What Happens to Unfruitful Branches?

Jesus said, “if you love me, keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). In the hands of a religious person this becomes a conditional statement: You have to keep the commands of Jesus to prove your love. The problem with that, however, is the commands of Jesus are impossible to keep. As we saw in our last post, Jesus said anyone who keeps His commands, “will do what I have been doing and even greater things.” Well Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead. Can you? On your own it’s impossible, but that’s okay because you know what? Jesus has a plan. In the very next verse He begins to tell us what it is:

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever.” (Jn 14:16)

Who is the Helper? He’s the Holy Spirit, the One who empowers us to show and tell the gospel of the kingdom (Rms 15:19). (Note that the Holy Spirit doesn’t come and go. Jesus said He will “be with you forever”!) Jesus then tells the disciples that on the day that the Holy Spirit is given,

“… you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (Jn 14:20)

This is the most awesome, incredible thing in the world! This is the mystery that Paul sought to make known to the Gentiles – Christ is in you! And you’re in Him! Do you need a picture to help you see this? Then look at the picture on the right…

Jesus said He is the true vine and we are the branches. Look at the picture and draw a mental circle around the vine. Do you see any branches that are not part of the vine? The vine is bigger than any branch but there’s no branch that is not also vine. Touch any branch and you are touching the vine. This is how Hudson Taylor describes it:

“Here, I feel, is the secret: not asking how I am to get sap out of the Vine into myself, but remembering that Jesus is the Vine – the root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit all indeed… I have not got to make myself a branch. The Lord Jesus tells me I am a branch. I am part of him and I have just to believe it and act upon it.” (Quoted in The Normal Christian Life, pp.56-7)

Now Jesus knows that you can’t bear fruit – “no branch can bear fruit by itself” (Jn 15:4) – but He plans to bear His fruit through us. What’s our part in this? He wants us to abide in Him, which means to dwell or stay put. It means don’t run off and try to do your own thing in your own strength. What’s His part? He plans to live His life through us and go on healing the sick and delivering the oppressed and doing all the other heaven-on-earth things He did when He was here in the flesh (Mk 16:17-18).

Are you a branch with no fruit?

What happens to unfruitful branches? Jesus said the branches that don’t bear fruit are “lifted up” (Jn 15:2). They are not cut off – that is a bad translation that would’ve made no sense to a Mediterranean listener! A viticulturalist would never throw away a branch for that would be like amputating part of the vine. (If you’re thinking of suckers, see my note in the comments below.) Unfruitful branches are lifted out of the dirt and re-dressed so they can be nourished by the sun. Sticking with that metaphor, the reason why some Christians are barren is that they’re facedown in the dirt and not looking at the Son. They’re busy, distracted, stressed, and have wandered from their protos agape, their primary love. When believers lose sight of Christ’s love they tend to become religious, just like the Ephesians. The next thing you know, they’re thinking that they have do stuff like obey His commandments to prove their love or earn His.

What is the remedy for unfruitful branches? God is. He is the Gardener who does the lifting up. He is not there to slash and burn but to prune and lift. As you begin to bear fruit it will be for His glory, not yours. If you’ve been distracted doing the dead works of religion, just stop and come back to your first love which is His love. His love is like food for us. We are energized by it. I might tell myself that I am writing these posts because of my love for Him, but in truth, it’s His love for me that compels me to tell others the good news. I would not love Him except that He has first loved me (1 Jn 4:19).

God believes in you!

When Jesus said, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments,” He was not making a threat but a promise! He was saying, “If you love me you will do the works and greater works that I have done because I’m the one who’s going to do them through you. Trust me! Believe in me! Abide in me!” Why does Jesus say we will do greater works? Because 2000 years ago there was only one Christ, but now there are millions of Little Christs. Back then He was just a tender shoot (Is 53:2), but now He’s a mighty vine with branches reaching into every place.  Back then God lived in just one man, but now He lives in millions of men, women and children all around the world and He wants out! What are the greater works? They are the works of Jesus done millions of times over, every day, all over the world by ordinary branches like you and me.

Aren’t you amazed that God operates this way – through people? It’s like God is saying, “I believe in you. I have confidence that you will come to rest in my love and allow me to reveal myself to you and through you.” Carnal religion says it’s all about you and your faith so you’d better perform, but the gospel of grace declares it’s about Him and His faith so rest! Paul understood this which is why he said, “the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me” (Gal 2:20).

Branches can not bear fruit but vines can and do so naturally, without any effort. As a branch you carry the nature of the True Vine in you and He will bear His fruit through you. He promised! Do you believe Him?

At this point you probably want me to tell you what to do. “What’s the takeaway? What must I do?” We Christians are so hung up on working for God that we don’t know what to do with Jesus when He says, “just abide.” Okay, here’s something you can do. Write this down. The next time you’re faced with a problem or trial, take a moment to let Jesus love on you. Allow the Lifter of your head to turn your gaze from the dirt back to Himself and then bask in His love. He is already shining on you. He has already been gracious to you and blessed you and given you His peace. Receive it!

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (Jn 15:9)

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Comments

  1. Note: The Greek word airo that is sometimes translated in Jn 15:2 as “cut off” or “take away,” can also mean to elevate, raise up or lift up. Here are some of examples of Jesus using the same word elsewhere: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 16:24). “They will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all” (Mk 16:18). “Rise, take up thy bed and walk” (Jn 5:8). It makes about as much sense to cut off your bed and walk as it does to cut off bits of an unproducing vine.

    POSTSCRIPT (March 2012): One reader wrote to tell me about suckers (thanks Herb!). Suckers are most definitely cut off from vines. I didn’t know that so I did some research. According to this website suckers are separate vines that grow from the root of, and compete with, the main vine. Is that what Jesus is referring to? Maybe. But then why would he say the Father cuts off “every branch in me” that bears no fruit? A sucker is not a “branch in me.” It is not and never has been a part of The Vine. For all intents and purposes, it is a competing vine. (See my post on John 15:6 for more.)

