Jesus Is Coming: What Happens When You Don’t Bear Fruit? John 15:1-10 – Once Saved.org
 

Jesus Is Coming: What Happens When You Don’t Bear Fruit? John 15:1-10

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In this lesson, I’m taking a break from my Foundation series, where I go through just one verse of Scripture, and instead we’ll look at a longer passage in John, chapter 15, on Jesus’ teaching of the vine and the branches. We’ll examine what happens to a saved believer who does not bear fruit for Christ, and then show you how to become the most fruitful Christian for Jesus that you could ever be. Let’s look into it.

Here’s the passage from John, chapter 15. Jesus is speaking to His disciples right after they celebrated the Passover meal and literally moments before Judas betrayed Jesus and He was led to the cross. Jesus said:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”
(John 15:1-10 NASB95)

To understand the meaning of this story and what Jesus was saying, let’s look at it in context, beginning with the theme, setting and purpose.

The theme refers to the main reason why Jesus told this parable. And the theme is spiritual maturity, how to bear fruit for Christ. This parable is not about salvation at all but about maturity.

And when we look at the setting, it becomes clear why this theme is so important.

For the setting, think of this as part of Jesus’ last words of instruction to His disciples prior to the cross. Jesus spoke these words right after the Passover meal and right before His betrayal would take place, followed by His  suffering on the cross. He was speaking to His disciples, minus Judas who had already left to go and betray Him.

The purpose of this teaching was to prepare His disciples on how they need to be spiritually mature, so that they could go forth after He left them, bear the most fruit and complete their mission of taking the Gospel to the world. So this teaching is all about spiritual maturity and how to bear the most fruit for God.

If we look at the outline of this parable, we see that there are three parts.

First, Part 1 is the Introduction, where we see Jesus being introduced as the True Vine and the Father as the Vinedresser.

In Part 2, we see three kinds of people and God’s response. Many people who have tried to interpret this parable have contended that there are only two types of people here: Saved believers that do not bear fruit and saved believers that do bear fruit. But I’ll prove to you that there’s a third type of person described here, which is the unsaved. We’ll examine these three types and how God responds to each of them.

And then there’s Part 3: The Conclusion, where Jesus gives an imperative to His disciples that they are to keep His commandments so that they may abide in His love. We’ll look at what that imperative means and what it does not mean. For the sake of space, I left off verses 7-9, but I’ll add those back in when we examine the conclusion.

So let’s go through each of these three parts, beginning with Part 1: Introduction.

In Part 1, we are introduced to the central character, namely, the Vinedresser. There’s no mystery over who this is. Jesus tells us plainly that the Father is the Vinedresser. The Vinedresser is the Farmer, the Owner of the vineyard. He is the One who reaps the harvest. He is the One who tends the vineyard so that it may bear fruit. He is the One who makes the vineyard grow. He is the One who prunes and takes away.

And He has one objective: To produce lots of good fruit!

Second, we see that Jesus is the Vine. But not just any vine. He said that He is the True Vine. This is very significant.

Throughout the Old Testament, God described Israel as His choice vineyard. This image of Israel being God’s vineyard was ingrained into the mind of every Israeli Jew. As soon as you mentioned the word, “vineyard,” every Jew would think, “Israel.” This image was so significant that the Temple itself was decorated to remind Israel that they were God’s vineyard, as we see from the writings of Josephus:

From writings of Josephus, War 5:207-211

“The holy Temple …was covered with gold…and the surroundings of the inner gate all gleaming with gold…It had, moreover, above it those golden vines, from which depended grape clusters as tall as a man…”

As God’s chosen vineyard, Israel was to bear fruit by obeying God, glorifying Him and displaying the goodness of God to the world. But instead of doing this and producing good fruit, Israel was the FAILED vineyard that produced only bad fruit.

The central problem was that the Jews thought they were the “True Vine” in God’s vineyard simply because they were children of Abraham. But Jesus came and said that He is the True Vine. He is the True Israel.

Jesus is the One Who fulfilled the Law, glorified God and displayed God’s goodness to the world. Jesus is the True Vine Who succeeded where Israel failed.

As a side note, I think it’s important to point out that Jesus, as the True Vine, came only to Israel. He did not come to the Gentiles at all. For Jesus said in Matthew 15:

“… I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24 KJV)

It wasn’t until the ministry of Paul that salvation was brought to the Gentiles. And interestingly, Paul also spoke of Israel as branches that were broken off. In this case, Paul used the analogy of a fig tree, which throughout the Old Testament also referred to Israel. Paul said in Romans, chapter 11:

“…some of the branches were broken off (unbelieving Israel), and you, being a wild olive (Gentiles), were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich Root (Christ)…” (Romans 11:17 NASB95)

“…they (unbelieving Israel) were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.” (Romans 11:20-21 NASB95)

So interestingly, we see here a clear reason why a branch would be broken off. Paul said Israel was not broken off because they failed to obey God’s commandments. Nor were they broken off because they failed to produce fruit. They did fail to obey God’s commandments and did fail to produce fruit, but these were only the outward signs of the true problem. What was the true problem? Paul lists one and only one reason for branches being broken off: unbelief.

