I’ve studied this chapter many times in my life and likely heard over a hundred different lessons and sermons on verses in this chapter. I spent many hours grueling over verse six trying to decide for myself what I think it means. People have built entire theological systems upon what they believe this verse to mean. Who are these branches? True believers who have lost their salvation? Are they Christians who will lose rewards but not salvation on judgment day? Or are they those like Judas who appear to be a part of the vine but were never genuinely a believer?
John 15:6 (NASB)
“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.”
The results of my study….I still have questions for John. That happens a lot to mean as I study the Word of God. Hours and hours of study and still I end up on the fence. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not on the fence about who Jesus was or what He came to do for me. I am VERY confident in those beliefs. However, I just have to be honest. Some times my study of the Bible leaves me with more questions than answers.
Aren’t you glad you tuned into a Bible study teacher who leaves you with more questions than answers? I have been in church probably 99% of the Sundays in my life and have a master degree in theology and yet still I am full of questions.
So what did I get out of all my studying of this chapter besides a lot of questions? Simple truth.
Simple Truth #1: If I am a true believer, I will abide. I will know I am abiding when I bear fruit.
John 15:5 (NASB)
“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.
In my daily life my actions and reactions will be different than how most people in the world would respond (love, joy, peace, etc …see Galatians 5:22-23). If I am abiding, I will also bear fruit by attracting lost people to Jesus.
Simple Truth #2: If I am a true believer, I will obey the commandments God has given.
John 15:10-11 (NASB)
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.
11 “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
These verses connect love with obeying. Much like the relationship of a parent and a child, when we are obedient to God’s word we have the capacity to soak up the love that God has for us. Obedience leads to an abiding in the love of God and the promise of a joy that is full. And….being a friend of God.
John 15:14 (NASB)
14 “You are My friends if you do what I command you.
If you wonder just what it means to be a friend of God, study the life of Abraham, who the Bible calls a friend of God.
Simple Truth #3: If I am a true believer, I will encounter persecution.
Persecution takes on different forms. To put it simply, as follows of Christ we will not fit into the world system around us. In fact, we will be hated for our beliefs. We will be accused. We will be called names. In some parts of the world, choosing to follow Christ means risking losing your family or even your life.
In my journey as a follower of Christ, I have found it much more rewarding to focus my attention on the things I DO understand in the Bible and to live out those things in my daily life. Though I encourage everyone to dig deeper into the questions you have, often we miss out on daily opportunities to ‘bear fruit’ because we linger on the questions.
So….my friend…go and bear fruit today!