    True, some gardeners also define suckers as “surplus” branches that are trimmed early in the growing season to remove the stress on the vine and to ensure larger berries for the canes that remain. But here’s the thing – sometimes these suckers are removed even though they have grapes on them. Fruit or no fruit, they are chopped off to suit the purposes of the viticulturalist. This doesn’t fit with Jesus description at all for He distinguishes branches purely on their fruit-bearingness.

    But these are all minor issues: The larger point is this – He is the fruit-maker, not us. “No branch can bear fruit by itself.” We bear the fruit that He produces and all this is for the Father’s glory. If we are not bearing fruit, it is because we are not allowing Him to do His fruitful work in us. We are in the way, in a manner of speaking. We need to stop striving and rest in Him. This is exactly the opposite message you will hear from those who are pressuring Christians into producing unholy Frankenfruit that only brings glory to man.

  2. Another great incite into our Fathers heart! Thank you! I have heard Joseph Prince speak on this and he refers to the branches that don’t bring forth fruit…that they are lifted up and washed with water (Even real grape vines have this done to them) and the washing of water is the washing our feet with the word! (the feet only as the whole body was washed with the blood once and only once for ever)The feet because this is our daily walk. So daily we wash with the water of the word.

  3. dreamer007 says:

    I love that verse Paul..”they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all”. I once had milk that was bad and didn’t know it. It didn’t taste bad or anything but I knew by how I felt after drinking it. God said to me that the milk was bad and then gave me that verse. :)

    A viticulturalist would never throw away a branch for that would be like amputating part of the vine. (See my note in the comments for more.)
    Wow I was always taught that the branch was cut off and thrown in the fire if it didn’t produce fruit…this is the sense I got from some Bible versions. Yet that seemed harsh to me. I really need to hear more on this.

    Also this statement “When believers lose sight of Christ’s love they tend to become religious, just like the Ephesians. The next thing you know, they’re thinking that they have do stuff like obey His commandments to prove their love or earn His.” is so true. I read writings once by Clay Sikes on this he said that when a person doesn’t have or doesn’t want a deep relationship with Christ they will build to show their love for Him.

    • How then should we interpret the rest of Scripture at John 15 after verse 2?..

      John 15:3 Now you are clean through the Word which I have spoken to you.
      John 15:4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
      John 15:5 I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

      Especially verse 6,

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

      ???

      • sheena thomas says:

        Jesus Compares us not only to the vine. we are also compared to olive trees where birds come and abide therein. A vine is treated differently from an olive branch. A dried up branch cannot be brought back to life. it has dried up. We see from day-to-day life that such branches can only be used as fire wood. Take for example a seed. However dry a seed is, it has life in it. If you try to soak a dried up seed in water, it will sprout. Thats how bean sprouts are made..right? The seed grows in apt conditions into a tree that has branches which produce fruit. How long can a dried up branch stick on to a tree trunk. Once it has dried out, nothing can hold it to the trunk. It will fall to the ground even with a slight breeze. A passerby will pick it up and use these dried up branches as fire wood. Such branches are void of any life and hence cannot be pruned. Thats exactly what Jesus said. As for us, when we don’t abide or draw from the main trunk, our spiritual man cannot be fed. We will dryout and fall off or the gardner will cut us off. Why would a good gardner want to keep a dried up branch on his tree unless he thinks that it still looks beautiful there???

  4. Good call =].

  5. Michael D says:

    Hello Paul,

    I just want to thank you for all your writing and posts. I’m always very alert to your posts, because I know that it will be inspiring and revealing. Just want you to realize that you do make a difference or your yielding to the Holy Spirit in you as you would probably say. Keep the good work and may God bless you and your family in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    Mike Davis

  6. Steve Elsmore says:

    Thanks for that comment at the end about the greek word “airo”, it really does change this passages meaning completely. Paul you are an awesome man of God, keep allowing Him to produce this good fruit in you, I love it!!!

  7. This is the Christian Life as taught by Jesus Himself. You could not have made it more clear. Thank you.

  8. Good comment, Paul. In “Secrets of the Vine”, Bruce Wilkinson says the same thing – God isn’t lopping off but raising up into the light…..

  9. dreamer007 says:

    Are the branches that He cuts away have to do with things in us that are not fruitful?

  10. Awesome sharing! Thank you Paul. I would love to hear you share on Mt 6:24.

  11. Why do we not rather consult the owner of these words ,Jesus Christ Himself and read the following verse ,6 and BELEAVE it ,stating: that the fruitless branches (that is people or dead christians that do not host the Holy Spirit ) will dry out and be gathered and as dead dry branches and cast out into the fire. That is 100 percent in line with the rest of His Word spoken that without the HS one is doomed for hell just as much as you are destined for heaven if you bare the fruit of the HS if you host Him for we fall short and surely our own works fall sort of satisfying Him. Remember when God draw you closer to Him by you accepting Christ His Son Jesus ,He already new about all your sin and shortcomings and disappointments you were still going to perform. If we sin while we host Him by being a carrier of His Spirit, the HS ,the HS convince you of sin , do not hardened your heart for He will flee from you ,rather morn and confest your sins that He knows you are serious to provide a clean house for Him to stay in and He will forgive and heal you(help you ) ;rather than rewriting the scripture to compensate for wrongdoings. Remember ,Jesus Christ warned us about our deceit full hearts as well as the responsibility that is greater on teachers of the scriptures Jak .3:1

    Blessings to you my brother in Christ
    JC Vorster (South Africa)

    • Janne V. (Finland) says:

      I took a second look at John 15 and noticed something in what Jesus said:

      “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He [lifts up]*; –” (Joh 15:2, NKJV)

      *)Originally NKJV reads “takes away”, but NKJV also contains a footnote for this verse, giving the other meaning of the word airo: “lifts up”. I’d say it makes perfect sense to translate it as “lifts up”, because of what verse 6 says:

      “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; –”

      So.. If the branch IN JESUS does not produce fruit, the Father will take perfect loving care of it until it does, instead of cutting it out and throwing away. However if a branch chooses not to abide in Jesus, then it is cast out.