I think we have our first clue what it means to not be a branch or to be cut off as a branch. Let’s keep going.

So to wrap up the introduction, Jesus, as the True Vine, succeeded where Israel failed. He fulfilled the Law, glorified God and displayed God’s goodness to the entire world, while Israel was the branch broken off because of unbelief and the gentiles grafted in.

This brings us to Part 2, where Jesus describes three types of people. Let’s examine the first type of person: Saved believers that do NOT bear fruit. Verse 2:

“”Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away…” (John 15:2 NASB95)

This phrase, “branch in Me,” clearly shows that He’s talking about a saved believer who is “in Christ” and has a saving connection to Jesus. But we immediately see a problem: there’s no fruit in the believer’s life.  And we see the outcome: It says He, the Vinedresser or the Father, “takes away” that unfruitful believer.

But what does the phrase “takes away” mean? Incorrectly defining this term is the central reason why so many Christians have struggled over this teaching and come to wrong conclusions. Many who do not believe in eternal security falsely say that it teaches a saved believer can lose their salvation. It doesn’t. Let’s prove that by looking at what it means in the original Greek.

The term “takes away” is one word in the Greek. It is the  word airō, which has a threefold definition and usage. It means:

First, to raise up, elevate, to lift up, to raise from the ground.

Second, it also means to bear with, to take upon one’s self and carry what’s been raised up.

And then there’s a third meaning and usage: to remove, to carry off, and can mean to take from among the living, either by a natural death, or by violence, to cause to cease, to move from its place.

Here’s a screenshot of the Greek definition for this word from the Blue Letter Bible which, by the way, is one of the best resources for studying the Bible. I highly recommend it. You can find it at BlueLetterBible.org.

I won’t go through all of this. You can stop the video or go to the website if you want to read through this in detail. But the point is that this clearly shows three meanings for this word.

  • To raise up
  • To bear with
  • To remove, which can include natural death

This threefold definition accurately describes how God responds to an unfruitful Christian! And notice that there’s nothing in this expanded definition about how it could possibly mean casting someone into hell. It just speaks of raising up, bearing with or removing, in which the worst outcome listed is that of physical death.

Let’s look at how this threefold definition works.

First, if a saved Christian is being unfruitful, God’s first response will be to raise that person up. To understand what this means, we have to think of a vineyard.

If left on their own, the vine and branches in a vineyard would naturally grow along the ground, where they could be contaminated by insects, mold, and many things that would keep them from being fruitful. Plus, the branches would try to root into the ground instead of drawing nourishment from the vine. The common practice at that time, a practice that really hasn’t changed even today, is to raise the vine up, or lift them up, to where the branches that are to bear fruit cannot be contaminated by the ground. Neither can they then root into the ground, but must depend on the vine for nourishment.

At the time of Jesus, Israel was an agrarian society. The disciples knew the practices of a vinedresser and what vineyards looked like. As Jesus described how the Father, the Vinedresser, would raise up an unfruitful branch, they knew exactly what this meant and could picture it. What image do you think came into the minds of the disciples when Jesus said this? Perhaps this one.

Here’s a picture of an Israeli vineyard.

Notice the rows of crosses. The vinedresser would take the branches, raise them up and let them be supported by the cross. Psalm 27:

“For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.” (Psalm 27:5 NASB95)

Jesus is the Vine. We are the branches. On a day of trouble, where we become unfruitful because of sin or for any other reason, God will conceal us, place us, hide us and lift us up on a rock. And that Rock is Christ.

1 Corinthians 4:

“Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.” (1 Corinthians 6:14 NASB95)

Notice here that is it God’s power that raises us up, not our own obedience or bearing of fruit. A branch is lifted up by the Vinedresser so that it can bear fruit. God’s first response to a Christian that is struggling and failing to bear fruit is to lift him or her up.

Up to now, I’ve been speaking in imagery, including showing you this picture, but let’s get practical. How does God practically respond to a believer who is failing to bear fruit? Let’s take our threefold definition and get practical. We said the Greek meaning of the phrase “He takes away” is:

  • To raise up
  • To bear with, and
  • To remove

To understand how God responds, we have to understand the concept of free will. When we are saved, God does not eliminate our free will. Every saved believer still possesses free will where they could choose to walk away from God. So technically, every believer could possibly walk away from God and become lost. But what does God do to prevent that from ever happening. God has a number of methods or “means” to accomplish this, to keep each believer from drifting so far away that they become lost.

First, God will attempt to raise up the unfruitful believer. This is typically God’s initial approach and it is gentle in nature. It includes providing that believer with encouragement and teaching truth through His Word and warnings in His Word. That’s why those warnings are there. In some cases, a believer may experience dreams or visions where God is trying to correct them. God will use warnings and encouragement from other believers or teachings in the church. Or God uses the Body of Christ working in your life to raise you up from being unfruitful. God’s first response to an unfruitful Christian is to gently raise them up.

But second, if that gentle encouragement to raise up the believer doesn’t work, God begins to bear with the unfruitful believer. He begins to chasten and discipline the believer, allowing consequences of sin to happen. He can remove blessings such as health, allowing sickness and disease to occur. Paul told the Corinthian church that many of them had become sick and some died because they were partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.

