2007-12-11 - The Unfruitful Branch
John 15:1-2 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Often I have heard this passage taught on but rarely have I heard the part about the unfruitful branch explained. God carries these branches away. Other translations say God cuts them off or carries them away. Often times it is explained that God will end the lives of non-fruitful Christians early or something similar. This often leads to the stereotype of God as some mean old man upstairs just waiting for us to screw up so he can zap us with a lightning bolt. You had better do God's work or he will kill you. That hardly seems like a God who loves us though. That's not been what I have observed in my life. I have seen people get saved as a child and just sit on a pew until they were old and gray never lifting a finger for the Lord. So does God pick and choose whom this scripture applies to or does it mean something else? IT never made great sense to me but this past Sunday my pastor explained it to me differently and so I began to read up on his explanation and think on it. (I highly recommend each of you study God's word for yourself and not take my word, your pastor's word, or anyone else's word for it. Be like the noble Bereans who tested the words of Paul against scripture in Acts 17:10-11.)
Let's look at the Greek word for "take away". It is the word airo and it can mean "lift up" as well as "take away". It is interesting to note that God is the vinedresser in this story and that as such he could do either. He could cut the branch off but he could also tenderly lift the branch off the ground and suspend it in the air. This is the best position for a branch to be in, in order to bear fruit. Indeed in John's gospel the word occurs in the sense of "lift up" in several places including 5:8-12 and 8:59 although it is used quite often also to mean "take away".
Neither contextual evidence regarding the actions of the vinedresser nor textual evidence regarding the use of airo give us any clear direction. So where's that leave us? Well I believe the word of God to be absolute truth so the best interpretation should be the one that is the most truthful. As I've said, the notion that God kills people who quit serving him doesn't fit my observations and it seems to contradict God as a loving God. However, the idea that God would lift us up from our sins if we repent does fit with my own observations and with the whole of scripture so to me it seems rather clear.
Are you bogged down in the muddy sin of this world? Are you mired up in the muck of a sinful life? Repent and surrender to him. Give your life back to Jesus and let him lift you up from your sin so you can bear fruit as he intended. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he hath set the world upon them. (1 Samuel 2:8)
All scripture references from KJV unless otherwise noted