      It is wonderful to know, that in Jesus the Father will always keep lifting us up, isn’t it? As Jesus said, if someone comes to Him, he will not be thrown out (Joh 6:37).

    • from Scott to truly love God is to accepet and love Him as he is and i beleive Jesus does lift up dead branches but those that will not respond to treatment will be burned some mens sins precede them to death others will appear to escape their actions a greek word study on the book of jude states that we are to hold fast to the Holy Spirit and those that don”t become twice dead although born again Jesus offered them eternal life and paul defined eternal life this is to know him many seek the gift and really have no time for the giver otheres as paul warned will deceive and go on being deceived wich paul not only warns about but ends up further stating heresies must be so so that those approved may be manifest no servent is greater than the master and yet has not our Lord jesus Christ not said weigh the cost and many are never taught they where born into the body by repentance through the washing of the water of the ord purchased through the shed blood of Jesus Christ to become aliving temple of the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of the Lord to do and accomplish His good will and purpose and run their race not as though they had attained it but to attain it paul makes this specifically clear as many do not understand the depth of the foundational purposes of doctorine wich can only be understood through the Holy Spirit this is a shame as not to give heed to God is to reject Him and the Spirit of grace only expects you to walk according to the light and direction of the word imparted to your heart many are led by the head and not the heart

  12. Wonderful…when i shared da same with my ppl..they asked abt da verse no 6″If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”….pls throw some light on da same…lookin forward to ur reply… prob ur next post;)
    Stay blessed

  13. looking fwd to the next installment ; ) my take is that verse 6 is in reference to the ones “not abiding”, which is different than “abiding, but not bearing fruit”.

  14. Sheila Vertoli says:

    Awesome message Paul, thank you so much beloved. I always look forward to reading your messages.

    What must I do?” He says, “just abide!”

    “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (Jn 15:9)

    As a wife, and homeschool mom with endless responsibilities, to ‘remain’ in His love is sometimes the hardest thing for me to ‘do.’ I feel like the Lord has been showing me how to abide in Him. I love what you said~ “The next time you’re faced with a problem or trial, take a moment to let Jesus love on you. Allow the Lifter of your head to turn your gaze from the dirt back to Himself and then bask in His love. He is already shining on you. He has already been gracious to you and blessed you and given you His peace. Receive it!” Amen.

  15. I love the joy that is springing up inside of me today… God really is love and light… thank you so much and I look forward to your next post :)

  16. spot on!! Love it!

  17. Charmaine says:

    thank you for this teaching

  18. imagineucan says:

    THANK YOU!!! I have always been bothered about the “cut off,” “burnt off,” translations. They just didn’t fit the Trinity that was portrayed everywhere else. Love this post!
    Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. Hi, thanks for the blog post, it does reveal the heart of God.

    Just want to clarify the word airo, according to Strong’s…airo means

    I.to raise up, elevate, lift up
    A.to raise from the ground, take up: stones B.to raise upwards, elevate, lift up: the hand C.to draw up: a fish

    II.to take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised up, to bear

    III.to bear away what has been raised, carry off A.to move from its place B.to take off or away what is attached to anything C.to remove D.to carry off, carry away with one E.to appropriate what is taken F.to take away from another what is his or what is committed to him, to take by force G.to take and apply to any use H.to take from among the living, either by a natural death, or by violence I.cause to cease

    If u put the whole definition together it means “lift up and carried away.” The vine tree in Israel today has many branches, and the branches becomes unfruitful when it disconnects from the vine and falls to the ground, then the vinedresser airo it (“picks it up and carries it away”).

    Firstly, If based on your interpretation, what does it mean that when a branch is unfruitful the vineyard “lifts it up”? How does a vine-dresser “lifting it up” helps the unfruitful branch?

    Secondly, is there any English bible translation that interprets as just “lift up”? Bear in mind that every translation has got hundreds of bible Hebrew and Greek scholars working on them, so if u put all the translations together, literally we will be saying that all thousands of bible experts are wrong to use the word “remove” or “cut off”…

    • Terence, thanks for your comment. (1) I am not a viticulturalist, but this vine-growing website explains how branches are trained by tying them to trellises that support their weight. A new vine won’t bear fruit but by training the branches you encourage fruit production later. The Wikipedia entry for vine training explains the reasons for this clearly. If you don’t train/lift the branches, you will have a problem with excessive shading that will inhibit fruit production and encourage disease. Grapevines don’t produce fruit unless they are exposed to sunlight. Imagine a branch at the bottom of the vine. It’s going to have difficulty with photosynthesis if it’s shaded by the branches above it. Even a passing awareness of vines will show you that they are grown stretched out rather than bunched up. You don’t get “grape bushes.” At the risk of stretching a metaphor, you might say something similar about Christians: We need direct access to the Son and can suffer from excessive shading!

      (2) I am not aware of any English Bible translation that interprets airo in Jn 15:2 as “lift up” (although most of them translate it that way in other passages). This means either I am wrong and all you unfruitful Christians better start performing for Jesus(!), or that English Bible translators have spent more time studying linguistics than they have spent vine-dressing! As Jesus describes in John 15:2, viticulturalists routinely engage in two activities; they prune and they train. They don’t prune and lop.

      Your comment assumes that Bible translators are working independently. Personally I doubt you will find any English translator that has not been influenced by the KJV. If a translator were to “branch out” in a different direction with John 15:2 they would be risking much. We who blog, on the other hand, risk much less and thus speak more freely. I’m just thankful that we all have access to Greek lexicons that permit us to see for ourselves the meaning of words like airo.