God can use angels in our lives to correct us. Jesus also bears our struggles by being our Intercessor, offering prayers on our behalf to the Father. Or God may raise up other believers to pray on our behalf. If that doesn’t work, God begins to lift His protection from the believer, not only allowing things like sickness or the consequences of sin to happen, but possibly allowing spiritual oppression into our lives. The more we drift away from God, the more He lets us experience how bad it can get. God’s motive is not to punish us for our sin, which has been forever paid for on the cross. His motive is always to bring us back into a right and holy relationship. It is the picture of God’s perfect love.

Then finally: To Remove. 1 John 5:16 says that “there is a sin unto death” but he doesn’t list what that sin is. For Ananias and his wife Sapphira in Acts 5, it was not being truthful to the church. For some Corinthian believers, it was not celebrating the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner. Simply put: if a believer chooses to walk down a path of sin, he or she may reach a point where God has no choice but to end their lives before they become irretrievably lost. God will not let any of His children become lost for eternity and He will take them home early if that’s what it takes.

Pictured another way, here’s a chart showing the severity of God’s judgment or chastening as a Christian begins walking in disobedience. As a believer begins walking away from God toward sin, God starts by gently encouraging the believer to come back. If the believer continues to walk in sin, God will being warning the believer through Scripture, other believers and even dreams. If the disobedience continues, loss of blessings can occur, including allowing the believer to experience the consequences of sin. Gradually, God lifts His protection, possibly even allowing spiritual warfare to occur, to show the believer that they need to turn back. But if all that doesn’t work, God will not allow the believer to become eternally lost. Instead, He “takes away” the believer, ending their physical life and He takes them home early to be with Him.

This death does not include spiritual death, because all sins were paid for on the cross. We see this when Paul told the Corinthians:

“But when we (believers) are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should NOT BE CONDEMNED with the world.” (1 Corinthians 11:32 KJV)

Paul wouldn’t have said this if there was a possibility of a sinning believer being condemned. There isn’t.

In John chapter 6, Jesus said:

“This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.” (John 6:39 NASB95)

If it is the Father’s WILL that none will be lost, do you think He will fail to accomplish His will?

If Jesus SAID that none will be lost, which He did right here in this verse, shouldn’t we believe Him?

Now, a lot of those who do not believe in eternal security will tell you that Jesus only meant that He will not lose His disciples and that that’s what He was referring to. But when you look at this verse in context with the very next verse, it’s easy to see that Jesus was speaking about everyone, not just His disciples.

“This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that EVERYONE who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:39-40 NASB95)

Jesus was speaking of everyone who believes in Him, not just His disciples, and promising us that none will be lost.

So then what happens to unfruitful Christians after their lives on earth are over?

Aren’t there eternal consequences to a believer sinning in this life and not bearing fruit?

Yes, there most certainly are, but it doesn’t include the loss of salvation. To understand what those eternal consequences are, let’s first look at the timeline of events.

For the past 2,000 years, we have been in the Church Age, also called the “Age of Grace,” where God is patiently giving mankind the opportunity to turn to Him before His final judgment comes. The next big event, which should happen very soon, will be the rapture, where Christ removes saved believers from this earth before the final 7 year tribulation. That 7 year tribulation is about God dealing with Israel and the nations. It’s not about the church, which is why you don’t even see the church being mentioned in the book of Revelation after the tribulation starts. That’s because the church will not be here for those 7 years. The church will be removed, raptured or caught away in an instant to be with the Lord. When that happens, believers will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ where He will examine our works on earth. This will not be a review of sin in our lives, because sin has already been paid for on the cross. It will be a review of our works as believers and how we lived for Christ on earth.

So first, all believers must stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ where their works will be examined.

“For we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10 NASB95)

Second, all fruitful Christians, those who served Christ well on this earth, will be rewarded for faithful service, for bearing fruit.

“For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. (1 Corinthians 3:11-14 NASB95)

But for unfruitful Christians, those who did not serve Christ faithfully as believers on earth, their works will be burned up and eternal rewards will be lost.

“If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss;...” (1 Corinthians 3:15 NASB95)

This loss of rewards will not include the loss of salvation, for this verse goes on to say that the unfruitful Christian will still be saved “yet so as by fire.”

“If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:15 NASB95)

For those who are not fruitful in this life, it will feel like being saved as through fire, as Christ examines our works. But no one loses salvation at the Judgment Seat of Christ. There will only be rewards given and, for some, rewards lost.

What types of rewards are we talking about?

For starters, for those who are faithful in this life, Scripture promises that we will reign and rule with Christ.

“‘He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS;” (Revelation 2:26 NASB95)

Notice that there are two conditions for someone to receive this reward: overcoming and keeping Christ’s deeds until the end. Both are required.

To overcome means to be saved by faith in Christ alone.

“Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:5)

So the first condition for receiving this reward is to have saving faith. But the second condition is to keep Christ’s deeds until the end. This speaks of our obedience to Christ in this present life. Are we living obediently and serving him? The one who has saving faith plus obedience will be rewarded with authority in the next age. And in Luke 19, we see a glimpse of what this authority might look like:

“because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.“ (Luke 19:17)

Another eternal reward is that our eternal bodies will reflect our faithful service to Christ, some emanating the light of God more brightly depending on how obedient and faithful they were.

