy. They go from one side to the other. Everybody believes that there are professing Christians. As soon as they start talking about professing Christians, the next thing that you know what they are really talking about is a professing believer. A professing believer is someone who is saved.

 

Option #2

 

The branches that are taken away represent believers that lose their salvation. Of course we know that is not true. 

 

Option #3

 

The unfruitful branches are Christians who will experience divine discipline in time (both positively and negatively) and lose rewards in eternity. When we look at the unfruitful Christian in verse 1 (the branch in Me that does not bear fruit) what we will see is that this can be an immature believer who hasn't matured yet to the point that he is producing fruit. That is where understanding viticulture of the day helps understand the principle.

 

Another exegetical point is that John uses this phrase "in Me" in a different way than Paul uses the phrase "in Christ." I went through this last time. "In Me" is used some 16 times in the New Testament. When it involves persons in the Godhead it always speaks about their intimate relationship. It is not just a positional reality. "In Me" indicates fellowship.   

 

Now what we have in these verses starting in verse 2, Jesus says "in every branch in Me".   

 

You notice that there is something left out there. Let me read these to you and you listen to what I say – every time you hear "in Me" in this passage.

 

Vs. 2  Every branch in Me.

 

Vs. 4  Abide in Me and I in you...unless you abide in Me.

 

Vs. 5  He who abides in Me

 

Vs 6  Anyone who does not abide in Me

 

Vs 7  Abide in Me...My words abide in you

 

So every time we have the phrase "in Me" with the exception of verse 2, what else is there? Did you hear it? The verb abide. Every place. Six times you have "in Me" in the passage. Only one of them does not have abide. In that first usage abide is ellipsized. Here is a good word for you. It is elided. Don't you love that? I just love learning a new word. Ellipsis is when a word is left out. That's a noun. Ellipsized is not the correct term. It is elided. At least you have learned something when you leave here tonight.

 

So the word that is elided in verse 2 is abide. "Every branch abiding in Me." It is understood from the context that at the very beginning when He says, Every branch in Me, he is talking about every branch abiding in Me. It is just that it is left out. You find this many times in literature and in language. It is understood from the context that he is talking about a branch that is abiding. So the concept of "in Me" throughout this section is a term that is related to and emphasizes fellowship. We see this in other passages in the same context in John. 

 

NKJ John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

 

The believer only has peace when he is in fellowship with God. When he is not in fellowship with God, he doesn't have that peace. We see this in our chart. We have positional reality in Christ when we are baptized by the Spirit.   

 

Then we have an ongoing relationship with Jesus. When we disobey Him when we sin then we are out of fellowship and we are walking in darkness. We are not walking in the light anymore. Then we confess our sin and of course we are back in fellowship. The principle is to maintain that ongoing walking by the Spirit, which we are going to see here is tantamount to abiding in the Spirit. How do we know that? Let me give you a preview of where we are going here. Look down to verse 5.

 

NKJ John 15:5 "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.

 

Does what? Bears much fruit. So what is the sole and necessary condition for producing fruit in John 15:5, the one thing that you have to have to produce fruit?  It is "abiding in Me." If you don't abide, you don't produce fruit. So you have two types of believers – abiding believers who produce fruit and then what we will see in verse 6 is the branch that doesn't abide, that doesn't produce fruit. Of course you all know that the key passage that talks about fruit production is over in Galatians 5 – the fruit of the Spirit. What is the sole and necessary condition in Galatians 5:16-25 for fruit production? Walking by the Spirit. If Paul says you have to walk by the Spirit in order to produce fruit and you can't produce fruit unless you are walking by the Spirit and Jesus says you have to "abide in Me" in order to produce fruit and if you don't "abide in Me" you don't produce fruit - what is the relationship between walking by the Spirit and abiding in Christ? They are the same thing. They are looking at it from the role of the Spirit in Galatians 5 and the role of Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity in the spiritual life in John 15. But they are tantamount to the same thing. If you are walking by the Spirit, you are abiding in Christ. 

 

We go to Ephesians 5 from about verse 3 down to verse 7. There is a textual problem there. In the NASB and NIV and some others it says walking in the light but in the majority text it says walking in the Spirit. If you walk in the light or walk in the Spirit depending on how you take that (we will look at that later) you produce what? Truth and righteousness. It is the fruit of the Spirit again.

 

You go down a few more verses later in Ephesians 5 and you come to verse 18 and it says...   

 

NKJ Ephesians 5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,

 

You see what I am doing here is connecting dots by comparing Scriptures. We are looking at this concept of fruit production from Hebrews 6. We are going to tie all of these things together to show that the indispensable reality in fruit production is having that ongoing fellowship with the Godhead. When we are in right relationship with the Godhead (abiding in Christ and walking by the Spirit and applying the Word), then the result is that fruit is produced in our lives. That fruit is defined in Galatians 5:21-23 as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness. All of this is character. The character Christ that is being produced in us as our mentality is being transformed - Romans 12:2. That pulls all of these different things together. That is where we are headed.

