Understanding John 15:6

Q. When Jesus says that he is the vine and that all who do not produce fruit are cut off and thrown into the fire what did he mean by this? Does it mean if we are not able to produce fruit for God then we aren’t saved?

A. First, it is true that people who are not saved cannot produce fruit for God no matter how “good” they appear to be.

Second, in John 15:6 Jesus said, “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.” The key to understanding this verse is the placement of the phrase “thrown away.” Some translations say, “You are like a branch that is thrown away”, like the one above, and others say, “You are thrown away like a branch.”

In the first, the use of the word “like” means the Lord is making a statement of comparative value. In effect He was saying that a believer who does not remain in Him is of no more value to the kingdom than an unfruitful branch of the vine, but the implication is that he will still be saved. This is consistent with the concept of the fruitless believer from Matt. 13:22, John 15:5, and 1 Cor. 3:10-15.

The second version has Him saying, in effect, that believers who don’t remain in Him will be cast into the fire, in other words they’ll lose their salvation. This placement of the phrase “thrown away” would put the Lord’s statement here in direct contradiction to what He said in John 6:37, that He would never throw away any one the Father gives Him, and John 10:27-30, where He said no one can snatch us out of either His or His Father’s hand. It also has Him contradicting Paul who said our inheritance is guaranteed from the time we believe (2 Cor. 1:21-22 and Ephes. 1:13-14).

Therefore, I believe the translations that say “You are like a branch that is thrown away” is more correct, given the context of the passage and the comparison with other verses.

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