“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:2-3 NASB95)

This is all about rewards that will be given to believers for their faithfulness. This does not include salvation. Salvation and rewards are not the same.

Salvation is eternal life. It cannot be earned or lost, but is a free given, not a reward.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB95)

Salvation is based solely on believing in Jesus:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NASB95)

Rewards, on the other hand, are the rights, privileges, authority and glory that we can either earn or lose depending on our faithfulness to serve Christ in this life. Rewards are based solely on our obedience and faithfulness.

“And, behold, I (Jesus) come quickly; and My reward is with me, to give every man according as his work (fruit) shall be.” (Revelation 22:12 KJV)

This should encourage us to not settle for just being saved, but to bear fruit and earn rewards.

Lastly, getting back to this parable of the Vine and branches, I want to emphasize that verse 6 is NOT an outcome for a believer who does not bear fruit. 

“”If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” (John 15:6 NASB95)

Jesus did not put verse 2 and verse 6 together and neither should we. There are several proofs I can give on this.

First, Identity. In verse 2, the unfruitful Christian is called a “branch.” In verse 6, the person is never called a branch. Instead, it says “if anyone,” and it says the person is thrown away “as a branch.”  This is the Greek word hōs, which means “as it were, like.” It is treated as if it were a dried branch but it is never called a branch.

Second, there’s Relationship. In verse 2, the phrase “branch in Me” shows that an abiding, saving relationship exists. There is no indication that this branch ever stops abiding because there’s no fruit. And if you think about it, we abide in Christ because we believe, not because of fruit. Fruit is NOT what establishes or terminates an abiding connection with Jesus. In contrast, verse 6 clearly says “does not abide,” showing that no relationship with Christ exists.

Third, the Outcome is different between verse 2 and verse 6. In verse 2, it says “He takes away” the person. We’ve already looked at how this Greek word means raises up, bears with, or removes, with the worst outcome being physical death. In contrast, the outcome in verse 6 is that the person is “thrown away,” is “cast away.” This is the same word in Greek. It’s the word ballō, which means to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls. And from this description, we know that this person falls into hell and is burned.

Finally, there’s Possession. If I “take away” an object, who has the object? I do. But in verse 6, if I “throw away” or “cast away” an object, who has the object? Not me. I threw it away.

So verse 2 and verse 6 are entirely separate. They’re not connected. A believer will ALWAYS remain in the possession of the Lord, while an unbeliever will be separated from the Lord forever. Why did Christ put verse 6 in there then? To simply tell His disciples that they need to abide in Him to bear fruit. He was telling them, “Don’t be like the rest of the world, those who have no abiding relationship with Me. They’re on a path toward hell. You’re not. So to bear fruit, abide in Me!”

In conclusion, for saved believers that do not bear fruit, the phrase “branch in Me” in verse 2 shows that they are saved. The problem is no fruit. And the outcome is that He, the Father or Vinedresser, takes away, which means He first raises or lifts up by encouragement or teaching from His Word, then He bears with them, meaning He chastens and disciplines, but then if none of that works, He may remove the believer, physically putting them to death, although salvation will not be lost.

Let’s move on to the second type of person: Saved believers that bear fruit. And for these, it says the Vinedresser “prunes” them.

“…every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (John 15:2-3 NASB95)

In English, it doesn’t seem like these two sentences fit together. He’s talking about pruning and then abruptly says to His disciples that they are already clean because of His Word. It looks like two separate comments in English. But in Greek, it makes perfect sense and we see that it’s a play on words. For the words “prunes” and “clean” are the same word in Greek, meaning to cleanse. One is a verb and the other an adjective, but they are the same word.

So God’s response to a saved believer who is bearing fruit is to cleanse them even more, even though they are already clean. Pruning means “to cleanse.” How does God “cleanse” a believer? It says, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” So God cleanses us by washing us with His Word. We see this also in Ephesians 5:

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it (katharizō) with the washing of water by the Word, that he might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27 KJV)

God uses His Word to wash us in the truth and to wash away the dirt from this world. God’s Word is what keeps us centered in Christ and strengthens us to bear more fruit.

So let me ask you: If you are a Christian, are you cleansing yourself daily by being in God’s Word every day to keep the dirt of this world off of you? If you struggle with repeated sin, this is how you escape it and find freedom. You don’t fix repetitive sin by promising God to do better and trying harder. You fix it by transforming your mind with the Word of God. Being in God’s Word is the cure for repetitive sin.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2 NASB95)

The battle over sin is won or lost in the mind. The more we saturate our minds with the Word of God, the more we start to think like He does, until we get to a point where we start saying as Paul did:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NASB95)

Then righteousness becomes your new normal and sin the exception. Being in the Word of God daily is essential for bearing fruit. It leads us to the key for bearing fruit, which is abiding. Verse 4:

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine…” (John 15:4 NASB95)

The word “abide” is the Greek word “menō,”  which means to dwell, to wait for, to remain, to continue to be present, to endure.