      • Hi Paul, thanks for your reply. Hmmm, maybe we should check with a viticulturalist one day haha…(1) Based on the explanation above, it still doesn’t indicate that “training” the vine branches is the same as “lifting up” the branches, at least vine trainers do not used the term “lifting up” according to a Google search I just did. So how do we assume that “lifting up” is the same as “training” the vine?

        (2) How do we explain Strong’s Concordance definition of airo: (I) to raise up, elevate, lift up, (II) to take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised up, to bear, (III) to bear away what has been raised, carry off. Clearly, if u put the whole definition together it means “lift up and bear/carried away”

        (3) There are English bible translations that are translated directly from Hebrew and Greek manuscripts such as the Amplified, NASB, Holman which uses the terms “removes”, “cuts away”, “trims off”, “takes away”. I think it is dangerous for us to self-interpret 1 word outside what is clearly shown in Strong’s Concordance and ALL English Bible translations (translated by thousands of Greek/Hebrew/Bible Scholars) just to fit into our theory of eternal security…think we need to be careful in this area less we change the meaning of the words of Jesus Christ Himself…

      • Terence, we should not be surprised that words have multiple meanings. This is why context is essential to determining meaning. For instance, Paul used the word authenteo in 1 Tim 2:12 when discussing women in leadership. We presume he meant authority but this word is also used to describe, “one who kills with his bare hands.” Do you really think Paul meant to say, “I do not permit a woman to teach or kill a man with her bare hands; she must be silent”? If so, I would love to see a post on that!

        Similarly, the word airo can mean “lift up” in one context and “carried away” in another. There is no reason to assume it means both things at the same time in every context. In Matt 17:27 airo clearly means, “lifting up a fish out of the water;” in Matt 14:20 it refers to “picking up left-overs and putting them in baskets.” Neither the fish nor the leftovers were expressly carried away – they were simply taken up or picked up. But in Matt 24:39 airo refers to people who were “carried away in the flood.” So I have no problem with Strong’s definition (2). If you have a problem with my earlier explanation of (1) and (3), then I would like to hear what you think Jesus meant in Jn 15:2 (in <250 words please). Hopefully your explanation will make sense to vine growers.

  20. Hi Paul, before I get into what I think the passage is saying, just want you to know that the above FRIENDLY debate is not my own interpretation, moreover I am not a bible scholar as well haha…what u are challenging is actually what is clearly shown in ALL English bible translations translated by thousands of bible scholars and used by millions of believers for thousands of years…food for thought…

    Back to the passage…I think this passage is self explanatory…

    Verse 6 and 7 says “IF” (means there is a choice), “REMAIN IN ME” means it is referring to Christians IN CHRIST already. Verse 6 says, “IF anyone does not REMAIN IN ME, he is THROWN ASIDE like a branch and he WITHERS. They gather them, THROW THEM into the fire, and they are burned.” Clearly it is referring to Christians that do not REMAIN IN CHRIST being thrown away into the fire and burned…

    • Terence, it’s a good thing Martin Luther didn’t follow the crowd when studying scripture. You gave me your take on 15:6 – not abiding (which really belongs here). I was hoping for your take on 15:2 – the unfruitful branches. It’s not self-explanatory at all. What exactly do you mean by “He removes” and what are the conditions that lead to removal? I think I can guess, but I’d rather not.

      • Hi Paul, I greatly respect Martin Luther bcos he has set the legalistic Christianity freed from salvation by works. But bear in mind Martin Luther also threw away the book of James from his scriptures bcos he couldn’t understand faith without works in book of James. A method of bible study I do not recommend, throwing away portions of the scripture due to lack of understanding…

        Actually it doesn’t matter what I think by “He removes”, bcos those are the words of Christ Himself. I just needed to show you from scripture that Jesus did say, “IF anyone does not REMAIN IN ME, he is THROWN ASIDE like a branch and he WITHERS. They gather them, THROW THEM into the fire, and they are burned” refers to those already IN CHRIST that can be thrown away to be burned…

      • Terence, I see you’re not going to tell me what you think “He removes” means. Well you’re in the majority because I guess 90% of Christians haven’t thought that one through. But your interpretation of “abide in me” is unquestionably different from what Jesus had in mind. Please see my post on John 15:6. If that post doesn’t convince you, please tell me exactly what you think it means. How does a Christian stop abiding to the point where he’s in danger of being thrown into the fire? (Please put your Jn 15:6 comments on that other post.)

    • In all my experience as a Christian, the only persons who are ever thrown aside and burned the worst are precious believers – by a hating world. If the world dies this way, sadly they were already dead. The fact is Jesus is life and life to the full. In him is no death. Darkness is as light to him, so when it says there is no darkness in him – it means there is no evil or death in him. It’s evil to lop off children! :-D

  21. Michael Crass says:

    It would seem that John 15:6 is referring to a case of extreme divine disciple of a backslidden believer and not a loss of salvation. It is similar to 1 Cor 3:11-15, where one is saved, yet so as through fire. If we do not bear fruit, God will lift us up so we will bear fruit. If we still do not bear fruit, we will receive God’s discipline, or experience the consequences of our actions. We will get burnt! Many other portions of scripture teaches this same concept.

    This passage is about a believer’s fellowship with Christ, by which we bear fruit, and not about salvation or the loss of salvation. The more we fix our eyes on Jesus, the more fruit we bear. The less we look to Jesus, the less fruit we bear. If we do not fix our eyes on Jesus, we will experience the negative consequences of it, but our salvation is never in question. If it were in question it would not be by grace, but by performance. That would contradict other parts of the Word like Rom 4:5 and Eph 2:8-9.

    • How does it seem to you that being “thrown into the fire, and burned” is merely discipline?

      “‘I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place-unless you repent.” Revelation 2:4-5

  22. Michael Crass says:

    BTW, my post above is one possible answer. However, I lean more to the view that John 15:6 is referring to one not saved in the first place, in light of 1 John 4:15. We abide in Him if we confess that Jesus is the Son of God. Either way, loss of salvation is not an issue.