 

In John 15:2 we read…

 

NKJ John 15:2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

 

The Greek word here is the word airo. It is a present active indicative. It represents the action at that particular time. The vinedresser lifts it up. Of course we have a controversy over this whether airo should be understood as lifting up or as some people take it as cutting away or taking away. In the Gospel of John the word airo is used 24 times. In 10 of the 24 times it means to lift up. The other 14 times it means to cut away. So it could be either one. It is used in conjunction here with another verb, kathairo. Do you see the similarity in the two words, airo and kathairoKathairo is the word translated pruning dealing with the branch that bears fruit. So, "every branch that does not bear fruit – airo

"Every branch that does bear fruit – kathairoKathairo is the root airo plus the Greek preposition kata attached to it which intensifies it. What is interesting is that kathairo is related to the katharizo which is where we get our English word cauterized, and it means to purify or to cleanse. 

That is the word that we find in I John 1:9.

 

NKJ 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

 

Do you see how I am connecting the dots here? Everybody is looking real intense – like you are lost. I am tying things together here. It is stringing it all together. That is showing the comparison of Scripture with Scripture. 

 

What Jesus says here is that every branch abiding "in Me" that does not bear fruit He either takes it away or lifts it up. RK Harrison argues that technically airo that we find here in this passage comes from the root that means to lift and does not come from a similar verb aireo, which means to take away. He argues that this was the word used in an agriculture context. Kathairo definitely was. There is clear indication in contemporary first century literature that when the laborers who went out into the field and pruned the branches the word that was used in the agriculture literature was kathairo. But Jesus is also using it because it is a play on words and sounds like airo. It also relates to the whole concept of cleansing and purification that has to take place in the believer's life in order for fruit to be produced. There has to be ongoing forgiveness of sins. He is being very economical in his use of words. It is doing triple duty.   

 

Now Pliny the Elder (I have mentioned him before) was a Roman naturalist. We only have one work that survives of his writings and that is his book on natural science. In that book he gives us a description of what was the typical practice of pruning in the ancient world.  He says…

 

Thus there are two kinds of main branches; the shoot which comes out of the hard timber and promises wood for the next year is called a leafy shoot.

 

What he is describing here is the main trunk of the vine. It is going to put out a branch. This promises that next year (this year it is not producing any fruit) if it is allowed to grow it will thicken up and it will produce for next year. So it has that promise of production for next year. It is too young to produce fruit this year.

 

or else when it is above the scar

 

The scar would be caused because the Romans introduced the concept of taking the grape vine and tying it up to a trellis. Before that the Jews would sort of let it trail along the ground or they would prop it up with a rock. The Romans introduced the idea of using a trellis to tie up the branches of the vine up so that there would be greater air-flow, the dew would evaporate more quickly, there would be less loss and rotting of the fruit.

 

It is a fruit-bearing shoot, whereas the other kind of shoot that springs from a year-old branch is always a fruit-bearer. There is also left underneath the cross-bar a shoot called the keeper- this is a young branch not longer than three buds, which will provide wood next year if the vines luxurious growth has used itself up. Another shoot next to it the size of a wart and called the pilferer is also left in case the keeper shoot should fail.

 

So what he is saying here is describing the fact that there are two or three different kinds of branches depending on their location on the basic stem that would come out and were left. They weren't cut off. They were lifted up and supported so that they would grow and be stronger and next year they would produce fruit.  

 

One other point - that kind of pruning took place in the spring. What time of year is it? It is the spring. One of the things that Derickson points out is that there were two different times of the year when a vine would be pruned. There is a major pruning that takes place in the fall as the plant is going dormant for the winter and then there was this other kind of pruning that sort of cleaned things up for fruit production during the summer. They would cut up the suckers that were basically pulling away a lot of energy away from the plant and not allowing that energy to go into the fruit. So what this is talking about is that every one who is not in Me does not bear fruit, he lifts up. That is what they would do. They would come along and cut off these suckers and lift up or support these branches that would not produce fruit this year but they would for the next year. That is analogous to the young immature believer who hasn't grown enough to produce fruit. So this is the process showing how God comes along and encourages the young believer and as it were props them up and encourages them so that as they continue to grow then down the road they will be able to produce fruit. It is completely inconsistent to think that this is either the loss of salvation or one that wasn't truly saved because Jesus clearly says the branch is in Him. No matter what else you do you have that the branch is "in Him." So this indicates the young believer.