From this definition, we can see that there are three elements to abiding:

  1. Connection (to dwell)
  2. Dependence (to wait for)
  3. Continuance (to remain, to continue, to endure)

Abiding as it relates to connection is used in reference to our salvation and it is constant, meaning it is not something we develop over time. The moment we believe in Christ, we are born again and God’s Holy Spirit comes to live inside us. At that moment, an abiding relationship is established: we abide in Him and He in us. From a salvation standpoint, our abiding in God and He in us is complete and constant from the moment we believe. We have all we need at that point to be saved. We’ll look at verses to prove this when we look at verse six. 

But there’s a second element and usage of the word abiding that is not constant and it has to do with our dependence on God for daily living. Daily, we are to depend on God for strength, for living a holy life and for bearing fruit. Whereas our abiding connection to God for salvation is a reciprocal relationship (We abide in Him and He in us), abiding as it relates to dependence for our daily living is a one-way relationship (We depend on Him but He does not depend on us).

The key point here is that it is possible to fully abide in Christ from a salvation standpoint while, at the very same time, NOT abide in Him for daily living. We can abide and not abide at the same time, depending on whether we’re talking about salvation or our daily dependence on Christ. To show this, we have to look no farther than this story of the vineyard.

Jesus told his disciples in verse 3 that they were already clean. So they already had an abiding relationship as far as salvation is concerned. But then He immediately tells them that they are to abide even though they already abide. From the context, it is clear that Jesus is not telling them they need to abide more to be saved, since He told them they are already clean. And He’s not telling them they need to keep abiding to stay saved. This isn’t about salvation at all. It’s about bearing fruit. He is telling them they need to abide in Him for their daily living, drawing strength from Him for living a holy life, so that they could bear fruit. And it is clear from the context that this abiding for daily living is something that should grow over time. The more you abide, waiting on God and depending on Christ for strength, the more fruit you will bear.

This is an important distinction and is central to understanding the meaning of this vineyard story: Namely, recognizing that you can abide for salvation and not abide for daily living at the same time. Not recognizing this distinction has caused many people to struggle with these verses, thinking that the moment you don’t abide for any reason, well, then verse now 6 applies, so you’ve lost salvation and can be cast into hell. They are not seeing this dual usage of the word “abide.” As with all Scripture, the key to knowing which meaning of the word to use is to look at the word in context. Is the word “abide” being used with reference to salvation or daily living? There’s a huge difference. A brand new Christian will fully abide in Christ for salvation but at the same time not abide in terms of daily living because they are still immature in their faith and don’t yet know how to walk in dependence on God.

And then third, the word abide can mean continuance: to remain, to continue, to endure. This aspect of abiding is one that is proven true over time. A believer who is truly saved will not fall away but will endure in their faith to the end. That’s not to say that a saved believer will not fall back into sin. Immature believers fall into sin repeatedly. But if they are truly saved, they will come out of it. And then over time, as the believer becomes spiritually mature, you should see less and less of that struggle happening. If someone says they are a Christian, falls back into sin and does not continue but forever leaves the faith, I’d have to question whether they were ever saved, that they likely had just head knowledge of agreeing with the Gospel but no real saving commitment of faith and no indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The point I want to make here about this word abide and especially as it relates to daily living or bearing fruit is that daily abiding, like faith, is something that believers grow into as they become spiritually mature. The theme of this vineyard story is spiritually maturity. Jesus is telling his disciples that they already abide for salvation but now need to learn how to abide for daily living, daily depending on Christ for strength, so that they can bear fruit. They need to become spiritually mature in their daily lives.

One other key point about abiding that we see in this story is this:     

Fruit is produced by the Vine, not the branch.  The Vine uses the branch to bear fruit. Scripture never says that “we” produce fruit. It only says that we bear fruit as an outcome of abiding in Christ.

The Lesson Is: Don’t strive to produce fruit! Instead, strive to abide closer to Christ. Then fruit will come naturally, allowing Christ to work through you to bear fruit. For, as it says here, apart from Christ we can do nothing.

So for the Christian who is bearing fruit, God prunes or cleanses him or her through His Word so that the believer becomes stronger and can bear even more fruit. And our responsibility is not to produce fruit ourselves but to draw closer to Christ and let Him produce the fruit through us. This means all of our striving to try and please Him can stop. Just be with Him and draw closer and fruit will come naturally.

Finally, let’s look at the third type of person: The unsaved.

In verse 6, the unsaved are those who do not abide in Christ, meaning they have no relationship with Christ.

“”If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” (John 15:6 NASB95)

These people are never referred to as branches, just that they are thrown away “as a branch” would be thrown away.  These are people who have no relationship to Christ and their outcome is that they are gathered and cast into the fire. This parallels exactly what will happen after the second coming of Christ.

Unbelievers will be gathered – Matthew 13:

“So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous,” (Matthew 13:49 NASB95)

And then then God will cast them into the fire – Revelation 20:

“And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15 NASB95)

The unsaved, those with no relationship with Christ, will be gathered together and sent into a burning hell. This is as serious as it gets, so we need to be crystal clear on our terminology. Let’s define what it means to “not abide.”