    • Sarah Pratt says:

      1John 3:6… Consider the parable of the virgins who did not prepare to meet Christ. They were not ready, and had to go get oil to light there lamps, but when they got back, the door was shut and Christ would not open it to them. Consider: Mat 5:19-20
      (19) Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
      (20) For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. “No case” means “In NO way”. God is going to judge our level of righteousness.
      1John 3:7and10… 1John 3:14-15…

      • Dear Sarah, I welcome your comments but please note I don’t normally publish comments that merely cut and paste scripture. Anyone can quote scripture for any purpose they like. If you have objections to the points raised in the post, let’s hear them. Thank you.

  23. Praise God…

    Sarah, 1 John 3:5 explains the following verse of 3:6 in it’s context. Heres 1 John 3:5 in the amplified, “You know that He appeared in visible form and became Man to take away [upon Himself] sins, and in Him there is no sin [[d]essentially and forever].

    You are as a believer in Christ and His finished work the righteousness of God IN Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:21). 1 John 3:8 explains even more of the fact that He came to destroy the dominion that sin had over us (For THIS purpose) (Rom 6:14).

    Here’s 1 John 3:9 in the amplified…
    No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and [h]habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, THE DIVINE SPERM, remains PERMANENTLY within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God.
    You see its not our righteousness that God is judging, its His own righteousness which we inherited when we were BORN AGAIN. We have received the DNA of our Abba, Father (Gal 4:4-7). The scripture also says that His sperm is permanent, we inherited sonship by receiving what Jesus did for us (*Eph 5:8, Col 1:12-14)). Since there has been offered a perfect payment (Jesus) for our sins, the Father can LEGALY declare “your sins I remember no more (Heb 9:26-28, Heb 10:12-14, 17)”.

    As far as Matt 5:17-20, you need to understand the audience and examine the gospels in the light of what Jesus has done. Here’s your answer, Rom 5:17 states that righteousness is a GIFT to be received. Righteousness is not something you conjure up by your own hands, just as Jesus says that he is the vine and we are the branches and APART from him we cant have fruitful productivity (Rom 10:1-4).

    Matt 5:17 states Jesus came to fulfill the law and he did just that for our benefit, and on our behalf (Rom 10:3-4, Col 2:13-14, Rom 7:4 *IN* US, NOT BY US, Rom 8:9, Rom 6:14). John 3:3 Has to do again with the SEED of a Father, because thats how we were born. This scripture really does explains Matt 5:20, there’s only ONE righteousness that exceeds the SELF righteous Pharisees (Rom 10:1-4) and thats Gods GIFT of righteousness. Remember he called the Pharisees, blind, fools, serpents, naked, white washed tombs (clean outwardly, but dead internally), hypocrites, children of the devil (Jn 8:44), He also specifically spoke to THEM concerning detailed descriptions of hell (Lk 16:14-31). So obviously their righteousness doesn’t stand a chance and no one else had done any better including you and me before we received Christ (Jms 2:10, Rom 3:23-24, Rom 5:8-9 “WERE” sinners). Thank you Lord that we are justified freely by your grace (Jn 1:17, Rom 3:24) Amen.

  24. Nothing less than perfection (Jesus) is going through those gates (Rev 21:8, 21:7, 1 John 5:4-5) . As Jesus is so are we in this world (1 Jn 4:17)

  25. reformedrebel says:

    Paul, in line with the other objections offered above, allow me to raise my own as well. While referencing a good Greek lexicon is admirable, you are left with having to choose which of the three possible definitions makes the most sense in this passage. Translating αἴρει (3 act. indic. [αἴρω]) as “lift up” just doesn’t work in John 15:2. Potshots against us linguists aside, it is ultimately context that determines meaning.

    The first problem is the play on words between αἴρει and καθαίρει in v. 2 – the very idea that you are advocating for as the meaning of αἴρω is what is happening when the verb καθαίρει appears. The idea of the vine-dresser lifting up, caring for, and tending to the vine is contained in John’s use of καθαίρει, not αἴρω. And it’s worth noting that how these vines are καθαίρει (“pruned” or “dressed”) is by Christ’s word. So within the on passage, the context militates against a translation such as “lift up.”

    Αἴρω is being used the same way here that it is in John 16:22 – Jesus categorically isn’t telling His disciples that once He’s resurrected no one will be able to “lift up” their joy — He’s saying that no one will be able to “remove / take away” their joy.

    Similarly, we find the imperative voice of αἴρω being used by the crowd in John 19:15 – “ἆρον ἆρον, σταύρωσον αὐτόν.” Clearly they’re not crying out “Lift Him up! Lift Him up!”, but instead “Carry Him away from us!” or more idiomatically, “Haul Him out and kill Him!”

    The contexts in John 16 and 19 are quite similar; this is the second reason that translating αἴρω as “lift up” would be to do violence to the text.

    • Hi R-R – long time no see. If you are going to defend your interpretation of the word airo based on scriptures which have nothing to do with fruit-bearing, then it’s seems legitimate for me to do the same: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 16:24). See also Mk 16:18, Jn 5:8 and other similar taking up interpretations of airo.

      I do value your linguistic skills but one needn’t be a linguist to make judgments about the context. So some contextual questions for you: How does chopping off a fruitless branch help that branch to become fruitful? If we become joined to Christ through a work of the Spirit (Jn 6:63), how would our subsequent removal bring glory to God (15:8)? It would be like saying the Lord had made a mistake. Jesus said we are in Him and He is in us (Jn 14:20) – why would He amputate bits of his own body?

      If anyone is in the vine of Christ, He is a new creation. The old has gone and is not coming back again. I maintain that apart from Him we can do nothing and He is the One bearing His fruit through us. The vine and the branches are inseparable in the same way that toes and fingers are parts of the body (Rom 12:5, Eph 4:25). Jesus is not a cutter. He would no more amputate bits of His own body than a vine-dresser would slash a vine in the hopes of making it fruitful. This is a senseless and reckless interpretation that has brought fear and harm to our brothers and sisters.

