Sunday, February 07, 2010

SOME THOTS ON JOHN 15:1-13

INTRODUCTION

In my spiritual experience I have heard the following scripture passage interpreted in several ways. Let us look at these verses and see what they actually say.

THE TEXT

I will use the New King James Version of the Bible rendering of this passage.

John 15:1-13



1“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
2Every 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.
3You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
4Abide 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.
6If 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.
7If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
8By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
9“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.
10If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
11“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.



COMMENT

The term that is translated “prune” (NKJV) in verse two is the Greek term “kathairo”. It is translated “purge” in the KJV. It literally means, to cleanse or prune. The determining element stated in this passage is that each “branch” bears “fruit” (vs 2, 4, 5, 8). Without defining what this “fruit” is, if a branch produces SOME fruit, it is “purged” – cleansed or pruned – so that it will produce more fruit. If the branch does not produce ANY fruit, it is “taken away” – removed from the vine – Christ (vs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

The Greek word translated "takes away" (v 2) is "aheero", which means, to lift, to take up, take away, remove.

It should be pointed out here that verse three of chapter 15 states that the disciples were “already cleansed by the word” spoken to them. The bearing of fruit is presented as a function of God working through each of them over time(vs 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) hence, the emphasis that each of them “abide” in the vine. Stated another way, they should stay put and God will work through them to produce more fruit (v 2).

A key concept in this scripture is the term "abide". The word "abide" is used eight times in this passage (vs 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10). Every time it is translated from the Greek word, "meno", which means, to stay, to continue, to dwell, to endure, to be present, to remain, to stand, or tarry. Thus, we are urged to "abide in me (Christ)" (v 4a, c, 5, 6, 7), "abide in the vine" (v 4b), And to have Christ's words abide in us (v 7). We are also encouraged to "abide in [Christ's] love" (v 8, 9, 10).

Failure to stay pure by virtue of our salvation from sin, and obey the commands of God and his word, to grow and produce fruit, leads to backsliding and removal from the vine.

Interestingly, Jesus turns a corner in verse 7. He ties staying in the vine ("abide in me") with obedience ("my words abide in you") and links them with answered prayer. Thus, one way to ensure that our prayers are answered as we desire is to build a long-term relationship with God/Christ.

Verse 8 takes these concepts a step further and relates our bearing of fruit to glorifying God. This verse also gives a definition of a "disciple" - one who bears much fruit and thereby glorifies God.

In verse 9, Jesus goes a step further. He associates love, obedience and abiding with him. God has expressed his love to Christ. Christ has expressed his love to his disciples in a way similar to the way God did to him. We are encouraged to remain in his love. From this we can see that it is assumed that part of love is a bond between two individuals. This bond creates an attraction between the two such that they want to be physically close to each other. This implies a desire to become more aligned spiritually and morally. And that implies a behavioral likeness, as well. Thus, we will become more like God/Christ.

In verse 10, Jesus restates these concepts and clearly presents the linkage between keeping his commandments and love. This definition stayed with John because he repeats a similar thought in 1 John 5:2-3. We demonstrate our love for God/Christ by obeying ("keeping") his commandments.

Verse 11 ties the concept of joy with abiding in the vine, and keeping the commandments of God. Jesus specifies that the joy goes two ways. We have a joy from Christ and we possess our own joy. From this we see that joy is both a gift and a human reaction.

The Greek word that is translated "joy" in both instances is "kharah". It means, cheerfulness, calm delight, gladness, joy. From this we get a picture, not of laughter or strong outward expressions of pleasure or amusement, but, rather, a more subdued pleased contentment. And something or a circumstance that provides a long-term environment of pleasure, will induce us to remain there and "abide".

So in these last three verses, he has linked stability, obedience, love, and joy.

Some teachers see a spiritual/moral cleansing in a "second work of grace" tied to the term "prune" or "purge" in this passage. For those who embrace the second work view, the term “purge” here means an instantaneous moral/spiritual cleansing after initial conversion. This takes place in the "soul" or "heart" of the person. What is removed is variously called a "carnal nature", "adamic nature", "fallen nature", or the "old man" which we inherited from Adam. A careful reading of these verses will reveal nothing to support any of these concepts.

While there are many references in the Bible to the utterly total, helpless moral depravity of all people (Romans 3:23), there are no scriptures that clearly link this situation to Adam. This passage alludes to this situation also (vs 4, 5). Certainly, many passages in the Old and New Testament do, indeed, present the concept of a moral/spiritual cleansing event. That event is conversion (1 John 1:9).

Rather than this scripture passage being a picture of a second spiritual/moral cleansing of a carnal/perverted nature inherited from Adam, this is more clearly a picture of obedience, stability and progressive growth in spiritual matters. The keys to our successful progress in the Christian life and the attainment of heaven in the end are contained in this passage, where we are urged to stay with Jesus/God, the vine (vs 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10), and produce the fruit of obedience (v 7), love (v 9) and joy (v 11).