“”If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” (John 15:6 NASB95)

When we look at this verse, there is a real tendency to connect it to verse 10, which says:

If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love…” (John 15:10 NASB95

From verse 10, we see that there’s a connection between abiding and obedience. The one who obeys Christ’s commandments will abide in His love. We see this connection between abiding and obedience in many places throughout Scripture. Here are a couple of examples:

“O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness…” (Psalm 15:1-2 NASB95)

The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” (1 John 3:24 NASB95)

When we see verses like these that teach the importance of obedience to one who abides, and then see verse six about what happens to a person who does not abide, there is a natural tendency to link these verses together. But this is a mistake, because it leads to an incorrect conclusion that a believer must obey to abide. Such a conclusion becomes: If you don’t obey Christ’s commandments, then you don’t abide for salvation and, according to verse 6, you may then lose salvation and be cast into hell.

This is fundamental mistake in interpreting this story: Assuming disobedience causes you to NOT abide, affecting your salvation.

Why is this a mistake?

Because it looks at these verses in isolation without taking into account ALL of Scripture. So let’s more properly define what it means to “not abide.”

First, there definitely is a connection between abiding and obedience. But on the other hand, there are also many verses that clearly state that abiding requires only belief in Jesus. Here are a few:

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:15 NASB95)

By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” (1 John 4:13 NASB95)

When is the Holy Spirit given? The moment you believe in Christ.

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” (John 6:56 NASB95)

Again, this is a reference to belief in Christ. He who eats the flesh and drinks the blood is someone who has placed their faith in Christ for salvation, believing that Christ’s body, His flesh, was broken and His blood was shed to pay for your sins.

Abiding starts the moment you believe, when God’s Holy Spirit comes to live inside you. At that moment, God’s Spirit abides in you and you abide in God. You are born again into this new relationship with God.

So how do we connect these two columns so that all these verses are in harmony? What connects them together? What connects them is the theme of this vineyard story: Spiritual Maturity. 

Spiritual maturity is what connects these verses and brings them into harmony. Abiding begins the moment you believe in Jesus and God’s Holy Spirit comes to live inside you. Then, as we become mature spiritually, we learn to walk in obedience. So abiding requires only belief in Jesus for salvation. But to become spiritually mature, it then demands obedience. We can’t say we’re spiritually mature if we are not obeying God.

We’ll look at verse 10 in the right-hand column in a minute to define what that means. But for now, from the left-hand column, we have a definition of what it means to not abide. According to the left hand column, as long as you believe, you continue to abide. So to not abide means to you don’t believe.

When we take this definition and apply it to verse 6, suddenly verse 6 becomes crystal clear and in harmony with the rest of Scripture.

“”If anyone does not abide (does not believe) in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” (John 15:6 NASB95)

Now that we’ve defined what it means not to abide, this verse is in complete harmony with every other verse in Scripture about salvation. Through faith alone, God abides in us and we in Him. Then, as we become spiritually mature, that faith is proven by a lifestyle that is characterized by obedience. We become like Him.

True saving faith is faith that works. It’s not idle. Faith and obedience operate together. They are two sides of the same coin and you really can’t separate them. 

Consider this: Every Christian’s first act of faith to God is to believe the Gospel. That’s also their first act of obedience. Believing the gospel itself is defined as obeying God or obeying the Gospel.  

This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” (1 John 3:23 NASB95)

“In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:” (2 Thessalonians 1:8 KJV – see also 1 Peter 4:17  )

What Does “Obey the Gospel” mean? Believe the Gospel!

And this word “obey” refers to “the thing to which one is obedient or to which one embraces in full surrender.” In other words, believing the gospel is more than just accepting it as truth, just believing it in your head. It involves a surrender of your life that results in meaningful change toward righteousness. 

And then second, true saving faith should always lead to an obedient lifestyle as we become more like Jesus. God expects us to obey Him.

“And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him;”
(Hebrews 5:9 KJV)

“But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”” (James 2:18 NASB95)

“but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith;” (Romans 16:26 NASB95)

Salvation is by faith in Christ alone: Christ plus nothing. But if there’s no change in your life after you say you believe, is your faith real? True saving faith will always lead to a walk toward spiritual maturity, which means a walk toward obeying God, which results in bearing fruit. If you say you are a Christian but you are still living like the rest of the world and not coming out of that, not feeling the anguish of sin, not progressing toward spiritual maturity and a life of obedience toward God, is your faith real? I would say possibly not.

But a word of encouragement: Every Christian will, at one time or another, fall back into sin to one degree or another. The world is constantly pulling you back away from God and an immature Christian stumbles easily and will fall back into sin, possibly for a long period of time. But a truly saved person will come out of that and move beyond it toward spiritual maturity. My encouragement is this: If you feel anguish over your sin and possibly a deep fear that you may have lost your salvation, that’s usually a pretty good sign that you haven’t. Truly lost people don’t care that they’re lost or even realize it. That fear and anguish over sin is usually God calling you back by allowing you to experience some of the consequences and sorrow of sin.

So let’s look at what it means to be on the right track toward spiritual maturity. And let’s try to illustrate it in a diagram. 