      • reformedrebel says:

        First things first, Paul. My quotes from John 16 and 19 were from similar contexts, i.e. they are from contexts where αἴρω simply cannot be translated as “lift up”. So your objection to my introducing them is misguided at best, and an outright canard at worst.

        You are dead right on your reference to John 14:20: by grace we are united to Christ through faith. John has there already introduced the concept of union with Christ. What you are missing in John 15 is the use of metaphorical language. Since Christ clearly isn’t really a Vine, etc., then how far are you willing to push that metaphorical language, especially where the phrase έν έμοι is concerned? You should note that the phrase μὴ φέρον καρπὸν gives us a clue as to how far that language can be pushed.

        The clue is the negative particle μὴ followed by a temporal participle, in this case in the present tense. This clues the linguist into the fact that the tense usage of the present here is that of a customary present. What John is pointing out is that these “tendrils” do not now, or ever, bear fruit. Clearly then, we must ask if we are pushing the language of the text too far to say that they are truly and vitally έν έμοι. The question that you must answer is, “Can those who are vitally united to Christ by grace through faith permanently fail to produce fruit?” Can they permanently give no evidence that they are actually attached to the Vine? I think not, Paul. Faith produces fruit just like a living vine produces grapes!

        This bears on the discussion of the use of αἴρω. Will God, here portrayed as the Vine-dresser, allow those who merely appear to be united to the Vine, but are not, to choke the life out of the fruit-bearing tendrils? Or will he αἴρω them, i.e. violently remove them so that those whom they threaten may flourish? Which will it be?

      • RR, it doesn’t seem fair that you get to use certain scriptures to support your interpretation but I am not allowed to do the same – that was my earlier point. I think we agree that airo is translated differently in different places and that context is everything. My interpretation of John 15:2 is hopefully crystal clear but what are you saying? Are you saying that Christ is not really a vine therefore no one is really chopped off? So Jesus was just playing with words. Or are you saying the Father only cuts off branches that were never part of the vine to begin with? Or maybe they were in which case the violent removal that you refer to applies to His children – the same ones He said He would never leave nor forsake.

        I have had a few people on this thread insist that the text should be read “cut off” but so far not one of them has told me plainly what they think this means. Will you be the first?

    • JesusLoves says:

      In John 16:22, it is justified to translate airo as “takes FROM you” BECAUSE the verb is followed by apo, meaning off-from. This is true in many other verses as well. HOWEVER is not justified in the language or in the spirit of all of scripture to translate it takes away, since NO apo follows the verb, and since no EK follows the verb either, as it does in some verses where a sense of taking away is being implied. Study ALL the approximate 102 verses using airo, and you will see that where a meaning of take away is absolutely necessary, it is followed by apo or ek.

      • JesusLoves says:

        Sorry, I forgot to say that I was explaining that while it is justified in John 16:22, it is NOT justified in John 15:2 because no apo or ek is there. Also it is glaringingly out of the the Spirit of Christ. There is much more to say about this as well.

    • JesusLoves says:

      Reformedrebel, you said, “ The idea of the vine-dresser lifting up, caring for, and tending to the vine is contained in John’s use of καθαίρει, not αἴρω. And it’s worth noting that how these vines are καθαίρει (“pruned” or “dressed”) is by Christ’s word. So within the on passage, the context militates against a translation such as “lift up.”

      Interesting that you mention this. Just as a side note, I think that A.W. Pink addressed this issue re John 15 very well, but quoting him (or anyone) is not what I’m into.

      What happens, though, if someone IS a branch in Christ that is not currently bringing/carrying fruit because of the multitude of reasons that someone (or a branch) might be in that state? I can think of many times when, though being a firm believer in Christ, I have been unable (or it can be argued, that though believing, I was unwilling.) to bring/carry fruit. But, thank God, God Himself the Farmer ‘took/lifted’ me (upon His trellis, and THEN and only then am I EVER enabled to carry/bring His fruit. THEN carrying fruit, because of Him ‘taking/lifting’ me, it is not because of my bearing of fruit (which would be a pelegianistic or semi-pelegianistic theology) that I continue to be cleansed by Him, but it would be because I STAYED/REMAINED in Him and thus in His words REGARDLESS of having to face the intense faith-discouragement that comes when a believer sees that they are not bringing/carrying His fruit.

      Actually the meaning of airo is to suspend something, usually in ‘taking’ or ‘lifting’ it from one place to another. ‘Removal’ (translating it as ‘take-away’) HAS to be indicated or it shouldn’t be ‘ADDED’ by translators. Clearly, there would be less controversy over John 15:2 had the translators of most of our Bibles just translated airo in all the verses as ‘takes’ or ‘suspends’ when it is NOT followed by apo or ek to prove that something indeed IS being taken ‘from’ (apo) something or take out-from (ek) something.

      In John 16:22, it IS justified to translate airo with a meaning “takes FROM you” BECAUSE the verb IS followed by apo, meaning off-from. (‘No one takes your joy off-from you’)
      This is true in other verses as well.

      However, in John 19: 15 translating airo as ‘take-away’ indicates that the translators ADDED-to God’s words when the original language doesn’t NEED changing. Airo here means that the crowd is shouting, “Take! (or, physically lift/suspend) Crucify Him! The Bible’s word, ‘to crucify’ actually means to impale which requires taking and or lifting. No ‘up’ or ‘away’ IS at all there in the original language of the verse because it is not necessary in that verse, or in the many other verses where the translators chose of their own volition (not the original language) to translate with an added ‘up’ or and added ‘away’ based NOT on the scriptures, but their own feeling about the ‘sound’ of the the words (euphonistic ruining of the truth) or based on the theology that they themselves were used to.

