John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 “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. 3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 “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. 5 “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. 6 “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. 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. 11 “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
Who are these branches?
Are the branches all the people in the world? Or are they a specific group of people? I don’t think this passage is speaking to every person in the world, because it would make little sense to think of a Muslim overseas who has never heard the gospel being connected to Christ, the vine. We know from the context, that Jesus is specifically addressing the disciples. I understand the branches to be those in verse 3 who have heard the word of Christ and have, in a sense, been cleansed by it and are connected to him through it, because they know the truth. Jesus here is speaking to the disciples, but notice, that among the disciples there are true believers and a false believer, namely Judas. There is indeed a branch that did not abide in Christ. So I understand the branches to be those who have received the Gospel and are in the visible church, whether they are true Christians or not. This passage is to all professing followers of Christ.
Why would I want to abide in Christ?
1) We can bear no fruit unless we “abide in Christ” (vs. 4) – Bearing fruit means living a life of obedience to Christ’s commands and thus, a life that glorifies God (vs. 12, vs. 8). Therefore, not bearing fruit is the opposite, namely a life of disobedience that brings dishonor to God. If we do not abide in Christ, it is impossible for us to bear fruit (vs. 5).
2) Every branch that does not bear fruit is taken away (vs. 2) – Not abiding in Christ will result in sin (not bearing fruit), which will result in being further separated from Christ (taken away). Sin, apart from the grace of God, always leads to more sin. Disobedience, apart from the grace of God, always begets more disobedience. There is a hardening effect of sin that will cause one to be drawn further away from God. Anyone who has fallen into habitual, repetitive sin knows the bondage of sin, which makes one powerless to fight it.
3) The branches thrown away are “cast into the fire and they are burned” (vs. 6) – I understand Jesus to be speaking here ultimately of hell. There are a lot of other parables that use this kind of language throughout the gospels, referring to hell. Some might argue that this is a refining fire, but branches do not get refined in fire. They are burned and destroyed. So what we’re talking about here is of eternal importance. Abiding in Christ is not optional for branches but matters more than anything else in life.