On the left, we have Abiding in Christ from 0-100%. And on the bottom we have time. People who are not saved, with no belief in Christ, are not abiding, so for non-Christians, abiding is at zero percent. All of us were there at one point.

Then comes the moment of salvation where they realize their sinfulness before God and they come to believe in Christ, that Christ’s blood paid for their sins before a perfectly just God. At that moment, God’s Holy Spirit comes to permanently indwell them, they become born again spiritually and they begin an abiding relationship with God. At that moment, the Penalty of Sin has been removed. All their sins are forever nailed to the cross and forgiven. From that point forward, their record is clean and they will not face condemnation from God over sin. Christ has paid for it all. His sacrifice is complete, perfect and acceptable to God. 

But at the moment of salvation, is that new Christian mature? I don’t know about you but I was 30 years old when I became a Christian. I had 30 years of bad habits that I had to grow out of and that took a long time, and some of those habits I’m still working on. It’s called learning to walk in obedience or sanctification, which means to set apart, to make holy. God was abiding in me 100% as far as salvation is concerned, but as far as spiritual maturity is concerned, I was nowhere near 100% abiding in Him. As a new Christian, I drifted a lot and wasn’t always walking with Him. But God is faithful. Through teaching, discipline and yes, chastening, He’s been teaching me to walk in obedience and to abide or remain with Him instead of following the world. That training continues, not only for me but for every Christian. I’m not there yet and won’t be there at 100%, abiding in spiritual maturity, until I’m with Him in heaven.

But one thing does happened as we grew in spiritual maturity: Whereas at the moment we believe the Penalty of Sin is removed, as we learn to walk in obedience, abiding in Christ and relying on His presence and strength, then also the Practice of Sin is removed. I’m not perfect yet. I still sin. But my life today looks nothing like it did years ago and, more and more, I’m learning to walk in obedience.  

But then, and this is where it gets really exciting, there will come an even greater step and it will occur at the moment of the Rapture. When we receive our eternal bodies and go through the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Marriage of the Lamb that follows, we will then become complete and in total abiding union with God. We will be made perfect as He is perfect. And at that moment, not only has the Penalty of Sin been removed, and the Practice of Sin been removed, but the very Presence of Sin will be removed. Our old sin nature will be completely gone. We will be like Christ in the sense that there will be no sin in us anymore.

Then and only then will this Scripture be fulfilled:

“O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness…” (Psalm 15:1-2 NASB95)

Do you think you are fulfilling this now in your present walk with God? You’re not. No one is. But all Christians will one day fulfill this when the very presence of sin is removed from us in our eternal bodies.

So this brings us to the conclusion of this vineyard story: The imperative to keep Christ’s commandments and abide in His love.

For the sake of space on the page, I did not include verses 7-9 on the screen, but they are also part of this conclusion, so let’s include them now.

7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.

10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:7-10 NASB95)

This is Christ’s conclusion to the vineyard story, showing how important it is not just to abide for salvation, but to abide in the sense of becoming spiritually mature and how, if you do, you will bear much fruit. 

In verse 9, Jesus introduces a new term: Instead of saying “abide in Me,” He now says “abide in My love.” What’s the difference? From verse 7, we see that there are two conditions for abiding in Christ’s love:

  1. Abiding in Me (verse 7) – we’ve already looked at how this abiding relationship starts the moment you believe in Christ.

    But then there’s a second condition:

  2. And My words abide in you – This is speaking of obedience to where God’s Word dwells inside you and you are living it out, obediently walking by His Word.

Too many Christians are abiding in Christ for salvation but not allowing His words to abide in them for obedience. The result is that, yes they are saved, but they are not progressing toward spiritual maturity and they are not bearing fruit. This is where spiritual maturity comes into play for bearing fruit: Let God’s word abide in you and live it out by faith. If you do, you will bear much fruit. And as it says in verse 7, then ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. This is not a blank check to get whatever you want. The implication is that you are asking in accord with His word that is now living inside you, asking according to His will. 

Notice also in verse 8, where it says “and so prove to be My disciples,” that this obedience to God’s word does not establish, maintain or have any affect on our salvation. This obedience is about discipleship, proving to be a disciple. It’s not about salvation. What our obedience does is it proves us to be Christ’s disciples. Our obedience is an outward sign of our inward devotion to Christ. Our love for Christ manifests itself in obedience that gives proof or evidence, both to ourselves and others, that we are His disciples.

So we are not just to abide, but we are to abide in His love, both in terms of believing in Christ for salvation and then letting Christ’s words abide in us such that we live them out in obedience, proving to be His disciples.

 To look at abiding versus abiding in Christ love another way: 

Abiding has to do with our relationship with Christ, which begins when we believe in Jesus for salvation. It is not based on works or fruit, but solely on faith.

Abiding in His love, however, means abiding in the fullest sense of relationship. This word “love” is the Greek word agapē, which means the fullest possible expression of total love, more than romance or friendship. It involves faithfulness, commitment and an act of the will. Agape love is shown by what it does.

Is it possible to abide in Christ yet fall short of abiding in His love? Yes!