      The point that I’m trying to make is that it is not justified in the original language or in the Spirit or in the reasoning of all of scripture to translate it ‘takes-away’ in John 15:2, ESPECIALLY since NO apo follows the verb, and since no EK follows the verb either, as it does in the verses where a sense of taking-away is without question (rather than lifting or taking up). Study ALL the approximate 102 verses using airo, and you will see that where a meaning of take-away is absolutely necessary, it is followed by apo or ek.

  26. Odd that I stumbled on this site. I’m not going to get into scriptures. A few days ago I didn’t even know the story of the vine and the branch.
    Actually, I’ve been frustrated lately that in all my sincerity and efforts, I’ve been unproductive. The Lord has a way to deal direct with beginners and peanut brains like me. He talks to me. I know he has no intention of cutting me off. He explained to me that I’ve been trying to do things by myself and it doesn’t work that way because I am in him and he in me.I’ve been left hungry and fruitless because he is the vine and I am the branch so nothing can be produced when I’m leaving him out. He said I was trying to feed myself but the vine feeds the branch. (I didn’t realize I was leaving him out but I guess I’m not sure how to work together?) He told me to Trust him and let Him do the work.
    Now I just have to learn how to TRUST in him and Let HIM do the work. How? I’m not sure yet. Every day is a learning experience.

    To the ones who think he would cut us off., I don’t know a lot, but God is Love. Why would he cut anyone off. I wouldn’t even do that. I don’t know much about vines but if you were a tomato plant and not producing fruit, I’d give you some extra TLC.

    THANKS & LOVE to all of you.

    Paul, If you think I missed anything in what he was trying to tell me, please let me know.

    • Hi CT, thanks for your comment. It sounds like God has been revealing some wonderful things about Himself to you. I’m standing on the sidelines shouting “Go God!” Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, but the good news is simple! And good! He loves you unconditionally and as you rest in His love you will find yourself bearing His supernatural fruit effortlessly. The harder you try, the less fruit you’ll bear. Jesus said “this is for my Father’s glory.” It is ALL about Him. You are blessed!

  27. Anthony B. says:

    Praise God for you Paul God Bless!!

  28. Well I am amazed that people think they have the power to overthrow Christ! Whe Christ has chosen you before the foundations of the world, given you his ‘seal’ of the HS, his sonship, his inheritence… if you understood the transaction that occured when you became a Christian, you cant become ‘unadopted’… sorry… if you in, you are in. So If we look at that passage in light of the fact you cannot lose salvation once it is acquired, it must mean something different to what we think it means. At what point do you become bad enough to get lopped off? Gosh we would all fail if that were the case.

  29. There is definitely a difference between the “branch that does not bear fruit” and the “anyone who does not abide”. We must remember that Jesus gives us the meaning of the allegory in verses 11. It is about fruit, specifically joy, not about whether or not we can or may be “cut off.” The vinedresser’s job is to see that the purpose of the vine is fulfilled. Therefore he will do whatever he can to extract as much fruit from the vine as possible. Which means to lift up, clean off, and prune. Verse 6 is dealing with something different. Ever see what happens to a branch that has fallen off a tree? What is it good for? Firewood. Those that do not abide (Judas comes to mind) are withered and good for the fire. Just my thoughts.

  30. Herb Nye says:

    You said that the meaning “cut off” would have made no sense to a Mediterranean listener. Anyone from that era would have cmoplete understanding of the term in context meaning to cut off.

    Grapevines, as with many plants have suckers. These do not grow from the vine and in fact compete with the vine for nourishment. The Mediterranean listener would have understood the phrase to lift up, or cut off to mean to remove completely as it is not in the vine. From a purely natural stand point suckers are unlikely to mature to the point of producing fruit.

    So, those in the vine are pruned. Those not in the vine are not “raised up” or “lifted up”, but are entirely cut off and then burned in the fire. This is the most natural understanding of this parable given its own context and the understanding of the original hearer who would have had a liberal knowledge of suckers.

    • Hi Herb,
      You may be right – suckers are removed. But as you note, suckers do not grow from the vine. According to this website suckers are separate vines that grow from the root of, and compete with, the main vine. Is that what Jesus is referring to? Maybe. But then why would he say the Father cuts off “every branch in me” that bears no fruit? A sucker is not a “branch in me.” It is not and never has been a part of The Vine. For all intents and purposes, it is a competing vine.

      True, some gardeners also define suckers as “surplus” branches that are trimmed early in the growing season to remove the stress on the vine and to ensure larger berries for the canes that remain. But here’s the thing – sometimes these suckers are removed even though they have grapes on them. Fruit or no fruit, they are chopped off to suit the purposes of the viticulturalist. This doesn’t fit with Jesus description at all for He distinguishes branches purely on their fruit-bearingness.

      But these are all minor issues: The larger point is this – He is the fruit-maker, not us. “No branch can bear fruit by itself.” We bear the fruit that He produces and all this is for the Father’s glory. If we are not bearing fruit, it is because we are not allowing Him to do His fruitful work in us. We are in the way, in a manner of speaking. We need to stop striving and rest in Him. This is exactly the opposite message you will hear from those who are pressuring Christians into producing unholy Frankenfruit that only brings glory to man.

  31. John Buta says:

    Thanks so much for this post, and all your others! Thanks for taking your time to put all this up online.
    Would you say the same applies to John 15:10: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love”.
    I really want to read into that the opposite, that if I don’t obey his commands I won’t remain in his love. I think I just need some reassurance that, as you’ve said in other posts, Jesus didn’t really do anything before his Father called him a beloved Son, and that one of Jesus’ commands is simply to believe in him (1John 3:23)

  32. I’ve been just a new follower of your blog Pastor Ellis, in fact I was only reading it during lunch time at my work place without signing up, but I was just so blessed for the revelations. Thank you. God is doing a great work in your life. (So I decided to follow. :) ) I’ve been reading your book “The Gospel in Ten Words”. It blesses me so much with fresh revelations. God is indeed good! And I thank Him. He is moving mightily in the Philippines. Sadly, there are still many Christians who do not really understand John 14. When we had a Bible study few weeks ago, this was the topic the Holy Spirit brought up. Most of us were really growing in the knowledge of Him, thanks God..some of us did not understand “and the branch who does not bear fruit he takes away”..but I remember it was revealed to me through my private reading of the Word that Christ “lifts up” those that does not bear fruit so he will be exposed to the Son-Jesus..Praise the Lord and thank you for your post. I’d love to share this to them.