 

Then the next phrase is "every branch that bears fruit." So we have a branch that doesn't bear fruit but is abiding. Then we have a branch that bears fruit - He prunes it. This is a word that is used for cutting back the suckers and other little leaves and stuff that will take energy from the fruit that is already there. He uses the word kathairo for pruning. Now if you look in your Bibles down to verse 3, there is a play on words there. In verse 3 you have the noun "you are already clean" - katharos

 

Now this is a word that is really packed with meaning because this is the same word that Jesus used back in John 13:10 where Jesus says to Peter...

 

NKJ John 13:10 Jesus said to him, "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you."

 

You all (second person plural) are clean, but not all of you. Why weren't they all clean? It was not because they hadn't taken a bath, but because Judas had not been expelled from their midst yet. So he is talking about the fact that they are all clean. 

 

This is synonymous with saying, "You are all believers; you are all positionally cleansed."

 

We go back to John 15:2 we find this word used (the verb form) that every branch He prunes that's talking about that ongoing cleansing when we confess our sins that ongoing cleansing that allows fruit to continue to be produced as we grow so that every branch that bear fruit He prunes so that it may bear more fruit. So you have different levels of fruit production. You have every branch that bears fruit. It is going to be pruned so that it may bear more fruit. Then later on we are going to run into the branch that bears much fruit. So every believer is going to differ in the amount of fruit that is produced. Some are going to produce more fruit. Some are going to produce much fruit. It kind of reminds you of the parable of the soils in Matthew and in Luke where the soil that produces at the end - some 10-fold, some 20-fold, and some 100 fold. So you have different levels of production in the believer's life. 

 

Then we come to verse 4. Now we get the mandate. He has given us the analogy in verses 1 and 2 and now he gives a mandate and addresses the disciples directly with a second person plural imperative – abide in Me. It is a present imperative indicating on-going abiding. This is what is to characterize a believer's life as standard operating procedure. 

 

NKJ John 15:4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

 

Now let me add something. One of the things that happens when you read especially the lordship literature is they want abide to be semantically equivalent to the word faith – that the one who abides is the one who believes in Jesus. He is saved. They make it positional. But if it is positional all you have to do is test your hypothesis by doing a little word substitution.

 

Believe in Me and I believe in you.

 

Why would Jesus want to believe in me? This doesn't even make sense. You can't substitute faith for abiding and have any of this make sense. 

 

Believe in me and I believe in you as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it believes in the vine. 

 

Or later on when we get down verse 7. "If you believe in Me, and My words believe in you."

 

It doesn't make sense to take "abiding" as a synonym for belief. So it is relational. Jesus said that we are to have an intimate abiding in Him. 

This isn't positional. This isn't abstract. This is talking about having a rich deep ongoing personal rapport with the Lord Jesus Christ and it is reciprocal. "Abide in Me and I in you." It is a two-way road here. It is not simply I am gong to be in fellowship with the Lord. That is another aspect of this. This is talking about the fact that there is a vine analogy. There is stuff going on between the branch and the vine. It is a reciprocal relationship.

 

So Jesus says…

 

NKJ John 15:4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

 

Now this is important. The branch cannot bear fruit on its own. The spiritual life is a supernatural life that goes far beyond morality. This is one of the hardest things for a lot of Christians to catch. The Christian life isn't about being good and being moral. It's not about being immoral either. It is about walking by means of the Spirit. He is the one who produces the real Christian virtue and integrity in the individual's life. It is not a matter of going out and pulling yourself up by your moral boot straps and you have been a drunk or a drug addict or you have been immoral or you have been a liar and now you are going to turn over a new leaf because you have been saved and you are going to live better. It isn't going to work. Paul tried it in Romans 7. He couldn't get anywhere until he realized the dynamic of living by the Holy Spirit in Romans 8. Jesus is pointing out here that you can't do it on your own. The branch has to have that direct nourishing relationship with the vine. 

 

NKJ John 15:4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

 

Unless we are abiding in Christ there is no Christian life; there is no fruit production, there is no growth, there is no nourishment. Nothing happens. Then he goes on to explain this a little more. He is going to go back to the basic principle. 

 

NKJ John 15:5 "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.

 

That is the sole and exclusive condition here for producing fruit. What is producing fruit? It is the manifestation of the character of Christ from a mature plant, from a mature believer. Then in verse 6 he uses a third class conditional if. Remember the Greek has different ways of expressing "if". If and it is probably so. That is a first class condition. If and it is probably not so. That is a second class condition. It and it could be either way. That is a true hypothetical.

 

NKJ John 15:6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

 

You may or you may not. It emphasizes the individual's volition of the believer. It is up to you whether or not you are going to abide in Christ. 