Let’s go back to our diagram:

Abiding begins the moment you are saved. But as immature Christians, God’s word is not yet in us to the point where we are living it out. 

Then, as we learn to walk in obedience and become spiritually mature, God’s blessings are no longer hindered by our disobedience, where God has to chasten us. Instead, we start abiding in His love, proving to be His disciples and allowing God’s Word and blessings to live in us and through us, resulting in good works. And so we bear fruit. 

And when we do that, another amazing thing happens: We enter His rest.

As we become spiritually mature and Christ lives in us, we reach a point where we are no longer struggling against sin like we did when we are first saved. Obedience and righteousness become our new normal and sin the exception. And we find peace with God. We enter His rest, where we can commune with God without shame or fear. We begin to walk with God. And when we do, God is no longer having to discipline us but blesses us and uses us to produce fruit for His glory.

Where are you on this diagram? Are you heading in the right direction? It’s not too late to change. How would you describe your relationship with God?

Consider two marriages.

The first couple has been together a long time. They still care about each other. Deep down, they still love each other. But their relationship could best be described as “distant.” They are often preoccupied with other things. There’s very little sharing or conversation. But neither of them wants a divorce. So their “abiding” marriage continues.

Then there’s the second couple and they are crazy about each other. Every day is a new adventure to be together. All they ever want to do is be with each other. They think about each other constantly. They share and talk about everything. They always put the other one first. To each of them, the other one is all that matters.

Which more closely pictures your relationship with Jesus?

Or, to put it from His perspective, which more closely pictures the relationship Jesus desires to have with you?

Jesus said, 

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”(John 14:15 NASB95)

But what He really described is a reciprocal relationship, a marriage, because He also said:

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love;”
(John 15:10 NASB95)

“and I will love (you) and will disclose Myself to (you).”
(John 14:21 NASB95)

It’s an agape love relationship that works both ways. Our obedience is not to keep our salvation, which can never be lost. Our obedience flows from our devotion to Christ. And as we love Christ and walk with Him, He pours out His love on us and intimately discloses Himself to us. It’s a complete marriage that Christ desires with us.

And how do we show that we are married in this way to Christ? By our actions.

Jesus said:

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12 NASB95)

Love is the fulfillment of all of His commands. He may ask you to do many things and we are to obey. But it all comes down to love. 

Our willingness to obey Christ reflects the quality of our love. Christ loves us no matter what. But to receive the fullness of His love and all the blessings He has for you, then Keep His Commandments. Walk in them. Abide in the fullness of His love.

Enter His rest and let your obedience prove that you are His disciple.

If instead we choose to walk in disobedience, then we stop bearing fruit and, instead of God pouring out His blessings on us, He has to begin lifting us up to pull us back, possibly disciplining us or chastening us. Or, if we continue on this path of disobedience, in His love for us He may take us home early before we become lost. If you find yourself on this bottom line, look at the direction you are heading and turn back. Don’t go any farther. God has a much better plan, a much better life for you.

So to sum all this up:

This vineyard story is about spiritual maturity: not just abiding but abiding in His love, for apart from Christ you can do nothing. And the key to reaching that goal is letting His word dwell in you (meaning you live it out), obeying Christ and walking in obedience, giving Christ the highest form of your love. We are saved by faith alone but true faith should always lead to a life of obedience.

The result if you do that is that you will stay closely connected to the Vine (Jesus), you will become spiritually mature and enter God’s rest, where God will work through you so that you bear much fruit.

So which of these 3 types of people are you?

  • Saved but not bearing fruit
  • Saved and bearing fruit but you would like to bear more
  • Or unsaved

The good news is that the doorway to God is still wide open. It’s not too late to change! It’s not too late to get closer! But don’t put it off. That doorway is not going to be open much longer. World events show that we are about to enter the final 7 year tribulation and the rapture will happen first. It’s almost upon us. Don’t wait!

Isaiah 55 says:

“…return to the LORD, and He will have compassion…He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:7 NASB95)

If you find yourself in a position where you would like to turn back to the Lord, I urge you to make that commitment today. I’d like to end this video with a prayer of salvation that you can pray to give your life to Christ for the first time or to rededicate your life to Christ. God’s perfect love for you is available and is most clearly shown in this verse, John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NASB95)

If you are not 100% sure you are saved or perhaps you just need to rededicate yourself to the Lord, I invite you to pray this prayer along with me. But realize that saying a prayer does not save you. You are only saved by realizing that you are a sinner before God and you make the choice to place your faith in Jesus, that He died and shed His blood to pay your debt of sin to God. This prayer then is just a way of formalizing that decision of faith. If that’s what you would like to do, please pray with me:

“Lord, I have sinned and I need you to save me. Against You and You alone have I sinned. I am so sorry. I believe that Your Son Jesus shed His blood and died on the cross to pay for my sins, and that He rose from the dead to show me the new eternal life You have for me. I believe solely in Jesus to save me, that He paid my debt of sin 100%. Please forgive my sins and save me now, Lord, according to your promisesJesus, please come inside of me and be my Savior and Lord. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.”

If you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, know right now that you are eternally saved. You are abiding in Christ and He in you. 

Thank you for watching.


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