  33. Thanks for this thorough and “rightly dividing the word of truth” explanation! I read John 15 this morning and wanted to have verses 2 and 6 explained to me (yes I read your explanation of v. 6 as well, thanks!) and did a web search but at first all I found were just a lot of confusing and contradictory articles (because I know that the majority of scripture teaches the eternal security of the believer, although most of my life I was taught the opposite). I have come to respect Joseph Prince as a preacher of the Gospel of truth (but sometimes forget the details of what I’ve heard him preach), so I added his name to my google search and your blog article was the first thing that came up (someone mentioned him in a comment). I really appreciate it – now I can explain these verses to my children or anyone else who questions that passage. One question – which Bible version are you using when you include quotes of scripture?

  34. Hi guys. There’s something that’s not clear to me so I’d like to ask something. After Jesus said unfruitful branches are cut off, didn’t He say they get thrown into the fire? Is that interpretation also wrong?

  35. I have learned more truth in my less than one month’s time following this blog than I have learned in 21 years of religion, and that certainly includes my very religious Bible College. Reading this brought tears to my eyes and joy in my heart. I don’t know how many times I have heard from the pulpit that the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, then feel the social pressure and influence within the church to exhaust myself trying to do exactly that. Then in a different sermon, hear more ways I need to bear my own fruit. LOL….my own frankenfruit. HE is the “fruit maker”. If I am not bearing fruit, it is not because He is a liar, it is because I am standing in my own way of bearing fruit by striving in my own strength. It is exciting to think of what can happen in my life trusting in He who is greater than me and in me to produce fruit. I trust. He grows. My part in it is placing my faith in Him rather than asking Him to be my assistant. I need to be his vessel and He the captain. Thank you, Paul.

  36. aldo hechavarria says:

    Hello, John 15 speaks of the branch that has been cut off will be thrown into the fire (jn 15:6). Therefor it will not be replanted as you have stated.

    We need to take into consideration the other verses.

  37. bill bryant says:

    I have a very small vineyard, I make my own communion wine
    I have just finished pruning my vines, absolutely necessary to get a good harvest
    grapes do not grow on old branches, thus I cut away all the old branches, I pile them up for bbq times and or composting
    they look like sheered sheep, they are very bare bones
    I lieved along the mosell river in Germany the worlds heart for grapes
    I wil in a week or so go look for new growth—will lift the branches up and tie them to their vine stands, I will cut again any branch that is not bearing new growth—they will be burned, composted and or used in my summer bbq
    I grew this orchard as a biblical demonstration for my children
    we have wine pressing parites—there they can see the images of the wine press of the wrath of God, this whole theme is tremendously gripping
    love billy

  38. I was desperate to hear from God on this matter again as it is the type of message that gives me hope and stirs my passion. I have been bombarded with prove your love and be perfect messages so much that I get tempted to quit. In myself I am just so far from being able to obey every newaunce of all the laws of regulations in the world, and church. I am happiest when I know His love and acceptance is not based on my performance which in turn enables me to live free. (not talking sin)
    God used google to lead me to this message to encourage me again in truth. Thank you

  39. chrisvanrooyen says:

    When you rely on your own righteousness you are cut of from the vine you are unable to be part of the vine as it has nothing to offer you. Great thing is you can be easily grafted back into the vine. This verse has nothing to do with salvation but everything to do with successful and victorious living. You cannot remain in the vine unless you have been purified 15:3.

  40. Finally I find the answer of my question. thanks Bro Paul for the explanation. I’m so blessed.

  41. When a person look at a beautiful tree, standing from a distance, he will exclaim “what a beautiful tree!”, it will not be expected for him to say “what beautiful branches”. So there is this unique Person and Glorious One, and we are part of Him. Got it?

  42. stephen raj says:

    What about this verse?? John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

  43. Njoki Wachira says:

    I absolutely love this take on un-fruitful branches! It’s so consistent with Isaiah 42:3, that a bruised reed He will not break and a smouldering wick He will not snuff out. I felt hope spring up in ways it never did when I read John 15:2 before!

  44. Geraldine says:

    What about the Father’s pruning of vines in John 15:2? Is our pruning accomplished when we confess Jesus as our Savior or does the father continually prune us? Seems to me that as we abide in Him, the true vine, we are fully qualified to produce mega fruit, so no need for further pruning. John 15:3 says we are already cleaned, So who is the Father pruning?

  45. Christian Drummer says:

    Here’s my take…If Gods will is really sovereign why does it matter if were cut off from the vine or not? Is not being absent from the body being present with the Lord? Can God not “take us away” from the vine as part of his divine plan for our lives? Why is it that we must assume that to be “taken away” has a negative connotation attached to it? Can a branch from a grapevine never be used for anything else? If God can use the rocks or an ass or a wooden rod can He not still use a branch that He Himself took away? Not trying to stir up anything with anybody, but if we all believe that we are sealed because of our faith in His Promise, then why must we go to lengths to make tangible the things God intended to stretch our faith. His parables were just that – parables. Not intended to prove who was more intelligent than the next, but to cause every man to examine himself that they may follow Him. I would be very careful to believe the “lift up” doctrine in your explanations because there is meant to be contrast between the first and second parts of the verse hence the colon. I can only read it as the fruit bearing branches and the non fruit bearing branches belong to the same husbandman and though He’s glorified when you bear much fruit, He’s still satisfied enough in you to still use you as He sees fit for another purpose all together and in this case for fire

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