 

This is judgment. This is divine discipline. This is what happens in the fall pruning process. In the fall after the fruit has been produced then the workers come out and cut off the branches that are old, the branches that didn't bear fruit. They trim up the plants to prepare it for that dormancy period. After they have cleaned everything up they pile it up and they burn it in the field. That is what Jesus is talking about. It is the imagery of what was actually happening in the field. They would take all of the dead branches and stumps and rotten branches and everything else and pile it up. They would burn it. 

 

Remember I used a quote from Pliny in relationship to Hebrews 6: 7-8 where it talks about burning there as a sign of judgment. He said that after the harvest everything in the field would be burned. There are certain chemicals that come from burning, that come from the ashes of the fire that then go back and provide nourishment for the soil. It cleanses the soil so that next year it can produce even more fruit. So this is part of that process. It is not to be understood when he says that they are gathered and thrown into the fire and burned that this is the Lake of Fire. It is simply talking about judgment or discipline on the unfruitful believer for failing to be fruitful.   

 

Then in verse 7 he says…

 

NKJ John 15:7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

 

Third class condition again. 

 

It impacts your prayer life. It is the same principle that you have over in Psalm 66:18. 

 

NKJ Psalm 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.

 

If you don't regard iniquity in your heart - if you are in fellowship then the Lord will hear you. That is what Jesus is saying in verse 7 – if you are in fellowship with Him then there is genuine communication in prayer. 

 

As we come to verse 7 he uses this word abide which has been the key word all the way through this section. It is used 10 times in 6 verses. 

Fruit was used 6 times in 6 verses. So what is he talking about? It is really easy to figure out just from the proportion of the words used there. It is abiding for the purpose of fruit production. 

 

Then he concludes in verse 8 saying….

 

NKJ John 15:8 "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

 

A disciple is something that goes beyond just being a believer. A lot of people get confused on that. They think that the qualifications for being a disciple are the same as for getting into heaven but Jesus makes a distinction between what is required to get into heaven (in other words what is required to be saved which is trusting in Christ) and what is required to go beyond that which is discipleship. Discipleship has conditions upon it. You have to do things. Jesus said in Luke…

 

NKJ Luke 9:23 Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

 

That is not talking about getting saved; it is talking about being a disciple. 

 

The word disciple from the Greek word methetes means to be a learner, someone who wants to acquire knowledge and skill in the knowledge, someone who wants to go beyond simply being in the family.  He wants to be a mature productive member of the family and glorify God. It is related to bearing much fruit. It is not related to the branch that does not bear fruit. 

 

So when we come to this chapter, we can plug what we learned into Hebrews 6, Let's wrap this up.

 

NKJ Hebrews 6:7 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God;

 

NKJ Hebrews 6:8 but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.

 

That is the same concept of bearing fruit whether it is bearing fruit, more fruit or much fruit. It is the concept of bearing fruit as a result of abiding. The whole concept of drinking in the rain that comes upon it is that concept of abiding. The contrast is to the soil that bears thorns and briars. That's the branch that is not abiding and doesn't produce fruit. Here it is producing thorns and briars and is disqualified and near to being cursed. It is showing it that it is on the verge of receiving divine judgment whose end it to be burned. That is simply the agricultural reality that such soil would be burned in order to clear it off and prepare it for production. It is not talking about judgment. It is part of the illustration. 

 

So now that we have looked at John 15, we have a good understanding of what those dynamics are to produce spiritual fruit. We have to abide in Christ. It is connected to not only to abiding in Him but letting "My words abide in you". So it is not just a matter of saying I am going to have a good relationship with Jesus and I am going to be in fellowship with the Lord, but the other part of the equation is I have to let His words have that ongoing relationship and impact in me. It is not about getting into fellowship; it is about staying there. That is what abide means. Meno means to stay, remain, to stay someplace. It is not just about getting in fellowship. All 1 John 1:9 is, is a grace recovery tool.   

 

It gets up back to the place where production can take place. It doesn't produce anything. This is one of the problems I think people get into. 

 

They think, "As long as I confess my sin." 

 

I had somebody tell me not long ago…

 

"Well, I just keep short accounts with God.  I keep confessing my sins."

 

I looked at this guy's life and he just keeps committing the same sins over and over again. He never changes anything in his life. He thinks that everything is going to be fine because he keeps confessing it. There is no application. There is no abiding. He is just like a yo-yo bouncing in and out all day long. You think because at the end of the day you confess your sin you can go through the same process and live the same life and do it all the same way tomorrow, but you aren't going to get anywhere.  If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you've always got. You aren't going to get anywhere in the Christian life except bounce back and forth in and out of fellowship. It's not about getting in fellowship. John 15 tells us it is about staying in fellowship. And Galatians is going to tell us that it is about walking by the Spirit. We will get there next week.